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The 18 Hot Spots for Drinking & Dining in Aspen

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Welcome to Curbed Ski's list of the 18 Best Ski Town Hot Spots, our answer to any question that begins with, "Can you recommend a restaurant in...?" This highly elite group will cover 18 restaurants and bars in ski towns across North America, spanning myriad cuisines and collectively satisfying all of your dining and drinking needs. Every couple months we'll be adding places that were omitted or have stepped up there game. Have a tip? Let us know here.

The countdown to the 32nd annual FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen has begun. From June 20-22nd, town will runneth over with the nation's most esteemed chefs, food writers, wine experts, mixologists, and other food cognoscenti, and the visitors and industry peeps who flock to the most nation's most prestigious festival of its kind. With that in mind, allow us to present Curbed Ski's first-ever Aspen Dining Guide, featuring our picks for the best fine-dining, hotel, fast-casual, and liquid nourishment in town. There's no shortage of options in Aspen/Snowmass, and with just 18 slots to fill, it was a tough choice, but our picks are based on quality, execution, atmosphere, value, service, and community standing. Please note this list is ordered geographically, not by ranking.

Don't see your fave Aspen nosh on here? Kindly let us know, and please explain why you think it's the bomb, as we'll be updating this list periodically. Drop us an email here.


· All FOOD & WINE 2014 Coverage [Curbed Ski Archives]
· The 18 Hot Spots for Drinking & Dining in Park City [Curbed Ski]
· The 18 Hot Spots for Drinking & Dining in Vail [Curbed Ski]
· UPDATED The Best Ski Town Distilleries, June, '14 [Curbed Ski]

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Eight K at Viceroy Snowmass

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Casually hip, minus even an ounce of pretense, this fine-dining spot in the Viceroy Snowmass (a 38 Essential Ski Hotel) provides a showcase for NOLA-raised executive chef Will Nolan’s cooking. His Southern roots show in tasty bites like shrimp in his family-recipe Creole sauce, rabbit pot pie, crawfish étoufee, half-chicken fricassee, and a seriously fresh, perfectly-fried blue crab boulette (essentially, a fritter) with sauce remoulade. Other French and Rocky Mountain-inflected morsels not to be missed are the foie gras torchon with a hazelnut cracker and a plate-licking-worthy rhubarb jelly, and smoked elk rack. Book a seat against the picture windows to further Coloradify your experience.

New Belgium Ranger Station

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Scout Regalia

J-Bar at Hotel Jerome

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Since 1889, the hotel has been one of Aspen’s most prominent social locales (during Prohibition, it served up the “Aspen Crud,” a spiked milkshake still on the menu)- it’s still a fave amongst celebs, but the scene is laid-back and the décor one of original Old West trappings- check out the ornately-carved backbar, Chinoiserie Chippendale bar, stamped ceiling, and intricate crown moldings. The best burger in town is a juicy, dauntingly tall hunk of 7x Beef Wagyu with all the fixings; the hearty salads (kale Caesar, bbq chicken), and starters like the famous spinach and artichoke dip are other great ways to fortify yourself. Order up a whiskey neat and enjoy the scene.

Main Street Bakery and Cafe

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Middle Aged Ski Bum

Matsuhisa

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Wikipedia

Jimmy's An American Restaurant

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Matt Suby Photography

Justice Snow's

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While the cocktail program at this two-year old restaurant above the Wheeler Opera House is still innovative and mind-blowing in its concept and scope (do take the time to page through the extensive menu, with its dozens of boutique spirits), it's grown a attitude which can be a buzzkill. Still, those drinks, paired with the eclectic décor and gorgeous vintage barware do make a great cocktail even more special. Keep yourself upright by chowing down on a hefty burger and fries; there's also healthy fare like the delicious barley and quinoa salad with walnuts, beets, chevre, and apple.

The Wild Fig

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This is the baby of longtime Aspen restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, but the Fig is a favorite amongst locals and visitors, who enjoy the Mediterranean menu and decor, and vibe of intimate dining on a patio overlooking the Wheeler Opera House. Stand-outs include soups (try the mussel curry-coconut), salads (like the Rocket, with wild mushrooms, arugula, goat cheese croquette), and cavatelli pasta with Italian sausage, basil, and pink tomato sauce.

