Vail — Dining
Eating out in Vail is as much of a tradition as skiing the Back Bowls. More than 80 bars and restaurants offer the spectrum of options from pizza to exquisite gourmet dining. Always make reservations. Walk-ins have a slim chance of being seated.
La Tour (970-476-4403; $$$–$$$$) and The Left Bank (970-476-3696; $$$–$$$$), both French, have long been considered Vail’s best. Another standby, Sweet Basil (970-476-0125; $$$–$$$$; right), is consistently good with creative dishes. Now there’s an expanded deck for catching winter rays. Terra Bistro (970-476-6836; $$$) is on the east end of the Vail Mountain Lodge. Although difficult to find (the sign is very small), this upscale, eclectic restaurant specializing in “fusion cuisine” is a local favorite.
Chap’s Grill and Chophouse (970-476-7014; $$$–$$$$), in the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa, serves some of the best steaks, wild game and seafood in the Vail area. We like Lancelot (970-476-5828; $$–$$$) for prime rib, Montauk (970-476-2601; $$$) for seafood, Alpenrose (970-476-3194; $$$) for German and its wonderful breads and pastries, and Wildflower (970-476-5011; $$$–$$$$) in The Lodge for contemporary American and an excellent wine list.
Less expensive but just as scrumptious is the legendary Pepi’s (970-476-5626; $$) for the best goulash and white veal bratwursts; and Campo de Fiore (970-476-8994; $$–$$$), with fine Italian fare, an extensive wine list and a friendly staff.
Cucina Rustica (970-476-5011; $$–$$$) serves Tuscan-style Italian in The Lodge. If you’re willing to drive west to a locals’ favorite in Eagle-Vail, Ti Amo (970-845-8153; $$–$$$) won’t disappoint. Sapphire Restaurant & Oyster Bar (970-476-2828; $$$) Vail’s only oyster bar, serves creative seafood and some meat and fowl specialties. Billy’s Island Grill (970-476-8811; $$) in LionsHead is also a good bet for steaks, fish, the salad bar and its famous mango margaritas.
Those on a budget should try Pazzo’s (970-476-9026; $), which offers pasta and create-your-own-pizza. Bart and Yeti’s (970-476-2754; $$) in LionsHead is great for lunch or light dinner. Moe’s Barbecue (479-7888; $-$$) in LionsHead is a local’s favorite for pulled pork sandwiches, chicken and such. For an inexpensive lunch, try the Clark’s Market Deli (970-476-1199; $) in Vail Village. Hungry, frugal skiers and boarders enjoy sandwiches, tofu, tabouli, Santa Fe rice and beans and other tasty treats in a small seating area facing the front slopes of Vail.
On the mountain, we recommend lunch at the Two Elk Restaurant (970-479-4560; $–$$; left) above China Bowl, with its log lodge frame, Ute Indian motif and views of the Gore Range. Go early or late, because finding a seat at prime time is tough. But whenever you go, the outdoor deck is heated where you won’t find a more spectacular view of the Gore Range. Or try the sophisticated lunches at Larkspur (970-479-8050; $$–$$$) in the Golden Peak base lodge. It’s also one of our top choices for dinner, where you’re able to pair your French-influenced American seasonal cuisine with one of the 4,000 bottles of wine. Mid-Vail’s food court has moderate (for Vail) prices—$10 buys a huge potato with toppings, a local beer and a piece of fruit, for example. Or try the Lunch For Less meal deal. It was only $7.95 for a bowl of pasta, salad and a drink last time we were there.
The Game Creek Restaurant (970-479-4275; $$$$), which got a recent facelift, is extremely exclusive with members like Ross Perot and Charles Schwab, for example. Lunch is for members only, but it’s open to the public for dinner via snowcat from the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola. For about $90 per person, sans alcohol and gratuity but including transportation, you get a six-course gourmet meal—a choice of game, seafood, veal, steak and lamb—excellent service and a gorgeous view of the valley below. Make your reservation to coincide with sunset.
For breakfast, the best deal in town is at D.J. MacAdams ($), in LionsHead’s Concert Hall Plaza, a tiny diner where you’ll watch cooks make heaping plates of omelets, scrambletts (like an omelet only using scrambled eggs) and blintzes. Wash it down with a fruit smoothie. It’s open 24 hours, except Mondays (reopening at 7 a.m. Tuesday). West Side Cafe ($) in West Vail is a locals’ favorite for coffee and bagels or breakfast burritos. If you’re looking for a buffet breakfast (continental or hot) in a fine-dining atmosphere, head to Chap’s Grill ($$) in the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa or the Mountain Grille Restaurant ($$) at the Marriott’s Mountain Resort at Vail. You can also get a la carte items at both.
Visitors with a car should drive west to exit 171 and turn off at old town Minturn where the Minturn Country Club (970-827-4114; $$$) lets you grill your own meat or fish steak. Just across the street, the area’s best Mexican food is dished out at the raucous Saloon (970-827-5954; $–$$)—a favorite of World Cup racers—or Chili Willy’s (970-827-5887; $–$$; below). The Turntable Restaurant (970-827-4268; $–$$) wins accolades for its green chili.
Further down valley, past the Beaver Creek exit about 4 miles, keep an eye out for Balata’s at Singletree Golf Club (970-926-3528; $$–$$$) on your right. You’ll find a lovely high-end continental cuisine restaurant where you can dress up and enjoy the fabulous sunsets behind the New York mountain range.
Discover the locals’ new favorite, Juniper Restaurant (970-926-7001; $$), in the Riverwalk Center in Edwards. “Comfort Fusion” cuisine blends with the bistro atmosphere for a relaxing gourmet meal.
At the Edwards exit, left off the highway, check out the valley’s oldest restaurant and bar, The Gashouse (970-926-3613; $–$$). Seafood, homemade soups, steaks, wild game and award-winning chili are served in a rustic 50-year-old log cabin. Apres-ski it’s good for lobster tails, little-neck clams and jumbo lump crab cakes. The best sports bar and grill could be Paddy’s (970-949-6093; $–$$) on Hwy. 6. The house specialty prime rib is big and fat.
In Edwards, look for the Gore Range Brewery (970-926-2739; $–$$). There’s also Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine all over the place. The margaritas at Fiesta’s Cafe& Cantina (970-926-2121; $–$$) are yummy (20 tequilas to choose from) and the chicken enchiladas in white jalapeño sauce are the house specialty. At Markos (970-926-7003; $) in the Edwards Business Plaza, you’ll find pastas, pizzas and Caesar salads at rock bottom prices.Stop by Bonjour Bakery (970-926-5539; $) to pick up several loaves of to-die-for bread, but call for winter hours before you make the trip.
Dining Legend: $$$$–Entrees $30+; $$$–$20-30; $$–$10-20; $–less than $10