Dining in Telluride: Seven Don’t-Miss Restaurants

Just being in Telluride can work up your appetite. Whether exploring the San Juan Mountains in the summer or riding the snow when winter hits, good food is a must-have.

And the secluded burg in southwestern Colorado doesn’t disappoint when it comes to satisfying your culinary cravings. For such a little town – population 2,500 – it offers a large selection of eclectic cuisines, from fine dining to pub fare. With more than 60 restaurants, bars and cafes, there’s enough food to keep your taste buds busy in between other mountain activities.

Here are seven restaurants you don’t want to miss during your stay in this tiny town with big flavor.

Telluride’s restaurants add great views to delicious food.

Palmyra Restaurant at The Peaks Resort and Spa
136 Country Club Drive, Telluride, Colorado 81435
970-728-6800, 800-789-2220

Expensive (reservations are recommended)

The Palmyra Restaurant debuted early in 2010, making it the newest addition to the Telluride dining scene. It brings together high-class dining and high-altitude views in an elegant, romantic and breathtaking setting.

The ballroom-like dining area offers panoramic views from the floor-to-ceiling windows enclosing the restaurant. From here, views of the surrounding peaks and fourteeners against the evening’s multi-colored sunsets make the Palmyra a special dinner destination.

Executive Chef Patrick Laguens creates a changing seasonal menu using local and organic meats, fresh seafood and a general celebration of food that turns out a delicious cooking style.

“In every culture, people celebrate around the dinner table. I get to celebrate with people every day, as they often come here to celebrate something,” he says. That connection to the restaurant’s guests gives each meal a personalized touch.

The menu turns out a changing selection of appetizers, such as marinated vegetables, sliced meats and the world’s best cheeses, pomme frites, soups of the day and salads. There are also tasty pastas, like the MouCo mac and cheese, made with a Colorado camembert, sautéed organic zucchinis and yellow onion, and a wide selection of grilled and sautéed meats.

The seafood dishes, Laguens’ specialty, offer such selections as scrumptious halibut with lemon basil vinaigrette; black tiger shrimp, and hamachi shashimi with lemon chili ice.

Onyx Restaurant at Capella
568 Mountain Village Blvd., Mountain Village, Colorado 81435
Expensive (reservations are recommended)

Capella Telluride hotel and condos offer fine dining at the Onyx. The restaurant includes its beautiful namesake stone in the trendy design that gives the space a hip yet relaxed dining atmosphere.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu shows the restaurant’s interest in international and alpine cuisine including local foods. Morning and lunch meals can be light fare to start the day, such as Irish steel cut oatmeal, which mixes sugar, cinnamon, raisins and caramelized pecans ($10). Or have lunch on the patio when the sun’s shining to munch on mini crab cakes with a side of herb jicama salad ($10).

Dinner is the main draw, with dishes like Colorado striped bass with flavor shots of fresh tomato, lemon and chorizo with lentils ($27). Or try house specialties from the grill, including steak, beef and shrimp. There’s even a Colorado lamb loin dish you can sink your chops into, served with celery root puree, couscous, mushrooms and chimichurri ($32).

Alpine air is another key ingredient to the dining experience – when the weather’s nice the doors stay open to let in fresh mountain oxygen.

New Sheridan Chop House and Historic Bar
231 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado 81435

History, class, beautiful décor and a menu of steak and seafood make the nicely-aged velvet-red booths at the New Sheridan the place to be for your next meal.

Chef Erich Owen works with some of the best beef, fresh seafood (flown in daily) and organic free-range poultry to create internationally inspired American-style dishes that will wow your taste buds. The menu caters to every portion of your day, from breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Chop House, to wine’s prime time at the bar, featuring a wine list that has won the New Sheridan the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for years.

For breakfast, try the delectably-filling pan-seared sirloin steak, served with scrambled eggs, three pepper ranchero sauce and avocado with a tortilla. Lunch dishes range from soups and sandwiches to entrees, such as the sirloin steak au poivre, a prime 8 ounces of choice meat served with maitre d’ butter and pommes frites with bordelaise sauce.

Again, don’t miss dinner and the chance to personalize your plate with the restaurant’s selection of sides, sauces, toppings, appetizers, steaks and entrees. When the sun goes down, the meat palate goes up to include venison, salmon, halibut, lamb, trout and chicken.