The Meatball Shack

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Don't let the down-home name fool you. This casual eatery is still stylish, and a hell of a deal for Aspen. Two heaping plates of pasta and drinks will set you back $50: not too bad for a joint with linen napkins. Hearty specials include ribeye steak to sandwiches; there's also a lovely burrata salad with cherry tomatoes and prosciutto. The kids' menu is aces, too.

Annette's Mountain Bake Shop

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Eat Aspen

HOPS Culture

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Since opening over Memorial Day weekend, HOPS Culture has been…hopping. Aspen’s long-awaited “craft beer-focused restaurant” on the Hyman Ave. pedestrian mall is the new place to be when you’re craving a cold one. With 30 beers on tap and 200 by the bottle (including limited releases and everything from dubels to rye), 15 wines, and 12 craft spirits (Moscow Mules are the house special, and come in six different variations), it’s easy to see why beer aficionados flock here. The food is simple, upscale pub grub: salads, roast half-chicken, tasty “melts” (think tomato jam and sharp cheddar on country white, to pulled pork with ham, Mojo mustard, Swiss, and pickles on a sweet potato bun) and variations on mac & cheese. Start off with the popular “little piggies,” pretzel-wrapped “hot dogs” made from Emma Farms Wagyu beef, served with house spicy ketchup and whole-grain mustard. The downstairs bar space is industrial-cool, but the 11-bench beer garden in the mall’s park-like center strip has already established itself as the place to be on a summer’s day.

New York Pizza

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Tripadvisor

Zocalito Latin Bistro

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Travel en Vogue

element 47

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Don’t be intimidated by the legendary reputation of The Little Nell (a 38 Essential Ski Hotel). A friendlier, less pretentious property doesn’t exist in Aspen (unless it’s more casual sibling, The Limelight). Signature fine-dining restaurant Element 47, while pricey, is ground zero for Food & Wine goings-on, and the Nell has a long history of acclaim in that realm. Current wine director Carlton McCoy is the world’s youngest MS. If the thought of a 10,000-bottle wine cellar doesn’t do it for you, the refined, modern minimalist bar features signature cocktails, wines by the glass, and beer (the Nell is part of the Colorado Proud program, which highlights the state’s growers and craft foods). The menu, overseen by returning new executive chef Bryan Moscatello, showcases local ingredients in elegant, French- and Italian-inflected seasonal dishes like nettle tagliatelle with house ricotta, spring greens, and preserved lemon, Emma Farms dry-aged ribeye with spring garlic gnocchi, broccoli rabe, Comté, and marrow and English pea soup with buttermilk, carrot, and pea tendrils. Don’t miss the housemade charcuterie board and luscious desserts. If you want something more casual but every bit as tasty, head upstairs to Ajax Tavern, famed for its raw bar and burgers.

Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE at the St. Regis

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The first restaurant of its kind worldwide, Chefs Club's concept is deceptively simple: A select group of four Food & Wine Best New Chefs curate a bi-annually-changing menu of "seasonally-inspired cuisine." Following their initial, one-week tenure the chefs will make appearances throughout their "term" to offer menu specials; Chefs Club executive chef Didier Elena oversees daily operations. The new menu debuts during the Classic on June 20 featuring 2013 Best New Chefs 2013: Chris Shepherd, Matthew Gaudet, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman and Jason Vincent. While the food- good as it usually is- can be uneven, the bar program never disappoints. Award-winning bar director/mixology wünderkind Anthony Bohlinger creates cocktails that are intelligent, playful, and make the most of the kitchen: look for housemade concoctions ranging from bitters and syrups to pickled fig brine. The whimsical, slightly Alice in Wonderlandish, vintage-mod décor keeps things from being too serious; Chefs Club is all making serious food fun, and that’s something we can get on-board with. Bonus: The St. Regis is also a 38 Essential Ski Hotel.

