The menu at the Spring Cafe has nachos, enchiladas and thick sandwiches. There are hearty soups, heaping salads and enticing desserts. Since it opened two weeks ago, it’s been a bustling hub of activity in the east end of town, and there’s a buzz about the restaurant.
But, there’s something missing: the meat.
And that’s just the way owner Sabrina Rudin likes it.
“I was raised vegetarian, eating macrobiotic, all-natural, and I grew up eating at Explore when Katherine Thalberg owned the restaurant and Blanca (Salas) was the chef,” she says. “I felt that Aspen was lacking a natural, healthy, organic, vegetarian cafe, and I would always be craving those dishes when I got off the gondola or down from a hike.”
Instead of waiting for something to open, she decided to do it herself. She promptly got Salas to join her team. With a masters degree in international relations and a creative writing/social work background, opening a restaurant was not on her trajectory. But because she grew up vegetarian (and has never tried red meat), the lifestyle and creating a menu that suited her tastes was easy to figure out.
“I really think that food is central to your life, and it’s the basis of how you feel and act,” she says. “So it’s not surprising to me that I opened this restaurant.”
She says her mother was always juicing and sprouting foods, and there was an abundance of healthy and tasty vegetarian dishes in the house.
“I never felt like I was missing anything,” says Rudin.
And that’s exactly the atmosphere she’s trying to create at the Spring Cafe.
Her goal is to offer all-natural, organic and healthy all-vegetarian food that even carnivores crave. Menu choices like nachos made with cashew cheddar cheese, black bean, green onion, pico de gallo, guacamole and housemade tofu sour cream or the falafel wrap with hummus, tomato, red onion, avocado, lettuce, sprouts and tahini dressing make that possible.
The Spring Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, plus operates as a coffee and juice bar. Diners order at the counter and can either eat-in and take the food to-go.
The food is clean and so is the decor. The recently renovated Spring Building was developed by her husband, Michael Rudin. The building houses offices, the cafe and a residential space in which the Rudins live. Michael emphasized sustainable, efficient building practices, and that’s even reflected in the cafe, which is constructed from non-toxic materials. The building has a green roof, which Sabrina plans to use to grow vegetables for the restaurant next summer.
“There needed to be a place that you could walk in and feel like you’re at home,” she says, adding that part of the equation means serving food that people can eat every day.
Bumped up against the residential neighborhoods of the east end, she says there’s already a stream of loyal customers who are supportive of the endeavor. With the Aspen Art Museum opening one block south, this side of town is starting to hum.
“Spring has sprung,” she says.