Founder’s legacy lives on at Flagstaff House

BOULDER – Within hours after news broke in February about the death of iconic Boulder restaurateur Don Monette, the calls started coming in at his mountainside Flagstaff House.

Is the restaurant closing? Will the menu change?

Adam Monette, the grandson of the scenic inn’s founder, answered the queries with reassurance.

“I was able to give Don my commitment to Flagstaff House and make it the pinnacle of fine dining in Colorado, in the world,” he said. “That verbal commitment has us locked in for life.”

Don Monette, who founded the restaurant on the side of Flagstaff Mountain in 1971, ran it with the help of his wife Carole and sons Mark and Scott, developing it into an icon that earned global acclaim and has won countless awards for food and wine. Don Monette gradually handed the reins to his sons and hadn’t been directly involved for some time.

Don Monette died on Feb. 14 — four days shy of his 86th birthday and two months after Mark and Scott sold their ownership stake to Mark’s son Adam Monette and executive chef Chris Royster.

A past recipient of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 award who was named one of the Food Network’s “Chopped” champions in 2016, Royster got his start at age 14, washing dishes at a small family-run restaurant in New York state, but moved up the ranks to land his first executive-chef job at age 17. After a few years he relocated to Boulder County, working at Louisville eateries Zucca and Huckleberry. Within a year, Royster was leading Huckleberry’s kitchen, and in 2012 he took on the role of chef de cuisine under executive chef Mark Monette.

Adam Monette started working in his grandfather’s restaurant as a teenager, then studied in the hospitality program at Colorado State University.

“It does take youth, because this is not an easy business model,” he said.

Although meals at Flagstaff are substantial, he said, “it’s not unhealthy food we’re serving. We might have greens from the Northwest, wild mushrooms, Colorado items from just around the corner. Our plates highlight those foods. And we’re constantly adding new courses, intermezzos.

“We are still menu-centric,” he said. “This is not a place where you’re just going to go get a bite to eat and leave. You might be here 2½ or three hours, experiencing senses you didn’t expect to have. Dining here is more like an ‘Oooh, what’s next?’ It’s kind of a show, a play.”

Diners attending that play couldn’t ask for a more spectacular theater. As evening falls, they watch from their elevated perch as the lights of Boulder wink on 1,000 feet below. As described in Trips to Discover, which named Flagstaff House as one of the 15 most beautiful restaurants in the United States:

“Nestled in the forested hills above Boulder at an elevation of 6,000 feet, the Flagstaff House Restaurant offers one of the most memorable dining experiences in Colorado. Here for over 50 years, it’s been lauded with many awards and includes walls of windows for taking in a magnificent mountain view, and occasionally you’ll see wildlife, including bears, staring back at you. The menu is focused on New American dishes with local, seasonal ingredients, and you can also choose a three-course or chef’s multi-course tasting menu. Expect a world-renowned wine list and above-and-beyond service, too.”

Flagstaff House has earned consecutive AAA Four Diamond, Forbes Travel Guide Four Star and Wine Spectator’s Grand awards each year since 1983.

The building that houses Flagstaff House was once a 1920s cabin, then a restaurant with two windows and red-flocked wallpaper that was only open during the summer because of the danger of snow and ice on twisty Flagstaff Mountain Road. When the building became available for purchase in 1971, Don Monette envisioned transforming it into a one-of-a-kind fine dining establishment. He and his family have completely remodeled and expanded the restaurant over the years.

“We’re keeping that commitment to quality of cuisine and quality of staff,” Adam Monette said. “But we’re also both very ambitious, so we’ve got a facelift and some nice updates coming. We’re students of the game, and the fine-dining scene is continuously evolving. So we might make a minor detail change in the menu or a large one.”

But what won’t change, he said, is that “we want to be the premier location for people to enjoy family, friends or business associates and treat themselves to a nice night out.

“We’re old faithful,” Adam Monette said, “something you can always come back to. We’ve been here 52 years, and we’re now ready for another 52.” 


Flagstaff House

1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder


Source: BizWest

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