We love a good progressive dinner for sampling a wide range of foods and flavors. If you have limited time in Vail but want to experience it all, here’s our version of a restaurant crawl to help you hit the high points of Vail’s restaurant scene. Come hungry!
The West Side Café located in the Highline Lodge in West Vail is worth the short drive out of the Village. On weekends there’s likely to be a wait, but seating during the week should be plentiful. This cozy spot is the best for a down-home breakfast, with all your favorites on the menu. House specialties include the Hungry Bear (2 eggs, hash browns, choice of pancake or French toast, 2 breakfast meats, and toast), South of the Border classics, and the “World’s Best Benes” – a selection of a dozen different versions of Eggs Benedict. Bonus: their full bar serves up Bloody Mary’s and mimosas!
Another option: If the wait is long or you’re short on time, just next door you’ll find the Northside Grab n’ Go. Famous breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, and locally famous donuts (served until they’re out) alongside coffee, tea, lattes, and more will satisfy any breakfast cravings.
For a lighter lunch, pull up a chair at Big Bear Bistro, located at the top of Bridge Street in Vail Village. This colorful café offers mouth-watering sandwiches with natural meats, fresh-baked-daily breads, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free selections, beautiful salads, and cold beverages. Favorites from the dozen sandwich creations are The Masterpiece (a meat lover’s dream), The Briggs (turkey, bacon, and avocado), and The Tree Hugger (hummus-based and packed with veggies). There are a few seats inside, prime spots outside, or take your sandwiches and head to one of our favorite picnic spots.
Another option: If you’re looking for more of a sit-down, full-service lunch experience, we suggest The Bully Ranch. Located in Vail Village at The Sonnenalp Lodge, this casual western joint serves Southwestern and American dishes from juicy burgers, creamy tomato soup, and unique sandwiches, to tacos and plentiful salads. On a warm day, grab a table on the patio surrounded by aspen trees. If you’re in the mood, we suggest one (no more than two of these adult beverages are allowed!) of the Bully’s famous Mudslides to cool off.
Take a stroll after lunch and head over to Lionshead for afternoon cocktails on the largest deck in town at Garfinkel’s. “Garfs” (as the locals call it) is a sports pub, with a wraparound bar and huge deck at the base of Lionshead with incredible views of Vail Mountain. Soak in the vitamin D while sipping on all your favorite cocktails, drafts, bottles, and Colorado craft beers.
Another option: For a more upscale cocktail stop, also in Lionshead, you’ll find The Chophouse. Situated on prime real estate steps from the gondola, The Chophouse patio invites kicking back with its big red umbrellaed tables and regular live music from owner and longtime Vail staple, Phil Long. The summer thirst menu is robust with specialties like the Mountain Spritzer, I’m Your Huckleberry, Mexican Mule, and unique Manhattan Bar. Over 30 draft and bottled beers and a full wine selection are also available. If you plan on making this a stop, we suggest making a reservation to ensure a prime table – even just for cocktails!
Root & Flower on Bridge Street in Vail Village is the perfect place to kick off the appetizer round. With over 50 wines by the glass (tasting flights too), specialty cocktails, and an ever-changing menu including cheeses, charcuteries, raw oysters, and delicious small plates to share, you’ll discover plenty of options to fire up the taste buds.
Another option: The newly opened Gravity Haus in Vail Village is home to The Slope Room (formerly Terra Bistro). This contemporary bistro and bar pays homage to the sexy and dangerous allure of the Old West with a modern twist on the traditional American steakhouse menu. With a connection to Rocky Mountain farmers and ranchers, pasture-raised, sustainable proteins and locally sourced produce are the stars of the menu. Late afternoon (après) selections include Korean fried chicken wings, bratwurst, hummus, charcuterie board, and mussels. Dinner-hour options add beef tartare, Chip and Dip Crab and Colorado Wagyu Hot Stone specialty. Fancy something to wet your whistle? The Slope Room has a mix of handcrafted cocktails, wines, and local draft beers.
For a special evening in Vail Village, La Tour Restaurant is a sophisticated French bistro with creative yet elegant dishes. Chef-owner, Paul Ferzacca, is committed to proving the best of everything. With honors including Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence,” a food rating of “Extraordinary” in Zagat, and Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence three years in a row, La Tour is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Vail. Menu items cover fish, steak, and vegetarian options with creative side dishes and sauces to explore. Paired with incredible wines, this will be a dinner to savor. Bonus: In the era of COVID, La Tour has built private Crystal Cabins that can be rented for an extra special evening. Summer patio dining also allows for fresh air and social distancing. Be sure to make reservations for your special La Tour dinner.
Another option: Perched above Solaris Plaza in Vail Village, Matsuhisa is a high-end destination for Japanese fusion fare and sushi served in a posh setting with dramatic views. Matsuhisa’s rustic urban setting is complete with a stone fireplace, outdoor fire pits, large indigenous stone pillars and walls, and custom woodwork. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal a panoramic view of Vail Mountain. In summertime, the front of the restaurant opens up into an expansive outdoor patio. Chef Nobu’s new-style Japanese cuisine draws influence from his classical training in Tokyo and his life abroad in Peru, Argentina, and around the world, showcasing signature dishes such as Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño, Black Cod Miso and Whitefish Tiradito. Reservations are highly-suggested for this popular dinner spot.
If you left any room for dessert, head down Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This international company knows chocolate and offers gourmet assorted chocolates, sugar-free options, gourmet caramel apples, toffee, truffles, caramels, dark chocolate, ice creams, and more! If you’re simply stuffed from dinner, you can always pick out a chocolate morsel to enjoy later.
Another option: For a sit-down dessert experience, Sweet Basil is the obvious choice. The Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake is the most decadent dessert you’ll ever taste, complete with Meyers’ rum sauce, brown sugar ice cream, and peanut brittle – go ahead and order two because you won’t want to share! The Malt & Salt (vanilla bean panna cotta, milk chocolate ganache, and salted pretzel) and Lime In The Coconut (pineapple, mango passion, caramel, and toasted coconut ice cream) are bowl-licking good too. After-dinner elixirs, digestif flights, dessert wines, brandy and grappa spirits, along with a full bar make for the perfect nightcap.
If you’re closing down the town, the favorite option for late-night snacking is Vendetta’s, right on Bridge Street amidst the bars. Open until 2am, nothing hits the spot like a slice of Vendetta’s pizza. Don’t wait too late to order, as orders can get backed up and eventually the kitchen must close!
Another option: If you’re in Lionshead, head to The Little Diner. Open until 2am, they serve Vail’s legendary breakfast (after all, it’s technically morning), made from scratch before your eyes. We guarantee you won’t be the only people to make this post-party stop!
We’d love to hear about your own personal restaurant crawl in Vail! Keep in mind, these are just a few suggestions from the dozens of incredible restaurants in Vail.