Lyons, located an hour north of Denver, is home to just 2,500 residents and has that quintessential small-town feel. Main Street is dotted with cafes and casual eateries, often serving as the perfect place for tourists to pause along their mountain travels, but a new addition is worth the drive on its own.
In July, chef Theo Adley opened Marigold
, a forty-seat restaurant, serving dishes that highlight the freshest local ingredients. As a child, Adley began to understand the deep connection between farm and kitchen, often spending time at his family’s farm in northern Ontario. He recalls the idyllic summers of his youth, savoring fresh homegrown produce in the kitchen with his mother.
Adley’s adoration for good food eventually led him to jobs in cafes and restaurants. Early teenage stints bussing tables and washing dishes provided impactful glimpses into the world of professional cooking. He always appreciated the “quiet storm that was brewing in the back,” he recalls, and he became enamored with kitchen life as he observed both the camaraderie and the discipline among the cooks.
After high school, Adley made his way west to pursue a liberal arts degree at the University of Colorado Boulder. Cooking, however, remained at the forefront of his interests, and he eventually enrolled in an accelerated culinary program in the area. Since then, he has spent the last two decades honing his skills and his perspective through food. Adley attributes early work with the teams at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder and the Little Nell in Aspen as being particularly pivotal in his career, helping him gain a clearer understanding of a chef’s intentions when creating and executing an exemplary menu.
Locally grown produce takes center stage.
In 2020, Adley spent quarantine with his family in western Colorado. He returned to the Denver area later that year, adapting to the COVID landscape as a private chef. During that time, he went through a long meditative process, trying to figure out how to get himself back in the game. “I got to make the decision for myself,” he says, recounting a pivotal moment of clarity: “I am a restaurant chef — this is what I love.”
Adley says he came through the early stages of the pandemic with a sizable amount of survivor’s guilt, as many of his friends in the business lost everything. He felt he had more to offer creatively and hospitality-wise, and wanted to help others in the industry, proving to himself and a team of colleagues that they could indeed make a positive impact on a community. Thus the seeds for Marigold were sewn.
The restaurant is housed in a red sandstone building that was originally built in 1885 as a train depot, and its doors open directly onto Main Street. The dining room is clean, modest and inviting. Light pours in from the large storefront windows, illuminating the warm tones of the natural wood surfaces and brass accents. A cheery vase of dahlias sits atop the L-shaped bar. There, a handful of stools serve as the perfect perch for a delightful libation.
Marigold maintains a dynamic wine list.
Marigold’s beverage program features exceptionally well-made classic cocktails, several craft beers and a superb selection of natural wines available by both the glass and the bottle. For dinner, Adley is cooking the foods he truly wants to cook. Influenced by the traditional flavors of northern Italy and southern France, he politely passes on trendy concepts that rely on molecular gastronomy and superfluous garnishes. Instead, he opts to accentuate the exquisite simplicity of vegetables and proteins sourced from along the Front Range, resulting in a technique-driven menu.
At first glance, the offerings appear limited and humble. Each of the dozen dishes, however, is dialed in with such finesse and nuance that choosing which items to order is an ever-present dilemma. Dishes range in size from smaller snacks of briney marinated olives ($8) to larger composed entrees such as grilled hanger steak with savory anchovy butter, wilted greens and crispy potatoes ($29).
For mid-sized plates, diners are treated to fantastic vegetable-forward creations and housemade semolina pastas. Grilled baby leeks are paired with roasted sweet peppers, topped with generous dollops of a garlicky romesco sauce and a scattering of toasted hazelnuts ($15). Tender fairytale eggplants are layered atop swirls of whipped ricotta; fresh mint and a drizzle of coriander-and-cumin-spiced honey balance the dish with an earthy sweetness ($14). Adley’s extensive experience in pasta and sauce production shines, as a deeply flavorful Bolognese clings to tubes of fresh rigatoni ($24). Meanwhile, zucchini and bite-sized tomatoes join golden strands of bucatini in a silky saffron sauce that is an elegant ode to summer ($23).
Hanger steak sourced from a family-run farm in Boulder Country.
Adley describes Marigold as the confluence of a tremendous amount of hard work and a bit of sheer luck. He speaks about his staff and guests with the utmost respect and enthusiasm, crediting their unending support for the restaurant’s early success. He is excited for Marigold to build its own dynamic ecosystem in Lyons, and is conscious about mitigating waste at the restaurant, working toward more effective solutions for closing its product loop.
The chef/owner anticipates that Marigold will continue to adapt, morph and grow, and he remains eager to engage his team, his purveyors and his guests in a dialogue that furthers the evolution of a business that is creative, meaningful, sustainable and fair — and completely worth the drive from metro Denver.
Marigold is located at 405 Main Street in Lyons and is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy hour is offered from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Reservations are strongly encouraged. For more information, visit marigoldlyons.com.