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Vail Village Hero

Family Owned & Operated Restaurants in Vail


the entrepreneurial spirit lives at vail’s restaurants

The Town of Vail has always been a desirable location for entrepreneurs of all industries, and the Vail restaurant business is no exception. From the earliest days of our Colorado mountain town to the present, individuals and families have realized their dream of owning and operating a restaurant. While many of these family-owned restaurants have roots in Vail from the early days, some are newer; however, all have the same passion for this special place and serving guests. We invite you to get to know these families, their stories and their wonderful establishments – many of which are recognized as Vail’s top restaurants for their cuisine and experiences.

“Vail has been fortunate to be home to so many thriving family owned and operated restaurants since the beginnings of the town and still today. We thank these families for making a commitment to the Town and enhancing the overall experience of our guests.”          –Town of Vail Mayor, Kim Langmaid

 

Pepis

Featured Family Owned & Operated Restaurant: Pepi's

The Gasthof Gramshammer Lodge and restaurants are one of the original and oldest establishments of Vail, having been owned and operated by the Gramshammer family since December 18, 1964. The Austrian-born hosts, Pepi (who passed away in 2019) and Sheika, opened their authentic “European Inn”. Today, their daughters Kiera and Sheika Jr. oversee most of the lodge and dining operations.

Pepi Gramshammer was an acclaimed and internationally known ski racer, first as a member of the Austrian National Team and later as the International Professional Ski Racing circuit. Traveling the world on the ski race circuit, Pepi was impressed with numerous aspects of the towns and hotels he visited and hoped he would someday get the opportunity to open his own. Pepi met Sheika, a descendant of an old Austrian inn keeping family, New York model and Las Vegas dancer at a 1963 ski race in Aspen. The two were engaged within a matter of weeks.

During his initial visit to Vail, Pepi hiked up the mountain where he skied the now famous Back Bowls. Hiking up the bowl (before ski lifts) Pepi said, “That took forever.” This was the inspiration for Vail’s famous Back Bowl run, “Forever”.

In 1964, Pepi and Sheika opened their new hotel and called it Gasthof Gramshammer to reflect their name and convey the idea of a hotel and restaurant known in Austrian hospitality. In Austria, “Gasthof” is a term for “a house for guests.” Over the years, the hotel has hosted a number of celebrities, actors and pro athletes, including Clint Eastwood and Barbara Streisand. And, after Gerald Ford, a part time Vail resident, became President in 1974, the political celebrities really started to arrive and stay at the hotel.

An early ambassador for Vail, Pepi was critical in helping to obtain the location for the World Championships. His reputation as a skier was strongly recognized in the European ski community as well as being a United States representative. Now, August 26th is forever set aside as “Pepi Gramshammer Day” in Colorado by a proclamation issued by Governor Jared Polis in his honor.

Take a stroll down Bridge Street and Gore Creek Drive, and you’ll find the Gasthof Gramshammer continues to offer an inviting atmosphere while maintaining old world Austrian charm to guests traveling from all over the world.

The Gastof Gramshammer’s dining options are open to the public as well as hotel guests. Each is uniquely decorated with Austrian ambiance, providing a unique European-esque experience. During the winter months, The Antlers Room is internationally known for its wild game dinners and customary offerings signature to Colorado. Pepi’s Main Dining room is known for Continental and American cuisine, specializing in regional Austrian dishes including Jagerschnitzel, Wienerschnitzel and Hungarian veal. Pepi’s Deck provides one of the best outdoor dining experiences (covered seating available). And, Pepi’s Bar is a well-known hot spot for live entertainment, cocktails, wine and beers in a festive atmosphere. Reservations are recommended for this popular dining experience.

Together, the hotel and family-owned restaurants have remained landmarks in Vail Village, featuring the Austrian atmosphere that Vail has come to be known for over the past 50 years.

