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PREMIUM

Aspen, Colorado: top restaurants for winelovers

Visitors to this famous mountain resort town come to play, but they stay for the premium wine and food experiences. Colorado resident Stacy Slinkard picks out Aspen’s must-try restaurants.

As America’s most iconic ski town, Aspen in Colorado is a year-round destination for foodies and winelovers the world over. While winter sees snow-sports fans flocking in, summer lures others to the mountain for hiking, biking and adventure tours.

Visitors come to Aspen to play but they stay for the premium food and wine experiences. The Aspen Food & Wine Classic has been held here for the past 25 years – in 2022 it runs from 17-19 June.

Leading chefs and winemakers, enthusiastic consumers and local fans join together for a weekend of discovery and community centred around upscale wine tastings, creative cuisine and high-energy presentations. This event encourages chefs and sommeliers alike to push the envelope in Aspen’s prestigious food and wine scene.

So regardless of when you visit Colorado’s epicurean epicentre, you’re guaranteed a memorable wine and food experience at the restaurants in this mountain resort town. Here are a few to try.


Ajax restaurant, The Little Nell, Aspen

The view from Ajax restaurant at Aspen’s The Little Nell.

The Little Nell

What we like about it

Centrally located at the base of Aspen Mountain, The Little Nell offers luxury slope-side accommodation with stunning mountain views and easy ski-in/ski-out access to lifts. Tucked within The Little Nell are two entirely unique award-winning restaurants:

Ajax Tavern brings together glitzy glamour and ‘Colorado casual’. Here, pub-grub gets posh, with truffle fries alongside burgers and sliders built on locally sourced Wagyu beef. Offering cosy indoor seating or sunny patio tables nearby Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Tavern buzzes all day, at any time of year.

Element 47 (a nod to Aspen’s silver mining roots) carries The Little Nell’s fine-dining scene to new heights, with emphasis on regionally sourced meats, eggs and dairy served alongside local seasonal produce. Dishes include venison or Wagyu beef tartare served with matcha egg yolk jam, and Loch Duart salmon with fennel confit.

Wine wins

The Little Nell’s wine reputation is second to none. Its long-term relationship with the Court of Master Sommeliers has seen 11 MSs graduate from here. The 100-page wine list boasts coveted wines and vintages, stored in a cellar of more than 20,000 bottles.

  • Address: 675 E Durant Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: diningreservations@thelittlenell.com; (970) 920 6330
  • Ajax Tavern hours: Daily 11.30am-10pm; Element 47 hours: Daily 7am-11pm

7908

What we like about it

Named for Aspen’s official elevation in feet (2410m), 7908 combines upscale restaurant and trendy bar, where elegant dining merges with nightclub vibes from the live DJ well into the night. Celebrity chef Byron Gomez (from Top Chef season 18) brings irreverent twists on classic Aspen fare, such as steak tartare and Wagyu fillet mignon. Partner your meal with a bottle from the world-class wine list curated by Master Sommelier Jonathan Pullis, or enjoy innovative cocktails from award-winning spirits director Matt Corbin. Try the gin-based creation that arrives in a mini bathtub complete with a duck!

Wine wins

In addition to the heavy-duty, high-end wine list, Jonathan Pullis MS has a dozen wines available by the glass at reasonable prices, giving guests a range of options, from a diverse selection of regions and styles, for every budget.

  • Address: 415 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: (970) 516 7908; 7908aspen.com/reserve
  • Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm, Sunday cocktails from 9.30pm

Meat & Cheese, Aspen

The rotisserie chicken board with roast potatoes at Meat & Cheese in Aspen.

Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop

What we like about it

Seasonal menus and well-priced, generous portions, using locally sourced ingredients, specialising in curated meat, cheese, bread and veggie-themed sharing boards. The rotisserie chicken board with roast potatoes ($29), generously serves two – the perfect fuel after a day on the slopes. Or for something lighter, try the vibrant Asian-fusion flavours of the Vietnamese chicken noodle salad ($20). Indoor and outdoor seating offer a great Aspen people-watching stage and, before you go, stop at the farm shop for unique housewares and foodie treats.

