By Katie Coakley
The ultimate guide to VAIL’S LESSER-KNOWN GEMS
Nestled in the Eagle River valley, surrounded by the Gore Range and the White River National Forest, Vail beckons snow-focused visitors with promises of pristine powder, breathtaking vistas and unparalleled luxury. For those seeking the quintessential winter getaway, this destination offers a seamless blend of world-class skiing, gourmet dining, outdoor adventures and exceptional amenities.
Vail is full of favorite—and famous—options for eating, drinking and spa-ing. But for every Arrabelle or Sweet Basil, plenty of places are just waiting to be discovered.
Home Away From Home
Begin your expedition by choosing the perfect place to claim as your home base. Vail and Beaver Creek boast an array of accommodations, from upscale resorts to cozy chalets. It’s easy to opt for well-known brands like Four Seasons Resort and Residence Vail or The Grand Hyatt Vail. However, there are lesser-known options, too.
The Red Lion has been the place for après for 60 years, but did you know you can also stay there? The Red Lion Penthouse is a 2-story, 5-bedroom, 5 ½-bath penthouse that can sleep up to 12 people and even has a hot tub. In addition to being literally on top of the action, you’re also within steps from Gondola One and everything else the Village offers.
Want to integrate into the Vail community? Gravity Haus Vail is a blend between a club and a hotel, offering a co-working space in addition to the modern hotel, restaurant, gym and spa experience. You don’t have to be a member to stay there, but with the constant influx of local members, getting the insiders’ perspective is even easier.
Appease Your Appetite
Fuel your adventure with culinary delights that mirror the sophistication of the slopes. There are a multitude of options, but perhaps it’s time to try something a bit different.
Located in Solaris in Vail Village, Chasing Rabbits is a 13,000-square-foot fun fair that combines unique spaces and elevated design. Featuring a Mediterranean restaurant (aptly called The Restaurant), theater for intimate screenings, library lounge and cocktail bar, adult arcade and Moon Rabbit speakeasy—all in one venue—it’s possible to have a completely different experience each time you step through the door.
Photo by Michael Stavaridis for Rockwell Group, Chasing Rabbits
For those searching for a more intimate dining experience, make a reservation for Alpenrose’s gondolas. These spectacularly decorated and cozy cars include a two-course meal including Alpenrose’s famous fondue, raclette and grill. For 50 years, Alpenrose has been a gem in Vail’s dining scene; these new additions provide a unique opportunity for enjoying classic Austrian cuisine in comfort.
Photo Courtesy of Vail, Alpenrose Gondolas
There’s no shortage of watering holes in Vail, and each has its quirks and personalities: Go to Los Amigos for margaritas and to watch skiers slide down Pepi’s Face; Vendetta’s is where ski patrol hangs out; Bully Ranch at Sonnenalp is where you go for après mudslides. But after you’ve hit the iconic locales, how about diverging from the norm?
Bad Kitty Lounge, tucked away on the creek level by the Covered Bridge, only seats about 25 people, but it’s worth the wait. With a design aesthetic that borders on manic and an expansive spirits selection, Bad Kitty features hand-crafted cocktails with no pretension. The bartender (usually only one can fit) is happy to create something bespoke or pop the top on a Montucky; all are welcome.
Vail’s newest cocktail experience is The Gambit Bar. Opened in January 2024 at The Sebastian-Vail, this sophisticated—yet inviting—gathering destination celebrates crafted classics with a modern interpretation in both taste and presentation. For a tableside experience, try a smoked Old Fashioned; for an artful creation, try the Carrington Club, inspired by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and featuring a rice paper illustration.
Photo by Shawn O’’conner Photography, The Gamibt, Smoked Cherry Old Fashioned
Take Me Away …
There’s nothing quite like soaking away a day in a luxury spa. Almost every hotel offers a tranquil escape with various treatments to soothe tired muscles and souls. However, for something a bit different, try Sunshine Massage Studios in Lionshead Village. This innovative studio offers options such as sound healing, 4-handed massage, YogaSage and AcroSage, and multi-sensory massage experiences that aren’t found elsewhere.
