630 Main Street, Ouray. 970/325-2042.
Ouray has a new breakfast and lunch joint where the food bursts with Cajun flavor.
Classically trained chef Syd Cavallo is the genius behind the menu at the restaurant that bears his name, with a menu including such Cajun comfort foods as Roasted Garlic and Cheese Grits and Biscuits-n-Gravy that have already become the talk of the town; fanciful Creole-infused breakfast and brunch selections that dance like poetry on the page and explode like a jazz festival of flavor on the tongue; and soups, salads and sandwiches that take their inspiration from the traditional cuisine of the Big Easy ... with a twist.
The food here conveys the joi de vivre that Cavallo and his wife, Kelly, embody in their relationship and lifestyle. “Our house is the house of oral delights,” Cavallo joked. “We like to have fun with food. I get a lot of inspiration from cooking at home for her.”
Kelly’s roots are Cajun, and “no-one is more passionate about food than the Creole-Cajuns,” Cavallo said.
By the way, he pointed out, it’s a misconception that Cajun food has to be spicy. “It’s flavorful,” he emphasized. “That’s one of the rules of Cajun cooking.”
Cavallo, who grew up in New England, also takes inspiration from the slow food movement. “We are a prep-heavy kitchen,” he said. “The food here is made from scratch, with love.”
Syd and Kelly are equally passionate about Ouray, where they spent time together early in their marriage, before moving to Florida. That didn’t last long. “We didn’t have a sense of community there,” Syd reflected. “It’s one of the things we missed so much. We really felt we needed it. Coming back to Ouray, that was one of our goals, to be a part of where we were. Ouray is a really special place, with really special people.”
Locally, before opening his own restaurant, Cavallo applied his skills at the Cimarron Cafe in Ridgway as well as at the Ouray Brewery. But his culinary roots are in New Orleans, where he first met Kelly, and worked in fine dining Creole before becoming a corporate chef and trainer for a breakfast/brunch chain called Another Broken Egg Cafe. Before long, he was recruited to travel around the country, opening 25 restaurants for the company.
Since moving back to Ouray last December, it has been the Cavallos’ dream to open their own place. When the Main Street Restaurant space became available, Kelly knew it was the perfect spot. Less than a week later, Cavallo’s was born. “It was the Main Street Restaurant on Monday, and our soft opening was that Friday,” Kelly said.
That was in late August.
A week or so later, dropping in for a quiet brunch after the breakfast rush has passed, you have a feeling you’re in for something special when the waitress brings you fresh-squeezed orange juice and a little sample of honey-sweetened homemade granola. That feeling is confirmed when she comes back with steamy mugs of chicory coffee, custom-roasted for Cavallo’s by the local Exotic Earth Coffee Roasters, that is so strong and dark it’ll make your eyelashes long and shaggy.
“Brunches in New Orleans are events,” Syd stresses, coming out of the kitchen for a chat between courses of creamy Grits-n-Grillades and the Regular O’ Benny – his take on Eggs Benedict which is anything but regular, with grilled cochon du lait (pulled pork) layered in between the English muffin and the poached egg with hollandaise. “We want this to be a place where people can enjoy a full-on brunch, where they can have fun socializing together.”
Top it all off with a homemade praline that melts in your mouth like a sweet little piece of heaven, and you’re already plotting your next visit. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
The digs: Cavallo’s is located downstairs at 630 Main Street in Ouray, at the base of a sweeping curved staircase underneath the Main Street Theater. It’s just down the hill from the Ouray Post Office, in a space most recently occupied by the Main Street Restaurant, but more commonly known around town as the former home of Cecilia’s. Kelly has redecorated it in a Classic Garden District theme. After-hours, the Cavallos plan to make the space available for catered functions, ranging from wedding receptions to Mardi Gras parties.
Extras: Starting this winter, don’t miss “Beignet Sundays.” The puffy deep-fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar is a New Orleans staple that goes perfectly with chicory coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ. Cher, it’s worth skipping church for. The menu also has many delectable gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Price Point: Breakfast ranges from $5 for a side of roasted cheese grits and a cup of chicory coffee, to $12 for the full-on Down da Bayou Omelette, loaded with crawfish, shrimp, caramelized onions, roasted garlic cloves and shredded cheddar cheese. Lunch falls into much the same range. Gumbo Ya-Ya is $7. The Grilled Shrimp Po-Boy on French Bread is $9. The Charrier salad (grilled crabcakes with remoulade sauce atop greens with purple cabbage, bacon and apple slaw) will set you back 12 bucks. Worth it? Mais bien sûr, mon ami!
Open 7 days a week, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.