13 Ski Country Hot Spots To Try Now

By Ruth Tobias | January 20, 2014 By Ruth Tobias  |  January 20, 2014

The resorts of the Rockies are scattered with some of Colorado's highest-rated Zagat properties: places like Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, Breckenridge's Hearthstone Restaurant and, of course, Matsuhisa in both Vail and Aspen. Most mountain-town habitués have already made the rounds at all of the above, so here's a list of new discoveries: from buzzy hot spots to tried-and-tested heavy hitters that are floating a new approach. 


  • Photo by: Alex Fenlon

    Bacchanale Italian Kitchen and Django’s Restaurant and Wine Bar

    Kate and Chris Ladoulis' year-old Bacchanale revamp means crowd-pleasing fare such as build-your-own-bruschetta, salumi platters and winter-veggie lasagna in fennel-cream sauce – all nestled into a twinkling modern Italian dining room (pictured).

    The Ladoulises also own nearby Django’s, an equally stylish and popular Mediterranean-tinged small-plates lounge where the menu ranges from polenta-dusted baby artichokes with Parmesan-almond dip to cocoa butter-seared scallops with brown-butter brittle and Meyer lemon confit.

    Bacchanale: 209 Elk Ave., Crested Butte; 970-349-5257
    Django’s: Mountaineer Square Courtyard, Crested Butte; 970-349-7574

  • Buffalos

    The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, opened this season with a new look, a new executive chef (Fabien Biraud) and a new restaurant. Sporting a rustic, elegant, log-and-stone interior, Buffalos focuses on Colorado’s heritage. Think steakhouse classics with a twist like bison shepherd’s pie, spaghetti with lamb meatballs and plenty of local produce. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this joint is slightly more affordable than the resort’s other signature dining room, Spago

    130 Daybreak Rd., Avon; 970-748-6200

  • Chefs Club by Food & Wine

    At this Rocky Mountain-chic pick at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, the regular menu is partly devised by some of Food & Wine’s recent Best New Chef winners who fly in from all over the country to lead cooking classes and prepare special four-course prix-fixe dinners. Jason Franey, executive chef at Seattle sensation Canlis, will be on hand to present his signature brand of Pacific Northwest cuisine on January 24-25. Bryant and Kim Ng of Los Angeles Southeast Asian eatery, The Spice Table, make their appearance on February 14-15. And the celebrated Viet Pham of Salt Lake City’s Forage and the forthcoming Ember & Ash in Park City, UT, enters the spotlight February 28 and March 1. Visit the website for further details and reservations.

    315 E. Dean St., Aspen; 970-429-9581

  • Photo by: Jason Dewey

    Eight K

    This season, Will Nolan, the chef at this Viceroy Snowmass restaurant, takes his Louisiana flair to the next level with a raw bar and a selection of Southern-touched steaks. Think buffalo ribeye with crawfish Béarnaise and Lowcountry grits. Après ski provides another chance for adventure. Adventurous types can go for alligator pie in a bacon crust, smoked duck gumbo or taleggio-stuffed fried chicken instead of easy-to-come-by oysters and chops.

    130 Wood Rd., Snowmass Village; 970-923-8000

  • Photo by: C2 Photography

    element 47

    With the recent return of executive chef Bryan Moscatello to famed Aspen hotel, The Little Nell, comes a luxurious new menu at element 47. Caviar, truffles, foie gras and Wagyu beef are all on offer for a pretty penny, so it's quite a surprise that the six-course tasting menu - featuring dishes like squab with sunchokes and lentils - is just $100. Granted, wine pairings bring the final tally closer to $200, but they include Madeira and Banyuls, which we’re happy to sip on any occasion. 

    675 E. Durant Ave., Aspen; 970-920-6330

  • Mountain Standard

    Compared to its nearly forty-year-old sibling, Sweet Basil, this upscale, one-month-old tavern is but a babe. But it’s already been making its own, distinct mark with wood-fired cooking. Executive chef and now-partner Paul Anders’ playful, globally influenced style shows in coal-roasted olives with raisins and pine nuts, lobster pot pie in a cheddar crust and “animal crackers,” combining chicharrónes, fried pig ears and beef cracklings. Meanwhile, the bar is a buzzing hive, especially for bourbon and beer buffs.

