Coming Home to a Place I’ve Never Been

Rico, Colorado is 8,800 feet above sea level (2,600 meters) in one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. The internet lists the population there at 253 – but that increases by several times during ski season. Telluride is just 25 miles up the road.

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I’ve been there many times – one of my favorite road trips is up highway 145 from Dolores to Naturita, then highway 141 from Naturita up to Grand Junction. Beautiful.

My wife and I rolled into town on the last leg of our road trip vacation, we had a room at the Rico Hotel, but I had no idea what kinds of food would be available. Rico Hotel has a chef on staff and an eating establishment that starts at $30 a plate. A little more than we wanted to spend. Fortunately, five days earlier, Scott had taken the next step in his dream, he’s opened his own restaurant called Dew South.

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Scott’s story starts in Georgia where he grew up. After high school he had the urge to travel, and wound up in Telluride for the winter, working for a chef in one of the finer restaurants in town. The chef liked him, and he loved to cook. He stayed on for a couple of years working hard, studying and asking questions. Scott learned how to cook.

Well, “cook” doesn’t really describe what Scott can do… it’s like some kind of magic… but I digress.

He missed home. So he quit his job, and went back to Georgia. There he met his little brothers friend, a free-spirit painter named Rebecca, and they fell in love over the next couple of years. He worked in several restaurants, and even took a crack at running one himself. Due to circumstances beyond his control, the place shut down, and he was left to consider his next move.

By now he had married Rebecca, and they both heard the call of the Rockies. Telluride is very expensive, so they decided to live in Rico.

We found out about Scott’s place, the Dew South, from a guy at the gas station. He told me he had a Thai noodle dish the night before and it was the best he’d ever had. When I walked into the Dew South it wasn’t on the menu. Scott said no problem, it never was, it was just something he liked to cook for locals. Since I knew about it that made me local enough and he went to work.

I’m not sure there’s vocabulary to really help you sense how amazing this food is. There’s some food that’s almost like a religious experience – where you feel a little like a sinner for eating it. This wasn’t like that.

Scott’s fare was approachable, it had overtones of food that you know, but the subtleties of flavor were just amazing. So my first reaction was “oh, I know this, this is good”, but then it became… um, well, ah, yeah, I can’t really describe it. It was really really good. How’s that for literary genius?

That first meal for two of us came to $20. I could hardly believe it. I had found food nirvana.

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We ate every meal in Rico at the Dew South. We were in Telluride at lunch time, and we drove back to Rico to eat, we wanted Scott and Rebecca to have our money. Oh yeah, AND the food was amazing,

But that wasn’t the best part. Scott and Rebecca just make you feel comfortable there. They knew us by name within 15 minutes of us coming in, and everyone that came in after us was introduced. Not only were we happy to know Scott and Rebecca, but we ended happy to know a good portion of the town too.

We felt like we belonged. You know how good that feels? Like you’ve come home to a place you’ve never been. We were even invited to the secret town “hot tub”, a warm spring just outside of town that the locals hang out at–swimsuits are optional. (we passed, my wife prefers a swimsuit I guess)

Our last night in Rico, our last meal at the Dew South, Scott brought us a special dessert he’d made just for us. “It’s on the house” he drawled in his Georgian style. He lingered. Asked if we liked our food. He was genuinely pleased that we loved what he created. He just loves his place, loves the food, enjoys pleasing people.

I told him I’d be back to Rico soon, just for the food. He looked at me and said he’d look forward to seeing me again. Then his eyes got moist. He told me this had been a dream of his since he first drove through Rico all those years ago. He could just see a restaurant where people could afford to eat, but they loved the food. I could see my words of praise had been a little of the dream coming true. I love this stuff–little guys with hardly any money but huge passion for what they do chasing their dreams.

Scott said he had wondered many times if his dream could ever happen, but here he was on the 7th night of being open, and it meant a lot to him. He had taken his first step toward his dream.

I know how hard Scott will have to work to get the people traveling through town on the highway to stop, to try the Dew South. If he can figure it out – the Dew South will be around for a long time. I hope they are. More people need to come home to this place they’ve never been.

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