I have, on occasion, loudly lamented Aspen’s lack of a “breakfast culture,” the absence of accessible pancakes being the kind of grievous slight that disturbs my mind as well as my stomach.
There is an abundance of breakfast burritos here, and they are all wonderful according to my research (eating breakfast burritos) and to my sources (friends who also eat breakfast burritos). A proliferation of pastries and copious coffee, too — it is no great feat to track down a croissant in sniffing distance, what with the way the waves of potent Paradise products waft down the sidewalk.
But a burrito or a muffin is no sit-down meal. Coffee alone is not breakfast. And grab-and-go options do not a culture make. We are so often hungry to get on the mountain that I think we’ve neglected or willfully eschewed the idea of a sit-down morning meal that lasts more than 10 minutes; we save leisurely dining for lunch and dinner instead.
That’s what I figured, anyway, after so many Morning Glory muffins and veggie burritos and bites on the move. I had thought Buttermilk’s uphill breakfast club was the sole exception to the rule as a place where a large group could plunk down, sit back and take our sweet time over French toast and fried rice with eggs, and it wasn’t even east of the roundabout.
Turns out I just wasn’t looking hard enough, and because I am stubborn, I was unwilling to entertain the idea that a breakfast culture is more about intent and spirit than options for places to go.
Also, there are actually a lot of options.
Absent the go-to of a post-uphill Cliffhouse breakfast this week (Buttermilk closed for the season on April 3), I proposed we head up Ajax and head to Bonnie’s, where the pancakes and strudel flow like — well, I don’t know that pancakes or strudel really flow, but they are plentiful at Bonnie’s.
It did not occur to me to check whether Bonnie’s had wrapped up its season yet; an Instagram post informed me that they would offer just Easter Sunday breakfast this weekend.
No sweat: We could shorten our skin and find breakfast in town.
I suggested we could try the Bear Den, a cozy little nook on Restaurant Row which I had discovered earlier this season when I met someone there for a work meeting. (“Discovered” is maybe a self-flattering term here, as someone else proposed the meeting and I had never taken a look inside to realize just how apt the place might be for fostering a breakfast culture.)
I had nibbled on a croissant there and had a hankering for something more substantial from the robust breakfast menu of sandwiches and bowls and indulgences.
Bear Den, it turns out, was closed too for an offseason hiatus, back on May 4.
Recalibrating again: a march back across town, to Jour de Fete, another place I had never been before. I can’t really explain why, except that I am a creature of habit who goes to Paradise for burritos and pastries and Local for coffee and figured that the offerings there would be variations on the same grab-and-go theme.
I was wrong.
Yes, there are burritos on the menu and coffee and pastries wrapped and ready for the gondola.
But there also was the Terry bagel, open-faced with eggs, spinach, tomato, sauteed onions and melted cheese, that warranted a fork and knife for me and Liz, who ordered the same thing. An order of blueberry Belgian waffles for Brian, buried in whipped cream, seemed like a standard of a place with “breakfast culture,” not a staple for eating on the move.
As we tucked into one of the three tables in the snug little spot, I thought that this place, too, could be as well-suited to “gang’s all here” gatherings as the diners I wish we had here in Aspen. A willingness to schlep across town and back again in search of the mid-morning wonders of a skillet ought to get some of the credit too.
My search for breakfast culture in Aspen will continue with two other classic Aspen breakfast joints in coming weeks. I’ll start mornings at Poppycock’s (“the best pancakes in town,” my editor claims) and Hickory House.
Kaya Williams is a reporter for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun who has a hard time admitting she was wrong but is willing to do it for column fodder. Send her breakfast recommendations at [email protected].