If you're not paying attention, it's easy to blow right past the tiny cottage at 2328 Pearl Street in Boulder.
The facade sits slightly below street level after decades of progressive road improvements, and most of the building slopes down and is hidden by trees on either side, giving little indication as to what may wait inside. The address was home to John's Restaurant, owned by John and Nancy Bizzarro for some forty years before the upscale eatery closed several years ago. But restaurateurs Josh and Kate Dinar and chef Daniel Asher will soon give Boulderites a new reason to notice the place; they plan to launch River and Woods in the coming weeks, bringing something new to Pearl Street while respecting the building's history.
Josh Dinar says he hopes to open River and Woods by the end of August, which seems like a tight time frame, but he and Kate took possession of the building two years ago and have been working with architects, engineers and the city to ensure that the design lives up to the expectations of modern diners while complying with regulations. Since the sidewalks and streets in front of the restaurant have been built up over the years, one of the main concerns was creating an ADA-compliant entryway with appropriate ramps and doorways.
The result is a new, open space that flows from the front foyer to the back door without visual obstruction, making the interior feel much bigger than it really is. Three separate rooms were opened up to create the bar and dining room, which will soon seat about 65 guests. The once-cramped kitchen in the back will have a large window opening onto the service station and hallway where customers pass on their way to the spacious backyard patio and bar. Part of the kitchen is also being converted into a cold bar where cured meats, cheeses, fresh mozzarella and other small bites will be prepped and served. "The point is to highlight the best of American food artisans," Asher explains of the cold bar, noting that rather than pickling or curing in-house, he wants to showcase local companies creating great products, like Denver's The Real Dill and Boulder's Ozuké.
Elements of John's Restaurant will be kept, like the small "John's" sign on the front of the building and rough-hewn wood beams in the dining area that were once part a Colorado silver mine. In the kitchen, the original walk-in cooler, now more than four decades old, still purrs away — Asher says it actually runs cold. New elements like salvaged boxcar flooring repurposed as ceiling panels, wormy maple tabletops and Moroccan tile around the bar will add warm elements.
In the back yard, an outdoor kitchen will boast grill stations and a rotisserie/smoker. Seating for 22 guests will include tables dressed in linens, to give what Josh Dinar calls a "garden party" feel. To one side, an art installation created by artist Kristin FitzGerrell of Studio 22 will honor "members" who donated to the crowdsourcing campaign that raised money for the outdoor features. At the back, a converted Avion trailer (similar to an Airstream) will act as a bar, with interior lounge seating for six guests. And beneath towering trees on the opposite side will be terraced picnic seating and a kids' community table designed to feel like a treehouse.
River and Woods will initially open for happy hour and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, but will soon add Mondays, lunches and weekend brunch.