Brought to you by the Colorado Collective.
Words by Anna Hayes
Photos by Tessa Harvey
The first thing you’ll see when you walk into Aspen Kitchen is the patented Pink Himalayan Saltbrick Dry Aging Room, which displays saltbrick meats in a glass box lined with bricks of pink Himalayan rock salt glowing from hidden lights. This piece not only makes a bold statement, but it also emphasizes the brilliant qualities of the restaurant. From the denim outfits that servers wear to the rustic and modern décor—Executive Chef Matthew O’Neill has created a casual eatery with an upscale flair. Aspen Kitchen’s signature dishes provide customers with a taste of masterful freshness and mouthwatering nourishment. The atmosphere is warm, inviting, and upbeat. With all of these features, it’s a great setting to have a casual business meeting, go on a low-key date, or spend a night out with friends.
Located four blocks from Silver Queen Gondola, the restaurant’s patio overlooks Aspen’s charming downtown buildings and offers breathtaking views of the mountains. The dining room has a warm, eclectic, modern feel, and it boasts an open concept kitchen in which guests can watch as their food is prepared. Matthew describes this as “the show.” Because of the open concept kitchen, when patrons enter they are immersed in the aromas of the food, and they can hear food prep in the background.
Executive Chef Matthew O’Neill is also the owner of Aspen Kitchen. He grew up cooking, and his first job was working in a pizza restaurant at fourteen years old. Matthew decided to go to New England Culinary Institute in Vermont to see if he’d like to pursue a career in food, and he quickly discovered that it was his passion.
From Vermont, Matthew completed several internships. Still, his goal was to work at the best restaurant he possibly could in New York. Because of his aspirations and determination, he worked at Daniel—a Michelin 3-Star restaurant in New York City.
Because of his accomplishments, Matthew is given carte blanche over the menu, and he carefully crafts and chooses those items. In fact, he created over 90 drafts of the menu before the restaurant launched in 2015. He uses regionally sourced ingredients in the cuisine and works with selected local farmers to get the freshest ingredients.
The menu is adapted according to the fruits and vegetables that are in season. “We like to let mother nature tell us what to do,” Matthew described. In some of his dishes, he uses Colorado Striped Bass, which are locally farmed and properly treated. He stays away from seafood that is going extinct. Aspen Kitchen also sources ingredients from the market that are at the peak of ripeness.
When asked about what Matthew wanted Aspen Kitchen to be known for, he expressed, “I want to be known for being different—to change the way Aspen looks at food. I feel like a lot of places have become complacent. I’m not saying I want to push the envelope, because I’m doing simple food that’s good. It’s not fancy, and I’m not trying to be something that I’m not.” Eventually, though, he wants to have some late night business, to draw people in past 10:30 pm. He would also love to host a chef battle. The experience at Aspen Kitchen is definitely pushing the envelope, establishing a progressive and stimulating reputation in Aspen’s culinary scene.