It’s been several years since Lyons had a gourmet restaurant. Some long-time locals might recall Chef Hans Wyppler at the Black Bear Inn, and Chef James VanDyke at the Gateway. While Lyons has experienced an explosion of new restaurant/bars with live music in recent years, most venues stick to the quality pizza or burgers menu.
We first heard the rumor that the new restaurant opening was going to be Italian. People had dreams of going out for rich, cheesy lasagna, or family spaghetti night with the kids. But soon, the place had a quiet opening and offered gourmet Italian and/or French cuisine, with the sauces being half of entree’s delightful flavor. The restaurant opened July 20th, and quickly became packed at certain times, especially evenings and weekends.
Theo Adley, co-owner with wife Jaclyn, however, said he doesn’t want the restaurant to be classified as Italian (or French) but just wants it to be known for its fresh local meats and vegetables, and as “consistently heartfelt and earnest and good tasting food.” Theo calls it “vaguely Italian and French, loosely, more bistro.”
“All changes in the menu are based on what is seasonal,” said Theo. “We have a deep-seated relationship and friendship with some of the best farmers in the area. It is aesthetic on how we present our foods. Being dynamic creatively is one of our strongest strengths.”
So, let’s look at a menu and see how that is expressed. First, understanding that the menu changes every day, the current menu will still give you an idea of what is served. And, if you are one of those people who likes to know the ingredients, you will see how the meal will become “an experience” vs. just “a great meal.”
The day’s menu that I first picked up was half starters, and half main entrees. If you come in for their popular Happy Hour, 3 to 5 p.m., you will have an unusually large appetizer menu to choose from, with a few items only being available during Happy Hour. On pleasant days, people go outside and sit at the café tables with their drinks. Dining hours are 5 p.m. to 9 or 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday (call to confirm); and reservations can be made online.
One of the items that caught my eye was “Celeriac vichyssoise with blue crab salad,” $16. I know that vichyssoise is a cold soup, so I thought it might be “soup and salad.” I further wondered what celeriac was, since the soup is usually made from potatoes and pureed leaks, cream and stock. It turns out celeriac is a large ball of green vegetable that, in America, is called celery root, and is a healthier, lower-carb alternative to potatoes. The dish turned out to be chilled vichyssoise soup garnished with a small blue crab salad.
Upon reading the menu, you will see each entrée has numerous vegetables or herbs below the name (something that earlier menus did not have). The waiter is well versed in every item, and will pleasantly explain it to you. After you have the plate in front of you, you may still have questions, such as what is the sauce the beans are cooked in (turns out to be three spices, including cinnamon).
Tasting the rigatoni “bolognese” sauce results in an explosion of flavors. It’s almost impossible to detect what they are. I did notice that none of the plates on tables around me had a side vegetable or starch. It seems that the vegetables are finely chopped into the sauces, although the swordfish did have a small pool of delectable whole beans.
Also, I noticed in the couple of menus I viewed that they had all white ‘meat’ selections, such as lamb, pork, “chicken under a brick,” pork spare ribs, and fish. Theo says they sell a lot of seafood. And, bread or salad is extra. Entre prices were mainly $20 to $28. There are two or three desserts offered each night. The panna cotta has been available since Day One. This light, sweet, creamy dessert may be aromatized with flavoring toppings, like peaches, and is a good way to end a richly-seasoned meal.
BAR / WINE
A look at the Wine list is impressive, and offers many opportunities to experiment with new wines. The average price per glass is $13, and bottle $45. The other drink menu offers creative cocktails, and three beers. Plus a mocktail, Kombucha, coke, but no coffee. There are also three spritz, all with the classic prosecco in them.
The bar offers creative cocktails with multiple ingredients to discover, such as Montenegro, lillet blanc, creole shrubb, and orgeat. It seems like half of the cocktails have a bitter accent to them, which some say, is a good way to stimulate your appetite and taste buds. You can still order your old favorite, like a Southern Comfort.
“We are more or less serving classic cocktails with slight variations, using different spirits in the context of classic cafe style cocktails,” said Theo.
The restaurant is small, and the tables are small, but the partial divider by the front door, the large storefront windows, and the tall ceilings alleviate the feeling of being cramped. The L-shaped bar takes up almost one-third of the room, and is counted in the 40 seats the restaurant offers. The room style is subdued and modern clean lines, with some warm woods. The lights are low and the menu font is quite small, so bring your reading glasses. On my visit, there was one waiter serving the room and doing an excellent job.
As the staff and the menu get more stabilized, Theo will look into other offerings, such as cooking classes (he makes his own pasta), wine tasting (having connections to local vineyards), and brunches. He has three cooks at this time, but still cooks himself every night. He is “the last line of accountability.” A great kitchen is both an intense hard job, and also can be fun, and grows friendships.
“Just show up and be your best and be surrounded by those doing their best,” Theo describes the work atmosphere.
He cultivated his love for fresh food when he grew up on a farm in Ontario, Canada. He came to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado Boulder; and then went to the Culinary School of the Rockies. In Denver, he worked at high-end The Populist, taking “a lot of cues from how it operated.” And also gaining experience at restaurants in Boulder and Aspen.
Most people who go to the same restaurant on a regular basis, often have a favorite that they usually order. Theo agreed and gave a sample of how his wife always orders the same thing when going to a certain restaurant. When asked if he saw any favorite rising to the top of the list, he said, “Our chicken and lamb ‘Bolognese’ will be on for a long while it seems, people really enjoy them. Our strange little Caesar salad is also a hit that may make more regular appearances.”
Theo says he is delighted with his waitstaff, saying he has “meticulous craftsmen who are friendly with guests.” The wait staff of Amy and Eric are “freaking incredible, outgoing and dote on our guests.”