- The Best Ways to End Your Day
- Top Shelf: The 10th, Vail
- Foodies: Spago, Beaver Creek
- Party Time: Red Lion, Vail
- Family Fun: Pazzo's Pizzeria
SAVOR AND UNWIND
The Situation: “Sore” doesn’t even begin to describe you, and the last thing you want to do is shuffle those burning quads to the dance floor.
A glass of vino and a cushy chair by the fire is more like it.
The 10th, Vail
You don’t even have to step off the mountain take a load off at this mid-Vail haven, where you can order from a hefty wine list or treat yourself to the Apple Pie.
Settle in at a heated table on the backside deck and sip some bubbly while watching skiers make their way down the steep moguls of Look Ma.
Stay warm by the bar-side fireplace while the entire Gore Range spreads out in front of you.
Bonus: You’d be hard-pressed to find more luxurious restrooms in which to spruce up and re-shape your helmet head.
The 10th’s digs are stocked with hair dryers, hair spray, mouthwash, and sunscreen.
Sophisticated as it is, though, the place still knows what every weary skier really wants: Hot fudge sundae with bacon, anybody?
Cascade Fireside Bar, Vail
As you may guess, the centerpiece of Fireside Bar is an enormous dual-sided fireplace surrounded by large, all-enveloping couches and a classy lounge overlooking Gore Creek.
With a soundtrack of live acoustic guitar by local singer-songwriters every Wednesday-through-Saturday, the flames are best enjoyed with a spiked hot chocolate or a glass of cabernet.
Check out the small plates menu, including epicurean delights like lamb meatballs, tuna tacos, beef satay, pork belly lettuce cups, and more.
The Situation: Sure, the powder was delicious, but now you’re craving something really delicious…as in master chef–inspired.
Spago, Beaver Creek
Off the mainstream après path and tucked inside the Ritz-Carlton at Bachelor Gulch near Beaver Creek lies celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s hidden treasure.
Snuggle into the western-chic cowhide-covered lounge seats and order an extravagant cocktail comprised of 12-year-aged whisky and fresh lemon or the finest anejo tequila and blackberry puree.
The AAA Four Diamond award-winning menu showcases locally raised favorites like Colorado lamp chops and venison filet mignon, and the après items are just as superb: The bar menu’s burger is made from a prime cut of beef and topped with creative marmalade and white cheddar, while the wood-fired pizzas are served still smoking, fresh out of the oven.
Then there’s the chocolate bar and a wine list 400-bottles deep if you decide to linger.
Everything is made with as many Colorado-grown ingredients as available, right down to the beer menu, which features local brews from Crazy Mountain and Bonfire microbreweries.
Mountain Standard, Vail
Straight from the same culinary geniuses that brought us the neighboring, now legendary Sweet Basil, this après hotspot—a pork lover’s dream—is just a short jaunt into the village from Gondola One and serves its entire menu all day.
“The other white meat” comes in many innovative incarnations here: pork fritters with herb apple salad, the Three Little Pigs ham-tasting plate, whiskey-braised pork belly, and a pork Reuben stuffed with caraway-flecked kraut are just a few options. It doesn’t end at the pig, though.
The extensive raw bar’s oysters, yellowfin crudo, and snow crab are so fresh you’ll swear you’re seaside.
Plus, the open flame of the wood-burning rotisserie does everything from charring the lemons that accompany the chilled seafood and blackening the quail on a salad to searing the French bread that comes with the bone marrow and, naturally, perfecting the rotisserie chicken.
While the Standard has an ample wine selection and seriously creative cocktails, the place holds its own with beer.
Hooked, Beaver Creek
The landlocked Rockies may not evoke an intense yearning for fresh seafood—until you’ve tried Hooked, which indeed lives up to its name.
This Beaver Creek newcomer flies in its fish—whole and directly off the dock—from Japan multiple times per week, and chef/owner/local culinary genius Riley Romanin works his creative magic.
The “Hooked Up” 1:50-to-5 p.m. happy hour is just the beginning, with a $1.50 daily surprise tasty plate, $3 sashimi or nigiri, $4 rolls, a $5 pair of oysters, $3 local craft beer, and $5 hot sake or house wine.