More Family Owned & Operated Restaurants

Mountain Standard _ Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil & Mountain Standard

The story of the family owned and operated Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard restaurants began in 1987, when now-owner Matt Morgan began working at Sweet Basil as a 23-year-old bus boy. Like so many, Matt had moved to Vail “just for the season” and ended up staying… for life! In 1897, Jana Morgan moved to Vail to become a ski instructor and race coach. After spending one summer in Vail, she vowed never to leave.

In 1998, Matt became the first-ever Managing Partner of Sweet Basil. Jana joined the team, helping with the marketing for the fine-dining restaurant. In 2000, Sweet Basil expanded its seating to 160, added a private dining room and overhauled the kitchen. Sweet Basil’s menu is a creative take on New American eats, incorporating seasonal items, along with long-time favorites the Butter Poached Lobster and Colorado Lamb Tagine.

In 2012, Matt opened Mountain Standard. The relaxed, casual and tavern-like concept became an instant success. And, the creek-side location fits the high energy vibe of the dynamic experience.  The majority of the menu is prepared over an open and live wood fire, (the only restaurant cooking in this age-old way), which brings out the rustic, bold and honest flavors of dishes like the Wood Roasted Mahi Mahi, Wagyu steak, and Corned Pork Shank.

In 2017, Matt and Jana Morgan became the sole owners of both Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard. Today, the two live in Edwards with their teenage twins, Jack and Grace. They are both active in the community and charity events. And, of course, they can be found at either family restaurant most days and/or evenings, welcoming guests to incredible, tasty meals.

 

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Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch, Swiss Chalet, Ludwig's & Kings Club

The Sonnenalp Hotel was established 40 years ago by the Faessler Family. In fact, five generations of the Faessler family have been involved in the business to date. Together, they have set and maintained the highest standards of hospitality at their properties and family-owned restaurants in Vail and Ofterscwang, Germany.

When Adolf and Eleonore Faessler first opened the small bed & breakfast that inspired the Sonnenalp in the early 20th century, Vail wasn’t even on the map. But, Karlheinz and Gretl Faessler had a vision of bringing their legacy of European hospitality to the United States.

In the 1960s, the burgeoning village at (what is now) the base of Vail, Colorado became the ideal location. From 1964 to 1998, Gretl and Karlheinz Faessler continued to expand the Sonnenalp Resort of Bavaria while laying the groundwork for a Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail.

In 1979, they purchased and remodeled the Wedel Inn Motel next to the Covered Bridge, renaming it the Sonnenalp Austria Haus.

In 1986, their son Johannes Faessler took over management of the Sonnenalp with his wife Rosana. Between 1992 and 1993, the Bavaria Haus was rebuilt with an iconic Vail landmark consisting of lodge, the new Ludwig’s and Bully Ranch family-owned restaurants, conference rooms and spa.

In 2006, a third expansion was made to the hotel, including the new European inspired Swiss Chalet Restaurant.

In 2016, Sebastian joined his parents in managing the Sonnenalp. A year later, Sebastian married a woman named Esmarie, and together, this 5th generation is active in operating the Sonnenalp and these 5 family restaurants:

The Bully Ranch serves Southwestern and American cuisine. Warm up with the famous mudslide, or feast on the renowned burgers and sandwiches.

The Swiss Chalet serves traditional European cuisine, and authentic regional hearty favorites such as Schnitzel and delicious fondues.

Ludwig’s touts the best breakfast in Vail with a bountiful European style breakfast served on the beautiful glass enclosed Ludwig’s terrace overlooking Gore Creek. In the evening, Stubrel at Ludwig’s features creative European dishes including Atlantic Dover Sole, North American Venison, and Wagyu Beef Tenderloin.

King’s Club is the perfect spot to unwind with live music. Enjoy a specialty drink from the top shelf selection, a glass of wine or German beer while you relax by the fireplace.

Treff Café is a quaint European café to meet-up place for coffee, fresh pastries, authentic German fare, wine, creative cocktails and more.

