The tiny Boulder cottage at 2328 Pearl Street that was home to John's Restaurant for decades will open as River and Woods on Tuesday, September 6. The new eatery comes courtesy of restaurateurs Josh and Kate Dinar and chef Daniel Asher, best known in Denver for his previous work spearheading the culinary program at Root Down, Linger and Ophelia's. River and Woods combines country charm with just enough sophistication to avoid kitsch territory. While the dusty blue exterior and pale pine interior may bring to mind grandma's kitchen, Asher's take on homestyle cooking is anything but rough or rustic.
A portion of the menu is devoted to recipes submitted by locals and customers; Asher says about fifteen so far have made it through the vetting process, received tweaks for high-volume production and will rotate through the tight, focused roster. Aunt Pennie's mac & cheese is one of those, made with Cougar Gold white cheddar, a product of the Washington State University Creamery that's actually a high-quality, all-natural cheese, despite coming in 22-ounce cans. And as a tribute to the building's past, Asher has also included John's gnocchi verde, a recipe from the previous restaurant's chef, John Bizzarro.
Along with those, you'll find sections labeled Rivers, Woodlands, Coasts, High Plains and Farmlands & Fields, each with a range of dish sizes and prices. Family dinners are also available, priced per person, including rotisserie chicken, barbecued baby back ribs, main lobster and selections from a daily specials board.
A small bar up front supplies the restaurant with Colorado spirits and brews, a small selection of wines and seasonal cocktails that right now are running toward bright and refreshing concoctions.
While the interior feels almost like a dollhouse with its low windows (the floors had to be raised for ADA compliance), the backyard patio combines treehouse and clubhouse elements, with rough pine picnic tables, a swath of shaggy artificial turf, a "river of wood" that's actually a path from the back door to the back bar (soon to be installed) made with circles cut from a tree trunk. An outdoor kitchen will supplement the menu with grilled and smoked items and also act as a second chef's counter — the first one's hidden inside just to the right of the main kitchen.
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Rivera and Woods will be open daily for dinner and will also soon add brunch and lunch hours. Keep reading for more photos.