New faces, ‘healthy junk food’ at Aspen’s iconic popcorn wagon

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

Aspen restaurateur Ryan Sweeney, owner of Ryno’s Pub and Pizzeria and Silver City Mountain Saloon, is bringing new life to the iconic popcorn wagon this winter.

Alongside his girlfriend, Mary Jane Knolls — also the namesake of Mary Jane’s Popcorn Wagon, which opens today — the two are teaming up to create what Sweeney calls “healthy junk food.”

Combining Knolls’ love of fresh, nutritious fare and Sweeney’s passion for fair food, the menu will consist of organic comfort food crafted with high-quality ingredients.

Think: Doughnuts prepared from non-GMO dough from Louis Swiss Bakery fried in coconut oil; cheeseburgers made from organic, steroid-free Colorado beef.

Like previous iterations of the wagon, the menu also will include gyros, grilled cheese, french fries, funnel cakes, popcorn, coffee and hot cocoa.

Sweeney’s signature “pizza puff” — a popular deep-fried pizza dish at Ryno’s — also will grace the menu at Mary Jane’s Popcorn Wagon.

“We’re trying to keep the menu simple so that food can go out fast, but still be high quality,” Sweeney said.

Another goal for Sweeney, who’s lived in Aspen for 10 years, was to learn locals’ favorite Popcorn Wagon items from over the years and revive them with a healthier twist.

Sweeney and Knolls are leasing the space from Aspen developer Mark Hunt, who owns the Popcorn Wagon, through March 31. Hunt plans to redevelop the area where the Popcorn Wagon, which Ajax Donuts had previously operated, and Jimmy’s Bodega and Grey Lady sit.

With little overhead, Sweeney said he intends to keep the costs low, despite using more expensive ingredients.

The burgers, gyros and grilled cheese will range from $10 to $12; desserts will be $5 to $6, Sweeney said Friday.

And in true popcorn wagon fashion, the eatery will cater to late-night crowds, frying and serving food until 2 a.m.

Mary Jane’s Popcorn Wagon, which is on Hyman and Mill streets across from the Wheeler Opera House, will open at 6 p.m. on weekdays and at noon on Saturday and Sunday, as well as over the holidays.