An Insider’s Guide to Eating and Drinking in Aspen
Winter has officially arrived (remember Storm Jonas?), and Presidents’ Day is around the corner, which for many means a ski vacation is on the calendar. When it comes to the coolest and most delicious places to eat and drink in Aspen, Colorado, you don’t want to be left out in the cold. Our insider’s guide shows you the spots to indulge and imbibe in this famous ski town, where the scenery is stunning, the skiing is world class and—if you’re a movie buff—”the beer flows like wine.”
Stop by Peach's for the green juice-based Dave's Shake to get you going, or indulge in a heartier breakfast via the Open Face (poached eggs on artisan bread with peach butter, applewood bacon, tomatoes, arugula and Parmesan). Victoria's is a delicious option for a flat white and an omelette, and its location just steps from the base of Aspen Mountain makes it convenient for a pre-skiing caffeine fix (later on, swing by for a cheese plate and glass of wine). If you're in a hurry, grab a delectable ham and cheese croissant or a mandarin orange muffin and coffee at Paradise Bakery—and watch out for the tempting samples of brownies and the legendary chocolate chip cookies while you wait in line.
If you have a free afternoon, there are plenty of options for a fun lunch. Ski to the bottom of Aspen Mountain (known as Ajax) and if it’s a nice day, eat truffle fries on the deck of Ajax Tavern. (They taste so good, you won’t even think about the calories.) Mezzaluna is a locals' favorite, known for great pizzas and a laid-back atmosphere. White House Tavern offers yummy burgers and the scrumptious Macho Salad (the combo of dates, avocado, almonds, goat cheese and cornbread croutons make it more decadent than diet-friendly), while the Meatball Shack serves up—you guessed it—meatballs of every imaginable variety (go for the Buffalo Chicken Balls). But anyone who has spent any real time in Aspen will tell you the lunch spot of all lunch spots is the mostly takeout Big Wrap, where the uber-fresh salads and wraps are so delicious you’ll think about them long after your trip has come to an end (try the Pesto Wrapture—trust us).
You're in Aspen, so let’s hope you're getting in plenty of turns on one of the area's four mountains (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass). Reward yourself with some of the best on-mountain dining anywhere in the US. The Sundeck at the top of Aspen Mountain is a LEED-certified building with views for days and options for every palate (think salads, soups, pizza, burgers and even a made-to-order stir-fry). Bonnie’s—also on Aspen Mountain—is a locals' favorite with mouthwatering breakfasts (order the pancakes!) and world-famous apple strudel. But there is perhaps no better on-mountain dining experience in Aspen than Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Highlands, where the most popular items on the menu are the raclette, fondue and Veuve Cliquot, which—more often than not—gets sprayed everywhere as the afternoon goes on and the drinking (and dancing on tables) increases. Needless to say, make your way down the mountain carefully after imbibing and indulging at this Euro-chic chalet.
When they're done skiing or snowboarding for the day, Aspenites and visitors alike indulge in the age-old tradition of après ski, which is essentially an early happy hour where the drinks are plentiful and the ski clothes remain on. The Little Nell—the five-star hotel conveniently coated right at the base of Aspen Mountain—has a legendary scene in its Living Room where you can people-watch, eat delicious apps (Korean short-rib spring rolls and wagyu beef sliders) and sip wines from an incredible list, all just steps from the gondola. Chair 9 is another après option in the hotel, this one known for a lively atmosphere thanks to DJs and a fun and often rowdy crowd. The historic Hotel Jerome also has an ideal scene for those looking for great atmosphere to accompany their cocktail: Its iconic J-Bar, an upscale sports bar, boasts a storied history that includes everyone from Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson to John Wayne, and the Western decor in the hotel's Living Room off the lobby is exactly where you pictured yourself having a post-ski, cozy cocktail—make sure to order the Colorado Toddy.
Aspen may be a small mountain town, but it is big on culinary options and seriously delicious restaurants—the hardest part is choosing where to go. Sushi lovers should head to Kenichi or Matsuhisa, where you pretty much can't go wrong. If you want a hearty steak and a cozy atmosphere, head to Steak House No. 316. At Jimmy’s, An American Restaurant & Bar, order the crab cakes, meatloaf or the dreamy Jimmy Mac, complete with jalapenos and bacon. (Make sure to also order a margarita, as Jimmy's is known for its stunning array of tequilas and mescals.) Cache Cache is a French restaurant as delicious as any you would find in a major city—the escargot and filet are unforgettable (as are the martinis). If Italian is your thing, you'll love the easy and friendly vibe at L’Hostaria, where the bar is often one of the most happening places in town. And La Creperie Du Village is a super-quaint underground gem with a long list of crepes (from lamb bolognese to Nutella) and tons of scrumptious do-it-yourself options (including raclette and beef or cheese fondue). If you want to earn your dinner, cross-country ski or snowshoe to Pine Creek Cookhouse for mountain-gourmet delicacies like ruby red rainbow trout and buffalo tenderloin. In addition to a great meal, the Instagram options at this picturesque log cabin are endless.
You've had a big day—you hit the mountain, enjoyed après ski, had an amazing dinner and then likely hit the town's bustling nightlife scene, so it's no real surprise you suddenly have a late-night food craving. Not to worry: New York Pizza is the spot for a pre-sleep snack (sometimes the line snakes all the way down the stairs). There is also Ajax Donuts, which operates out of the iconic (and adorable) Popcorn Wagon. Don't feel guilty about your late-night indulgence—you'll ski or snowboard it off tomorrow.