The mention of Vail, Colorado, might bring to mind visions of snow bunnies and ski lifts, but tucked among the mountains is a food scene that’s worth a visit year-round. From elegant white-tablecloth eateries to quaint craft breweries, Vail has more than simply pristine peaks.
Colorado takes craft coffee seriously, so grab a cup at Yeti’s Grind and stroll through Vail Village to admire the picturesque buildings that line the winding village paths. Decked out with painted shutters, hand-carved moldings and overflowing window boxes, the Swiss chalet-inspired architecture looks like a scene plucked straight from The Sound of Music.
Kick off happy hour early with bottomless mimosas at Vintage’s Champagne brunch. Guests can dive into dishes like French toast featuring bacon mascarpone and dulce de leche-stuffed brioche that’s served with huckleberry syrup, bourbon whipped cream and garnished with a candied bacon bit. Avocado toast gets a Francophile makeover, served on baguettes with chopped bacon, cherry tomatoes, honey-mustard cream cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
After eating, walk a few minutes down the road to Vail Brewing Company for a six- or 12-taster flight poured from the rotating 12-tap system. Opened in 2014, the “ski bum”-owned spot pays respect to the locals with Colorado-centric names like the Gourd Range pumpkin chai ale, Fall Line marzen and the Gore Creek IPA. Grab a to-go growler and spend the rest of the afternoon perusing the local shops in Vail Village.
For a dressed-up dinner, head to Sweet Basil, located a short walk from the main drag. Opened in 1977 by restaurateur Kevin Clair, the Vail Village staple keeps its menu contemporary with options such as ahi tuna ceviche with coconut leche de tigre, peanuts, green banana and basil. There are plenty of can’t-miss entrees like saffron linguine tossed with sea scallops, shrimp and San Marzano tomatoes served in a shallot lobster emulsion as well as Colorado lamb shank prepared with ricotta malfatti, delicata squash, ginger beer, berbere spice and fried seeds.
End your evening on a sweet note with a nightcap at the Remedy Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel, where executive pastry chef Andrew Schweska’s “haute chocolate” is made using Valrhona chocolate. Poured tableside, it’s topped with a dark chocolate lattice and a square of housemade marshmallow and served with a side of fresh chocolate shavings and a dollop of whipped cream.
The next morning, wander farther afield to the Westside Cafe, a restaurant and market started by three friends a little bit outside the main village. Step inside the mountain-inspired interior—decked out in ski gear and hiking equipment—to try one of its famed eggs bennies, including a Southwestern iteration. Featuring an avocado and chorizo quesadilla topped with poached eggs, pepper jack cheese and a chipotle bearnaise sauce, the breakfast fave is best enjoyed while sipping on a bloody mary served with a sidecar of the Colorado-brewed Fat Tire beer.
Once you’ve worked your appetite back up, return to Vail Village for a sandwich from Craftsman, catering to both vegetarians and meat lovers. Choose from options like the wild mushroom Reuben served on rye and piled high with housemade sauerkraut, gruyere, arugula and special sauce, or the smoked pork belly “BLT” topped with avocado puree, tomato and romaine.
If you’re a little too full of food, stop into the Sonnenalp Spa for some pampering. The European-style retreat offers services like its signature hydrating wrap, highlighting scents of the season and a scrub featuring ancient seabed mineral salts and infused with essential oils. No matter what you pick to indulge in, be sure to grab a front-row seat to the mountains by relaxing in the outdoor hot tub.
Finish your visit at Pepi’s Bar & Restaurant. Sporting polka-dot umbrellas and a marigold-colored exterior, this restaurant and lodge was the only establishment located on the corner of Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive when it was opened in 1964 by Austrian ski racer Pepi Gramshammer and his wife, Sheika Moser. Now an institution of Vail Valley, the après ski-inspired restaurant features multiple dining areas, including the Antlers Room, which serves wild game dinners like racks of venison and elk steak, and Pepi’s Bar, where guests can sip on jumbo-sized mugs of Austrian beer while taking in performances from local entertainers. Rest assured, you’re in good company as you toast your trip while admiring the bar’s wall of fame, covered with signed photos of notable patrons, including past presidents, actors and astronauts. Prost! ◆
— Check out Root and Flower, a shared space that switches from Two Arrows Coffee Shop in the morning to sommelier Jeremy Campbell’s bar serving more than 40 wines.
— Forty-five minutes from Vail, Piney River Ranch’s lake is a great spot for a hike. The view is worth the trek, with lots of wildlife to spy and a serene body of water mirroring the jagged peaks of
the surrounding mountains.
Craftsman, craftsmanvail.com; Pepi’s Bar & Restaurant, pepis.com; Piney River Ranch, pineyriverranch.com; Remedy Bar, fourseasons.com/vail; Root and Flower, rootandflowervail.com; Sonnenalp Spa, Sonnenalp.com; Sweet Basil, sweetbasilvail.com; Vail Brewing Company, vailbrewingco.com; Vintage, vintage-vail.com; Westside Cafe, westsidecafe.net; Yeti’s Grind, yetisgrind.com