Visiting Vail is best with a combination of the familiar and the novel. Be sure to grab a drink at your favorite watering hole and sample from a newer attraction—there’s always something surprising to explore.
Not Just for Skiing
Vail Valley’s dining scene—from taco trucks to sushi—gets better bite by flavorful bite
By John Lehndorff
Photo Courtesy of Stoke & Rye
Vail is a little like Cher, Oprah and Taylor—so famous that a one-word name says it all. Internationally, skiers and boarders have “Vail” etched on their alpine bucket lists. For serious foodies, “Vail” means prime dining time in the Colorado mountains. Serious foodie or not, we’ve all gotta eat, and these top spots will please the palate every time!
Through March, while the celebrated champagne powder slopes are open, the all-star chefs are in the fully staffed kitchens to feed the hungry multitudes, and the Vail Valley—including Avon, Edwards and Minturn—has undergone a recent culinary revival including Michelin Guide honors. Most of Vail’s familiar dining icons like Matsuhisa and ski-in Beano’s Cabin (which boasts a fresh new menu) are still thriving. However, diners are flocking to refreshing newcomers ranging from chef Richard Sandoval’s Stoke & Rye, a Colorado-inspired grill in Avon, to health-inspired Wild Sage feeding the needs of highly active skiers, golfers and hikers up the valley in Eagle.
Kim Fuller sat at a reserved table during Vail’s dining revolution. “It’s exciting to see locals opening up these new establishments, and chefs come out with these amazing menus,” says Fuller, editor-in-chief of Vail’s Covered Bridge magazine who has written about local fare for more than a decade.
A one-of-a-kind, high-end immersive eatery on Vail’s Solaris Plaza is grabbing a lot of attention. “Chasing Rabbits has a super fun entertainment focus,” Fuller says. “You can sit down for a Mediterranean dinner then go down the rabbit hole and enjoy an arcade or the Prohibition-style nightclub. So, it’s great for families and also for late night dinner. It’s definitely unique to Vail.”
THE RIGHT BITES
Ashley Rasnick built a career as a concierge property manager. She helps some very picky guests find exactly what they desire including where to eat based on their likes and dislikes. However, as a working person living in a pricey place like Vail, she also knows where to find good deals on great food and drink.
“Many of our guests always try to get into top restaurants like Matsuhisa, Mountain Standard and Hooked in Beaver Creek for seafood. If they can get reservations, they always report having great meals. I tell them there are many restaurants in the Valley where they can get a table and it’s not so expensive,” she says. An added plus in the towns of Avon, Edwards, Minturn and Eagle-Vail is easy access of I-70 and a precious rarity: free parking.
“Italian” or “pizza” is often the answer to the big dining question: What do you want for dinner? “Vail Village has fine dining Italian at La Nonna Ristorante, but there’s also Alpine Pizza Company, a new take-out place in Lionshead that has good pan-style pizza. An old favorite is Vendettas—we go there for a slice after skiing,” Rasnick says.
Outside of Vail, Avon’s recently launched Fattoria is focused on rustic pasta dishes while the new Il Mago in Edwards is dishing artisan wood-fired sourdough pizzas made with organic flour. Ristorante Ti Amo in Eagle-Vail has a dedicated following for everything from panini to pasta puttanesca. “Ti Amo is dependable and very popular. They just opened a second location in Eagle,” Rasnick says.
SAY YES TO AFFORDABLE DINING
Meals that won’t break the bank are available if you know where to look. “If we get done skiing or mountain biking anywhere from Vail to Eagle, we make our way to Rocky Mountain Taco, a local taco truck chain that has a bunch of locations. The one at the Vail Brewing Company tasting room in Eagle-Vail is near the golf courses. That’s where you’ll see a lot of locals stop for a beer and good Mexican food,” Fuller says. Avon also offers good bang for the buck in dining. “At Pho 20 you can get a huge bowl of Vietnamese noodles and broth big enough to share at the bar,” she says.
You can even find cheaper eats in Vail Village. “My favorite place in to eat in Vail Village is
El Segundo,” Rasnick says. “They have excellent tacos and margaritas. Any time
my friends or family visit Vail, we go there during happy hour.”
