Vail, Colorado, is a top travel destination all year round. Of course, it’s known and loved by skiers, who head there every winter to hit the town’s famous slopes. However, with its fantastic hiking, biking, horseback riding, and kayaking opportunities, it’s also a great summer vacation spot for those who love the great outdoors. With all of that activity, you’re bound to work up an appetite. From fine dining to casual fare, here are a few of our favorite places to grab a bite in Vail.
At Sweet Basil, the original luxe dining option in Vail, reservations are still very much needed, even after 42 years! The restaurant traces its roots back to the very beginning of the seasonal cuisine movement, and providing the freshest ingredients prepared creatively, beautifully, and deliciously remains its mission. Sweet Basil offers lunch, après-ski options, and dinner menus, with fabulous cocktail and wine lists to accompany them. The Colorado lamb has long been a favorite dinner choice, and the local trout is to die for. Sweet Basil is open daily.
The much-lauded La Tour is another terrific fine-dining option in Vail. The atmosphere is cozy and intimate, yet also sophisticated. La Tour has one of the best wine lists in the village; it received Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence in 2018. The menu includes steaks, chops, and French favorites including rich foie gras, escargot, and traditional onion soup. Be sure to save room for dessert -- as you can imagine, the patisserie offerings are incredible. Tip: The Madeleines make a great take-home option for breakfast the next morning! La Tour is open daily for dinner.
Sweet Basil’s much-younger sister restaurant Mountain Standard features a more casual, relaxed, and simple take on Vail Valley cuisine. Most of the menu features main dishes that have been cooked over an open fire, including beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Vegetarians need not worry, however; the eatery also offers a wide variety of salads and starters that can be made meat-free. The place has a distinct tavern-type vibe, with extensive beer offerings, a creative cocktail list, and a comprehensive by-the-bottle wine selection. Mountain Standard serves both lunch and dinner daily.
Osaki’s Sushi And Japanese Cuisine
Sure, some snobs say they’d never consider eating sushi in a landlocked state. Those people have likely never been to Osaki’s Sushi and Japanese Cuisine. Every aspect of the experience, from the fish (which is flown in from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo three times a week) to the rice to the soy sauce, is carefully curated to ensure complete excellence. The chef learned to craft sushi under the watchful eye of his Japanese grandfather, and he completed extensive master training before opening Osaki’s. You’ll enjoy the traditional fare -- seaweed salad, miso soup, and edamame -- but make sure to try the omakase four-course meal, where the chef prepares a surprise meal from the best of the day’s offerings. Yes, it takes a little trust, but you won’t be disappointed! Osaki’s is open for dinner every day but Monday, and reservations are only accepted one day in advance.
Root & Flower
Wine lovers should absolutely head to Root & Flower while in Vail; this place offers more than 50 vintages by the glass, with an equally extensive bottle list. The menu changes regularly but always features small plates designed to perfectly accompany that vino. Some of the best bites include Root & Flower's charcuterie platters, paninis, and gourmet chips and dips. The restaurant also offers a crafted cocktail list; the Penicillin (rye whiskey, Scotch, turmeric, lemon, ginger, and honey) is a crowd-pleaser. Root & Flower opens every day at 4 p.m., making it the perfect spot for an après-ski snack and drink. The establishment also offers group and private wine-tasting classes.
Sometimes, when you come off the slopes, you just need to carb-load. If that’s the case, head straight to Pepi’s! This restaurant, located inside the Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer in Vail Village, has been serving up German and Austrian favorites including schnitzel, spaetzle, and our favorite -- goulash -- since 1964. The story behind this spot is almost as sweet as its signature strudel. When Pepi Gramshammer first came to Vail in the early 1960s, he was an internationally known skier. He met his wife, Sheika, at a race in nearby Aspen, Colorado, and the two opened their chalet hotel a couple of years later. Vail has grown up around this adorable little eatery, which remains a sentimental favorite of locals and tourists alike.
The Fitz Bar & Restaurant
Another dining option located inside a Vail Village hotel, The Fitz Bar & Restaurant is definitely worth a try. Offering classic but elevated Colorado comfort food -- and a killer view of Vail Mountain -- The Fitz can be found inside Manor Vail Lodge. It features a rotating menu, seasonally crafted cocktails, and locally brewed craft beer selections. Popular dishes include the tuna tartare nachos, the Colorado wild mushroom risotto, and the dry-aged burger. The Fitz is open daily, and there are happy-hour specials between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and between 8 p.m. and closing time.
The Little Diner
Looking for a delicious local breakfast? Look no further: The Little Diner has become a Vail favorite for its delicious crepes, blinis, and egg-forward offerings, as well as its terrific burgers, sandwiches, and warm-you-up chili lunch options. Founded a decade ago by Brian and Peggy Little, the Little Diner features family recipes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and lots of love. It’s the perfect spot to brunch or lunch. The Little Diner is open daily from 7 a.m. until about 2 p.m.
Moe’s Original BBQ
For some of the best barbecue around, no matter the season, head to Moe’s Original BBQ in Lionshead, Colorado. Moe’s has a strong presence in the South, but it's actually a Vail Valley-based franchise, and the original location is in Vail. The barbecue joint smokes up all of its brisket, ribs, chicken, and turkey daily, pairing them with traditional Southern side dishes for a saucy meal that is sure to satisfy you after a long day on the slopes or on the hiking trail. Moe’s has a casual, divey vibe that’s worth checking out.
Blü Cow Café
For a bit of Colorado kitsch -- and a famous creation called the Swiss hot dog -- head to the Blü Cow Café. This family-owned spot is a Vail institution that serves up hearty soups, panini sandwiches, and, of course, the Swiss dog -- a veal bratwurst served with sprouts and sauerkraut. Locals and tourists alike adore the chicken noodle soup. This is casual comfort food at its best, and the prices are reasonable to boot. The café’s website, still under construction, gives you an idea of this place’s quirks. Call ahead for the café’s hours.
If you’re looking to pair fun with fine dining, head to Bol! This full restaurant and bar is also home to a 10-lane bowling alley, making for one of the more unique eating experiences in Vail. The place has a sleek, modern feel, and the food is anything but fast, featuring yummy options including an heirloom tomato tartine served with kale and beet chips; broiled hamachi; a lobster BLT; and tater barrels, or poblano peppers and potato haystacks with Monterey Jack and goat cheese. Bol opens daily at noon.
Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza
When your time in Vail Valley is up, and you’re headed back down the mountain to Denver, be sure to visit Beau Jo’s Colorado Style Pizza. This pizza joint’s flagship restaurant opened in nearby Idaho Springs, Colorado, more than 40 years ago, and it has been going strong ever since. The Mountain Pie reminds us of a calzone on steroids, with a crust baked on the top and braided along the sides. Beau Jo’s dough is made with honey, and many patrons save the crusts and dip them in honey for a delicious carb-loaded dessert. The salad bar buffet is served up inside old clawfoot bathtubs, and local Colorado beer is always on tap. Stopping by this beloved pizza place -- and pigging out there -- is the best way to end a Colorado vacation.
Planning a vacation to Vail? Book a stay at one of these top hotels, and enjoy some of these things to do in the area that don't involve skiing.