Arcana, a modern restaurant built upon the history of American food, opened its doors in Boulder at 909 Walnut Street. Annie Toan, a native Boulderite and industry veteran, and her husband Elliott Toan, who spent childhood summers on Western Slope and then went on to culinary school in Colorado, dreamt up Arcana more than three years ago. It didn't have a name or a chef, or a location at that time, but the Toans knew that they wanted to create a place that would take a full historic approach to regional cuisine while staying true to our era.
Chef Matt Lackey, a Southerner and Culinary Institute of America grad, shared the vision for Arcana and the approach to hospitality that the Toans were promoting. After a culinary career that included several years cooking with celebrated chef Sean Brock of Husk and McCrady and an executive chef position at Flyte that put him among Eater's Young Guns in 2013, he packed up and moved to Boulder to join in the creation of Arcana.
The result is a charming and cozy restaurant that allows itself to be influenced by seasons, the land, farms and plains, forests and fisheries and dairies. Lackey's menu reveals his Southern roots through his respect for what belongs on a plate in Colorado in the wintertime. A prime example is the local bison ribeye, cooked on a stunning wood burning oven, and served with embered onions, farro verde, caramelized soubise, and Oxford Farm dandelion greens.
A strong partner to the food menu is the bar program led by Jon Watsky, a Johnson & Wales University trained professional chef whose resume includes the French Laundry, Frasca Food and Wine, and Oak at Fourteenth. His bar menu includes creative cocktails, beer, wine, and a fabulous cider selection. Out of six tap handles, three are dedicated to cider and that is only the beginning of 20 cider list that includes local, national, and international selections.
The interior of the playful 100 seat restaurant was designed by Sara Blette of Necessary Space, while Jim Bray from Jim Bray Architecture designed the restaurant. In an elevated tongue-in-cheek manner with divided areas, Arcana mimics a Southern home that includes a lounge, gallery, chambers, formal dining room, and library.
The dining room tables and chairs are made from sustainable Beetle Kill Pine, created by Denver-based Black Hound Design Company. Annie Toan co-created all of the restaurant's art, each an original collection, including a historic book installation placed in the restaurant's reading nook/library area, and a spine of vintage spoons.
A highlight of the experience at Arcana is the stunning plateware on which dishes are served. Chef Lackey spent three days with Yountville, California pottery artist
Lynn Mahone, to custom design Arcana's earthenware pottery plates. He returned with some eight different plates that charm as much as the food they hold.
For the time being, Arcana will be open for dinner only Monday through Saturday. In the coming months, lunch service as well as a Sunday single-service from 12 p.m. to the early dinner hours will be added.
All photos by Ryan Dearth