10 Hottest Restaurants in Steamboat Springs

By Ruth Tobias | May 27, 2014 By Ruth Tobias  |  May 27, 2014
Photo by: Ruth Tobias

You’ll hear the phrase “restaurant renaissance” being bandied about a lot by locals in Steamboat Springs these days. Take their word for it. While fixtures like Harwigs and Cafe Diva remain sure bets, a slew of newcomers has begun to shake up the Downtown dining scene in ways that stir even the slickest of city chowhounds. (And you know they'll be heading in droves to the Yampa Valley this summer for some river rafting or rodeo action.) The list of hot spots will keep on growing, with two craft breweries - Butcherknife Brewing Company and Storm Peak Brewing Co. - slated to open in the next month or so. So who knows? Come ski season, this roundup of the 10 Hottest Restaurants in Steamboat Springs may already warrant an update.

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Aurum Food & Wine

    Why It's Hot: This brand-new addition to the white-hot riverside scene along Yampa Street has it all: suave atmosphere from the artsy interior to the gorgeous patio, a whip-smart staff at the table and behind the bar and a contemporary menu that reveals chef Chase Wilbanks’s muscular yet precise cooking style.
    Must-Order: The pork chop with horseradish-whipped potatoes and salted caramel-peach juice (pictured), as well the as crab cake and the mushroom fondue. Find more on these dishes and other favorites right here.
    Insider Tip: Oenophiles, ask to see the reserve list. 

    811 Yampa St.; 970-879-9500

  • bistro c.v.

    Why It's Hot: bistro c.v. burst onto the scene as a pioneer of innovative dining seven years ago, and it hasn’t lost a drop of its mojo since. Having studied with Norman Van Aken and staged with Daniel Boulud, chef-owner Brian Vaughn continues to push the envelope of a menu that combines modernist techniques and global influences with local ingredients. In summer, about 90% of the produce comes from Steamboat farms. Meanwhile, any wine list that offers Lagrein and Zweigelt by the glass gets our vote. 
    Must-Order: The Wagyu beef tartare has been on the menu since day one for good reason.
    Insider Tip: Consider the tasting menu. Vaughn began offering it as a five-course affair last winter, but he’ll soon be expanding it with two to four optional courses.

    345 Lincoln Ave.; 970-879-4197

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    E3 Chophouse 

    Why It's Hot: It’s a swanky, big-city steakhouse with all the trimmings: white tablecloths, sommelier, bread service and beef straight from the owners’ ranch in Kansas. The difference is that this one, which opened just after Christmas, boasts views of both the Yampa River and the ski jumps on Howelsen Hill.
    Must-Order: Humble pot roast becomes a luxury with braised, cast-iron-finished short rib, beef shank and sirloin.
    Insider Tip: The inner-tubing crowd enjoys direct access to the restaurant via a staircase from the river. What’s more, as peak season hits, there’ll be an attendant to help with hook up and clean up. The hyper-organized can even call ahead with their credit-card information in order to dine, sign and return to the water wallet-free. 

    701 Yampa St.; 970-879-7167

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails

    Why It's Hot: Housed in an old laundrette, this urbane yet warm and cozy small-plates hideaway is as savvy as they come. Chef Eric Laslow doesn’t miss a chance to cure meats, pickle produce, churn ice cream and so on for a menu that ranges from barbecued pig-ear lettuce wraps to chicken-fried quail with spicy chow chow. The bar crew follows suit with housemade syrups, bitters, infusions and the like for daily changing cocktails made with, say, ginger bourbon or cucumber tequila - all while assembling a list of spirits, beers and wines by the glass or bottle that’s a craft drinker’s dream.
    Must-Order: Start with something from the section labeled Jars, such as the white bean-piquillo pepper hummus with Castelvetranno tapenade (pictured top). 
    Insider Tip: In the off-season, Laslow offers a small tasting menu for two at the ridiculous price of $15 a person. 

    127 11th St.; 970-870-0681

  • LOW Country Kitchen

    Why It's Hot: On May 13, Brian Vaughn and his wife-partner Katy parlayed the goodwill they’ve earned as the owners of bistro c.v. to launch something close to their hearts: an upscale-meets-downhome Southern kitchen. (He’s from Kentucky; she’s from Tennessee.) With longtime Harwig's chef Ryan Hoth, they’re turning out the likes of pan-seared grouper with bacon collard greens and mashed sweet potatoes, fried chicken from what Vaughn calls a “cool secret recipe” and pecan pie made with bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup. Speaking of bourbon, rest assured the bar that anchors the low-key, 50-seat dining room stocks it in spades.
    Must-Order: Skillet okra and Vidalia onions with Benton’s country ham, a poached egg and hollandaise is already a big hit.
    Insider Tip: Try the raspberry smash, which boasts not only whiskey from a hand-selected barrel of Buffalo Trace, but also raspberry drinking vinegar sourced from Portland, Oregon's celebrated Pok Pok Noi.