White House Tavern

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rowland & broughton

Creperie Du Village

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Unquestionably the most adorable, romantic little restaurant in town. You’ll genuinely feel like you’re dining in a chalet in the French Alps, which makes sense, since co-owner Raphael Derly is a French former ski racer. Service is glacially slow, but that just gives you more time to kick back with a glass of wine and take in the dark, weathered wood paneling and homey décor (bistro glasses, fresh wildflowers on every table, firewood stacked in front of the tiny open kitchen). The French onion soup is a crock of existential bliss; sweet and savory crepes are large, filling, and tasty. Wait for a rainy day to try the fondue, or spring for the cheeseboard, instead. It’s hard to go wrong here, unless it’s your pronunciation of the Shokoladepalatschinke (chocolate crepe, filled with chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, strawberries, and bananas, with whipped cream).

Peach's Corner Cafe

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rowland & broughton

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Eight K at Viceroy Snowmass

Casually hip, minus even an ounce of pretense, this fine-dining spot in the Viceroy Snowmass (a 38 Essential Ski Hotel) provides a showcase for NOLA-raised executive chef Will Nolan’s cooking. His Southern roots show in tasty bites like shrimp in his family-recipe Creole sauce, rabbit pot pie, crawfish étoufee, half-chicken fricassee, and a seriously fresh, perfectly-fried blue crab boulette (essentially, a fritter) with sauce remoulade. Other French and Rocky Mountain-inflected morsels not to be missed are the foie gras torchon with a hazelnut cracker and a plate-licking-worthy rhubarb jelly, and smoked elk rack. Book a seat against the picture windows to further Coloradify your experience.

New Belgium Ranger Station

Scout Regalia

J-Bar at Hotel Jerome

Since 1889, the hotel has been one of Aspen’s most prominent social locales (during Prohibition, it served up the “Aspen Crud,” a spiked milkshake still on the menu)- it’s still a fave amongst celebs, but the scene is laid-back and the décor one of original Old West trappings- check out the ornately-carved backbar, Chinoiserie Chippendale bar, stamped ceiling, and intricate crown moldings. The best burger in town is a juicy, dauntingly tall hunk of 7x Beef Wagyu with all the fixings; the hearty salads (kale Caesar, bbq chicken), and starters like the famous spinach and artichoke dip are other great ways to fortify yourself. Order up a whiskey neat and enjoy the scene.

Main Street Bakery and Cafe

Middle Aged Ski Bum

Matsuhisa

Wikipedia

Jimmy's An American Restaurant

Matt Suby Photography

Justice Snow's

While the cocktail program at this two-year old restaurant above the Wheeler Opera House is still innovative and mind-blowing in its concept and scope (do take the time to page through the extensive menu, with its dozens of boutique spirits), it's grown a attitude which can be a buzzkill. Still, those drinks, paired with the eclectic décor and gorgeous vintage barware do make a great cocktail even more special. Keep yourself upright by chowing down on a hefty burger and fries; there's also healthy fare like the delicious barley and quinoa salad with walnuts, beets, chevre, and apple.

The Wild Fig

This is the baby of longtime Aspen restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, but the Fig is a favorite amongst locals and visitors, who enjoy the Mediterranean menu and decor, and vibe of intimate dining on a patio overlooking the Wheeler Opera House. Stand-outs include soups (try the mussel curry-coconut), salads (like the Rocket, with wild mushrooms, arugula, goat cheese croquette), and cavatelli pasta with Italian sausage, basil, and pink tomato sauce.

The Meatball Shack

Don't let the down-home name fool you. This casual eatery is still stylish, and a hell of a deal for Aspen. Two heaping plates of pasta and drinks will set you back $50: not too bad for a joint with linen napkins. Hearty specials include ribeye steak to sandwiches; there's also a lovely burrata salad with cherry tomatoes and prosciutto. The kids' menu is aces, too.