The sizeable lunch and dinner menus have plenty of options that don’t swim, too.
PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR
The Situation: You’re feeling social, and ready to meet anyone from Dallas to Denmark—possibly while dancing on the bar.
Red Lion, Vail
Expand your social circle at the large wooden picnic tables on the cozy indoor deck as classics like “Brown-Eyed Girl” and other favorites get the crowd swaying.
Steps away from Gondola One on Bridge Street, the Lion’s patio is an excellent vantage point for recruiting revelers as the masses file off the mountain.
While there are no winter après food or drink specials, the Lion’s prices are more reasonable than many nearby haunts, and the portions are geared toward refueling weary skiers before a big night out.
The mammoth plates of nachos overflow with cheese, sour cream, and jalapeños, the wings come in a “Nuclear Fusion” variety, and the ribs, brisket, and pulled pork are slow-cooked and slathered with the Lion’s homemade barbecue sauce.
The beer menu is extensive and includes several Colorado microbrews (Sunshine Wheat on tap!), and the cocktails have a hefty (and welcome) kick.
This season will go down in the Lion’s live music history as the one when 25-year mainstay Phil Lon stepped down to be replaced by famed Vegas transplant Shawn Eifferman, who brings his guitar to the stage from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Seasoned regular Brendan McKinney plays Tuesday through Saturday.
Review: Red Lion
A ski or snowboard trip to Vail isn’t complete without a stop at the Red Lion—and walking into the packed space in Vail Village after a tiring day on the hill is an instant refresher.
It might lack the glitz of other nearby eateries, but the Red Lion has been an institution in Vail for more than 50 years; it’s guaranteed to energize anybody who walks in the door.
One of my favorite restaurants in Vail, the Red Lion is my go-to après spot for no-nonsense food and drink choices.
After a long day on the mountain, I’m set on a cocktail and a hearty meal.
Even though I usually order the same thing every time, I always sneak a peek at the menu in case something else jumps out (the RL Signature Smothered Burrito or California Burger? Yes, please!).
However, because I skew healthy, I tend to stick to my favorite post-powder meal, which I know will always be fresh, flavorful, and filling: the fish tacos with a side of fresh avocado.
Whether you’re inside at the bar clinking glasses to the tunes of a local live band or outside soaking up the mountain sun on a spring afternoon, everybody—locals and tourists alike—seems to feel at home here. I always walk out feeling happy, invigorated, and looking forward to my next day on the mountain.
Bonus: A summertime post-hike stop at the Red Lion is just as satisfying.
In short, whatever your mountain adventure holds, make sure it ends at the Red Lion for a quintessential Vail Village experience: good food, good friends, and good fun.
Agave Avon, Avon
Some of us work up a hankering for spice after a day on the hill, and Agave delivers—not just via nachos.
The nachos do hit the spot, though, as does the tortilla soup (tortillas are made fresh on-site), chiles rellenos, and saucy plates like Paella Diablo, Puerco Con Pina and Camarones de Coco, featuring both authentic and gringo-ized ingredients like cactus and coconut milk.
Wash it all down with a cheap house marg or Bud during happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. daily, and come back to dance late-night with a varying rotation of live music and DJs (both national and regional). Bonus for dizzy dancers: There’s a free shuttle home.
The Situation: You’re ready to settle down with a couple of little tykes that can’t wait to tell you about ski school that day?
Pazzo’s Pizzeria, Vail and Avon
Don’t be thrown off by the dancing skeletons and Rasta colors; families with little kids have been beelining it to Pazzo’s in Vail before pulling off their ski boots for nearly 25 years.
It’s hard to say whether the pizza or calzones is the more popular choice among pint-size diners.
Either way, a plentitude of oozing cheese is the common denominator.
Speaking of pints, the spacious Pazzo’s in Avon offers a daily 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour with $3 drafts, plus wings, special sliders, and hot fried apps for $6 or less.
It’s a great place to kick back and draw up a crayon depiction of the ski day on the kids’ menu.