Asher and Josh Dinar — publisher of Dining Out and restaurateur who has been involved in H Burger and T|ACO — started planning River and Woods together after realizing in early 2015 that they were both interested in the same Boulder restaurant space. Asher explains that the John's Restaurant property is "something that has such an iconic connection to the community," and that he's honored to be able to continue that connection. Part of that will be realized by taking recipe submissions from the community and incorporating them in the menu.
"It's about food memories, the story of food, how food connects us all," he explains. "There's also the romance and poetry of how we eat. People can feel like they're helping to create the culinary experience."
Those ideas will manifest themselves in a menu that the chef says will be "honest, simple, rustic, comforting and local — hyper-local, actually."
Asher lived in Boulder a little over eight years ago, when he first moved from Chicago to Colorado. "I've always loved Boulder's energy and flow — the connection to sustainability and the earth," he says. So River and Woods will focus on sustainable practices and ingredients grown and raised in the Boulder Valley. Asher notes that sustainability to him means more than just what happens in the kitchen and on the farm, but is also about taking care of yourself. "If you're not feeding and watering your own soul," he says, "how are going to make sure the people around you are taken care of?"
Stepping away from the fast pace and long hours of running multiple restaurants has allowed Asher to reconnect with the idea of hospitality and feeding guests. "Part of me was missing the small-scale, more intimate dining experience," he explains. "This is an opportunity to redefine my path." He also says the birth of his son three years ago made him re-evaluate his priorities and time commitments. "My favorite thing is being a father," he adds.
River and Woods is turning to the community not only for some of its recipes, but also for some of its funding. Dinar and Asher have set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise $30,000 that will go toward converting previously unused space behind the restaurant into a "backyard oasis" with a food bar, outdoor rotisserie and a mobile beverage bar built from an Airstream trailer, all surrounded by strings of lights, grassy areas and al fresco seating. Crowdfunding contributors will receive perks like gift certificates, merchandise, invitations to VIP events and their names on a Backyard Builders wall.
Asher and Dinar expect to open River and Woods this summer, with an interior space that honors the original restaurant and its hundred-year-old building while adding two new bars, chef's tables inside the kitchen, and decor and architecture designed and executed by Wheelhouse Design, Caddis Architecture and Duggan Construction.