"Personally, I feel like we try to reach for as much local stuff as we can," Alley explains. "We describe this place as a Colorado bistro. So it's Colorado flavors with French techniques."
And when they say local, that includes the immediate area. "[We use] farms that are ten, fifteen minutes from here," Kerr adds. "Grow Girl Organics has been a huge help. ... We try to buy as much produce as we possibly can, and can almost design the menu around what they have available."
Kerr and Alley have collaborated in the kitchen for years, but this is their first venture as co-owners. They met while working in the back of the house at the now-closed LoHi restaurant Z Cuisine years ago. "He came in for a stage one day and was by far the best person that had been around for a while. So immediately I told my chef, 'Let's hire this guy," Kerr recalls. As their partnership grows in age, it is also paying creative, culinary dividends.
The two have leaned heavily on one another, and some key friends and colleagues, to overcome the challenges of opening their first brick-and-mortar location. "I mean, we set the kitchen up like that," Kerr says with a snap of his fingers and a smile. "But we're also not interior designers; we're chefs."
Alley and his wife did most of the remodeling after taking over the keys to the space, the former Mi Tierra, last November. "My wife and I came in here and ripped out the entire ceiling, most of the walls, and there used to be carpet in here," Alley says.
Kerr, during a wave of pandemic boredom, decided to pick up an old skill — woodworking — again; he became so proficient, he eventually made the bar and all of the tables for Stone Cellar.
Talnua Distillery, to help early on with the cocktails, bar setup and other areas not inherent to back-of-house minds. "He came in here and taught us. He helped us write our bar menu, find the best purveyors. It's mostly based off of Adam," Alley says.
"He's like that one-percenter that you meet in the industry whose brain understands when you talk flavor profiles. He can put things together for us that make sense and that we want to use," Kerr adds. Like its food, Stone Cellar's drinks have a heavy Colorado touch, with a focus on local distillers like the Arvada-based Talnua and a variety of regional brewers on the bar's five taps. "Golden City Brewing, Odyssey Brewing, New Terrain and then Crystal Springs.... We always have Coors Banquet because that's what my dad drinks," Alley jokes.
Another welcome addition has been head baker Kat Orona. Kerr and Orona worked together in South Carolina, and with some convincing, she took on the role at Stone Cellar. "We love really good sourdough, brioche and all these things. ... We've worked with Grateful Bread in the past and love everything that they do, but were like, 'We could probably do this ourselves,'" Kerr explains. "I call Kat up and am like, 'Your bread's really good. Can you come out here?' It took weeks of convincing, but yeah, she's here," he adds. Orona's English muffins, biscuits and other baked delicacies have earned rave reviews thus far from Kerr and Alley, and fit well with their goal to provide food that's as fresh as possible.
For Kerr and Alley, the first months since opening have been busy, but also exciting and worthwhile after long industry careers. "It's cool to see the things that have come out of this restaurant, just like how gorgeous some of the plates are, how creative some of the food is here. That's a great part of why we did this," Alley adds. Locals in Arvada have taken notice, too.
"Arvada is becoming such a literal suburb of Denver at this point that I think it's kind of important to raise the entire [culinary] level of the area," Kerr adds. Amongst the old and new restaurant community in Olde Town, there seems to be mutual appreciation. "We all frequent each others' restaurants. There are constantly chefs and owners of other restaurants and businesses in the area in here. It's cool to see such a camaraderie in community."
Following street closings and patio expansions during the pandemic, the area is now more walker-friendly and has seen several new creative restaurants and shops open this year in addition to Stone Cellar Bistro. "It's definitely got a Pearl Street vibe. I think they're keeping it [as walking-only] for the next four or five years. There used to be an open-container policy around here, too, that they're bringing back in January," Alley notes.
Although just months old, Stone Cellar Bistro fits well into its historic building and district with its unique takes on classic, local fare. Kerr and Alley show no signs of slowing down, either, with a new brunch program now available on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Stone Cellar Bistro is located at 7605 Grandview Avenue in Arvada and is currently open from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit stonecellarbistro.com.