The Best Restaurants In Vail  guide image

VAILGuide

The Best Restaurants In Vail

An après-ski chorizo queso fundido, a Tuesday "Mussel Madness," and other must-eats when you’re not on the slopes in Vail, Colorado.

John Denver may have been inspired by Aspen when he wrote “Rocky Mountain High,” but the Vail Valley and the surrounding area deserve its own folk-rock ballad. Vail has some of the best outdoor recreation you’ll find in the world—there’s skiing, hiking, kayaking, biking, and plenty more to explore in the Rocky Mountain terrain. And the dining scene is pretty world-class, too. 

Because of the similar climates, it feels only right that restaurants try and recreate dishes and food you’d find in the Alps. You’ll see plenty of fondue on menus, 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 more classic spots in Vail are where you want to be. Of course, these legacy establishments are hard to get into, so plan ahead and make reservations. Here are our top picks for aprés-ski, fancy dinners, and pre-adventure fuel-ups in the 40-mile span of East Vail to Glenwood Canyon.



HAPPY HOUR & APRÈS-SKI


photo credit: Townsend Bessent

Root & Flower review image

Root & Flower

$$$$

288 Bridge St Ste C4, Vail
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Whether you’re looking for an après-ski Happy Hour or a full dinner, Root & Flower is about as hip as it gets in Vail Village. This wine bar is right on Bridge Street as you walk up toward the base of Vail Mountain, but it’s sort of tucked away, which makes it all the more cozy. There’s a long bar at the front of the restaurant, some metal flower light fixtures, and a comfy turquoise banquette that’s the perfect place for a cocktail or glass of wine. The glass list is pretty extensive, and it’s highly advised to start with a meat and cheese board or a dozen oysters to share. Most of the entrees are seasonal and are pretty excellent—think homemade pasta with chanterelle mushrooms or lamb brochettes with sunflower seed muhammara, pomegranate, and cipollini onions.


photo credit: Kim Fuller

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El Segundo

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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.


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This brewery has two locations, one in Eagle-Vail and another in Vail Village. Both are generally fun places to hang out with interesting seasonal beers, trivia, and live music, but we like each of them for different reasons. The Eagle-Vail location has a better food situation, so after you fail to correctly guess what year gunpowder was invented, you can grab something from the taco truck on the patio. The Vail Village spot has more space, with a tasting room, indoor seating, and a few outdoor fireside options that face Vail Mountain.


Whether you’re looking for a casual lunch, Happy Hour, or even relaxed dinner, you can always rely on the Drunken Goat in Edwards. The sunny patio is a fun scene where locals hang out, recognize each other, and then yell out things like, “I haven’t seen you since off-season!” Drunken Goat is across Highway 6 from the Riverwalk Theater, so it’s a great snack stop before a film. Or, you can pick an evening when there’s live music and settle in for a full meal. Along with ordering a bottle of wine from their great list, share a cheese and meat spread, oysters, tacos, salads, and pine nut ricotta bruschetta.


You should indeed come to this spot in Avon for a large bowl of pho. The space is casual—you’ll probably see locals in for a solo meal or laid-back date at the bar—but it also works great for bigger groups, where you can start with an order of crab cheese wontons and a round of boba. While you can also get things like fried rice and spring rolls, our favorite move is to order the Veggie Pho (P8) and add on rare steak so you get the best of everything.


If you’re looking for a spot to impress that friend who frequently and earnestly uses the word “terroir,” look no further than Vin48. The bistro features lots of great bottles and more than 40 wines by the glass—some from France and Italy, but also from places like Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Grab one of the high tops at the front of the Avon restaurant and wine bar, where it’s usually pretty buzzy with locals stopping by after work for a casual bite. Share some baked goat cheese or the Colorado bison tartare appetizer to start, get the pistachio-crusted chicken entree, and the Grand Marnier crème brulée for dessert.


You’ll always find locals at The Rose for lunch, Happy Hour, or before a film at the Riverwalk Theater. And you should join them for a fun way to celebrate not tumbling down a double black diamond ski slope for the first time in your life. There are a lot of dishes to love, but a few standouts include the avocado fries with soy aioli, elote-style vegetables, and a bowl of ramen with a miso bone broth. The dining room has hanging lanterns made from upside-down garbage tins that the chef actually personally shot holes through for light (yes, with a gun). It’s worth ordering a paper plane cocktail, since The Rose’s version comes with your very own paper plane as a non-edible but fully flyable garnish.


SPECIAL OCCASIONS


It’s rare when something continues to improve after being around for 50 years (we’re looking at you, George Clooney). Sweet Basil is another one of those examples, as it’s been open since 1977 and is still a total Vail Village legend. Specialties include ahi tuna sashimi, Colorado lamb T-bones, and whiskey maple duck breast. Definitely make a reservation for the patio in the summer, especially since the first-come, first-serve bar seats always seem to be taken.


