Summit County native returns to open Breckenridge’s new Rootstalk restaurant
When Matt Vawter, a Summit High School graduate, saw an opportunity to move back up to the mountains and take over a restaurant building in Breckenridge, he seized the moment.
His new restaurant, Rootstalk, features fine dining menu options without feeling stuffy, Vawter said.
Vawter was previously working as the executive chef at Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver, where he met Patrick Murphy, now the general manager of Rootstalk. After working with Murphy for the past four years, Vawter said he’s always appreciated his knowledge and professionalism. And when Vawter he said he was headed for Summit County, Murphy jumped on board.
The name Rootstalk alludes to Vawter’s roots in the area.
“My roots are here. I’m coming home,” Vawter said. “So we started throwing out the name root and roots and stumbled upon Rootstalk. … We started talking it through; it was like, my roots are here, and now those stalks are beginning to grow.”
Vawter hopes the tagline for the restaurant, “elevated everyday dining,” is embodied by a comfortable, hospitable environment where people feel they can come in wearing casual clothes for drinks and appetizers or sit down to a five-course meal. The restaurant building was a residence in the late 1800s, so Vawter said he wants people to feel that they’re being invited into his home.
“I want this to be a place that’s known for great hospitality, great food and just a gathering place for locals and tourists alike,” Vawter said. “I learned how to cook in this county. … I’m excited to bring what I’ve learned over the last 13 years back to my hometown and share it with the people I grew up with.”
Murphy’s vision for the restaurant is about welcoming people to the community and creating a place where people can try new things.
Rootstalk opened Thursday, Dec. 10, for takeout and outdoor dining. While the indoor dining closure isn’t exactly what Vawter and Murphy had in mind when opening a new business, the two seemed calm about the restrictions. They said working in the industry through the ups and downs this year has helped them learn to pivot and adapt quickly.
“Some of where my calm comes from is just that we’re playing the long game,” Murphy said. “We’re looking to establish roots here. I moved up here with the intention of making this my permanent home, and so I think with that in mind … you control what you can. And this is the area that we’re comfortable with; this is what we’ve done for the last 15 years.”
Vawter said opening day was a success with outdoor dining. The two were shocked when people came to eat three-course meals outside in the snow Friday, Dec. 11, but the restaurant has been quieter during the week.
The winter menu features warming appetizers like French onion soup and spinach artichoke dip, five pasta dishes and hearty entrees like pork tenderloin, duck breast and bone-in rib-eye steak. Prices range from $14 for the spinach artichoke dip to $69 for the rib-eye entree.
Rootstalk, 207 N. Main St. in Breckenridge, opens for apres daily from 2:30-6 p.m. and serves dinner from 4-8 p.m.
A cellar dining room has been added to the restaurant space for an interactive experience with chefs, as diners can see the cooking process when seated downstairs. Including Vawter, there are four chefs at Rootstalk who have graduated from Colorado Mountain College’s culinary program.
Rootstalk is replacing Doma 1898, a restaurant owned by Joyce De La Torre, who also owns Bread + Salt and Bagalis in Frisco. Although the Breckenridge restaurant was doing well, she said she felt spread too thin and decided to focus her energy on her restaurants in Frisco.
While De La Torre is sad to let Doma go, she said she has known Vawter for a long time and is confident he’ll be able to build a successful new restaurant.
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