A year ago one of Longmont’s most visible and historic restaurant properties found itself empty — again — and this time in dramatic fashion. The space’s former owners left abruptly and closed what was then known as Dickens 300 Prime at the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street in Old Town.
Like everyone else, I waited to see what would fill the spot, but the location remained empty. It wasn’t an easy property for anyone to take on. Finally, Chef Madhoo Seth and her husband Vipul determined they were ready for the challenge.
The Seth’s need for both an event venue and ample kitchen space made the Dickens a uniquely positive fit for how they’d move their business forward. Its easy-to-reach location in heavily trafficked Old Town Longmont didn’t hurt either. They made the decision to open Roots Restaurant. They run the restaurant in Longmont with the event hall maintaining the name Dickens Opera House. They also continue to run a second venue and kitchen in Broomfield off of South Boulder Road.
Chef Madhoo’s ability to cook has been praised throughout the state. She was the 2022 People’s Choice winner at Food Fight Denver. I met her on a Sunday afternoon recovering from a catering event where Governor Polis and his husband were among the guests who enjoyed her food.
Seth’s food is varied, fresh, and full of flavor. The dinner menu at the Longmont location includes options from a range of cultures with options including falafel sliders, caprese salad, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and blue cheese, minted pea puree salmon, hamburgers, gyros, and the papri chaat, which I enjoyed with her when I was there. As we talked, we sat down, and I was treated to prepared chai from a family recipe. It wasn’t spicy, but it wasn’t overly sweet either. Made from her home kitchen, it had a delicate flavor profile that was warming with baking spice and pepper, all modulated by a creamy base that was a relaxing backbone to our conversation.
Chef Madhoo isn’t formally trained but got her start with friends and family. “I started cooking for Vipul’s office. His friends wanted some lunch. I sent eight lunches, and they asked me to do it every Friday. I said, ‘Yes! There you go.’ That was my start.”
Now years later, Seth’s menu is a refreshing contrast to the burgers, steaks, and other heavier foods that diners are used to from Dickens Prime and the other restaurants that previously occupied 300 Main. At first, Seth worried that diners would only want the food that the spot had always offered. So far it doesn’t appear to be the case. The fact that it’s so well executed doesn’t hurt.
With her focus on fresh foods, Seth was a natural choice for filling the role of featured chef mid-September at Ollin Farms dinner. On the banks of Left Hand Creek, she served Paneer Tikka in pesto sauce, North African Chicken Harissa, and bread pudding, which she shared was one of her favorite desserts. The dinner was sold out and had rave reviews from diners.
While any chef or cook will pay attention to presentation, Seth told me that that aspect of her job is one of the things she loves the most about her work. It makes sense — before cooking she was in fashion, so she understands that appearances matter. “To me, color and flavor are important in life,” she said. “I come from a background where there is so much color, so much diversity.”
Seth can’t imagine ever working with a plate that is plain or one dimensional. “With my background in fashion, color combinations — they make sense to me. And I want all the colors on the plate.” As she talked, I pictured what it would be like if a 1960s technicolor film came to life as a meal.
Before we finished talking, I asked Seth if there was a plate that defined her. She had one in mind that was featured at the Ollin Farms dinner, and it naturally included color. She described purple and yellow beets, golden peaches, green arugula, and a purple beet vinaigrette. “That plate truly defined me,” she said. “Designed. Full of color. Full of antioxidants. So tasty.”