If a café atmosphere is more your style, stay in the Parlor at the New Sheridan Hotel’s entrance where you can take advantage of the espresso bar in the morning, wine and cocktails in the evening or the all-day menu.

Allred’s Steak, Seafood, Spirits
Top of the Gondola, Mountain Village, Colorado 81435
Expensive (reservations are recommended)

Telluride’s free mountain transportation system is the only one of its kind, using a gondola to move people between the town of Telluride and Mountain Village. In between the two is a midway station, bringing hikers, bikers and skiers to welcomed trails and classy diners to Allred’s Restaurant.

Even getting to the restaurant affords a unique experience: After descending the gondola, you weave your way to an elevator from the gondola station, ride one floor up and exit on the other side. The seemingly hidden location is through a pair of huge ornate glass doors in a dining space that seems to be carved from the mountain itself. With the gorgeous view, it makes you feel you’ve discovered a diner’s Shangri-La.

The menu is a mix of steak, seafood, elk, pasta and appetizers, with a wide range of bar drinks. Executive chef Mike Weist makes the most of this top-of-the-mountain dining experience, using regional, organic and high-end foods to make a contemporary American cuisine menu.

Guests can sit at the bar or dine at a table in the romantic ambience, as pianist Bob Israel fills the air with light music (Wednesdays-Sundays, 7 to 10 p.m.). Dishes range from $34 to $55. With reservations and for $85 per person, a group of 4-6 food lovers can sit at the Chef’s Table, which offers a view of the kitchen as Weist makes multi-course magic for your foodie entourage. And don’t miss Game Night on Mondays starting at 5:30 p.m., when the chef creates his favorite game-day dishes.

Shanghai Palace
126 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado 81435

Located in the heart of downtown Telluride on the main street, Shanghai Palace is the perfect place to grab authentic Chinese cuisine – either for there or to go. The décor has the look and feel of the food’s homeland, and offers a nice little hideaway from the sometimes bustling town foot traffic.

For some of the best Chinese you’ll ever taste, all the plates are surprisingly affordable, ranging from $8.95 for stir-fry veggies to $16.95 for a heaping helping of shrimp. The menu lists a wide array of Chinese appetizers, rice and noodle dishes and soups and salads to complement the perfectly cooked meats.

Each cook has more than 15 years of experience, and the taste proves it. If you can’t decide on a particular sampling, try the house specialties that mingle a number of the flavorful options.

The Lotus Petal’s rich decor and Pan-Asian cuisine will delight the senses.

Honga’s Lotus Petal and Historic Roma Bar
135 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado 81435

For a different kind of Asian cuisine, try this “Pan-Asian” dining spot, located in the historic Roma Building. The restaurant has grown from offering cart-fare on Main Street to an established menu of soups, salads, sushi, tofu, entrees and desserts that celebrate the tastes of the East.

Honga’s has two levels. The main dining level has views of Main Street and enough space for large groups. The historic Roma Bar, offering an extensive wine list, sake, tropical cocktails and beer, is below in the Lotus Lounge. Here the Oriental theme is most prominent, making a hip and sophisticated hang out for groups or couples, especially on Wednesday nights when the DJ spins his tunes.

The rich décor and seating, flanked by the Roma Bar and sushi counter, take you to a different world. With your taste buds working on some Thai coconut curry or calamari with sweet chili garlic sauce, the dining space engages all of your senses for a delightful experience.

Smuggler’s Brew Pub and Grille
225 S. Pine St., Telluride, Colorado 81435

Every mountain town has its local hangouts, and Smuggler’s is one of them. On the sunny summer days, the outside patio of Telluride’s only brew pub is packed with residents and visitors enjoying the pub fare and beer brewed on-site.

The Pub is located one block east of the gondola, so it’s easy to get to whether you’re staying in town or in Mountain Village. The historic mining warehouse has been converted to the brewery and dining area where people happily devour lunch or dinner. Tours of the brewery, including the room below the restaurant where the pub’s ales and lagers are made, are available upon request.

Smuggler’s has an extensive menu, offering the expected American appetizers and dishes, along with gyros, ribs, steaks, seafood, burritos and pasta. The biggest appeal is the drink menu, offering award-winning local brews and even homemade sodas.