Annette's Mountain Bake Shop

Eat Aspen

HOPS Culture

Since opening over Memorial Day weekend, HOPS Culture has been…hopping. Aspen’s long-awaited “craft beer-focused restaurant” on the Hyman Ave. pedestrian mall is the new place to be when you’re craving a cold one. With 30 beers on tap and 200 by the bottle (including limited releases and everything from dubels to rye), 15 wines, and 12 craft spirits (Moscow Mules are the house special, and come in six different variations), it’s easy to see why beer aficionados flock here. The food is simple, upscale pub grub: salads, roast half-chicken, tasty “melts” (think tomato jam and sharp cheddar on country white, to pulled pork with ham, Mojo mustard, Swiss, and pickles on a sweet potato bun) and variations on mac & cheese. Start off with the popular “little piggies,” pretzel-wrapped “hot dogs” made from Emma Farms Wagyu beef, served with house spicy ketchup and whole-grain mustard. The downstairs bar space is industrial-cool, but the 11-bench beer garden in the mall’s park-like center strip has already established itself as the place to be on a summer’s day.

New York Pizza

Tripadvisor

Zocalito Latin Bistro

Travel en Vogue

element 47

Don’t be intimidated by the legendary reputation of The Little Nell (a 38 Essential Ski Hotel). A friendlier, less pretentious property doesn’t exist in Aspen (unless it’s more casual sibling, The Limelight). Signature fine-dining restaurant Element 47, while pricey, is ground zero for Food & Wine goings-on, and the Nell has a long history of acclaim in that realm. Current wine director Carlton McCoy is the world’s youngest MS. If the thought of a 10,000-bottle wine cellar doesn’t do it for you, the refined, modern minimalist bar features signature cocktails, wines by the glass, and beer (the Nell is part of the Colorado Proud program, which highlights the state’s growers and craft foods). The menu, overseen by returning new executive chef Bryan Moscatello, showcases local ingredients in elegant, French- and Italian-inflected seasonal dishes like nettle tagliatelle with house ricotta, spring greens, and preserved lemon, Emma Farms dry-aged ribeye with spring garlic gnocchi, broccoli rabe, Comté, and marrow and English pea soup with buttermilk, carrot, and pea tendrils. Don’t miss the housemade charcuterie board and luscious desserts. If you want something more casual but every bit as tasty, head upstairs to Ajax Tavern, famed for its raw bar and burgers.

Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE at the St. Regis

The first restaurant of its kind worldwide, Chefs Club's concept is deceptively simple: A select group of four Food & Wine Best New Chefs curate a bi-annually-changing menu of "seasonally-inspired cuisine." Following their initial, one-week tenure the chefs will make appearances throughout their "term" to offer menu specials; Chefs Club executive chef Didier Elena oversees daily operations. The new menu debuts during the Classic on June 20 featuring 2013 Best New Chefs 2013: Chris Shepherd, Matthew Gaudet, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman and Jason Vincent. While the food- good as it usually is- can be uneven, the bar program never disappoints. Award-winning bar director/mixology wünderkind Anthony Bohlinger creates cocktails that are intelligent, playful, and make the most of the kitchen: look for housemade concoctions ranging from bitters and syrups to pickled fig brine. The whimsical, slightly Alice in Wonderlandish, vintage-mod décor keeps things from being too serious; Chefs Club is all making serious food fun, and that’s something we can get on-board with. Bonus: The St. Regis is also a 38 Essential Ski Hotel.

White House Tavern

rowland & broughton

Creperie Du Village

Unquestionably the most adorable, romantic little restaurant in town. You’ll genuinely feel like you’re dining in a chalet in the French Alps, which makes sense, since co-owner Raphael Derly is a French former ski racer. Service is glacially slow, but that just gives you more time to kick back with a glass of wine and take in the dark, weathered wood paneling and homey décor (bistro glasses, fresh wildflowers on every table, firewood stacked in front of the tiny open kitchen). The French onion soup is a crock of existential bliss; sweet and savory crepes are large, filling, and tasty. Wait for a rainy day to try the fondue, or spring for the cheeseboard, instead. It’s hard to go wrong here, unless it’s your pronunciation of the Shokoladepalatschinke (chocolate crepe, filled with chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, strawberries, and bananas, with whipped cream).

Peach's Corner Cafe

rowland & broughton