But we Coloradans know a thing or two about weathering storms — and lucky for us, we don’t have to travel far to make our spirits soar. And some of the sweetest words you’ll hear while embarking on a well-deserved mini-vacation to the high peaks are “Let’s go out to dinner.”
We’ve rounded up the best Colorado mountain restaurants to suit every budget and mood, from a casual cafe with low price tags to a lofty French brasserie that’s conducive to celebrating the simplicity of togetherness.
Reservations may be easier to come by this year, but it’s still a good idea to book ahead.
The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, 126 Riverfront Lane, Avon, 81620; 970-790-5500; avondalerestaurant.com
The allure: This gorgeous gastronomic temple trumpets mind-altering panoramas of mountain scenery from three walls of windows, plus an après ski fire pit tucked into one corner of the restaurant. It boasts some of the most intriguing furnishings in the Vail Valley – booths and banquettes lined with railroaded text, thousands of dollars of museum-quality art and mid-century modern executive chairs. Yet the appeal of Avondale goes way beyond looks, thanks to a pedigreed kitchen overseen by Thomas Salamunovich, the brainchild behind Larkspur in Vail and Larkburger in Edwards.
Showstoppers: Hand-crafted charcuterie board; cured Spanish tuna toasts with chimichurri, white beans and piquillo peppers; roasted chicken for two; Olathe corn ravioli with slow-braised veal cheeks.
Other recommended Beaver Creek-area restaurants include Splendido, Beano’s Cabin, Spago, Vin48 Restaurant & Wine Bar, Route 6 Cafe, Dish Restaurant, and Juniper.
Food Hedz World Cafe
842 Summit Blvd., #19, Frisco, 80443; 970-668-2000; www.foodhedzcafe.com/
The allure: Soft on splash and flash, but big on bold flavors and convivial camaraderie, this finessed cafe from Executive Chef David Welch, the former top toque at Keystone Ranch, is a mosaic of bright colors and whimsy artwork. Low prices and thrilling dishes celebrate Colorado’s bountiful bumper crop of ingredients. The fact that it’s wedged into a strip mall makes it an off-the-eaten-path find, although we have to wonder how much longer this charmer can resist the big city ski crowds.
Showstoppers: At lunch, the red curry noodle bowl stocked with chicken or pork, vegetables, seared tofu, rice noodles, cilantro, and mango; at dinner, the roast Long Island duckling with braised red cabbage, brown butter spaetzle, and blackberry sauce.
Other recommended Breckenridge-area restaurants include Hearthstone Restaurant, Top of the World Restaurant and Crown.
Irish Embassy Pub,
900 Main Ave.,
The allure: If you’re one of those self-described cynics who thinks Irish cuisine is an oxymoron, this jovial dining den and pub with authentic furnishings shipped from the Emerald Isle may very well soften your stance. The wallet-friendly menu is full of lucky charms, indicative of a leprechaun in the kitchen who may very well be the patron saint of shepherd’s pie. The staff, many of whom are Irish transplants, is as endearing as their accents, and the beer roster, which includes all European brews, is soul-soothing comfort after a day shimmying down Purgatory Mountain.
Showstoppers: Guinness cheese soup; bangers and mash; shepherd’s pie; Irish stew.
Other recommended Durango-area restaurants include Gazpacho, Cosmopolitan, Cyrus Cafe, and Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.
345 Lincoln Ave.,
Steamboat Springs, 80477
The allure: This ballyhooed newcomer to Steamboat Springs deserves the accolades, thanks to a cosmopolitan vibe that speaks urban chic and a tidy menu peddling just over a dozen culinary creations prepared with panache by a seasoned kitchen crew that practices the fine art of simplicity. By turns sophisticated and cozy, it’s a restaurant that wins you over with its honest flavors, accommodating service and scene-stealing postcard views from the behemoth windows that hug the dining room.
Showstoppers: Small plates like duck liver pate, salmon belly tartare and chicken-chorizo pot pie, and large plates like heirloom potato-truffle gnocchi with white cheddar béchamel and abalone mushrooms and the C.V. Wagyu beef burger crowned with foie gras, pickled onions and piquillo pepper ketchup.
Other recommended Steamboat Springs eateries include Café Diva, Winona’s Café, and Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant & Lounge.
Centre V Brasserie,
at The Arrabelle at Vail Square, 675 Lionshead Place;
The allure: Modeled after Brasserie Lipp and La Coupole in Paris, this unabashedly French establishment residing in the tony Arrabelle at Vail Square is a good bet to impress out-of-state denizens who want pampering service alongside their plates de jour. The slopeside patio, one of Vail’s best perches for scoping singles and animated ski bunnies, vibrates with energy after the slopes shut down, while the attention-getting dining room, with its burnished woods, thick pillars, vaulted ceilings and stage-y fruits de mer station, is more conducive to an intimate splurge fest for two.
Showstoppers: Fruits de mer platter; bouillabaisse; steak au poivre.
Other recommended Vail-area restaurants include Restaurant Kelly Liken, La Tour, Larkspur Restaurant & Market and Sweet Basil.
Other notable mountain highs
*Allred’s and 221 South Oak in Telluride
*Alpenglow Stube and Ski Tip Lodge in Keystone
*Base Camp Bakery & Cafe, Ranch House Restaurant at Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Fontenot’s in Winter Park
*Le Bosquet and Slogar in Crested Butte
Lori Midson, restaurant critic for Colorado Avid Golfer (coloradoavidgolfer.com), lives in Denver and writes for a variety of publications.