‘The Stube’ in new hands
Aspen’s venerable Wienerstube Restaurant is in new hands, but “Stube” loyalists needn’t worry ? the breakfast menu and Austrian specialties they’ve come to love have survived the transition.Kevin Willson and Laura Wren purchased the business from Horst Grilc on Nov. 1, but little is slated to change at the Hyman Avenue restaurant Aspenites have dubbed “the Stube.””We’ve had very loyal customers for a long time, so we’re just going to keep taking care of them,” said Wren, who joined the Wienerstube staff some seven years ago. She started out waiting tables and then took charge of the restaurant’s bar and filled in occasionally as manager.”I’ve been working in restaurants for the last 15 years. I figured I might as well do it for myself,” said Wren, explaining her plunge into restaurant ownership.Until now, husband Kevin has been less visible to Wienerstube customers, but he has worked with Grilc on the business side of the enterprise. Willson is also a partner in a snow-plowing business, the former owner of an auto-repair business and a local bike mechanic.Grilc and partner/chef Thomas Jaggi purchased the Wienerstube from one of its founders, Gerhard Mayritsch, in February 2000. Grilc later became the sole owner.A combination of private reasons and an opportunity in California convinced Grilc to sell the Aspen dining spot. He has purchased a Mexican restaurant north of San Diego, which Grilc renamed El Caballo Loco, or The Crazy Horse.”The Latinos, they cannot pronounce Horst,” the Austrian-born Grilc explained. Since everyone calls him “Horse,” he named his new restaurant accordingly.Although the economy in Aspen has been tough lately, Grilc said that didn’t factor into his decision to sell the business.And Wren is confident the Stube’s local following will help it continue its run as one of Aspen’s oldest restaurants. Plus, the new owners are getting some sage advice from founder Mayritsch, who remains a regular at the Wienerstube.”He had this place for so long, obviously he has a connection to it,” Wren said. “The Wienerstube has always been a really big local icon. We feel as long as we can keep the town’s support, we’ll be fine.”To that end, new chef Michaelangelo Marbe, formerly with The Little Nell and the Sundeck, will be be keeping the Wienerstube’s breakfast and lunch menus, but plans to add some lighter, healthier fare at lunch.Austrian cuisine, he added, is no problem for a German-born chef.”The German/Austrian cuisine, there’s not a big difference,” Marbe said. “The traditional way to cook is the same.”Coincidental to the change in ownership of the Stube, chef Jaggi took a position in Grand Junction. Marbe and Willson are bicycling buddies, so Marbe was quickly pegged to take on the chef’s duties at the Stube, Wren explained.The rest of the staff remains. Henry Caputa is staying on as manager, and Jill Goudie heads the wait staff.The new owners, as well as Goudie, all hail from England.Whether the Wienerstube will serve dinners ? which Grilc and Jaggi started during the summer and winter seasons ? is still up in the air, but Goudie is pushing to make the Stube an aprs-ski hot spot. Merriment, drink specials and kaiser schmarren are planned to lure in skiers and boarders after a day on the slopes.The traditional Austrian crepes, made with raisins, rum and cinnamon, are an aprs-ski staple in the Alps, according to Goudie.”They sell out of these in Europe at aprs ski,” she said.The Wienerstube has also brought back some of the Austrian dessert specialities and pastries that used to tempt diners there.And, the waitresses are once again donning traditional Bavarian-style outfits, at least on the weekends. When Grilc bought the restaurant, the waitresses convinced him to let them wear something other than the dirndl, Wren said.”The dirndls are back by popular demand,” she said. “Now, the waitresses are saying, ‘Can we please put them back on?'”[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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