After Tacorico served its last plate of crispy cola-roasted carnitas last spring, Edwards foodies mourned the loss of a neighborhood outlet of affordable upscale cuisine. Little did they know that this departure would herald the ascendance of Edwards Corner—a stuccoed strip mall at the southeast corner of Highway 6 and Edwards Access Road blessed with an artisanal butcher (Cut!), a wine and cheese charcuterie (Eat + Drink), and a batch-made ice cream parlor (Sundae)—as perhaps the most buzzworthy culinary development in the Vail Valley since Kevin Clair opened Sweet Basil in 1977.
At the same time that Pollyanna Forster and Chris Irving turned out the lights on Tacorico, Chris Schmidt (a longtime Sweet Basil chef who came to Colorado from Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred Per Se) despaired of ever finding a home for his first restaurant, a beer-centric artisan sandwich shop backed by Sweet Basil co-founder Matt Morgan. After nine months of searching from Vail to Eagle, Schmidt grabbed the keys to Tacorico, which had a following, not to mention, a fully functioning kitchen.
Almost simultaneously, Gretchen Hovey (a private chef with a produce distribution company) and Molly Harrison (another private chef and former Sweet Basil bread baker married to Sweet Basil’s former dining room manager) signed the lease on a 2,700-square-foot vacant space two doors down (the former home of Sato sushi and Ray’s steak house). Bootstrapped with a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded its $25,000 goal in 2.5 days, they dubbed their joint venture, a coffee house/bakery/specialty grocery, Hovey & Harrison. Both businesses opened within weeks of each other in July and have been humbled, if not overwhelmed, by the response.
“Saying we’ve been busy is an understatement,” says Morgan, whose business card IDs him as “Bus Boy With Keys.” “We wanted to be conservative, but we were foolishly low with our business projections. We got pretty well run over. My wife and I were both in here washing dishes and busing tables.”
At a register beside a turntable spinning vinyl LPs from the chef’s personal collection, Schmidt’s wife, Janelle, works the front of the house, taking orders and pouring pints from a dozen taps of a craft beer selection curated from kegs the couple hand-picks (and drives) from Front Range breweries that aren’t distributed in the valley. Meanwhile, Schmitty (as he’s known) and his line cooks work frantically in an open kitchen, chatting up customers while plating $12 house specialty sandwiches like banh mi fried chicken with chicken liver pâté and the signature Schmidt Mac (two Colorado Legacy beef patties layered with Nueske’s bacon, American cheese, grilled onions, house-cured pickles on a toasted sesame seed brioche bun baked next door by Molly Harrison, who fires up her ovens well before dawn.
At H&H, a similarly peripatetic scene unfolds from breakfast (braided “monkey bread” cinnamon rolls with citrusy Color Coffee roasted in Eagle) through après (sammies scratch-made down to the mayo, with three California varietals on tap at the wine bar), while all day, locals shop from a larder as well-stocked with gourmet goodies as the Master Chef kitchen.
“I feel like our head is finally coming up for air,” says Gretchen Hovey. “The business is morphing into its own thing. People are excited.” And happily, hungry for more.
Hovey & Harrison
56 Edwards Village Blvd #120, Edwards
56 Edwards Village Blvd #112, Edwards