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Every so often, a vacation sweeps you off your feet so completely, you fantasize about staying forever. Peter Newlin saw it happen when his friend, affectionately called Surfer Dave, fell in love with Bocas del Toro, Panama, and moved there with his wife to open a floating bar.
Newlin may be the friend left behind, but his life isn’t lacking in flavor. As chief vision officer of Gastamo Group, he helps oversee beloved Denver restaurants including Park Burger, Birdcall, and a new eatery inspired by Surfer Dave’s hang-loose state of mind. Called Perdida, the Wash Park spot opened in February and serves Baja-inspired fare (think: tempura shrimp with mango slaw or adobo-spiced sea bass) dreamed up by chef Philippe Failyau. Transporting diners to the coasts of Southern California and Mexico requires more than nailing local flavors, though. Which is why every detail of Perdida’s interior, designed by Boulder’s Surround Architecture, puts guests oceanside.
Take the turquoise-colored tiles that define the area Newlin calls the “drifter den room.” The hues call to mind undulating waves; the shapes look like fish scales. The rest of Perdida’s color palette skews coastal, too, with blush pink and cream, a nod to sandy beaches, painted on brick walls and appearing on pillows and cushions made by Denver Upholstery. Texture also plays a role, with rattan details—seen on chairs sourced from Mexico and dramatic light fixtures—mimicking summery straw hats. Upholstered cowhide barstools by local furniture-maker DoubleButter offer a touch of Western ruggedness.
The decor coalesces into a coastal environment so immersive (right down to the VW van parked on the back patio; yes, there’s a table inside), diners might assume it was born of lived experience. They’d be correct: Newlin and Failyau enjoyed the Surfer Dave–lifestyle while road-tripping from San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico, to learn more about Baja cuisine and design. “A lot of the patterns, fabrics, and tiles were ideas we brought back,” Failyau says.
The restaurant’s artwork also harkens back to that coastal road trip. Inspired by graffiti in Mexico, the team hired Denver street artist Lindee Zimmer to paint a mural on the back patio. Artist Katie Taylor—a Park Burger regular—water-colored many of the cacti and flowers around the eatery. “What we love about building restaurants in the state is seeing each one of those local craftspeople coming together to make something so special,” Newlin says. It’s a perfect Colorado-meets-the-coast atmosphere. Surfer Dave would dig it.
Perdida’s Salsa Verde Fresca
Yields about 1 quart
2 ½ pounds tomatillos, cleaned
2 ½ ounces scallion, tops only
1 ¼ ounces garlic cloves
1 ¼ ounces confit garlic
6 ounces jalapeños
2 ¼ Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
Roughly chop all vegetables and place into blender. Add lime juice. Blend briefly and then taste; add salt as needed. Pour into a bowl and serve with chips or veggies, or enjoy on your favorite tacos.