Not that anyone has ever accused Aspen, Colorado of not having enough restaurants, but we're excited about chef David Burke's new venture in town -- his first restaurant in the western U.S.. Debuting in late March, David Burke Kitchen Aspen is set to be one of the hottest openings of the season. We recently chatted with the restauranteur and former Top Chef contestant about dry-aged beef, his favorite hotels, and why a Sam Adams at a local bar is the best beer you'll have in Aspen.
How similar will this new restaurant be to David Burke Kitchen in New York?
The similarity between the two restaurants will be in the menu, not the layout. Our restaurant in Soho is below-ground; this one is on the second story with windows everywhere. But in terms of the food, popular dishes from our New York restaurant – like the dry-aged meat, pressed prawns with pasta, and whole roasted chicken for two – will show up here as well. We're taking some of our experience with David Burke Kitchen NYC and applying it to this new concept. We've learned what works: buying whole pigs, baking our own breads, that sort of thing. For a restaurant to make hams and dry-age beef, you need a lot of real estate, and real estate is expensive in Aspen. But we're making an investment. We plan on being here a long time.
What's your favorite place to stay in Aspen?
On my first trip out here twenty years ago, my six-year-old son and I stayed at the Jerome (from $315), one of my favorite hotels. Don Johnson from Miami Vice happened to be staying there too; my son didn't know who the heck he was but they became best buddies. We ended up staying a full two weeks, it was wonderful. Since then, I've been back many times. Another favorite of mine is Little Nell – that's a gorgeous, five-star property right next to Aspen Mountain. My favorite thing is to sit in their lobby by the fireplace with a glass of Breckenridge bourbon.
What makes Aspen unique for you?
As a brand, Aspen is huge, it's very well-known; but in reality, it's such a small place. It's quaint and charming. There's great food, great outdoor activities. Plus, it's a walking city. There are no yellow cabs, no subways. I enjoy that sense of quiet. Also, you can easily find great, cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places like Grateful Deli. Those guys know what they're doing when it comes to sandwiches. The sandwiches have funny names like "Dark Star" and "Morning Dew" but they are seriously the best in Aspen, and perfect for a grab-and-go meal.
Name a few places you always visit as soon as you arrive in Aspen.
Jimmy's is a local, all-American restaurant run by my friend Jimmy Yaeger. It's been around for years, and it's got a hip, local vibe. It's my favorite spot in town to go for a burger or a steak, or late at night, when things are really pumping, I'll show up and knock back some Sam Adams. That, to me, is about as Aspen as you can get. Of course, for sushi, there's Matsuhisa, Nobu's place. As for skiing, I usually hit Ajax Mountain – it's just so convenient, it's right near the town, and it's easy to get your skis and get up to the top. Snowmass is good, too.
How can you do Aspen on a budget?
Getting there can be a little pricey, but you can certainly go to Aspen and eat and drink on a budget. There are plenty of small cafes and BBQ places; plus, in terms of activities, you can always hike or rent a bike for practically nothing. Also, there are these old cabins that you can rent for $100 a night, called The Huts. They're a little far, and you have to hike around in the mountains, but for value and a great adventure, I'd definitely recommend those.