405 Main St., Unit B, Lyons
The Draw: Fine-dining-quality food at a reasonable price in an intimate, laid-back setting
The Drawback: The out-of-the-way location
Noise Level: Moderate
Don’t Miss: Seared scallops, lobster, baba au rhum (rum-soaked cake)

Denver’s loss has become Lyons’ gain. After failing to find the right location for a neighborhood bistro in a larger Front Range city, chef Theo Adley—formerly of the Populist, where he helmed the kitchen before the RiNo spot shuttered in 2019—took his fine-dining chops to the 2,200-resident town north of Boulder and opened Marigold this past July. The restaurant, located on Main Street between a fly-fishing shop and a boutique tattoo studio, serves a rotating roster of fare driven by seasonal ingredients and French and Italian cuisines. For the hospitality veteran, whose resumé also includes being the onetime chef-owner of Boulder’s the Pinyon and the former executive chef at Dunton Hot Springs near Dolores, the foothills enclave felt like the right place to land. “Lyons is a really magical place,” Adley says. “It’s small and weird and earnest. It’s pretty much exactly like us.”

Chef-owner of Marigold, Theo Adley. Photo by Sarah Banks

I’m not sure about weird, but the light-filled, wood-accented eatery is compact. Because there are 38 seats in a 700-square-foot dining room, it’s hard not to pick up on conversations at surrounding tables. (That didn’t bother me much, though, as the couple I sat by generously offered a bite of their chickpea pancake after I asked for their opinion of the appetizer.) Despite the minor downside of Marigold’s diminutive size, there’s a notable upside: Something about the venue’s scale evokes the intimacy of classic Parisian brasseries. The place has a communal vibe that makes you want to become a regular, even if you live in Denver or Boulder. The friendly but unobtrusive waitstaff are quick to acknowledge repeat patrons, and Adley tries to personally check in with every table.

During a weekend meal, my dining companion and I started with the pan-roasted scallops. The golden sear enhanced the silky mouthfeel and delicate taste of the shellfish, while the accompanying parsnip purée was accented with lively green peppercorns, briny bottarga roe, and a whisper of coconut cream, which took the dish a winning step beyond the traditional preparation you find at many refined restaurants. Farinata, a savory chickpea pancake found in Provence, was fried to crispy perfection. The appetizer arrived at the table piping hot with nicely browned edges that contrasted well with its softer, creamier center. While the pancake was a little salty, the sharp rosemary and sautéed onions folded into the dough and a garnish of fruity Ubriaco Pinot Rosé cheese bits balanced the salinity and earthiness of the chickpeas.

Marigold’s light-filled dining room is furnished with rustic touches. Photo by Sarah Banks

The half chicken, roasted under a brick in Tuscan tradition, is a menu mainstay. The poultry arrived moist yet still shrouded in crispy skin, but the salsa verde topping—composed of parsley, mint, shallot, lemon, capers, olive oil, and fish sauce—lacked assertiveness. The dish would have been better served with something more acidic, like a vinegar- and chile-infused chimichurri, though the accompanying smooth, spiced yogurt and roasted root vegetables were fair complements.

If you’re going to order one thing at Marigold, it should be the lobster, a rotating special that showcases Adley’s culinary prowess and, yes, his earnestness. Overcooking, which leads to a dry and rubbery texture, is a crime against lobster tail. But Adley’s crustacean is unviolated, despite the lengthy preparation he puts it through. The fruit of the sea receives a brief bath in a lemon- and bay-leaf-scented court bouillon (a broth used for poaching). Then, Adley makes a sauce. Cooked down over five hours with crushed lobster shells, a sofrito of veggies and aromatics, Madeira, and a dried-kelp-steeped broth, the sauce—spiked with a little anise liqueur and salt—is then used to reheat the tail. Adley serves the meat with chicken-jus-glazed salsify (a green in the dandelion family) and white-soy-vinaigrette-dressed radicchio. The payoff is one of the best lobster courses I’ve ever enjoyed.

Dessert at Marigold is also memorable. From a list of three offerings, we chose the baba au rhum, a cake with origins in France that resembles an old-school slice of Bundt. But one bite revealed it’s far from a 1970s throwback. A foundation of glutinous rice flour gave the sponge a subtle, mochi-cake-like chew. A soak in Jamaican rum and Grand Marnier delivered a boozy punch that played well with the cake’s vanilla accents. And a floral passion fruit syrup offered a welcome finale of acidity.

The offerings here are akin to what you might find at a farm-to-table venue in LoHi or Capitol Hill—but with a healthy dose of small town charm. While Denverites who want to taste Adley’s talents have to venture north to find them, the commute is worth every dime of gas money you spend.

One Day in Lyons

Lyons is a longtime haven for summer road trippers, who flock to the town for July’s RockyGrass music festival or rafting on the St. Vrain River. But attractions of the culinary variety are also a draw. If you’ve already hit Marigold, here’s how to eat and drink your way through town.

Freshly milled flours from Moxie Mercantile. Photo courtesy of Lauren DeFilippo Jackson

9 a.m.

Grab a latte and a kouign-amann (a multilayered French pastry) at nearly two-year-old Moxie Mercantile, which moved into the former Stone Cup coffeeshop space off High Street this month. The Louisville-headquartered bakery mills its own flours using Colorado grains; buy sacks for your home baking projects at the Lyons outpost.

12 p.m.

No trip to Lyons would be complete without a visit to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, where owner-brewer Dale Katechis debuted his namesake pale ale in 1998. Pair a cold one with a Trustafarian burger topped with goat cheese, honey, bacon, and arugula or a Louisiana-influenced specialty, such as the jambalaya or Cajun chicken pasta.

3 p.m.

Pop by the Lyons Dairy Bar, which offers soft-serve-crowned cones, banana splits, and turtle sundaes from a walk-up window. Or, opt for a cupcake or slice of Key lime pie at the small on-site bakery and candy shop.

6 p.m.

Seven-year-old Mojo Taqueria serves inventive tacos and burritos stuffed with a variety of fillings, from fried avocado to short rib, for lunch and dinner. Complement your meal with guacamole, queso, or a trio of salsas, which are made daily with roasted tomatillos, jalapeño and habanero peppers, and other fresh ingredients.