The Best Restaurants In Sun Valley
photo credit: Erin Roberts
Sun Valley, Idaho, is home to the very first ski resort in the country, and the steep runs, short lift lines, and endlessly sunny days are just a few of the reasons why it’s considered one of the best ski towns in America.
The area has changed a lot over the past 50 years. What was once one of Hemingway’s favorite places to hang out is now where billionaires and CEOs come for an annual “rich people’s summer camp”—but you shouldn’t let the latter deter you. Sun Valley is a great town to explore, with friendly locals, close proximity to the mountains, and a restaurant scene that still has plenty of old-school charm.
A quick geography note: The area is generally referred to as “Sun Valley,” but the town of Ketchum is where you’ll find the majority of the restaurants—plus, you know, the mountain itself. (The resort and village of Sun Valley is about a mile down the road.)
Whether you’re looking to order the same meal as Hemingway once did—seriously, some of these spots’ menus have never changed—scarf down a corndog (which at $3.50 is the cheapest lunch in town), or escape the cold with a martini and a fireplace, you’ll find plenty of memorable meals in Sun Valley.
The Casino is the definitive late-night spot in Ketchum. Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson used to hang out here, and since they opened in 1939, it’s been a favorite with locals who want to drink a Hamm's beer with a chunk of lime on top, also known as the Casino’s signature drink, “the Hammtini.”
Well cocktails are only $5 and poured strong by the rotating handful of bartenders who everyone knows by name. If you’re celebrating a birthday, prepare to be handed a Smirnoff Ice, which must then be chugged on one knee while everyone in the bar cheers you on. The attached Casino Café is one of the few options in town for late-night food, and it serves exactly what you want at the end of the night: burgers, sandwiches, fries, wings, nachos, quesadillas, and sliders.
Back when it opened in the 1950s, men would ride horses up to the bar of the Pioneer Saloon, or “Pio,” as it’s known locally. Today, people mostly walk up to order a signature Pio margarita and mingle with other patrons just starting their night.
A go-to for anyone looking for a simple meal of steak and potatoes, the Pio menu has never changed, and the potatoes are the size of your face. The walls are lined with relics of the west, including a huge stuffed buffalo head. Enjoy a cocktail and free chips and salsa in the bar area while you wait for your table in the dining room. Order the prime rib and the local-favorite “Jim Spud,” a baked potato with teriyaki beef, potato toppings, and cheese. If you’re lucky enough to visit in November, check out the “Pio Days” event, when menu prices go back to what they were in 1972 for a weekend.
You can have two types of experiences at Michel's Christiania, a fine dining French restaurant that makes some of the best shoestring pommes frites this side of the Atlantic. The first is to grab a spot at the bar (where tables are for walk-ins only) and gaze at photos of U.S. Olympic skiers the owner personally coached.
The second is to make a reservation for the dining room and enjoy your escargot and mussels next to a table that’s bringing home a filet mignon just for their poodle. The menu rarely changes, so you’ll always know where to get a great meal, a stiff drink, and a chance to sit at the table Hemingway called his own when he was a regular.
Let's be real: you tagged along on this ski trip to sit by a fire with your friends in the ‘80s ski onesie you bought just for this moment. And no other spot in the area is as synonymous with après-ski as Apple’s Bar & Grill, located at the base of Baldy on the Warm Springs side. The lunchtime restaurant (that’s also open for dinner during the summer) serves typical post-mountain food: think burgers, including a surprisingly good sesame seared ahi option, sandwiches, flatbread pizza, salads, and pitchers of beer that'll make you forget how many times you wiped out on the mountain.
Walking inside Grumpy’s is like walking into a museum dedicated to drinking culture in Ketchum. The walls are lined with old beer cans, photos of customers come and gone, past ski run signs, and bumper stickers that say things like “Licked it, liked it.” They serve up a simple lunch menu of burgers and fries with token vegan and gluten-free options—a real sign of progress in a place that has had the same menu for decades and only installed a phone in the last few years (really).
The $3.50 corndog is the best lunch deal in town, while $7 will buy you a schooner of beer, which is normally around 21 ounces but is a full 32 at Grumpy’s (and the perfect size, once empty, for playing butt darts). Take your massive beer outside on the patio and drink in the sun with friends, and make sure to give a few pets to the regulars’ dogs who wander about. If you’re seated inside, pop a few quarters in the jukebox and play “Sweet Caroline”—you might just have a movie moment as everyone explodes into song.
Roundhouse is where your friends who don't actually ski will be hanging out, three martinis deep by the time you get off the lift. Located halfway up Bald Mountain at a cool 7,700 feet, the Roundhouse is only accessible by chairlift or skis. Assuming you have a reservation or are willing to wait, you can dine by the fire in this Austrian-inspired chalet, built in 1939, while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Go for the famous fondue, which comes in small blue cast-iron pots with all kinds of dipping options, like bread, potatoes, grapes, sausage, and apples. The truffle fries, lobster rolls, and Cubano sandwiches are also solid.
GOOD FOR GROUPS
The Cellar is where you should start any night out. Whether it’s your first visit or you’ve been here a hundred times, the simple cocktails and better-than-it-needs-to-be pub food, like homemade tomato bisque with grilled cheese, burgers, fries, and kobe beef sliders, always delivers. Expect it to get rowdy on the weekends, where you might have to fight for a position at the free shuffleboard tables or wait to play Buckhunter.
The Warfield, a restaurant, brewery, and distillery, takes up half a city block of downtown Ketchum, making it the perfect spot to bring your extended family on your annual ski trip when you realize that you forgot to make a reservation and few places can accommodate a group of 10.
