Business Monday: Chasing the American dream at the Roaring Fork Grill in El Jebel
Lidia Dominquez has built a reputation in some segments of the Roaring Fork Valley as a special cook, so now she’s using her skills to pursue the American dream.
Dominquez, an immigrant from Mexico, opened the Roaring Fork Grill in Basalt earlier this year with the help of her husband, Eulogio Palomera, as well as her daughter Lizbeth Avila and her husband, Endy Torres.
Dominquez used her savings she’s earned over the past 25 years from her cleaning business and as a housekeeper at Aspen Skiing Co.’s Limelight Hotel to open the restaurant next to R.J. Paddywacks, just a hop and a skip from the El Jebel City Market. She and her daughter see it as a way for their families to chart their own course rather than work for others.
“It’s more than a business. It’s a future for us,” Avila said.
Avila said her mom always receives requests from friends and acquaintances in the Latino community to cook for weddings, family gatherings and other special occasions. Sometimes it’s for a couple hundred people.
“It’s because of the great tastes, seasonings and the flavors of her food,” Avila said.
Her mom has always been generous with her time. Then she realized she might be able to make a living from her cooking.
“This project, we’ve been planning for the last four years,” Avila said.
They searched for the right place. Finally, a space in Orchard Plaza became available when Bangkok Happy Bowl departed. Dominquez and Avila felt it was perfect because of the high traffic heading to City Market and adjacent shops. They initially considered opening a Mexican restaurant, but changed strategy after Tequilas opened last summer in the former Down Valley Tavern space across Highway 82 in El Jebel.
Their alternative idea is serving American cuisine with a Latino twist. The broad breakfast menu features everything from classic eggs Benedict to authentic huevos rancheros. Lunch has everything from burgers to tortas and a lot in between.
The happy hour menu features fish, grilled chicken, steak and shrimp tacos for between $2.50 and $3.75 each.
Dinner entrees range from empanadas to tequila bass and fajitas.
Roaring Fork Grill is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Lidia and her family are accustomed to hard work, so they’re staffing the restaurant mostly by themselves to get it off its feet.
“It’s not easy. It’s hard work,” said Avila, who grew up in the valley and has worked in a variety of customer-service oriented jobs
She works the front of house and is the de facto manager. Dominquez is the bartender and will be spending more time out front now that she quit her job at the Limelight. She fills in where needed, like making 300 handmade tortillas for their popular Taco Tuesday night.
Palomera and Torres, both veterans of the valley’s restaurant scene, man the kitchen at night and they also kept their day jobs elsewhere. Palomera helped launch Johnny McGuire’s in Aspen and also worked at Takah Sushi and Phat Thai, among others. Torres also worked at Phat Thai, 689, Little Nell Hotel and the Limelight.
Roaring Fork Grill opened in mid-July, which turned out to be a tough time because of the midvalley disarray caused by the Lake Christine Fire. Their location is attracting people and word of mouth is cranking up. Good food and quality service are the keys, Avila said. She is proud of her mom for pursuing a business of her own.
“First of all, she’s Mexican,” Avila said. “She’s a woman and she’s had a (difficult) past.”
They’re also getting support from immigrant customers who want the restaurant to succeed.
“This is what the American dream is all about — they all say that,” Avila said.
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Aspen Mountain opened for the season on Wednesday, a day earlier than originally planned. Top-to-bottom snowmaking, a solid recent storm and well-behaved guests made for a great experience despite all of the extra precautions.