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“My least favorite thing to read is ‘such and such restaurant quietly shutters,’” says Solera chef-owner Goose Sorensen. “No way man, you go out kicking and screaming.” For 16 years, Sorensen fought to keep his Colfax restaurant afloat and relevant. But on Saturday, March 31, Sorensen will run his last dinner service and then, after a small open house on Sunday afternoon to say goodbyes to neighbors, friends, and loyal diners, he’ll lock the doors. It’s the end of an era and bittersweet for Sorensen. “It’s emotional but I’m ready. I am ready,” he says.
The news of Solera’s pending closure has Denverites reminiscing. Since the moment Sorensen announced the news on February 16, the dining room has been jammed. A couple of days ago at 4:48 p.m., the bar was full and there were 42 open menus in the dining room. “Everyone wants a hug, everyone wants to tell me a story,” Sorensen says. “There’s one couple that has come in every night for two weeks to eat the calamari [one of Solera’s signature appetizers].” In the current restaurant climate where every eatery is clambering for a full house, this rush of business is a testament to the staying power of Solera and Sorensen.
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The news sent me reflecting too: In my 20 years on staff at 5280, one of my very favorite Denver dinners took place at Solera. It was about 2003, shortly after my-now husband and I met. We dined on duck confit with kumquats, and more than a decade later I remember every detail of that perfect evening: the attentive service, the warm glow of the dining room, that exquisite dish. Again, in 2012, my husband and I stopped by on a lazy Saturday for appetizers on Solera’s patio. I later wrote about the pear crostini, a dish Sorensen jotted off to highlight a surplus of fall fruit from a neighbor’s tree.
As Sorensen winds down his days at Solera, he’s looking forward to disappearing into the woods on his family’s property in Wyoming. He’ll work on restoring a smattering of log cabins that dot the land, listen to the wind in the trees, and fish. “As long as my chainsaw is sharp and my fly box is full, I’ll be good,” he says. It’s on this land that Sorensen finds the solidity that cooking can’t offer. “I’ve been clearing the trees for the last 11 years. I can look at the view, I can look at what I did that day and it’s permanent. Food is great but you cook it and it’s gone.”
I understand what Sorensen means but I disagree: Solera won’t disappear after the last meal is served. For 16 years, Sorensen has created indelible memories of meals, moments, dishes, and stories—all of which will last long past Solera’s lifespan.
5401 E. Colfax Ave., 303-388-8429