When Michael Ulehla was 10 years old in what was then Czechoslovakia, he tended a small garden full of fruits and vegetables. Every Saturday, he collected his harvest and pedaled eight miles on his bicycle to sell it at a farmers market. It was the beginning of his lifelong fascination with food.
Three decades later, Ulehla and his wife, Joyce De La Torre, own and operate three restaurants in Summit County, including the newest, Doma 1898, which opened on Breckenridge’s North Main Street this past summer. But Ulehla never dreamed of owning one, much less three, dining rooms back when he was peddling produce as a boy. “To have a restaurant was unrealistic,” he says, “because it was before the revolution.”
He moved to the United States in 1999 and met De La Torre, a native of Veracruz, Mexico, at a restaurant where they worked in New Jersey. Within a year, they bought an old car and set out for Aspen, where De La Torre had friends. They never made it. When they stopped in Frisco, they stayed.
Ulehla took the only cooking job he could find, at the Breckenridge Brewery, and De La Torre went to work up front. They bounced around the county’s eateries from there, teaming up at times but not always. Combined, they cooked or served at nearly a dozen area restaurants, from the Hearthstone to Sunshine Café, all the while taking notes that would inform their own ventures down the road.
They bought their first restaurant, Bagalis in Frisco, in 2011. Three years later, they opened breakfast-and-lunch hot spot Bread and Salt across the street. When Ulehla saw an online listing for the now-defunct Warming Hut, which formerly occupied the space Doma 1898 fills, they expanded their reach to Breckenridge. “It wasn’t just the location,” Ulehla says. “It has to have a good feel. It has to have some personality.”
The 120-year-old historic landmark has that, and more: its cozy yet spacious dining area and bar occupy what was once the home’s main-floor living area, while the ruckus of the kitchen is confined to the basement, which promotes an intimate atmosphere upstairs.
Despite their Czech and Mexican heritages, Ulehla, 42, and De La Torre, 39, refer to the cuisine at Doma (which means “house” in Czech) as “modern American.” Consider one of De La Torre’s favorite dishes, the mushroom toast, available for $3 during happy hour (4:30–6 p.m.; pair it with other half-price apps and $3 local drafts). Kale, oyster, shitake, and button mushrooms are drizzled with truffle oil and piled on top of house-made hummus smeared across crusty bread baked on premises. “The fresh kale and truffle oil give you all these incredible aromas,” she says. (I tried it; it’s legit.)
On the dinner menu, where entrées range between $22–$26, the duck confit deserves a splurge: braised slow for four hours and served with homemade potato dumplings. But there’s also venison stew that involves soaking the meat in red wine overnight, then cooking it with Spanish smoked paprika. A must-try among 11 shared plates is braised rabbit, which Ulehla deems “the perfect meat.” He should know: his family ate it every other Sunday while he was growing up. “It’s tender as chicken with more protein than beef,” he says. “You can Google it.” (We did.)
Doma introduced a breakfast menu in November, and two favorites quickly emerged: the Avocatini Green sandwich (artisan bread, a scrambled egg, pesto, avocado, sprouts, cilantro, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and onion) and the Autumn Bowl (quinoa with three varieties of squash, avocado, and two poached eggs, topped with dried figs).
For years leading up to Doma’s opening, Ulehla and De La Torre would take road trips in the spring and fall, camping around the West and sampling restaurants along the way. “I don’t copy,” he says. “I just get ideas.” Doma 1898 happens to be a particularly delectable one.
207 N Main St, Breckenridge; 970-453-1525