Matheson comes by his eco-values naturally. He grew up in the English countryside, not far from Cambridge, and absorbed thriftiness practically to the bone from his mother and grandmother, who had lived through World War II and rationing. His mother hasn't changed. "The kitchen is a continuously working part of her house," Matheson says. "There's always stock boiling on the stove or someone picking fruit from the garden."
His native thrift means anything but severity or skimping when it comes to style and flavor at the Kitchen. Housed in a century-old brick building, it exudes a comfortable, open-door vibe. Furniture and fixtures are largely recycled, but they're great to look at: The handsome communal table and bar were built from salvaged roof rafters, and the funky bar lights from lab beakers. The chandeliers use crystals scavenged from eBay. The food is absolutely delicious. For breakfast, you'll get creamy coffee from a nearby fair-trade roaster and super-fresh farm eggs, maybe with braised organic greens picked that morning. Lunch and dinner feature big, bold flavors that hit the sweet spot between simple and sybaritic: poached salmon on buttery squash risotto; expertly charred flatbread; and a juicy Colorado lamb burger with garlicky fries and a brandy vanilla shake ― fast food done slow, to be savored.
Matheson hasn't a trace of smugness about him, and he grumbles a bit about the media fuss over the restaurant's green practices. For him, they have nothing to do with being hip or seeking glory. "I don't think going about it with the mentality of 'saving the world' is the right way of doing it," he says. "Those are things that have just sort of fallen into place, and we forget about it, really; it just happens now. Which is a nice way to do things."
INFO: The Kitchen ( $$$; 1039 Pearl St., Boulder, CO; 303/544-5973)