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Linda Hayes | Photo: Ashley Davis Tilly | July 8, 2013
Mark Fischer’s latest restaurant brings new flavor to Old Town Carbondale.
C rispy pig’s ears and kale salad: It’s a sunny afternoon on the patio at town., as chef-owner Mark Fischer orders the two most disparate dishes on his new menu. Surprised by the pairing, I shoot him a glance, take in his fit physique (emphasized by a CrossFit tee—Fischer is also an avid mountain biker, runner and skier), and consider that, for more than a dozen years, he has championed the concept of cooking and eating locally in the Roaring Fork Valley, supporting dozens of purveyors, farmers and artisans in their efforts.
Along the way, he has helped turn formerly sleepy Main Street in Carbondale—about 30 miles downvalley from Aspen—into a bustling restaurant row. (His popular Phat Thai restaurant sits directly across the street; his now-shuttered, but forever-revered, six89 was just a few blocks away.)
The aforementioned pig’s ears—thinly sliced, braised for 24 hours, then fried to crunchy deliciousness and seasoned with an intensely flavored, housemade spice—seem to personify Fischer’s bold new approach to his new venue and menu. The healthy pile of chopped kale tossed with pine nuts, currants and Parmesan is fuel for his athletic bent. He can, I conclude, eat whatever he wants.
Since it opened in May in the former Hestia space, town. has been packed with an enthusiastic crowd happy to have Fischer, along with former six89 Chef de Cuisine Bryce Orblom and Sous Chef Chris Randall, back in the kitchen. “We see everyone in here,” says Orblom, “from 20-year-olds in for a bite at the bar before a movie at the Crystal [Theatre] to couples in for dinner who order bottles of big wines.”
Fischer clearly gives Orblom a lot of rein, and it shows in snacks like velvety rabbit liver pâté served in little glass jars, small plates like grilled and pickled asparagus layered with Virginia ham and topped with a soft-poached egg, and pastas like homemade rye cavatelli in a smoky ham and Parmesan broth with a swirl of nettle pesto. Large plates include naturally raised, locally sourced chicken, brined for juiciness and pan-seared for a supercrisp skin. Meat-lovers go for Harris Ranch hanger steak, while butternut squash enchiladas satisfy the vegetarian crowd.
Though less extensive—and expensive—than at six89, town.’s wine list features an ample collection of New and Old World wines by the bottle, half bottle or glass. Cocktails like the Clemen Thyme (lemon and thyme-infused vodka, Cointreau, grapefruit, soda, salted lemon and fresh thyme) are shaken up, and a collection of mostly Colorado beers are offered on tap, or in bottles or cans.
Besides on the patio, diners settle at tables in the brick-walled front room, where windows look out to Main Street, or in the more subdued (except for the action at the bar and hustle in the rear open kitchen) dining room. Mornings, coffee drinks from ink! Roasters, as well as pastries, doughnuts, muffins and bagels by local baker Fiona Smollen, who does the restaurant’s bread course too, are served at a coffee counter inside the front door.
Town. is open for lunch and dinner, plus Sunday brunch and Sunday supper. Check the website for hours, and, while you’re there, check out the collection of black-and-white photos from Carbondale’s early days, long before, well, town. hit town. 348 Main St., Carbondale, 970.963.6328, towncarbondale.com