If you’ve ever craved Oak’s famous potato-black bean sauté before the popular barbeque joint at the Oak Street gondola station opens for lunch and dinner, you’re in for a nice surprise.
With the opening of a gleaming little coffee bar in the Camel’s Garden Hotel lobby, Oak’s chef-owner, Robbie O’Dell, has made his official foray into the morning grab and go, caffeine scene with Oak Coffee Bar. And it couldn’t be in a better location. In addition, two familiar and friendly faces, longtime locals Cinda Simons and O’Dell’s stalwart chef, Brian Young, staff the coffee bar.
On a brisk Tuesday late morning, the hotel lobby is humming with activity. Hotel guests and Oak’s lunch patrons execute the ski boot clomp across the lobby, some stopping for a fresh cup of coffee. The morning rush had ended, said Simons, but for one chilly little skier, hot chocolate was on the menu.
“What’s your name?” Simons asked her wee customer. His face burrowed shyly into his cup of chocolate.
The coffee bar is tucked in a corner of the lobby in between the doors that lead into Oak on one side and Telluride Sports on the other. Oak Coffee first opened during Telluride Film Festival weekend and into Telluride Blues & Brews, a pair of weekends that Simons said was quite busy. The bar closed for off-season, and re-opened Thanksgiving week.
“Its proximity to Oak and being in the Camel’s Garden lobby is great,” Simons said.
Oak Coffee Bar offers not only coffee drinks made from beans supplied by local roastery, Telluride Coffee Roasters, (formerly Steaming Bean, based in Lawson Hill), but also a pair of rib-sticking breakfast burritos, made daily by Oak chefs. Choose from egg and chorizo with pico de gallo and cheese, or the aforementioned potato-black bean sauté, each wrapped in a soft, warm flour tortilla. Heat-seekers can douse them in O’Dell’s famous, fiery Fat Alley Hot Sauce.
There are also packable items such as muffins, fruit and chips for keeping fueled for a day on the mountain.
Simons, though no longer in the baking business (she recently sold her share of The Butcher and The Baker business to her former partner, Megan Ossola), makes three flavors of her homemade simple syrups for those who enjoy a sweeter coffee drink — vanilla, hazelnut and caramel.
If her customers are not headed directly to Chair 8 or the gondola, Simons pointed out that the lounge area to the south of the hotel’s reception desk is a comfortable and spacious area to sip a hot drink and plan out the day.
“It (the Camel’s Garden) is a classic old, Telluride design with a space to enjoy your coffee,” she said. “It’s a really nice, big community space.”
Young has worked for O’Dell since 1998 and has found his newest role as a front-of-the-house barista “fun and social.”
O’Dell, Young said, opened the coffee bar, in part, because “Camel’s Garden wanted it.” In fact, the hotel’s owner, Michael Zivian had the bar built, and it is a design Young described as “really nice.”
Since its opening, Young has watched business steadily build as more locals discover that a fresh burrito and a hot cup of coffee can be had just steps from the morning lift line.
“Powder days are when we expand out business,” Young noted. “We’re building a good local following. Word of mouth is definitely happening.”
Running a morning coffee and breakfast fare business is a departure from pulled pork and stiff bourbon drinks, Young said, but it has been a challenge O’Dell and his staff have enjoyed taking on.
“Robbie is psyched to do it,” Young said. “It’s been fun trying to figure it out. It’s a cool little puzzle to work.”
Oak Coffee Bar will be open through the ski season, “will likely close for off-season,” Young said, and reopen before Mountainfilm. Hours are 8 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.