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Almresi Family

Alpenrose & Almresi

The Thoma family owns and operates both Alpenrose and Almresi, two authentic Bavarian family restaurants in Vail Village. Their story begins in Germany and (lucky for us) ends in Vail.

Both originating from the Black Forest in Germany, where they initially started their family-owned business, they shared a common dream: America.

They were vacationing in Colorado and found themselves with a unique opportunity: to run a restaurant in Vail. Knowing that this was their chance to expand their German family restaurant, business and lives, they seized the chance to move to Vail.

After a year of planning, organizing, rebuilding, and many overseas flights, Almresi opened just in time for Christmas in 2016. The family serves festive German, Austrian & Swiss fare, specializing in raclette and fondue. The Thomas brought a touch of romantic charm and European culture to Vail Mountain in their design of Almresi. The wood and furniture are from Germany, the large beam across the bar was sourced from an old Austrian farm, cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest hang, and other relics from Europe are displayed. The result is an authentic European establishment just mere steps from the slopes and village.

After opening Almresi, the Thomas were presented with another opportunity: to take over the well-established Alpenrose. The family agreed to this in December of 2018 and has continued the tradition by keeping a piece of the ‘old’ Vail in the “new” Alpenrose. Today, the original home-style cuisine continues with hearty goulash, dumpling specialties, Kässpätzle, a savory snack plate, and a sweet finish of traditional Alpine desserts.

Warmth, hospitality and enjoying life is the motto at both family-owned restaurants.

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Moes BBQ

Moe's Original BBQ

Moe’s Original Bar B Que was founded by three Alabama boys: Ben Gilbert, Mike Fernandez, and Jeff Kennedy. After meeting at the University of Alabama, they instantly became friends and had a mutual interest in all things Southern, including BBQ, blues, college football, and whisky. In 1988, Mike made the connection with Moses Day and began learning to fire roast meats. When Moses fired up his backyard barrel pit, everyone knew where to go. The boys were lucky to learn from Moses, and his distinct style helped create Moe’s original flavor of BBQ.

Loving the mountains, the three men and their families (Mike and Ben are brother-in-laws) moved to Vail, Colorado where they refined their cooking skills. By using fruit wood to smoke the meats daily and adding two secret sauces, they knew their combination was something special. Moe’s Original BBQ’s menu doesn’t stop there, though, as Southern-style side dishes and desserts are also prepared fresh daily from recipes passed down for generations.

Located in Lionshead, Moe’s family-owned BBQ restaurant is a Southern soul food revival where delicious food is served in a relaxed, spontaneous (be prepared to hear your name yelled out when your order is ready) atmosphere, perfect for the whole family whether it be for lunch or dinner.

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Blu Cow Vail

The Blue Cow Café

In 1967, Ernst & Barbra Larese brought Austrian flare and the famous Swiss Hot Dog to the Vail Valley. For over 40 years, “the Swiss Hot Dog” has been a favorite fixture here in Vail.

After being born in the little mountain town of Bolzano, Italy in 1931, Ernst and his family moved to Salzburg, Austria. Growing up in Salzburg during World War II, he often wondered where their next meal would come from. Because of this, he became infatuated with the food business, and he brought this passion with him when he went to Australia. There, he met his soon to be wife, Barbara, while being treated for a ski injury.

After 10 years in Australia, Ernst decided it was time for a change again. The two packed up and moved to Colorado, landing in Vail, Colorado. Not long after arriving in 1967, they started the Blue Cow family restaurant where the Tyrolean is located today.

Over the next few decades, Ernst would start the Swiss Hot Dog shop and move it to several locations throughout the valley. The half pork, half veal, double wiener with curry, sprouts, onions and parsley would go on to become a signature meal.

Simone Larese carries on the tradition of her family-owned restaurant today in Vail Village’s Slifer Square, which is also named the The Blü Cow. This happening café is bustling at lunch and well into the evenings, but be sure to come early so you can grab a famous Swiss dog before they sell out for the day.

Visit The Blue Cow Café