A new leader is at the helm of one of Longmont’s venerable restaurant establishments.
Sarah Morgan became the owner of Martinis Bistro starting July 1, after former owners Carmen and Mark Sample decided to sell the restaurant and focus on another business.
Morgan remembers the first time she ate at Martinis eight years ago. The occasion stuck with her and sparked a passion for the restaurant.
“My first experience here, I loved the vibe, I loved how energetic it was, I loved how fun it was,” Morgan said. “It had this beating heart that was intoxicating. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for 23 years … and have seen a lot of great restaurants. The mom and pop places are what I look for over the chains, because you get to have that authenticity. You can really step out of the lines and make your own picture.”
As the new owner, Morgan hopes to continue the “casual fine-dining” atmosphere that the restaurant, at 543 Terry St., is known for, while giving the menu and beverages an update. She said a goal is to partner with and support more local Colorado vendors.
Morgan is also working to roll out more vegan menu options, with the restaurant’s first vegan entree made available about two weeks ago. The dish includes smoked quinoa, with cubes of roasted vegetables topped with tomato gravy and basil and parsley garnishes. People can also opt to add meat to the dish.
“My chef is incredible with vegan recipes, so we really felt like we were set up for success to launch that,” Morgan said. “It has been a huge hit. We are looking to roll out little by little as our vendor lines become more accessible and certain food items are more readily available than others (due to the coronavirus pandemic).”
Leading up to her ownership, Morgan served as the restaurant’s general manager for about a year and a half. In that time, Morgan has been expanding the restaurant’s wine program to help customers find a beverage that best complements the flavor of the dish they ordered. Morgan said she can’t help but cringe when a customer blindly orders the house Chardonnay.
“If you want Chardonnay, that’s awesome,” Morgan said. “Tell me what you’re eating, and let’s pair the right Chardonnay with it. I really want people to engage with their experience, what they’re eating, the servers and people around them. I want them to look up from their phones and stressful lives and take a deep breath and enjoy some amazing food and beverages.”
Morgan added that Martinis’ menu will still include its long-revered customer favorites like the house-cut calamari, which is breaded in-house, and the crab cakes and pan-seared scallops dish that comes with Parmesan-dusted fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus.
With restaurants operating under 50% capacity due to state guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Morgan said all customers are encouraged to make a reservation online, though some walk-in tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Morgan said 50 people are allowed inside the restaurant. The outdoor patio also offers roughly 60 additional seats, which are well-spaced, Morgan said.
“We have the prettiest patio in Boulder County,” Morgan said. “I would love for anyone to challenge me on that.”
Former co-owners Carmen and Mark Sample purchased Martinis Bistro in 2018. The couple also owns Sample Supports, a Longmont-based service center for individuals with developmental disabilities, and Carmen Sample said they wanted it to be their focus. At the end of May, the couple closed another of their restaurants, Sample Supports, and sold the space to Flavor of India.
Martinis Bistro has been in operation for about 13 to 15 years, according to Morgan. Carmen Sample said the restaurant has been part of many residents’ traditions and that she trusts Morgan to build on that foundation.
“I grew up in Longmont and we all went to Martinis for homecoming and prom in high school, as well as family Easter brunch,” Carmen Sample said. “I have great memories at the restaurant and I am confident Sarah will continue and improve the legacy.”
Prior to Martinis Bistro, Morgan helped to open and operate several new restaurants in St. Augustine, Fla. In Colorado, she has worked for a number of restaurants, including D’Vine Bistro, a wine bar in Fort Collins; Chimney Park Restaurant & Bar Fine Dining in Windsor, and franchise developments for Taco John’s, to name a few.
While running a restaurant during a pandemic is not without some apprehension, Morgan said, customers and her 10-person staff have helped to assure her and remind her of her passion for the industry.
“The community has been so supportive of us, and that’s really all I needed to satisfy my major scares about taking over the restaurant during COVID-19,” Morgan said. “Within the first two weeks, it felt like this is it, I’m not going anywhere. This is where my heart is.”