The Best Restaurants In Aspen guide image


The Best Restaurants In Aspen

Whether you’re in ski boots or a mink coat, these are the best places in Aspen for oysters, cheese fondue, or a glass of mulled wine.

Oh, Aspen. It’s one of the U.S.’ most charming actual western ski towns, yet also a place with a Prada store. But whether you’re coming to Aspen with plans to hike Highlands Bowl daily or to get some use out of your mink vest collection, the good news is that there’s no better American ski town for restaurant-going.

Reservations do book up very quickly during the high seasons, so act early. That said, if you haven’t been able to get that 8pm Matsuhisa res, don’t panic. Many places take walk-ins at the bar, and a handful of good spots don’t take reservations at all. So if you’re willing to wait, you'll be able to get some great food even if you didn’t plan ahead. From high-end sushi to straight-out-of-the-alps cheese fondue, here are all the best restaurants in Aspen.


photo credit: courtesy of Clark's Aspen

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Clark's Aspen


517 E Hyman Ave, Aspen
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We know it sounds unlikely, but yes, an outpost of an Austin-based oyster bar is one of the best restaurants in Aspen. Settle into a blue leather booth for crudo, crab cakes, and grilled fish (there’s a decent amount of non-fish stuff as well), or grab a seat at the bar if you didn’t book in advance. The team behind Clark’s has more plans for Aspen, as they also recently purchased an old hotel at the base of the mountain, Mountain Chalet, which they’ll be renovating over the coming year.

Open since 1998, Aspen’s Matsuhisa is one of the longest-running restaurants in the Nobu/Matsuhisa universe, and feels very much like a classic. You’ll find all the Nobu hits: miso black cod, rock shrimp tempura, caviar-topped tartare, and plenty of sushi. All of it is delicious and worth it, which we wouldn’t say about the other sushi spots in town. Getting in here, especially with a group, can feel impossible, but if you’re willing to gamble a bit, they take names on a waiting list for seats in the upstairs area and the bar.

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Meat & Cheese is indeed a meat and cheese shop, and it’s definitely the best butcher and fancy provisions market in town. But it’s also an excellent restaurant that works well for a late post-ski lunch or casual dinner. The menu takes influence from all over the world, with everything from exceptional rotisserie chicken to bo ssam pork to Thai coconut soup. They don’t take reservations, but you can “get in line” by going to their Yelp page. Or just show up and have a drink in their attached underground cocktail bar, which makes interesting cocktails like a Tiki Toddy and others using esoteric spirits and ingredients.

Located in a charming little house, Bear Den’s name does it justice: this place gives off extremely cozy cabin energy, no matter what time of day. It’s popular for brunch, but we also really enjoy it for dinner, when they serve a pretty eclectic menu that includes both Colorado bison lasagna and tikka masala. They’re not currently taking reservations, so this could be a good option on a night you haven’t booked anything.

You come to this restaurant to eat cheese fondue and crepes in a dark, candlelit underground space that feels like it could be in the Alps. For indulging in ridiculously rich, warm food while it’s snowing outside, French Alpine Bistro (also known to many as “the creperie”) can’t be beat. Book well in advance for this one.

Sometimes you just need a pretty-good, upscale-yet-not-too-fancy Italian restaurant that can easily accommodate groups. With a list of almost 20 pastas, shareable thin-crust pizzas, chicken milanese, and so on, Acquolina is always a solid bet.

Owned by the same people as Acquolina, Duemani is another good place to have in your back pocket, and one that can be a tad easier to get into than other spots in town. The menu here leans more Mediterranean, with a seafood focus. Expect crudos, tartares, and several types of grilled fish.

Ajax Tavern’s scene is strongest during the après hour, thanks to its large outdoor deck right at the base of the gondola. Definitely come then for drinks and plates of truffle fries, or finish off an early ski day with lunch. Ajax Tavern is at its prime before sunset, but it works well for families and groups looking for a convenient dinner option, too.

White House Tavern is owned by Hillstone (the group behind Houston’s, East Hampton Grill, Palm Beach Grill, and many others) but has plenty of charm thanks to its location in a small historic house. The menu is made up of sandwiches (like a french dip and a fried chicken sandwich), salads, and bar snacks, so it’s best for lunch or a low-key dinner.

If the desire to eat red meat hits, head to Steakhouse No. 316. This place is sort of clubby with red velvet booths, and it’s a great place for a date dinner or a group. In addition to the extensive list of chops, raw bar items, and sides, you should know that the Lulu Kale Salad (named for the restaurant previously in the space) is one of the best kale salads ever.

Open since 1980, Woody Creek Tavern is a local’s spot that was taken over a couple years ago by the team behind Steakhouse 316. Located outside of town, halfway between Aspen and Snowmass, there’s a cleaned-up dive bar feel, with Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff posters covering the walls. They fittingly serve nachos, wings, and burgers, but you can also get things like lobster rolls, pork chops, and oysters.

The bar at Hotel Jerome is a classic, and strikes the balance between historic Aspen and fur coat Aspen. It’s always lively here, and works well for either a drink or casual dinner. The menu has plenty of upscale comfort food, from baked goat cheese to a pastrami sandwich.

Whether you need to fuel up before a big day on the mountain or recover from the night before, pancakes at Poppycock’s are the answer. They're made with oatmeal, making the pancakes gooey, filling, and pretty much perfect, but you can also get eggs and other breakfast stuff, too. This is a diner-like place where you can definitely eat in your ski boots.

When you’re eating on the mountain, you need to go to Bonnie’s at least once. This independently-run restaurant smack in the middle of the mountain is a homey contrast to the Sundeck that brings you back to an older Aspen. For lunch, try anything from the grill and finish it off with mulled wine and their famous strudel. Or, do like the regulars do and come for an on-mountain breakfast of excellent pancakes and bacon—they open every morning in winter with the lifts at 9am.

Did your flight out of Aspen get heavily delayed? Aspen/Pitkin County Airport troubles are a right of passage, really. If you happen to have some unexpected hours to kill near the airport, there’s Mawa’s Kitchen. The menu has a mix of French, African, and other global influences, with dishes ranging from West African gumbo to a bacon and brie flatbread. There are also a notable number of vegan and gluten-free options, such as spicy jerk tofu.

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