Yes, Virginia, you can have impeccably fresh seafood in the fly-over zone. The biggest buzz in Aspen (besides the weekend storm) is the December 13 opening of stylish New England-style seafood restaurant Grey Lady. The sibling to New York's happening LES location, the Aspen outpost has all the makings of a hit. Owners Ryan Chadwick and Ian Perry are childhood friends from Nantucket (they also own Aspen's Escobar Nightclub, which, appropriately enough, is designed to resemble an airplane fuselage). It's located on the perimeter of a cobblestoned pedestrian mall in the former R & R, Above the Salt, and Junk space— "I love cursed properties," quips Chadwick. Perry adds, "I don't believe in curses. It's a terrific location— you can't get more centralized than the intersection of two of Aspen's main streets." The cozy, 70-seat spot is already packing them in, thanks to stellar food and cocktails, friendly, clued-in staff, and a subtly sexy, rustic-chic interior.
Chadwick's uncle, a Maine lobsterman, ships his catch direct on a daily basis, piggybacked with oysters from a Damariscotta mariculture farm. Executive chef Kathleen Crook (keep an eye on her; late of Aspen's Steakhouse No. 316, she's one to watch, as is sous chef Brian Kartman, recently arrived from Block Island; prior to that, he oversaw Honga's Lotus Petal in Telluride) turns the lobster into smoky, silky, flavor-packed chowder ($16) studded with Littleneck clams, bacon, and housemade oyster crackers.
Crook also also uses whole, steamed crustaceans (one-and-a-quarter pounds worth) on the signature lobster roll. Nestled on an airy, slightly sweet bun baked exclusively for Grey Lady by neighboring Annette's Mountain Bakeshop (one of Curbed Ski's best ski town bakeries), this is the real deal, and it comes with housemade pickles and a heaping silver bucket of addictive, Old Bay-spiced fries. Another standout is the lobster carbonara, housemade tagliatelle with Reggiano Mornay, Tasso ham, and peas topped with an intact egg yolk ($35). For those who eschew carbs, there's also a sous-vide chicken with cast-iron root vegetables and herbed jus roti, New England bouillabaisse, hearty salads, and raw bar items.
The cocktail program is also a first for Aspen. In addition to a full bar, there are four signature, large-batch cocktails on tap, including a riff on the Moscow Mule blended with local vodka from Woody Creek Distillers and housemade ginger beer. Grey Lady is also embarking on an in-house barrel-aged cocktail program, also in collaboration with Woody Creek Distillers— think manhattans and other classics.
Chadwick, a longtime restaurateur, will remain in New York to oversee the LES location, while Perry runs the Aspen restaurant's front-of-house. The design, done by Emily Siegel, is inspired by the focal point: a 1902 stamped tin ceiling salvaged from Chadwick's NYC apartment building. The moody, candle-lit space features mostly reclaimed materials, including weathered wood panels and tables, hardwood flooring, and exposed brick walls painted slate grey. Says Perry, "Unlike the New York space, which is known as a cool bar with great food, we want this to be an excellent restaurant with a cool bar." Three days in, it's already looking like mission accomplished.