Silver linings playbook

DU alumni find resilience—and even hope—in the midst of a pandemic

THE RESTAURATEUR: Nicole Mattson (BSBA ’03, MBA ’12)

Photo by Anthony Camera

Nicole Mattson, her husband, Scott, and their business partner, Troy Bowen, opened the upscale wine bar Noble Riot in April 2019 as a sibling restaurant to their RiNo jazz club, Nocturne. When the coronavirus hit, they put the pates and charcuterie boards away and made a hard pivot into the comfortiest of comfort foods: fried chicken.

“We had already been testing out a fried chicken recipe to put on the menu at Noble Riot that would come from the Nocturne kitchen, so when we found out that we couldn’t serve people on site anymore, we just said, ‘Well, what is easy to do as a to-go option?’” Nicole Mattson says. “Fried chicken is definitely one of those things.”

So Noble Riot became Noble Fry-it, and the days of curbside pickup began. With Nocturne completely closed, it was a way to keep some money coming in the door — and a chance to keep in touch with regular customers.

“The silver lining was knowing that some of our regulars were still able to come in and check in with us, even during the stay-at-home orders,” Mattson says. “It was lovely to be able to hand off a bag of to-go chicken to couples that have come in to Nocturne for their date night every Wednesday for the last two-and-a-half years. It felt like we were still connected, even though everyone is staying at home.”

The Mattsons also had ingredients on hand at Nocturne they could no longer turn into servable food, so they spent three weeks making soup they donated to families in need through the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network.

“It was just thinking fast and on our feet,” Mattson says.  “You always hate, in a restaurant, to throw anything away. Food waste is a big concern. So when there’s an opportunity to feed somebody, we’re always going to try to do it.”

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