Filling a Void in Downtown Aspen
Last year, within a matter of months, Piñons closed, Jimmy’s was sold, and then, out of the blue, Tiziano Gortan, the owner of L’Hostaria, announced that he, too, was shutting down his beloved Italian bistro. Between those three iconic restaurants alone, a combined 80-plus years of local Aspen dining history simply evaporated.
Of course, that is the nature of restaurants: They open, they have their run, and then they close. But along the way the special ones, the unique ones, capture and tug at the heart of the community—and then leave a void when they shutter, all too often replaced by eateries born from distant big corporations.
This is the landscape in which PARC, which is set to open in L’Hostaria’s beloved space in late July, enters the market. “We’re not coming in guns a-blazing,” says Camille Carlin, the restaurant’s marketing and public relations director (and daughter of co-owner Maryanne Sefton). “We’re not coming in under the radar because L’Host is such a treasured space. We’ll be under a microscope.”
It was a relief to many to discover that PARC (pronounced P-A-R-C) is not just an independent restaurant, but one owned by full-time residents. Maryanne and Harley Sefton, originally from San Diego, have owned property in the valley for 25 years and permanently moved to town in 2018. The restaurant’s intent, via New American cuisine crafted with a healthy European flair, is to “bring back local, one curated dish at a time,” Carlin says.
Executive chef Mark Connell has been tapped to make that happen. He will do so with a goal of keeping his ingredients as farm-to-table as possible. “We’re using Farm Runners [a Western Slope foods distributor], and we’ll target Sustainable Settings, depending on the new owner, as well as products from Colorado and adjoining states,” Carlin explains. Connell, who hails from Casa D’Angelo and The Snow Lodge, is already dreaming up the menu. “To tease your appetite,” he says, he ticks off dishes like Colorado striped bass with cauliflower couscous, leek soubise, spinach, and pickled golden raisins and organic chicken-and-mushroom pot pie in homemade puff pastry.
PARC is chasing a modern farmhouse vibe, and the space is undergoing a full renovation. The footprint itself won’t change (except the crew is knocking down some faux walls and removing steps so that everything will be one level), but the kitchen layout will be reworked. The bar, always the center of L’Hostaria’s convivial energy, will still be gracious and welcoming.
Carlin says to plan for three price tiers, the hope being that there will be something for everyone. The menu at the 32-seat bar will be the most accessible. “We’re treating the bar like L’Host did, as a locals’ living room,” she says. “You can sit and have a glass of wine, enjoy a reasonably priced meal.” The dining room will have a more elevated menu, although Carlin is quick to say that it’ll be “finer” dining, not fine dining. And the third option is the private 12-person dining room where Chef Connell and the sommelier will create an experience tailored to the tastes of each party.
In other words, PARC won’t be L’Hostaria, but it comes to the scene with a similar mission. “We are hoping to revitalize the local dining scene,” says co-owner Maryanne Sefton. “The space at 620 East Hyman Avenue has over 20 years of local legacy, and we hope to carry on that tradition.”
620 E Hyman Ave, Aspen