Roger Marolt: Chewing the fat while another one bites the dust
Favorite restaurants are not about the memories they make for us — they’re about the ones we bring with us through the doors
We celebrated the last night ever for Jimmy’s restaurant with dinner at Il Poggio. It was a last-minute decision made for convenience, which, ironically, is why we originally fell in love with Jimmy’s. We went there after kids’ sports and school activities for quick, affordable suppers off the bar menu. After the kids aged out of those precious evenings, we kept the tradition alive for nights my wife had school board meetings and dinner responsibilities were mine. Jimmy’s had us covered for more than 20 years, like a modern version of TV dinners.
My oldest daughter, only son and wife ran the Golden Leaf half marathon that morning, so it wasn’t difficult to imagine not driving into Aspen to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the closing day crowd at Jimmy’s, even knowing full well it meant never again tasting authentic Jimmy-mac, loaded with bacon and sliced jalapenos. It made me wonder if Jimmy’s food was actually part of the draw all these years.
By the time we were seated more locally at Il Poggio, passing the pizzetta and sipping wine, Jimmy’s was already a fond memory. The closing of favorite business establishments is so commonplace in this part of the resort world that it’s rarely surprising. The only thing noteworthy about a place like Jimmy’s closing after so many years is the fact that it lasted so many years. With new local businesses, it’s all about low expectations for longevity. Of course I can believe Jimmy’s An American Restaurant and Bar is finito.
A bit of light reminiscing made me feel fine about missing Jimmy’s closing ceremonies. I sat for five minutes, not even closing my eyes, and made a list of the more memorable restaurants in my life whose closing nights I do not have the vaguest memories of.
In no particular order, it includes La Cocina, The Steak Pit, Skier’s Chalet, Wienerstube, La Cantina, Cooper Street Pier, Little Annie’s, The Chart House, Floridora, Pinocchio’s, Pablo’s, The Captain’s Anchorage, Arthur’s, Magic Pan, Epicure, RP’s, The Red Onion (versions one through four), Motherlode, The Shaft, Boogie’s, Main Street Bakery, Little Cliff’s, Mesa Store Bakery, Donnie’s Dog House, Johnny McGuire’s, Toros, Takah Sushi, Golden Horn, Gordon’s, Guido’s, Rustique, Shlomo’s, Eastern Winds, McDonald’s (sorry) and Snowmass Village’s own Mountain Dragon. I also need to mention Frank Marolt’s Bar, for eponymous reasons, even though it closed sometime in the late 1800’s and I never ate or drank there.
The list is far from inclusive of all local restaurants that have come and gone in my lifetime but even still they represent the closing of beloved establishments for just about each year of my adult life. If I shed tears for each of these places, I would be perpetually dehydrated.
The resort town food and beverage gig is tough. There is a lot of kitchen and dining room wreckage along the imagined winding, cliff-lined primrose mountain path to culinary riches. Legends abound about brokers and developers who have accumulated fortunes and courted fame plying their trades in these here hills. Attorneys, planners and architects do well. Builders and property managers thrive.
I think one of the reasons we mourn the loss of dining and drinking establishments is because we are still rooting for the underdogs to show us another way to make it here. What is ironic in this hope is that the most profitable day for many local restaurants and bars is likely on their last evening in business, especially when properly announced and advertised.
It occurred to me that, if the final day of Jimmy’s was what I was really interested in attending, then I missed more than the closing bell; I would be missing the point. We had already made the most of Jimmy’s.
Favorite restaurants are not about the memories they make for us. They are about the memories we bring with us through their front doors to celebrate and enjoy. The events of our lives we toast in these places are the same events we recall over and over again in all different times and places. They never die.
In this light, it felt perfectly reasonable to sit at a table in Il Poggio recalling good times we had at Jimmy’s. We raised our glasses to say goodbye to Jimmy’s in another place we felt at home in. With any luck, at least from my perspective, I will outlive Il Poggio, too. Either way, I will enjoy and appreciate this local favorite as long as I can.
Roger Marolt knows that what makes or breaks a resort town restaurant has less to do with what they serve than how they serve the locals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“2023 predicted to be the Vintage of a Lifetime in Napa Valley,” proclaimed the headline this week in a press release sent out by the Napa Valley Vintners, the trade organization that represents the growers and producers in America’s most famed wine region. If there is anyone more optimistic than winemakers, it is the group that represents them.