APRÈS IS EVERYTHING IN VAIL
“Après” may be the single most cherished word in the Vail Valley and the state’s other ski towns. More than just a French-accented happy hour, it’s a state of mind and not just for post-skiing.
“It’s post-golf, post-work, post-shopping but before dinner. Basically, it’s après everything,” says Fuller. The aptly named Après Cafe at the Vail Racquet Club in East Vail fits that late-afternoon mood, Fuller says. It’s a family-friendly place with well-made burgers, pizzas and cocktails. Après experts agree that one must-see destination for late-day drinks and snacks is The Remedy, the classy bar upstairs at the Four Seasons.
“The Remedy is easy to recommend,” Resnick says. “You sit outside around these big firepits with a great view. One of the best treats is a mug of their signature hot chocolate.” Whiskey lovers know that the Four Seasons is also home to the Scottish-inspired Speyside Café, famous for a huge selection of Macallan single malts. Many of the same visitors also stroll to the 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co. tasting room to sample award-winning Colorado spirits.
Two consensus après favorites are located in Edwards. “Drunken Goat is really wonderful for paninis and charcuterie boards with a good happy hour,” Rasnick says. Nearby, Craftsman Brew Co. in its newly expanded quarters was made for post-slope gatherings, according to Fuller. “Craftsman is a fun sit-down gastropub with lots of hearty, yummy options with a big menu of small plates,” she says.
OLD IS THE NEW AGAIN
The most charming of the towns on I-70 around Vail is Minturn, which has become a dinner destination. For decades the centerpiece of the community was the historic Minturn Saloon, known for cold beer, hot enchiladas and a decidedly funky mountain atmosphere. After a total renovation, the establishment, originally built in 1901, has made a comeback.
“The owners have reopened and reimagined the Minturn Saloon. It’s the same style of cuisine but very elevated,” Fuller says. Fresh on the menu are dishes like birria tacos and pork cheek tostadas. Down the street, a meaty tradition is maintained at the golf course-free Minturn Country Club. “We’ll go there when the family visits because it’s a cool experience. They get to cook their own steaks if they want to,” Rasnick says.
Minturn’s other Mexican cuisine attractions include the brick-and-mortar flagship location of Rocky Mountain Taco. At some point before making your eastbound trip, stop at Vail Mountain Coffee & Tea—there’s one in Minturn and Avon. The roaster offers fresh roasted beans, a serious tea selection and coffee cupping sessions can be scheduled with a master roaster in its tasting room.
Photo Courtesy of Hovey & Harrison
STOP AND SMELL THE BAGELS
Fueling for the slopes may require something more inspirational that the same-old scrambled egg buffet the hotels put out. Instead, locals recommend a handful of places worth braving Vail’s early morning chill.
Topping the short list of a.m. spots everyone recommends is Village Bagel with locations in Edwards and Gypsum. “They make everything by hand. It’s about as East Coast as you can get out here,” Rasnick says.
For fresh tastes, the must-visit choice is Hovey & Harrison, a combination cafe, bakery and market in Edwards. “Hover and Harrison is the best, especially for baked goods. It’s a wonderful place to meet for breakfast and lunch or get cookies and pastries to go,” Fuller says. Avon’s Northside Kitchen has a split personality. It’s a cafe that dishes maple bacon doughnuts and house-baked English muffins by day and transforms into a sit-down bistro by night complete with an extensive wine list.
Other morning spots include East Vail’s West Side Café & Market, the brunch-y Vintage in Vail Village, Avon’s kitschy Route 6 Cafe & Lounge and the Columbine Cafe & Bakery offering quiche Lorraine to apple strudel. Lunch at the latter spot always includes dessert.
Finally, work up a high-altitude sweat skiing the course at the Vail Nordic Center, where you can make a stop at Grill on the Gore—famous for its comfy soup, chili and cornbread buffet with all the fixings and many beer choices.
Vail’s great gastronomic upgrade is far from done. “Iron Chef America” star chef Makoto Okuwa has announced that he will debut a high-end sushi bar in the lobby of The Grand Hyatt Vail hotel in early 2024, and certainly, there’s more where that came from.
Photo Courtesy of Minturn Saloon