As the seasons change in Aspen, so do the menus

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenSeptember 15, 2011
Division debuted this summer.
Troy Hooper
The recent snow above Aspen is a sign of the changing seasons.

And when the weather changes, so does the downtown restaurant scene.One recent addition to Aspen’s medley of mouth-watering establishments is Division — a name that harkens back to the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who settled many of Colorado’s famous ski towns. The sign outside of the restaurant, housed in the old Golden Horn building, even includes a pair of crossed skis reminiscent of the patches the 10th Mountain Division’s soldiers wore on their uniforms.

The spot that Division took over this summer is the same one that Victoria’s Espresso and Wine Bar recently left. While the temperatures are still warm, the Division has staked out a good chunk of the bricked mall, where it has set up outdoor tables, chairs and umbrellas for a cat-bird view of Wagner Park. Summer officially ends on Sept. 23 so look for this set-up to be clearing out relatively soon.

Victoria’s, meanwhile, has relocated near the corner of Durant Avenue and Galena Street — an ideal location to fuel the skiers and snowboarders heading up Aspen Mountain. It too has a pleasant area for outdoor seating and Victoria’s has expanded its food offerings far beyond basic bagels and croissants.
Victoria's new location and patio.
Troy Hooper

While the weather here is certainly fickle, one mainstay for nearly a quarter of a century is Little Annie’s Eating House at 517 East Hyman Ave. Soak up the red-and-white-checked tablecloth décor while you still can, as there are plans to demolish this building. These digs have been around since the ’60s yet they didn’t meet the city of Aspen’s historical designation standards. There is a plan working its way through City Hall that calls for the building to be torn down and replaced with a much bigger, more modern mixed-use development. There is talk of opening a Little Annie’s restaurant in the new plaza, where its juicy burgers, thick homemade chili and daily specials are already the stuff of legend. But a reincarnation of Little Annie’s could take years, and may not happen at all — and, really, it wouldn’t be the same. Stop by this unpretentious eatery for a bite to eat, or a shot and a beer, before it’s too late.

Did someone say beer? There will be plenty of that at a new Irish pub that will soon be opening in town. Keep your eyes peeled when you stroll through the Hyman Avenue mall. In the old subterranean space that used to house Club Chelsea and, more recently, Mustang is the construction of Finbarr’s Irish Pub. Owned by Denis and Kelly Wyly O’Donovan, it will include a kitchen and lots of good vibes. They are shooting to open before the ski season gets under way. The countdown has officially begun.

One of town’s main watering holes, Bentley’s, is also currently shuttered. The city of Aspen, which owns the 122-year-old building, didn’t renew the bar and restaurant’s lease and instead solicited new ventures. Michele Kiley and Marco Cingolani, who ran the Cheese Shop together, have been picked to replace Bentley’s. They are shooting for a ski season opening. The eatery’s name hasn’t been decided.
Local celebrity chef Susie Jimenez is teaching cooking courses in the old N9NE Steakhouse location.
Troy Hooper

Speaking of places that have gone dark, the Pitkin County Steakhouse and Tavern closed a couple of weeks ago after just one year in existence. The steakhouse was attempting to keep a tradition alive at that Hopkins Avenue space that goes back five decades, namely with the Steak Pit and Double Dog. The eatery’s operators say the rent there is no longer affordable. The landlord is seeking new tenants.

There was a plan to put a new restaurant into the space vacated last winter by the local incarnation of N9NE Steakhouse in the alley off of the Hyman Avenue mall, across from CB Paws. But the plan didn’t work out. To fill the void, local caterer Susie Jimenez, a finalist on this year’s “The Next Food Network Star,” is teaching cooking classes out of the space, which has the word FUN on the door handle.

And now that the snow is once again falling, we can safely say that fun is just around the corner.

Follow Troy Hooper on Twitter.

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