You might know about Nobu Matsuhisa, the sushi legend with a seemingly infinite number of Japanese spots around the world. But even if you aren’t familiar, you should make it a point to visit his Vail outpost. Order the seven-course omakase to experience the best sashimi and sushi that you’ll ever find in the mountains. The place is a total scene, so while you’re going to town on yellowtail-japaleño nigiri and miso cod, you might see celebrities (we’ve heard The Kardashians have eaten here) posing by the large windows that face the Vail Mountain. Matsuhisa is also known for the bright and citrusy Gardner cocktail, but there are plenty of sakes and rieslings on the menu that go great with all the fresh fish.


This Italian restaurant is located in a quiet corner of Eagle-Vail, and is pretty charming once you get past the strip mall entrance. The small bar only has several seats, but it’s exactly where you want to be—if not, there are some cozy banquette-lined nooks throughout the space. The best and most unique dish on the menu is the pollo alle fragole, or strawberry chicken. While it might sound like a Chopped challenge gone wrong, the chicken tastes great with a pop of bright berry flavor, red onions, red pepper flakes, and a brandy cream sauce, all over angel hair pasta. If you need a basic Italian lesson, “ti amo” means “I love you,” so it naturally makes sense to go here for a special date night after a day of hitting the slopes.


The restaurant in this charming farmhouse near the entrance of Beaver Creek makes some of the best French food in town, and has done so for over 40 years. Go with the four-course tasting menu, which may include foie gras, lobster flatbread, Dover sole meunière, and Tahitian Vanilla crème brûlée. If the fireplace lounge and candlelit dining area feel like rooms in some curated mountain home, that’s because the chef and his wife actually live upstairs. We think they should turn the whole place into an alpine bed and breakfast, but we’ll settle for coming here to celebrate a successful day on the slopes.


You’ll probably feel like royalty going up the ramp to Splendido at the Chateau Beaver Creek luxury resort. That feeling continues as you walk through the lounge and bar, lit by chandeliers and decorated with antiques and old photos, all the way into the dining room and open kitchen. While they have a great champagne selection, Splendido serves the best dirty martini in the Vail Valley. Based on the environment, the menu makes total sense: caviar, foie gras, a Colorado lamb rack special that you need to order if it’s on the menu, and soufflé for dessert. 


There’s a lot going on at this two-story Italian spot. They’ve got an upstairs bar and lounge that looks over the dining room and an outdoor patio alongside a bocce court. Pick your table according to the season and the occasion: patio for summer, dining room for something extra special, bar and lounge for drop-ins and dates. Go for the wood-fired pizzas, housemade pappardelle with veal meatballs, lobster ravioli, or rigatoni with smoked sausage, and don’t miss the grilled pork chop entree. Pair it all with something off their mostly-Italian wine list that features some standout bottles from Piedmont.


BREAKFAST & SOMETHING QUICK


This coffee shop and cocktail bar should be your move both before and after you hit Vail Mountain. The narrow space is small and seating is limited, and you’ll hear a range of house to hip-hop playing on the speakers. Whenever we stop by, it always seems to be a party in here. It’s usually pretty busy, with people dropping in for a quick cortado or staying a while to have a fresh-baked croissant, breakfast burrito, or mushroom and spinach quiche.


The Little Diner, located at the West Lionshead Plaza Bus Stop in the Concert Hall Plaza building, is a legendary sit-down breakfast spot in Vail. Order a Pannekoeken (also known as a Dutch Baby or German Pancake) for the table or a breakfast platter like the pork chop and eggs, but once they start doing lunch at 11:30am, you should immediately go for a burger. The Expert brings the heat with fried jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo.


The town of Minturn is a seven-minute drive from Vail, and that’s where you’ll find Sunrise: an order-at-the-counter stop in the town’s small core with coffee drinks, smoothies, and brunch-style cocktails, along with breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, and housemade corn beef hash. There’s not that much seating in the cozy space, so ordering to-go is best, especially if you’re with a larger group.


Hovey & Harrison might feel like it’s doing its best impression of an Olympic athlete who signs up for all the ski events. Except instead of downhill, slalom, and alpine combine, this communal space in Edwards is part market, part-deli, part-bakery, and part-dining room. It’s worth waiting in line to order the Skadi, toast served open-faced with things like smashed avocado and roasted beets, but the baked goods are equally good—get some fresh bread, hand pies, quiche, and cookies. Grab-and-go options like premade soups and salads are always available, along with pottery, cookbooks, organic ketchup, freshly harvested vegetables, Colorado wine, and Italian olive oil.


This spot makes the best boiled and baked bagels in the Valley, but that’s not the only reason we love it: Village Bagel brings that classic diner energy with its bright red banquettes and silver chrome chairs and stools. Always expect a line, and if there isn’t one, you should probably buy a lottery ticket. Along with a variety of flavors and housemade shmears, you can also order fresh-squeezed brunch cocktails, local beer, Sicilian-style pizza, and egg sandwiches and challah bread french toast through the early afternoon. They have a second location down the Valley in Gypsum, in case you make it that far west. 


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