Food Matters: Gossip on the Menu | AspenTimes.com

Food Matters: Gossip on the Menu

Amanda Rae

In urgent hydration mode, our group shuffles mugs of drip coffee with mason jars of fresh-pressed watermelon-pineapple-orange juice and tall glasses of water on our table like chess pawns. The place is bustling, with a corner booth of patrons growing rowdy over bloody mary cocktails and breaking into multiple rounds of "Happy Birthday." Plates pump out from the kitchen pass and servers rush to deliver them to the hungry crowd.

Our food arrives promptly, as it always does, to a chorus of oohs and aahs. I figured that I'd kill a craving for crispy falafel and ooey, gooey eggs in one go by ordering the Mediterranean Plate, a first. The spread includes a colorful fan of lettuce, tomato, red onion and cucumber slices, cubes of feta cheese, little cups of kalamata olives and tzatziki sauce, and an entire plate of pillowy, warm pita bread. It's a slam-dunk order, and I slay almost all of it.

Aspen Over Easy is one of few places in town where I'm confident that if I take a chance and order something new from the extensive, double-sided menu, I won't regret it. At least it hasn't happened yet — and that's how I discovered gems such as the savory breakfast quesadilla and the Munchi Burger, a hangover-quashing beef patty topped with griddled hash browns, bacon and a fried egg, all stuffed into a bun from Louis Swiss Pastry glazed in-house with maple syrup. (OMG.) Even though the idea of hummus and quinoa stuffed into an omelet (the Super Veggie) sounds bizarre, it works in a pseudo-virtuous, gotta-have-egg-whites-and-kale kind of way. I didn't leave that meal regretful, either. Maybe this happens because we accept that Over Easy will always be waiting for our next food odyssey.

Until … it isn't.

Our brunch last Sunday, Oct. 22, was tinged with finality, of course. Will Over Easy open elsewhere post-eviction? We bugged our friend and owner Mladen Todorovic for the scoop. Rumor has it, he said, that Over Easy is taking over bb's. Rumor has it also that Aspen Brewing Co. is moving into Peach's. Both are false, he notes — that's why they're called rumors — though another tidbit of plausible origin suggests that Mark Hunt is getting divorced, hence his multiple projects may be put on hold temporarily. The building bookended by Domino's Pizza and Bamboo Bear, though, will definitely be torn down.

"They're either waiting for permitting to go through or something else," says Bamboo Bear chef-owner Vinnie Bagford, who earned a lease extension through March 2018. "Again, all hearsay. That's why it's 'six months and call us back in February.' We'll have hot soup bowls through March at least."

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Todorovic mentions that, in his quest to find a new home for Over Easy, he explored buying the lease from Victoria's Espresso + Wine Bar on the prime corner of Durant Avenue and Galena Street. However, the asking price was a solid $1 million—just for the lease, reportedly. Now he's exploring other options.

"You can't lose the momentum," Todorovic opines. "You gotta make money."

At the rumor that Over Easy would pack up and reopen downvalley, Todorovic scoffs, and us Aspen girls breathe an audible sigh of relief. The Village Smithy and Smoke Modern Barbeque are tasty destinations, but none of us wants a 30-minute drive to precede impromptu breakfasts on the regular.

On a related note: The owners of Bangkok Happy Bowl purchased the Upper Crust space next door and plan to open Tiki Mana Island Grill in November, serving fast-casual Hawaiian fare, including breakfast omelets, Kālua pork, and seafood poke bowls.

Over Easy and Aspen Brewing Co.'s impending evaporation from the Seguin Building (bought for a hearty $6 million by the Hillstone Group, which owns the White House Tavern, and thus roundly lamented as further evidence of downtown's corporate homogenization) recalls many other departures recently. Who's pushing forward the apres-ski party train this season now that the Sky Hotel has fallen? Will the unfortunate blandness of Chair 9 decor and foreign crowd warm up with displaced locals or will folks grin and bear it through afternoons at Shlomo's? Ajax Tavern has only so much patio space, after all.

Peach's seemed to paper its windows rather abruptly for renovations, and reports indicate that it is, in fact, expanding to include a separate-but-connected venture called Cream. (Cute.) I'd heard a rumor that owner Lisa Haisfield wanted out of the restaurant biz; like other journalists in town, I learned that she doesn't often return calls for comment.

"Rumor is that every restaurateur is gonna go over there," Todorovic notes, when we discuss the fate of Justice Snow's, dark for days. I hear that Jimmy's, Brunelleschi's and the CP Group want dibs; Bagford confirms interest for Bamboo Bear, too. After brunch at Over Easy, we stroll over to Bruno's to learn from owner Gil Vanderaa that he's on a roll with a second Brunelleschi's in Superior, southeast of Boulder. Vanderaa opened the second pizzeria-eatery six months ago and business is booming. Great news, because the spot is enormous: 5,000 square feet, with 40-foot-long bar.

Also at Bruno's, bartender Alex Ervin mentions that a few Justice Snow's staffers will be hitting the county clerk's office at City Hall the following morning to begin a petition to keep Justice in place.

At noon Monday, Oct. 23, Justice bartender Kelly Snyder has already collected three pages of signatures (about 40, she estimated), just 45 minutes into her mission. The petition, she says, "is something that three of us decided to do, no idea if it's gonna help but we don't think it would hurt. (Owner Michele) Kiley has no part of this — we just want to try to keep our jobs."

Kiley submitted 40 Gs in back rent later that day. Fingers crossed; I know Kiley may be frustrated that the Justice bar burger gets unyielding ink, but man, that is one tasty burger.

Meanwhile, Silver City Saloon will open in place of Whiskey Rush after replacing the DJ booth with a stage for live music. Kemo Sabe's new location on Galena Street (formerly Georgia Brown) does have an antique bar from the 1880s (and a liquor license, as always) for use at private events, but it's not "opening a bar," as rumors swirl. More bad news: Bad Billy's is still dead.

For now, let us pray for Over Easy and Aspen Brewing Company, two truly local institutions. And let's hope that the Austin, Texas-based owners of 517 E. Hyman Ave. make good on their pledge to honor the historic building, and, perhaps, name their new seafood spot Annie's Little Oyster Bar.

amandaraewashere@gmail.com