Boulder Mag: Gafner Restaurants

This article published in the Summer 2020 edition of Boulder Magazine.

Family-owned and operated, Gafner restaurants are thriving up and down Main Street

By Kate Jonuska

Sean and Rebecca Gafner were so certain that Longmont was the perfect place to follow their dreams of restaurant entrepreneurship, they moved their family of six from California to Colorado in 2015 and have yet to look back.

“I’d been in fine dining for fifteen years,” says Sean Gafner. “I had a lot of success and loved it, but I wanted to break out on my own and do my own casual thing, authentic to me.” Now he’s executive chef and co-owner of The Roost, Jefes Tacos & Tequila and Smokin Bowls. About Longmont, he adds, “We have five or six incredible breweries right downtown as well as distilleries, and we’re surrounded by local ranchers and farmers. It’s heaven.”

Only five short years after their arrival, the Gafners now run three thriving downtown restaurants.

In that time, they’ve also consistently given more than 10 percent of all profits back to the community, including raising more than $125,000 for local families in the process of adoption and serving hundreds of free, takeout kids meals during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Original: The Roost

The concept that started this family restaurant group, The Roost is where craft meets casual, serving up quality steaks, seafood, sandwiches, local produce, and more than 100 great whiskeys, without an ounce of pretension on the side.

Cooking from scratch and using natural, local meat from Buckner Family Ranch, the kitchen is known for classics like the ever-popular steak frites ($15 lunch/$17 dinner), served over garlic-parmesan fries with candied bacon and brown-butter sauce, as well as knock-out innovations like the Bangin’ Cauliflower ($9). Featured on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Ins & Dives” in 2017 — and a hands-down top seller — the appetizer boasts fresh cauliflower in crispy rice tempura tossed with citrus-sriracha sauce.

“Our desserts are also over the top,” says Sean Gafner, who credits pastry chef Shelley Katz, previously of the Flagstaff House. “It’s become rare for a table not to order desserts.”

The Roost • 526 Main St., Longmont
303-827-3380 •
Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

The ‘Boss’: Jefes Tacos & Tequila

Growing up on a farm in California, Sean Gafner has always considered tacos the ultimate comfort food, so he was excited to dive into Mexican food with Jefes Tacos & Tequila in 2016. And he’s proud that every year since, Jefes has won Best Margarita in both the East Boulder and Longmont categories from Best of Boulder County.

In addition to tons of rocks margs, Jefes serves thousands of street tacos a week. Particularly impressive are the vegetarian options like the Squashacado ($4/each), filled with roasted butternut squash, avocado, cilantro crema and roasted sunflower seeds, which helped Jefes win the Boulder Taco Festival in 2019. Another favorite is the queso blanco ($9), with roasted chiles and local chorizo served with homemade tortilla chips. No meal should end without Jefes’ famous homemade churros ($5).

Jefes Tacos & Tequila • 246 Main St., Longmont
303-827-3790 •
Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. • Fri.– Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

The New Kid: Smokin Bowls

Seeing both burrito and poke bowls sell out at the Roost and Jefes — and always eager to give Longmont more delicious options — the Gafners welcomed the third and most recent addition to their restaurants: the punnily named Smokin Bowls.

“We play with the theme a ton,” says Sean Gafner, noting they sell T-shirts and other merchandise with slogans such as ‘I like big bowls and I cannot lie.’ But in addition to humor, he says, “We also really see bowl food as a convenient, nutritious and fresh option people are craving.”

Smokin Bowls specializes in any and everything served in bowls, from those with rice, noodle or even hemp bases — available to top with great proteins like local meats and ahi tuna — to bowls full of salad, soup, fries and even the brownie sundae bowl ($9). Speaking of dessert, the large commercial pastry kitchen in the rear of Smokin Bowls provides desserts to all three restaurants.

Smokin Bowls • 449 Main St., Longmont • 720-815-2875 • Mon.– Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

This article published in the Summer 2020 edition of Boulder Magazine.

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