Though the latter only comes around once a year, we’re lucky to have a diverse range of restaurants to please our palates all year. Foodies will be pleased with the area’s dining options, from casual cafes to juice bars to fine dining. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best.
No one should visit Aspen without a stop by The Little Nell. Inside this Aspen institution, you’ll find Element 47, the only Five-Star, Five-Diamond in Aspen. Named for the precious metal that was mined here for generations – silver – it is possibly the best all-around restaurant in Colorado. Element 47 boasts an enviable wine list, and a creative, locally sourced menu to match. From the buttery, salt-topped bread (delivered in a skillet) that starts the meal, to the last bite of delectable dessert, this is the kind of place that knows what you want before you do. And although it’s one of the best restaurants in the country, the dress code is always “Aspen casual” – you can even ski in if it pleases you.
This sleek gastropub is comfort food, elevated. Nearly everything is made in-house, from the buttery brioche buns to the fiery sauce on the Nashville hot chicken. Fun appetizers include pretzel bites and pigs-in-a-blanket made with locally raised Kobe beef. Bison chili, chicken ‘n’ waffles, bacon mac and cheese, Colorado beef burgers ...do you see where we’re going with this? For dessert, don’t miss the tableside-roasted s’mores.
Colorado is perfect in every way, but if we had to pick one downside about living here, it’s the lack of fresh seafood. Never fear: Matsuhisa has hundreds of pounds of ocean bounty flown in daily. The first outpost of renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s flagship Beverly Hills restaurant, the restaurant serves up “new style Japanese,” influenced by both his traditional culinary training in Tokyo and his global travels. Tucked inside a 120-year-old Victorian on Main Street, this is your spot if you’re looking for seafood with a contemporary, creative twist.
Spring Cafe Organic Food & Juice Bar
Sometimes you just need a quick, healthy meal that you know is going to taste good. Spring Cafe is that place. A vegan’s paradise, the restaurant adheres to a holistic philosophy not just through the food – which is organic and cruelty free – but down to the BPA-free plastic, stainless steel cookware and even the building itself, which was constructed with non-toxic building materials and paints. The menu consists of cold-pressed juices, sustainably grown coffee, smoothies, salads, wraps and soul food inspired entrees. Even if you’re not a veghead, you’ll love it.
There's nothing like Italian when it comes to comfort food, and this cozy spot in Snowmass Village hits the mark. Up front, there's an intimate café vibe, while those who prefer a fine dining experience will enjoy the formal dining room in back. Pastas are made fresh in-house, as are some cured meats. This is a great choice for group meals, as there's a wide variety on the menu to suit almost any dietary restrictions. Vegetarians and vegans have plenty to choose from, and gluten free pasta and pizza are available. Il Poggio has served Snowmass visitors for more than 20 years and serves a seasonally inspired menu – worth the trip when nothing but authentic, handmade pasta and a stellar glass of wine will do.
Smoke Modern Barbeque
Skiing, hiking, biking and being generally fabulous is hard work, so when it’s time for a stick-to-your-ribs, “give me some meat” kind of meal, Smoke Modern Barbeque is the ticket. But this is not your typical hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint (although those are great too). The name says it all: this is a modern twist on an ancient tradition, and you’ll see Creole and Cajun influences on the menu, too. With a perfectly curated menu of Southern favorites like fried pickles, deviled eggs and fresh corn muffins, the restaurant uses hard and fruit woods to smoke low and slow, turning out delectable pork barbeque, brisket, chicken and ribs. There’s even an entire mac ‘n’ cheese menu. Wash it all down with craft cocktails, rare bourbons, and small-batch microbrews.
Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar
A restaurant focused on flaky, buttery, savory pies? Yes, please. It’s just as intimate, warm and satisfying as it sounds: from the cozy decor to the attentive service, Heather’s is quite simply, love. Savory pies include her famous chicken pot pie, along with lamb, pulled pork, veggie and even a Cuban-style ropa vieja version. The rest of the menu is equally tempting: fresh salads and soups, rich pastas, and ever-changing menu of homemade desserts that grandma would be proud of.
This rustic-chic spot in downtown Carbondale is a triple threat: by morning, it’s a bakery and coffee shop; at lunch there’s counter service serving small plates, salads and sandwiches; and come evening, it’s a new American restaurant serving inspired cuisine and inventive craft cocktails. The menu changes according to what’s in season, and you’ll find plenty to please both plant-based and meat-loving dining companions. You’ll see wild fish and game, rabbit and other sustainably raised and ethically sourced meats on the menu, alongside heirloom veggies and vegan selections.
-Davina van Buren