Lobster rolls are once again available at a locally-owned Castle Pines eatery — and the menu change is emblematic of how the establishment survived its first five years in business.
Owned by executive chef Jose Espinoza and Mimi Espinoza, his wife, Trestles Coastal Cuisine offers seafood and other upscale fare with a commitment to service.
Running a restaurant is not without its challenges, however. Since January, Trestles has seen a 32% increase in the cost of its product, said Jose Espinoza. Labor is up 28% as well. Yet the restaurant on Happy Canyon Road is adjusting.
“We’re going to have to evolve with the economy that we’re stuck with,” said Mimi Espinoza.
Costs are up everywhere and for everyone, the Espinozas said. Inflation has made sourcing the high-quality ingredients they rely on difficult. Some of the items have almost tripled in price.
Enter the industry knowledge and culinary creativity of the husband-and-wife team. Between the two, there’s nearly a lifetime of restaurant and accounting experience. So if necessary, the kitchen can prepare less expensive cuts in a way that keeps flavor in the spotlight, Mimi Espinoza said. As a chef-run restaurant, Trestles’ menu changes regularly.
When Colorado rack of lamb got too expensive, for example, the Espinozas were able to pivot in three days to lamb sirloin steaks. That option satiates customers’ desire for the state’s world-renowned protein but at a more affordable price. Like the lobster rolls, the rack of lamb’s absence may only be temporary.
“We don’t want to make decisions on costs that are going to decrease flavor and quality,” said Jose Espinoza, who started in the restaurant business when he was 12. “We’re able to walk that line and continue to offer great quality, great flavor and still survive as a business.”
Survive they have. Volume is twice what it was before the pandemic began, said Mimi Espinoza. With 48 people on payroll, Trestles has nearly doubled their staff as well.
While unhappy with Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to close restaurants but not other businesses in the early days of COVID-19, the Espinozas said Trestles’ sales numbers for 2020 topped those from 2019. Even with 15 weeks of to-go-only business.
“Our guests really wanted us to be here,” and they proved it by ordering often and tipping well, Jose Espinoza said.
Before embarking on their adventure as restaurant owners in 2017, the food-lovers did a market survey and discovered that there weren’t any places focusing on seafood in the Castle Rock area. Since then, the Espinozas have been considering what other needs they could meet in the community. They’ve got ideas but aren’t sure they want to move forward at this time.
“The restaurant business is risky anyway,” Mimi Espinoza said. “In this economy, it’s almost insane.”
Although they may not quite be ready for a new business undertaking, the Espinozas are looking forward to making more connections in the community now that the pandemic-related tumult appears to be settling.
Jose Espinoza said he just finished a stint as coach for a Douglas County High School culinary team and is hopeful he and his wife will find other things they can be a part of.
“We believe people are important,” he said. “If we can give back to our community that’s giving us a livelihood, it’s a win-win.”