Start with a selection of plates like crispy fried cauliflower and the sweet potato poutine, followed by bigger dishes like the fish and chips, pork chop, and prime flank steak. The rooftop bar is the place to be in summer for great views, while in the winter, they have a blue light special—$10 bottomless pints that benefit the local Sawtooth Avalanche Center—that’s literally signaled by a blinking blue light.
The Public House is Sawtooth Brewery’s Ketchum location, which has a lunch and dinner menu that could please even your pickiest friends. Go for bison sliders, Korean street tacos, and a customizable Idaho baked potato, but always add a house salad with their housemade herbed lager vinaigrette to your order. Choose from 20 locally made beers, and buy one for your buddy using their chalkboard system of paying it forward to friends. After you tire your kids out with their first ski lesson, bring them to Sawtooth for mac and cheese, hot dogs, and root beer floats.
You’ll definitely want to make a reservation at this popular Main Street spot, otherwise, you might be waiting a while just to sit at the bar. The wait is worth it, though, for great Italian dishes and standout pizzas. Come with a group or date and get the Anne’s Mac and Cheese, pork osso bucco, lasagne al forno, and one of their seasonal pies (if they have it, try the Zucca with pancetta, squash, mozzarella, arugula, and balsamic drizzle).
Try to snag the one table by the window that faces Main Street to sip an Italian red while watching people haphazardly ping-pong between two of the town’s only bars as they search for greener pastures.
Located on the ground floor of the Knob Hill Inn, the Grill’s large dining room makes it a great spot for groups, though you’ll still probably need a reservation. (Alternatively, if you need a break from said group, you can grab a spot at the bar, which seats about fifteen, and sip on an Alpenglow cocktail in peace.)
The Northwest Rocky Mountain-influenced menu rotates seasonally, but no matter the time of year, each meal starts with a basket of popovers served with honey butter—and they’re so good, you should preemptively ask for two orders when you sit down. Try the lamb lollipops or fried chicken entrees, and keep an eye out for the vegan dish that’s usually worth ordering.
Keep Rickshaw in your back pocket for when you were too busy booking lift tickets and forgot to make a reservation for dinner. They don’t reserve tables, so it’s perfect for small groups and something last-minute. Start your meal with an order of wonton chips and a green papaya salad for the table before moving on to entrees like the Korean fried chicken and the spicy japchae. There’s a fire pit outside where you can hang out with a drink, and if you’re there in summer, play some ping-pong in their side courtyard.
The menu at The Covey constantly changes—so much so that any menu you look at online will probably be useless. There are always roughly five appetizers, pastas, and entrees, but depending on the season (or the chefs’ moods that week), you’ll get something they’ve probably never served before. Think fresh bucatini with fennel pollen, dry-aged beef bolognese, or a winter squash entree paired with black garlic and bunashimeji mushrooms. You can sit at a table or at one of the dozen comfy chairs at the long bar, but try to grab one of the six stools at the counter of the open kitchen. In the summer, check out their backyard, which has plenty of firepits.
Located in a former church, Cookbook is an extremely small restaurant with just seven butcher-block tables: five two-tops and two four-tops, one of which is tucked away in its own little corner by the entrance. You might feel like you’re eating in a stylish and avant-garde corner of Ikea, as there are multiple shelves of color-coded cookbooks on the walls, along with gray Swedish sound panels that look like mountain topography.
Menu staples include Pete’s Pasta with cherry tomatoes, white wine, and garlic, and the spaghetti squash with house-ground bolognese, basil, and parmesan. Get something off the great wine list and pair it with one of the personal pizzas, like the Shroom with oyster and shiitakes, sauteed spinach, rosemary, thyme, fontina, parmesan, and truffle oil. If you can’t get a table—or just want to relax on the couch of your hotel room after skiing all day—Cookbook’s takeout holds up extremely well.
COFFEE & BREAKFAST
The Konditorei used to feel straight out of The Sound of Music, with waitresses decked out in full Austrian dirndls for uniforms, but today it feels more like a contemporary ski chalet plucked in the middle of the Sun Valley Village, an outdoor mall of shops and restaurants. That Austrian influence finds its way onto the extensive all-day breakfast menu in the form of pork schnitzel, spaetzle, and schnitzelplatte.
The menu has plenty of breakfast staples too, like benedicts, bagels, great vegan omelets, crepes, and waffles, as well as several pastry cases of housemade delights, all done exceptionally well. The drink menu is just as detailed, including coffee and a full Bloody Mary section.
The original Java location was created as the ultimate hangout for its founder, a man whose look of thick square glasses, long hair, punk or indie band t-shirts, and a thin hipster scarf was so iconic that locals have often dressed as him for Halloween. A motorcycle, skateboard, and punk aficionado who passed away in 2020, he injected these elements throughout the coffee shop and café in the form of touches like framed black-and-white motorcycle art on the walls and laminated band photos as table markers for your food orders.
The drink menu has all the coffee classics, but you should order their famous Bowl of Soul, a specialty mocha that uses Mexican hot chocolate and comes topped with homemade whipped cream. Add on a high-protein turkey scramble or a heavy breakfast burrito, and check out the long display case of scones, muffins, and cookies for a snack for later.
Did you forget your vintage blanket robe or buckhide suede jacket? Don't worry: you can buy both at Maude's, a coffee shop that also happens to have some clothing for sale. Floor-to-ceiling windows means there’s great light in this spot, which is perfect for sending off some emails at one of the mismatched vintage tables with fellow remote workers.
The menu is short and to the point—pour-overs, lattes, cappuccinos—and you'll probably be mocked if you ask for anything like sugar-free caramel syrup in your drink. For food, choose from a selection of locally made pastries, including donuts and muffins, as well as a menu of toasties—try the Trash Toast (EVOO, melted cheddar, tomato, sea salt, and pepper) before checking out the attached vintage clothing store.