Frasca is a favourite of the famous James Beard Foundation, and you will be too. The menu of this upmarket Boulder restaurant is concentrated on the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a region in northeast Italy. Every course is beautifully plated, and the servers are professional but approachable. Allow owner and professional sommelier Bobby Stuckey to walk you through the more than 200 wine varieties. Make a reservation for the less expensive Monday night wine dinners. The four-course tasting menu costs $55, plus $50 for vino flights.
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221 South Oak
Telluride is a classic alpine hamlet nestled in a box canyon about 300 miles southwest of Denver. However, the small 221 South Oak isn’t your typical mountain restaurant. Chef Eliza Gavin (a Top Chef alum) is dedicated to promoting veggies (there’s even a vegetarian menu) and has a talent for translating typical rustic ingredients like lamb and venison into exquisite, sophisticated cuisine. The best part: almost everything is cooked in-house (sauces, pasta, sausages, bread, ice creams).
Beast & Bottle
Every visitor at Beast & Bottle in Denver’s Uptown district is treated like family. Executive chef Paul Reilly (whose sister, Aileen, is the general manager) follows a nose-to-tail mentality, using as much of each component as possible, whether it’s a pig or a carrot. His dedication to avoiding food waste and broadening diners’ palates is admirable, and the resulting dishes are equally so. Craft drinks are usually inventive and well-balanced, and savvy customers leave space for dessert.
Annette, a “scratch-to-table” restaurant in Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace food and retail collective, sets the homey setting with a dining area flooded with natural light and anchored by a wall of chopped logs. Chef Caroline Glover cooks with precision—she trained at the Spotted Pig in New York under renowned chef April Bloomfield—but it’s her passion for fresh ingredients and simple cooking, as well as her commitment to the joy of breaking bread together, that makes dining at Annette such an exceptional experience.
You can’t discuss the local food movement without discussing Kelly Whitaker. In 2016, he co-founded the organization Noble Grain Alliance to bring back local grains as an unofficial champion for developing a sustainable food system. At Basta, Whitaker’s first restaurant, he grinds grains into fresh flour, which he uses to make crispy-crusted pizza, belly-warming pasta, and delightfully doughy bread. Don’t miss the innovative little meals at this Boulder restaurant.
Oak at Fourteenth
Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth, led by the extremely gifted Steven Redzikowski, mastered wood-fired cooking long before it was fashionable. From artichokes to octopus, a variety of foods are spun through the smoke, and dishes are arranged like culinary works of art. The New American menu is short yet varied, and the dishes pair well with beverage director Bryan Dayton’s cocktail and wine list. This is high-end food served in a stylish but warm setting.
The posh appearance of Vail may draw guests’ attention to costly, white-tablecloth eateries. The more casual Mountain Standard, a bar on the banks of Gore Creek, serves some of the greatest food in Vail Village. Food like Colorado striped fish and hanger steak are cooked over an open wood fire here, and servers are ski junkies with genuine hospitality qualifications. Lunch is a good time to go because the menu is limited to salads and sandwiches.
Mark Fischer’s American restaurant may be located in western Colorado, far from the state capital, but it hasn’t stopped the boisterous cafe from fast gaining fans: The Pullman was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2011. Lunches and evenings are concentrated on locally produced, seasonal ingredients, with brick walls and an industrial-meets-rustic decor.
Nothing beats beer and pizza after a hard day on the slopes or trails. Secret Stash, located in downtown Crested Butte, provides excellent service. Bright colours and eccentric furnishings adorn the vibrant, open dining room. Thick, doughy crusts and inventive toppings (figs on the Notorious FIG, a Thai curry base on Buddha’s Belly) distinguish the pizzas. Whatever you order, wash it down with a pint of Colorado artisan beer from the tiny variety.
Mercantile Dining & Provision
There are many reasons to love chef-owner Alex Seidel’s second restaurant (his first, Fruition Restaurant, is well worth a visit): the bustling vibe of its Denver Union Station location, the unfussy hospitality of its servers, and a bar serving some of the greatest cocktails in town, to name a few. The nicest part about Mercantile, however, is that it is open all day. Visit in the morning for salmon toast; in the afternoon for a Colorado quinoa salad prepared with feta from Seidel’s farm and creamery; and in the evening for house-made pasta in the elegant dining room.
House Rock Kitchen
The healthy food revolution has reached even small-town Colorado. Salads, protein-rich bowls, sandwiches, and burritos lead the menu at House Rock Kitchen, located on Main Street in Buena Vista, a rafter’s dream on the Arkansas River. Those with dietary limitations will find it simple to eat at a fast-casual restaurant. If the sun is shining, take a seat on the patio and pair your meal with a game of bocce (and a drink or kombucha).
Low Country Kitchen
Low Country Kitchen is where Steamboat Springs’ rodeo culture meets the South. Guests are greeted with all the traditional Southern fare—fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, collard greens—but the real star here is the buttermilk-fried chicken, which takes 48 hours to prepare. Pair the crispy exterior and juicy interior “main attraction” with crumbly house-made biscuits and an updated classic cocktail. On your next visit, you can try everything else.
River North (RiNo to locals) is Denver’s hippest neighbourhood, and its excitement can be felt at Hop Alley, one of the neighbourhood’s best restaurants. The 57-seat contemporary Chinese restaurant is loud, busy, and darkly illuminated. Reservations are restricted, but Denverites are ready to wait—with an Asian-inspired cocktail in hand—for a chance to savour tantalizing dishes like chilled tofu with bang bang sauce or salt-and-pepper soft-shell crab.
El Taco de Mexico
Green chile is a traditional Colorado cuisine, and El Taco de Mexico serves some of the best. The taqueria, which was established in 1985, delivers authentic Mexican cuisine (think pozole, gorditas, chilaquiles… practically any south-of-the-border food you crave) at reasonable costs. Locals steal a yellow stool overlooking the kitchen and order the green chile enchiladas.
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