Tucked away on Pearl Street in central Boulder sits a cozy, little 100-year-old cottage that housed John’s Restaurant for forty years. After John’s closed, the space remained dormant for years. Fast forward to August 2016, the space now invigorated, has new life with the opening of River and Woods.
River and Woods is the brainchild of Josh and Kate Dinar, of DiningOut Magazine and T|ACO and Daniel Asher, previous culinary director for Root Down, Linger, and Ophelia’s in Denver. I love how these three “found” each other – both parties had interest in the space and the listing agent pointed Asher to the Dinar’s as they were looking for a partner and had already solidified their interest right before him. Serendipity?
Put best in their own words, they share their vision for the restaurant: “We are working to honor that legacy, striving to build a true community restaurant that will serve an elevated taste of Colorado Comfort Cuisine. Like our food, the space itself offers modern whimsy wrapped in tradition.”
Original beams from John’s Restaurant remain intact in the old miner cottage as does the building’s shape itself, but it also underwent a facelift. Ceilings have been raised, the carpet was removed and were replaced with beautiful wood floors for a clean and modern look. You can either sit at the front bar, in the main dining area, or there’s a chef’s table that seats eight people in the back where you can watch the action up close. The interior seats 68.
Every component of the interior is thoughtful. Yes, even the bathroom which has adorable woodland creature wallpaper with warm yellow hues.
My favorite element is the new, outdoor patio (former parking area). It has been completely transformed in to what they’re calling the “backyard” because they really want it to feel like someone’s backyard.
They added reclaimed artificial turf from an athletic field, fencing is built from milling logs, lined with blue and red wooden birds, they installed a rotisserie oven, outdoor kitchen, additional bar, yard games, and hanging twinkle lights all of which make for a whimsical patio fit for kids to run around and enjoy, as you eat under the stars.
The Food – Community Driven:
The eclectic menu, is listed by provenance – River, Woods, High Plains, and Fields. The unique piece? One third of the menu is community-sourced. Guests are encouraged to submit their most beloved recipes to the restaurant and each month the culinary team reviews submitted recipes, selects a few favorites and then interprets them in a way that reflects the River and Woods approach to natural, organic, and sustainable eating before it grace’s the menu. This combines true collaboration and storytelling infused through community, via the cooks at River and Woods.
I love how they invite the owners of the original recipes to a tasting dinner and then a story of their dish is prepared and shared with River and Woods diners. You can also find those stories on their website.
For their opening menu, one such community menu item is Aunt Penny’s Mac & Cheese submitted by Laura Bloom, who lives in Gunbarrel. She uses Cougar Gold cheese, a cheese in a can that she orders every fall from Washington State University (they’ve been canning it since 1940)! The dish comes with orecchiette pasta, Cougar Gold cheddar, hazel dell mushrooms, Olathe organic corn, and onion-potato crunch.
Asher’s own creations like the the heirloom blue corndog or the woodlands Montreal duck wings shows his inventive twists and the food we know and love. The corndog is made from elk cheddar bratwurst, grateful frits heirloom blue cornmeal, wildflower honey mustard, served along sea salt fries and the wings are Maple Leaf duck, dry garlic sauce, Point Reyes blue cheese dressing and organic celery.
Their bar and cocktail program includes some cocktails and wine on tap, and the wine list aligns to geographical feature just like the food menu.
It’s a wonderful addition to Boulder adding elevated cuisine, but bringing great experience and influence between the Dinar’s and Asher. I’ve always been wowed by Asher’s food and River and Woods aims to impress.
River and Woods is located at 2328 Pearl Street. They serve dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. They’re closed on Monday. Find them: riverandwoodsboulder.com