Wine wins

The international wine list leans heavily into natural wines, with the pét-nat from Sauvage Spectrum ($13/glass) out of Colorado’s Western Slope stealing the limelight.

  • Address: 301 E Hopkins Ave, Suite 103 Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: None, so go early if possible; (970) 710 7120
  • Hours: Daily 10am-9pm

Matsuhisa

What we like about it

Tucked into a beautiful Victorian-era house in downtown Aspen, Matsuhisa has been a mainstay of the foodie landscape here for more than 20 years. Upstairs and downstairs sushi bars, indoor and outdoor seating and clever cocktails unite to provide a remarkable culinary experience. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, classically trained in Tokyo, melds quintessential Japanese flavours with New World influences – try the Yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño and outstanding king crab tempura.

Wine wins

Matsuhisa offers an impressive selection of wines by the glass, including an Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Finger Lakes Riesling to a 45ml pour of 2013 Tokaji. The full wine list has an emphasis on Champagne and sushi-friendly Riesling , and there is also a select range of high-end sake along with creative cocktails.

  • Address: 303 E Main Street, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: (970) 544 6628; info@matsuhisaaspen.com
  • Hours: Daily from 5.30pm

French Alpine Bistro

Cozy sheepskins and warming fare at French Alpine Bistro in Aspen.

French Alpine Bistro – Crêperie du Village

What we like about it

Austrian-born Karin Derly creates a warm, welcoming experience in this bistro, whose decor is a blend of French chic and rustic Alpine charm. Choose from a romantic candlelit nook inside or snuggle under a sheepskin on the heated patio with majestic views of Aspen’s peaks. Enjoy authentic fondue, made with Gruyère, Beaufort and Comte cheeses – some topped with black truffles – as well as foie gras, French onion soup and classic crèpes. Heartier dishes include duck cassoulet, beef Bourguignon, raclette, Kaiser schnitzel and rich potato gnocchi.

Wine wins

The wine list leans heavily into the main regions of France, with good options from Switzerland and Austria, and a few New World options as well.

  • Address: 400 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: (970) 925 1566 o reservations@lacreperieduvillage.com
  • Hours: lunch from 11.30am, dinner from 5pm

The White House Tavern

What we like about it

Located in an old miner’s cottage from the 1880s, The White House Tavern is among Aspen’s oldest buildings and one of the more affordable, casual stops in town. It has a simple yet hearty menu of burgers, sandwiches and salads with a nice selection of sides, including creamed corn, devilled eggs and Brussels sprouts with tangy lemon aioli.

Wine wins

A good selection of wines by the glass, Colorado craft brews and tasty cocktails – give the house margarita a go!

  • Address: 302 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen, CO 81611
  • Reservations: (970) 925 1007
  • Hours: Sunday to Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-9.30pm

Aspen Food & Wine festival

The Aspen Food & Wine Classic – back again in 2022, from 17-19 June.

The following venues were previously recommended by Kelly J Hayes for Decanter in 2018:

Cache Cache

Long-time customers come straight from their private jets to this sleek eatery. Burgundy and Bordeaux are highlights of the 5,000-bottle cellar.

Bad Harriet

A new and naughty nightspot, this clubby underground speakeasy is operated by the venerable Hotel Jerome. The bar features signature cocktails in the kind of place befitting of the Krays.

Cloud Nine

A former ski patrol shack on Aspen Highlands is skiing’s ultimate see-and-be-seen locale. Mountaintop lunches and tabletop dances with the spray of Champagne.

Kemo Sabe

The go-to place for Western hats, boots, buckles, Native American jewellery, also boasts an 1880s Western bar, the perfect place for a shot and a beer. ‘For friends only’ – but everyone, it seems, is a friend.

EMP Winter House

Chefs Club in the St Regis, an eclectic concept eatery that hosts award-winning chefs, morphs into the Winter House pop-up – EMP stands for Eleven Madison Park, one of America’s most acclaimed restaurants.

Of Grape & Grain

This small wine and spirits shop provides selections for every level of taste, and budget. Say hi to Gary Plumley, who came here 50 seasons ago to ski, and ended up founding the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.


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