VAILGuide

The Best Restaurants In Vail

You’ll find some top-tier outdoor recreation here, and the restaurants are just as good.
The Best Restaurants In Vail image

photo credit: Matsuhisa Vail

John Denver may have been thinking about Aspen when he wrote “Rocky Mountain High,” but the Vail Valley and its dining scene deserve their own folk-rock ballad. Because of the similar climates, it’s fitting that restaurants try and recreate dishes and food you’d find in the Swiss Alps. You’ll see plenty of fondue, super seasonal cooking, and enough Colorado lamb to think this is the sheep capital of the world (spoiler: it’s actually China).

Sure, new places open, and there’s even some amazing sushi in this landlocked state, but the classic spots are where you want to be. Of course, these legacy establishments for fancy dinners and après-ski outings are hard to get into, so plan ahead and make reservations.

We've also got guides to Avon, Edwards, and Beaver Creek if you're in the area.


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THE SPOTS


photo credit: Alpenrose

European

Vail Village

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDrinking Good WineSpecial OccasionsImpressing Out of TownersUnique Dining ExperienceOutdoor/Patio Situation
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There are a lot of restaurants, bars, and spaces in Vail that try to emulate the Alps. Alpenrose, a German-Austrian restaurant that opened in 1974, does the best job. It’s still going strong with a great list of Oktoberfest steins and Paulaner pils, fresh-baked pretzels, and plates of rösti. In the winter, you can reserve a private gondola cabin outside the restaurant for a raclette and fondue dinner. The cabins are brought over from Austria, can fit four people comfortably, and come equipped with their own Bluetooth speaker, a small heater, and a dimming light switch for an extra cozy evening.


We love it when something continues to improve after being around for 45 years—we’re looking at you, George Clooney, and at you, Sweet Basil. This place has been open since 1977 and it’s still a total Vail Village legend, thanks to excellent dishes like yellowtail sashimi, Colorado lamb T-bones, and lobster raviolo doppio. Try and make a reservation in the recently renovated (and brighter) dining room, but know you might be able to slide into some first-come, first-serve bar seats if you’re solo or a party of two, and you show up around 5pm. Or, as we like to call it, that liminal space between après-ski and the dinner rush.


Mountain Standard is the place for a special occasion dinner, but it’s a bit more laid back than its sister spot Sweet Basil. Picture a mountain tavern by the river, with draft microbrews and aged bourbon alongside hearty comfort food that’s as elevated as the altitude. Share some wood-roasted bone marrow, warm pimento cheese, and a wedge salad before moving onto the rotisserie jerk chicken and corned pork shank entrees, and sides like gruyere potato puree and coal-roasted yams. 


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Lionshead Village is lucky to have Montauk. For 35 years, it’s been dishing out great seafood like ahi tartare with wonton crisps, sea scallops carbonara, and barbecued Scottish salmon. The highlight is undoubtedly the raw bar menu, specifically The Tower: an overflowing tiered serving of East and West Coast oysters, Alaskan king crab legs, and Maine lobster tail. If you’re coming here with a friend who hates seafood, rest easy. Montauk has delicious meat too, like the grilled black angus filet mignon with white truffles.


Make you way to Root & Flower, a wine bar right on Bridge Street near the base of Vail Mountain, after you unbuckle your boots for some après-ski. It’s a perfectly cozy place to sit at a comfy banquette for a cocktail or glass of wine from their extensive list, plus some small plates. Start with the meat and cheese board or a dozen oysters, and then order some marinated steak skewers with confit spring onions and housemade pappardelle with local oyster mushrooms, roasted butternut squash cream, and lemon ricotta.


This is the Vail outpost of the Nobu empire, so make a reservation here when you want some reliably high-quality fish. Go with the omakase for an uni shooter, some salmon and scallop sashimi, and other Nobu specialties like king crab tempura and black truffle sea bass. The place is a total scene, and you might see someone like Lindsey Vonn hanging out by the large windows that face Vail Mountain while you’re going to town on yellowtail-japaleño nigiri and miso cod. Matsuhisa is also known for the bright and citrusy Gardener cocktail, but there are plenty of sakes, rieslings, and Japanese whiskeys on the menu that go great with all the fresh fish.


La Nonna is a Vail date night staple where you can drink a glass of Italian wine, dip some fluffy focaccia in olive oil, and sip housemade limoncello. Try for a spot upstairs, where there’s more room to spread out, but know that even if you post up by the bar, you'll get excellent service that’ll make you feel like a regular—or at least like you own a vacation home here. Start with some grilled Spanish octopus in red pepper-infused oil, and always get some pasta like the tagliatelle with braised wild boar ragu or a mushroom ravioli swimming in cream sauce and white truffle oil.


At Osaki’s, seating and reservations are extremely limited—you’ll have to call or stop by in person after 5:30pm to get a reservation for that night (or the next day). It might seem high-maintenance, but the fish is worth the effort. They have sashimi and nigiri specials on the whiteboard, which might include hamachi belly or sea bream with yuzu salt, but the omakase is the way to go. You’ll get raw octopus and snow crab to start, some light-as-air scallops, and urchin tempura with a dash of green tea salt.


La Tour is your best bet for French food in town. We always get excited about the escargot in a garlicky sauce persillée that begs to be soaked up by a baguette, raviolo with foie gras and butternut squash, and the incredible pernod creamed spinach. They have a social hour from 5-6pm where you can get great wine by the glass starting at $9, $3 oysters, and tuna tartare for just $10, all while you stare at the bright paintings and blown glass pieces throughout the dining room.


Chasing Rabbits is located in a 12,000-square-foot space that also holds a movie theater, cocktail lounge, speakeasy, and an arcade. Before seeing some jazz or playing a round of Ms. Pac-Man, come here for a Mediterranean dinner that’s fueled by delicious buttermilk ricotta on sourdough with chili garlic crunch, braised rabbit bolognese, and vegan eggplant moussaka. Make a point to visit Moon Rabbit, since the cocktails are especially good and often come with fun things like a bunny-eared astronaut figurine.


This taqueria is usually busy from lunch through dinner, and the afternoon après hours are especially buzzing during ski season. Beyond the long list of tacos, we love the grilled fajitas and carnitas burrito. In the summer and early fall months, the outdoor patio is a perfect sunny spot to order a tequila cocktail and plate of chorizo queso fundido while you look out over Gore Creek. They also have a new Eagle location for when you’re down the Valley and find yourself desperately craving some al pastor.


It’s impossible to miss the gigantic photograph of a bear leaning over a bar when you walk into Slope Room. The whole western-mountain-contemporary aesthetic of the photo is similar to the vibe of the restaurant, except you probably won’t run into grizzlies at the dimly lit bar. Sink into one of the velvet booths, and order a center-cut filet with yukon gold puree, all alongside a ramekin of whiskey au poivre sauce. The bar is also good if you just want to hang out, snack on some focaccia and burrata, and drink a margarita with a beet-infused tequila.


East Vail isn’t somewhere you’ll find a lot of great places to eat, but Après Cafe, which is owned and operated by a crew of locals, is the exception. The restaurant is located in the Vail Racquet Club, and it's great for groups—there's plenty of space and tables, along with a ton of shareable starters. We particularly like the loaded fries where you can pick a seasoning, a sauce, and a protein for a kind of Rocky Mountain poutine. The sandwiches, pizza, and other specials like trout with farro fried rice make this place perfect for so many situations.

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