    193 Gore Creek Dr., Vail; 970-476-0123

  • Photo by: Ruth Tobias

    Park & Main Quality Food

    This ultra-casual, mod-industrial all-day cafe really knows its way around a sandwich. Its 20-plus creations include cold, hot, grilled and pressed options. It's tought to top the shaved prime rib number with melted fontina, zesty chimichurri and pickled onions on a toasted baguette, but a vegetarian offering piled high with roasted sweet potato, braised kale, caramelized onions and chili mayo comes awfully close. They’re all on the large side, so you’ll hardly need a starting nosh.  But if you’re feeling peckish after a few hours in the mountain air, try the meaty gigande-bean bruschetta with peppers and Parmesan (pictured alongside the roasted-beet sliders with goat cheese on sweet-potato buns). And if you’re ready for a nip, a small wine list supplements the array of coffee drinks.

    500 S. Main St., Breckenridge; 970-453-9493

  • Photo by: Restaurant Kelly Liken

    Restaurant Kelly Liken

    At the contemporary eatery on everybody’s short list, dig into the ever-changing, three-course prix-fixe menu, using a wealth of seasonal produce and game meats to unexpected effect. Braised goose enriches chicken and dumplings. Tabbouleh gives elk carpaccio an Eastern Mediterranean twist. Liken’s also long been ahead of the curve when it comes to killer craft cocktails made with local spirits: starting a meal without one just wouldn’t be right.   

    12 Vail Rd., Vail; 970-479-0175

  • Photo by: Jason Dewey

    Ricard Brasserie & Liquor Bar and Bia Hoi

    Tim Goodell, the California-based chef behind Los Angeles’s Public Kitchen & Bar and 25 Degrees, launched his first Colorado venture in November, and it’s quite the trip to Paris on top of the trip to Snowmass. From morning to night, the Ricard Brasserie turns out every French specialty you’d expect - fresh pastries, mussels, steak frites - and many a dish you may not, like lamb osso buco with feta-pomegrante gremolata.

    Next door, at the newer, more casual (but no less stylish) Pan-Asian sibling, Bia Hoi, Goodell’s sizeable menu goes from Thailand and Vietnam to China and Korea and back again via hot pots, barbecue, noodles and more. Of course, both venues boast full bars whose repertoires reflect their respective culinary genres.

    Ricard Brasserie & Liquor Bar:
110 Carriage Way, Ste. 3106, Snowmass Village; 855-303-4465
    Bia Hoi:
110 Carriage Way, Ste. 3101, Snowmass Village; 855-303-4466

  • Tacorico

    This brand-new cantina from the Eat Drink Inc folks has a mod look and a menu to match, starring 11 different tacos like the Land + Sea, combining fried shrimp and tongue, and the Rajas + Maiz with Hatch chiles and creamed chipotle corn. Make them a meal with any number of antojitos, followed by hot churros with mole chocolate and honey-cinnamon dipping sauces. The bar pours nearly 50 premium tequilas. (Note that a minor fire has forced a few-day closure, but management expects the doors to reopen this week.)

    56 Edwards Village Blvd., Edwards; 970-926-8226

  • Photo by: Merrick Chase Photography


    A New York City transplant and Nobu alum, barman Andrew Charles Tyler brings more than a touch of urban savvy to the funky Telluride izakaya-meets-speakeasy he calls “an arrival in the middle of nowhere.” The 32-seater sports a comic-book menu of small and shareable plates that couldn’t be more eclectic. There are elk lettuce wraps, softshell-crab steamed buns and scallops in lamb-chorizo ragu. Cocktails are equally vibrant, but don’t miss the customized “jam drinks." Be sure to ask about off-list creations as well.   

    627 W. Pacific Ave., Telluride; 970-728-1213

Places Mentioned

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Eight K

American Snowmass Village
Food25 Decor27 Service20 CostE
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Kelly Liken

American Vail
Food26 Decor25 Service25 Cost$67
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25 Degrees

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Food24 Decor21 Service20 Cost$25
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Food27 Decor24 Service26 Cost$69
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A Voce

Italian Flatiron
Food23 Decor23 Service23 Cost$71
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A Voce

Italian West 50s
Food23 Decor23 Service23 Cost$71
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Us Pacific Northwest Queen Anne
Food27 Decor28 Service27 Cost$113
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Californian Avon
Food25 Decor23 Service24 Cost$92
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Nobu Next Door

Japanese TriBeCa
Food27 Decor23 Service24 Cost$89
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Nobu Fifty Seven

Japanese West 50s
Food27 Decor23 Service24 Cost$89

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