There’s nowhere like Colorado in the wintertime. Whether you’re a Mile High City resident or just visiting the mountains for a ski weekend, you’re in for a treat: Front Range dining has never been better. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite winter spots, from a cozy counter in Denver to a prime après-ski destination in Aspen. Get out there and grab the perfect table at some of the best Colorado restaurants.
Chef Caroline Glover’s award-winning, wood-fire-fueled restaurant is beloved for its warm approach to cooking and hospitality. With winter in full swing, the Stanley Marketplace destination has recreated its intimate vibe outdoors, with private greenhouse seating. Hot toddies are served in Thermoses, gnocchi is cooked in brown butter, and the butter lettuce salad is the sleeper hit that’s not to be missed at the Colorado restaurant.
River North Art District
When it comes to best Colorado restaurants, there’s no better date night than at Safta. Chef Alon Shaya’s ode to Israeli fare inside the Source Hotel & Market Hall is a warm, soothing space that befits its name: “grandmother” in Hebrew. You’re here for the impossibly creamy hummus, fluffy pita, crispy Persian rice, braised lamb shank, and any of Liliana Meyers’ desserts. (More reason to love Safta: If you’re a Global Dining Access member, you have exclusive access to reservations. Learn more here.)
River North Arts District
We love Hop Alley always, but the electric atmosphere is especially welcome come wintertime. The exuberant, thoughtfully incorporated flavors and dishes will warm you from the inside out: Fried chicken is infused with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, rice is laced with bits of bone marrow, and Beijing duck rolls are wrapped in a crispy scallion pancake. Pro Tip: The best seat in the house is the lone lazy Susan table — reserved for parties of six or more — where you can communally eat your way through good food from the menu.
High on the list of places, and best restaurants, perfect for cozying up on a chilly winter evening: Mercantile’s counter, with a front-row seat to the dazzle happening in the open kitchen. Start with a martini and charcuterie board (always), then move on to warming fare like pappardelle with duck confit, grilled delicata squash with apple butter, and trout with melted leeks. For pre- or post-dinner entertainment, there’s a shuffleboard table in Union Station’s grand hall, just steps from Mercantile.
The Little Nell’s wine cellar is legendary, and alongside those 20,000 bottles are Element 47’s contemporary cooking. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant offers both à la carte and tasting menus with optional wine pairings. Count on local wagyu beef, housemade pastas, and one of the most special desserts in town: the “first snow cheese,” with honeycomb, truffle, and cherry mostarda. If it’s people-watching you’re after, the bar adjacent to the dining room is always abuzz in the après hours.
Helmed by Lorena Garcia of Top Chef: Masters fame, Chica occupies prime après territory at the base of Ajax. Cap off your day of skiing with an Aperol spritz at happy hour, or settle in for something heartier, like the empanadas with wagyu beef. With locations in Miami and Las Vegas, Chica’s vibrant Latin American menu takes inspiration from Venezuela–born Garcia’s years spent in Mexico and Argentina. Save room for dessert and have your camera ready to document the Flaming Skull, a nearly life-size, sugar-dusted cranium that’s set on fire tableside, melting to reveal a chocolate lava cake underneath.
Woody Creek Tavern
With new proprietors and a revamped dining room, there’s even more reason to make the 20-minute drive out of town to the famed Woody Creek Tavern. Longtime WCT fans, fear not: The quirky Polaroids are still intact, and the original spicy margaritas are still on the menu. To pair with that marg, the kitchen serves up salsa verde nachos, chicken enchiladas, brioche grilled cheese, and more comforting favorites. Bonus: Credit cards are now accepted.
For reservations, call 970-923-4585.
The sister restaurant of the Surf Lodge in Montauk, the Snow Lodge has reimagined their summer formula into an après-ski destination with live music from its heated deck. The menu features warming fare like from-scratch pastas, fried Castelvetrano olives stuffed with sausage, and burrata with grilled bread. Place your hot toddy order at the bar, then head outside for mountain views and a show.
Vail Village’s OG wine bar boasts a lovingly curated wine list and Spanish-inspired small plates. Root & Flower fits the bill for an elevated après, but we also love it for a solo dinner at the bar or a full-on date night. Pair your wine flight with snacks (spiced nuts, shishito peppers, and elaborate cheese boards) or feast on a few of the heartier dishes, house-made meatballs and butter-kissed mushrooms.
The vibes are dreamy at the Colorado restaurant, Almresi, with rustic ski cottage décor that sets the stage for a hearty Bavarian meal. Sink into a plush banquette, order a German hot mulled wine, then choose your own adventure from the three-course, $49/person menu. Entrées are prepared at the table, whether you opt for savory grilled meats or cheesy fondue.
For reservations, call 970-470 4174.
Vail’s oldest Mexican restaurant slings tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more of the soul-warming fare and good food that skiers crave coming off the mountain. Just steps from the gondola, the Los Amigos patio is prime people-watching territory. Put in a round of margaritas and nachos and enjoy the view.
If you are looking for one of the best restaurants in Colorado with beautiful atmosphere, Piante offers some of the best outdoor dining in Breck, with heated snow globes that look out over the mountains. The post-slopes pizzas here are plant-based, wood-fired, and made with organic, local ingredients. Skeptical about vegan pizza? Executive chef (and New York City transplant) Jason Goldstein is out to prove that plant-based pies can compete with the best of them. Don’t miss the creamy white pizza with cashew ricotta, shiitake bacon, garlic, and arugula.
Note: Reservations are only available for parties of 4 or more.
Former Mercantile executive chef Matt Vawter opened his first solo restaurant in a Victorian home on Main Street, and Breck is so much better for it. Stepping inside Rootstalk feels like entering the cozy home of a friend, and you’ll be treated as such. Vawter and his talented team (many of them also Mercantile alums) serve upscale, locally sourced comfort food, from perfect house-made pastas to a duck confit French onion soup that will warm you to the bones.
For reservations, call 970-453-9124.
Aurum Food & Wine
A coveted table at Aurum is still one of the best dining experiences Breck can give you, but a seat at the bar during happy hour is worth a visit in itself. From 4-6 p.m. daily, snacks and beer are 50% off, while select wines are $9 a glass. Spring for the warm Parker House rolls with honey butter, crispy curried cauliflower, and a side (or two) of hand-cut fries with lemon parmesan and bacon spice.
For reservations, call 970-771-3943.
Make your stay in Colorado a memorable one, by visiting some of the best restaurants the “Centennial State” has to offer!