    435 Lincoln Ave.; 970-761-2693

  • Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill

    Why It's Hot: After 11 years, this brewpub staple earns its spot at the top by maintaining its casual, semi-upscale polish. Following minor mud-season renovations, it’s back in action to serve up a surprisingly diverse menu of not only classics like burgers and cheddar-ale soup, but also the funky signature “dipping entrees.” We’re talking grilled elk loin, pan-seared trout or chile-rubbed beef tournedos with both chef’s-choice sauces and optional additions - from peashoot chimichurri to cider green chili and porter cream. Pair it all with any of eight house beers, including good old root beer.
    Must-Order: Join in on the fun the kitchen has with daily specials like crab-mascarpone beignets in spicy rémoulade or duck-confit pierogi with garlic crema and cracklings.
    Insider Tip: And if you're lucky enough to spot Charlie’s Cherry Ale on tap, get yourself a pint pronto.

    435 Lincoln Ave.; 970-879-3773

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias


    Why It's Hot: From the coffeehouse-meets-Buddhist-temple decor to the soothing, all-organic, mostly vegan and gluten-free menu of sandwiches, salads and grain-based dishes, ROOTZ has its finger on the pulse of mind-and-body-conscious locals. 
    Must-Order: Ever had spirulina pesto? Try it in the Jade spinach wrap with fresh mozzarella, spinach and tomato jam.
    Insider Tip: Check out the alkaline water cooler. Ionized H2O is believed to help balance pH levels in the body, among other things. 

    737 Lincoln Ave.; 970-871-4510

  • Sake2U

    Why It's Hot: After 10 years as Saketumi, the Delaney family’s beloved modern-Asian kitchen and sushi bar has undergone a name change and moved to a three-story building overlooking the Yampa River. The new, expanded Sake2U was just unveiled to the public, complete with a new, larger menu. Keep your eyes peeled for granita sashimi, roasted quail with Asian pear-shiitake sauce and goat curry.
    Must-Order: Rest assured, loyalists, that the signature Bula roll with panko-fried shrimp, crab, avocado, tuna, sweet soy and spicy aïoli remains intact.
    Insider Tip: Sit at the sushi bar so the crew can hook you up with a few amuse-bouches.

    609 Yampa St.; 970-870-1019

  • Sweet Pea Restaurant

    Why It's Hot: For six years, chef Pete List had our number at Denver's Beatrice & Woodsley. Now he’s headed for the hills, literally, to run this cute-as-could-be 1940s-era cottage turned farm-to-table restaurant and bar on the river. And sure enough, his distinctive stamp is all over the new menu: think preserved beets over arugula with paneer and beet-chile oil, trout-ceviche tacos with housemade pickles, and braised bison short rib over charred kale and apple butter (pictured). Major updates to the cocktail list ensure the tiny bar inside and its counterpart out on the patio will keep swinging all season long.
    Must-Order: The chef himself recommends grabbing a table under the ancient shade tree by the river to watch the kayakers go by. He also suggests you start with the johnnycakes, pea salad and a nice glass of rosé, then get the roast chicken or market vegetables.
    Insider Tip: For all his fine-dining bona fides, List has always made a mean burger to boot.

    729 Yampa St.; 970-879-1221

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Vaquero’s Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria

    Why It's Hot: This Downtown sibling to Fiesta Jalisco launched a couple of months ago with a fail-safe combination of punch-packing margaritas, heaping plates of ranchero-style comida and all the rustic details you can shake a lasso at, from terracotta tiles to mounted buffalo heads.
    Must-Order: Even down in Denver, tacos de chorizo con papa aren’t easy to come by. But you can have them here.
    Insider Tip: In fact, make sure you get your hands on not just the regular menu, but the one-sheet labeled “Vaqueros con Sabor a Mexico.” This is where you’ll find the fun stuff, including lengua en salsa verde and alambre norteño, as well as the details on those tacos.

    730 Lincoln Ave.; 970-879-7570

Places Mentioned

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Beatrice & Woodsley

American Speer
Food24 Decor29 Service24 Cost$41
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Pok Pok Noi

Thai Sabin
Food24 Decor16 Service20 Cost$31

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