Aspen is one of the world’s most iconic mountain destinations, featuring four ski resorts, easy access to pristine wilderness areas (such as the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness), and arguably the most complete dining scene of any mountain town in Colorado.
Indeed, first-time visitors may be surprised by how much Aspen has to offer, especially in the way of bars and restaurants. There are dozens and dozens of options across a wide-variety of price ranges and atmospheres, so much so that choosing where you want to go for dinner could turn into an all-afternoon debate.
It’s not a bad problem to have – you won’t find many disappointing experiences in Aspen’s dining scene – but it’s always helpful to have a helping hand. Below are five recommendations for where to go depending on your mood, from a casual beer to an in-room, socially-distanced feast.
Meat & Cheese’s local charcuterie boards are a great to-go option.
Meat & Cheese
Best For: Romantic In-Room Picnic
Info: Meat & Cheese is the mecca for local charcuterie boards and fresh, organic sandwiches. Setup as a half-deli, half-restaurant, Meat & Cheese does have its own seating (both indoor and outdoor), but in these times, it makes for the perfect to-go, in-room picnic.
Split a locally-influenced meat & cheese board, a Vietnamese chicken noodle salad, and the Indian-spiced fried chicken bites, paired with a bottle of red or white wine. Whether you’re tired after a long ski day or simply not comfortable with dining out, a spread from Meat & Cheese will transform your hotel room in a hurry.
White House Tavern has a charming appeal with its outdoor street-side seating and residential … [+]
White House Tavern
Best For: Bloody Mary & Après
Info: It doesn’t get much better than a Bloody Mary on a blue-bird ski day, and on Saturdays and Sundays, the White House Tavern pairs its mountain views with its weekend-only special: Bloody Marys made in-house with your choice of vodka or tequila (if you’ve never tried the latter, we recommend it for some extra warmth).
Pair a Bloody or two with its selection of sandwiches and appetizers, like the smoked trout dip. Enjoy sitting in the sun on the outdoor patio, taking in views of Aspen Mountain. We recommend starting après early, as outdoor seating is limited.
The J Bar inside the historic Hotel Jerome is a great place for crafted cocktails.
Best For: Crafted Cocktails & Western Vibes
Info: Located inside the Hotel Jerome, the J Bar is something to be seen: An elegant, upscale western bar with an “old-fashioned” type feel – think leather chairs, chandeliers made of glass bottles, mountain décor, and high-quality, hand-crafted cocktails.
Part of the experience is learning about the history: “Cowboys and miners once rode their horses through its doors, 10th Mountain Division soldiers gathered here over pints after a day of training on the slopes, and the late Hunter S. Thompson turned it into his de facto office when he was running for sheriff.”
Another component is the Hotel Jerome itself. Opened in 1889, it features a historic lobby and stories from the town’s silver rush. Pop in for a cocktail and poke around.
The Limelight Aspen, home of The Lounge, has an interior courtyard with pools, hot tubs, and … [+]
Best For: Down to Earth Dinner with Live Music
Info: There are many revered, high-end dining options in Aspen to choose from when you’re craving a big meal. But if you’re looking for something more down to earth, check out The Lounge at the Limelight Aspen. It specializes in Italian comfort food including house-made pizzas, bison carpaccio, and cauliflower ricotta ravioli in a large space just adjacent to the lobby, with big windows facing the mountains and bold, colorful décor. Don’t be afraid to show up in ski pants.
The Limelight Hotel itself is full of fun vibes. This year, it hosted events for Gay Ski Week, and it remains one of the more outwardly inclusive properties in town. In normal times, live music and local bands are a staple of The Lounge every weekend.
Aspen Tap’s corner location in downtown Aspen makes a great patio for people watching.
Best For: Patio Pizza and Beer
Info: If you get worn out on Aspen’s fine dining scene and want something simple, Aspen Brew is the home of Aspen Brewing Company, a local’s hangout with a big outdoor patio and a large selection of craft beer. The house-made pizza and beer is the way to go here, although they do offer other menu items, like soups and salads, and a selection of cocktails and wine for groups that include non-beer drinkers. Relax and enjoy the local beer and patio vibes, with plenty of people watching thanks to its corner location in downtown Aspen.
I am a writer and author, a nomad-at-large and travel columnist, penning profiles, features, and dispatches from afar. My irreverent memoir, Swim Bike Bonk: Confessions