Su Lum: A yearning for restaurants past
September 24, 2003
I’ve been merging and purging my collection of old Aspen publications, which have been growing moss on bookshelves at the Times and in boxes under a bed at home, with lord knows what treasures still to be unearthed in the attic.
Included are issues of The Aspen Illustrated News (our first competition paper), the Roaring Fork Real Estate Guide, The Aspen/Snowmass Guide, Snowmass Affairs, Inside Aspen, Clean Sweep (a magazine put out by Aspen State Teacher’s College, an institution which did not exist), The Aspen Flyer, the rare Screaming Eagle Review, The Aspen Times, and a substantial pile of the first decade (mid-’70s to mid-’80s) of Ernie Ashley’s Aspen Magazine.
The problem with sorting is that you get caught up reading and I found, to my surprise, that while it was a gasp to read real estate ads featuring Victorian homes for $25,000, a sigh to remember shops long gone (The Aspen Country Store, Cheap Shots, Terese David’s, the Joann Lyon Gallery, the Great American Clothing Company), and a sob for our loss of whimsy, what really tugged my nostalgia strings were the ads for restaurants that are no longer with us.
Surprised because I was never (and still am not) that much of an eater-out, yet my knees can turn to water looking at an ad for The Pink Parrot, a candy-striped restaurant in the Jacob’s lunch room space in the Hotel Jerome, which served kick-ass breakfasts in the morning and every ice cream treat you’ve ever imagined the rest of the day.
I found myself drooling when reminded of The Roman Lion, the Magic Pan, Dudley’s Diner, The Shaft, Delice, The Epicure with Trudy Peet’s murals, Arthur’s Restaurant when Arthur ran it and Arthur’s when it served gourmet Asian fare.
The Golden Horn, Sayat Nova, the Mine Company, Parlour Car, Shaft, C’est Fromage, The Souper, Pomegranate Inn, Maurice’s, Pinocchio’s, with young ski bums turning a wad of dough flung in the air into perfect pizza circles.
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The ad for Stromberg’s, a restaurant in what is now the basement of Banana Republic (soon to become something else, but then underneath GlenRose Drugstore) was a drawing of a herd of people pushing and shoving to get down the stairs to that great restaurant, which was followed (I don’t know in what order) by Jerry’s Place and The House of Lum (unrelated to me, though I got a lot of calls for reservations) and others.
Carl’s Pharmacy had a soda fountain where the local pundits, the Freddie Fishers and Ralph Jacksons, hung out to chew the fat over coffee, and where Aspen Times employees repaired for burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and the quick sugar fix of a hot fudge sundae. I miss it every time I look at the racks of greeting cards that took its place.
The list goes on: the onion loaves at Calucci’s (The Plum Tree Inn, now Truscott); the The Pub underneath the Wheeler; the fresh, warm fat bagels (not what we’d call “bagels” on the East Coast, but damn, they were good!) from The Bagel Nosh.
But to me, the killer of them all was the Copper Kettle, which featured cuisine from a different country every night, and that was the only choice unless you were xenophobic, in which case they would grill you a steak. When I came here, it was the most expensive restaurant in town, and I remember telling visitors and friends, “It costs $11, but it’s worth it!”
Sara Armstrong would be down there at dawn baking the breads, stirring the soup and creating the menu du jour. Once or twice a year, she would offer her famed “curry night.” I look at the ads for the Copper Kettle and a moan of nostalgia rises in my throat for the great food, the ambiance of the subterranean grottos originally built by Kenny (KNCB) Moore as his family home, now to be demolished for high-end townhomes.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who just scratched the surface. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]