2013 Check-in on Mark Fischer's Roaring Fork Empire: Town, Phat Thai, the Pullman [Glenwood Springs & Carbondale CO]
Another trip to the Roaring Fork valley, another week of incessantly hemorrhaging money to chef Mark Fischer. All snarkiness aside, Fischer has to be one of the best things to happen to the lower RF valley since Doc Holliday, and although the prices are high for Carbondale and Glenwood, his emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and the care he puts into all his dishes totally justifies the cost. Recaps:
-- Town --
As much as we'll miss Six89 and Grana Bakery, Town now boasts both Six89's chef Bryce Orblom and Grana's baker/owner, Fiona Smollen. In addition to being an all-day restaurant unto itself it is also the bakery for the Pullman. Each Fischer place seems to need some time to settle in, and Town still seems to be working out a few kinks, but it's already a nice spot, and we went for one dinner and several breakfasts.
Breakfast and lunch is counter service only, which is excellent if you're heading out on a hiking/fishing/biking adventure for the day. Baked goods ranged from adequate (sticky buns) to ridiculously excellent (strawberry tart, Saturday-only mini almond cake), and accolades are deserved for their avoiding making anything cloyingly sweet. The best item we tried combined Grana and Six89's strengths: house-smoked salmon on house-made bagels. Solid drip coffee, didn't try anything pulled. Staff is well trained to name drop "Fiona" at every conceivable opportunity, which I found mildly irritating, but hey, if it sells muffins then more power to 'em. NB they're selling their own "cronut" (the deep fried croissant donut of irrational NYC hysteria fame) as a special, so yeah.
Dinner was all pretty good, albeit often remarkably heavy. Fried cheese curds were great even if the breading was a little overbearing. The lasagna and the pork shoulder with grits each had similar good flavor but were again a little much to take. Salads were all terrific, with wonderful fresh, local greens. As with Six89, the wine list continues to be very nicely selected, with finds from all over the world, including from a few of the best local wineries on the western slope, all at reasonable prices.
-- Phat Thai --
Good as ever, at this point Phat Thai easily gets my vote for best restaurant in the lower RF valley. The small plates and curries (pastes made from scratch) continue to be the highlight, but everything is still absolutely terrific. Great selection of local beers; the cocktails are all ok but not quite on par with the rest of the menu.
-- The Pullman --
This place has really settled in nicely, standing it head and shoulders above anything else in Glenwood Springs. We had lunch here twice. Highlights were the green salad with pan-fried gnocchi and what was easily the best BLT I've ever had, with perfectly fried bacon, a swoonily delicious heirloom tomato, greens, and some riff on pesto, on toasted bread baked up the street at Town. We also tried a Palisade peach gazpacho that overreached a touch, falling short on flavor, but you can't fault them for trying. More great local beers as well.