In season: Village Tavern goes south for a new look
Big changes are in effect this summer for the local Village Tavern, which starting June 1 opted to do away with the pub grub and head down south for a serious restaurant makeover. Now taking on its newest name, the Mountain Bayou, the local spot owns up to the true comfort foods of Louisiana as it aims to turn up the heat this season with good old-fashioned barbecue, po’ boys and gumbo prepared by New Orleans native and local chef inductee Chris Menard.
Donning an inviting new look on the patio with a handcrafted sign, umbrella-shaded tables and a smoker grill for “Sunday Funday” barbecues, cheap brews and live music, the new and improved Mountain Bayou cooks up a handful of bang-for-your-buck dishes loaded with robust flavors and made-from-scratch ingredients — all with the intention to lure in those in search of some mouth-happy front-porch sittin’ this hot summer season.
Breaking from the heat to talk about his newly transformed spot, owner Jason Neilson discussed his partnership with Menard, the purpose behind a garden-fresh menu and plans for future success.
Snowmass Sun: Can you explain the creative process behind Mountain Bayou and how it came to be?
Jason Neilson: Chris Menard (executive chef of Sam’s Smokehouse) and I have been friends for a long time. We came together early this summer to begin a partnership that would marry his native roots in Louisiana and skills in the kitchen with my operation of a locally owned restaurant here in the village. We considered the idea of Southern food to be well received across many palates and built the menu and the name around the concept.
SS: Can you tell me a little bit about your new menu? What items and ingredients are you most proud of so far?
JN: Yes, we have a wide variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and large plates. Some of our favorites are the shrimp po’ boy, the catfish po’ boy, pork ribs, barbecue chicken, gumbo and chef Menard’s infamous bread pudding. The bread we use for sandwiches is made daily at the Village Market, and we prepare all of our sauces from scratch. The pork, ribs and chicken are all slow-cooked in-house, and the seafood is all hand-battered.
SS: What kind of clientele do you hope to cater to as you move forward?
JN: With our recipes, we hope to win over the hearts of locals from here to Aspen to downvalley as well as the second-home owners and guests who come to visit. Our portions and prices are great, and our atmosphere allows for guests of all ages to have a great time.
SS: What kind of deals/specials are you running right now?
JN: We are open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and offer happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. daily with dollar-off draft beers. Something we just started is “Sunday Funday” each week, where we invite everyone to join us on the patio from 4 to 7 p.m. for barbecue, beers and live music. Most recently we had Dwight Ferren, studio guitar player for Aerosmith back in the ’70s, join us for an afternoon on the patio — he was great.
SS: Have you received any feedback from locals or visitors so far? What, if anything, do you plan on implementing or expanding upon for the future success of Mountain Bayou?
JN: We recently got word that the executive chef of Square Grouper in Aspen came to eat with us — not once but twice — and that makes us feel pretty good. Our food has been really well received by locals so far, especially the catfish po’boy and the pulled-pork sandwich. We hope to expand upon our catering services and also start collaborating with other businesses here at the Snowmass Center to turn our Sunday Funday parties into whole-town block parties.
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The Melville family didn’t distance themselves from ownership of a local mountainside chalet for too long.