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May 23, 2009 08:30 PM

Vail Valley Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM

We spent 5 months skiing and eating in the Vail Valley during the 2008-09 ski season. The following are our comments on the restaurants we tried (in alphabetical order, by category):

1. Our Favorites

1.1 Kelly Liken (Seasonal American Cuisine) Gateway Building, 12 Vail Rd., Suite 100, Vail tel. 970-479-0175, web: We liked the room, the food and the service. Kelly Liken is probably our favorite restaurant in Vail. We shared everything and started with the autumn squash agnolotti with crispy duck confit, oyster mushrooms and compté fonduta ($14). It was delicious. For the main we shared the braised all natural Colorado beef short rib with caramelized organic Boulder cauliflower, cipollini onions, fresh horseradish and gala apples ($39). The dish was wonderful. With our main we each had glasses of Stelzner Napa Valley Cabernet Blend ($10 x 2 = $20) and for dessert we ordered the baked apple + toasted walnut bread pudding, maple whiskey syrup, spice ice cream and walnut brittle ($12) which we loved. We went when the restaurant was offering a 50% discount ($85 – 50% = $43 plus tax and tip) and so it was a wonderful meal at an affordable price. We were given small sweets when we left which was very nice.

1.2 Splendido at the Chateau, 17 Chateau Lane (off of Scott Hill Rd.), Beaver Creek (PO Box 2498, Avon, CO 81620), Tel. 970-845-8808, e-mail (the sommelier) web: We spent $72.37 and the meal was perfect. The room is lovely as are the views. Our server, Brandt, was very good and the other servers were quick to clear and bring our courses. David Alford, the Executive Chef, stopped by our table twice to ask how we were doing and we love that. We went because of the 30% discount on the entire bill. Still it was one of our most expensive Vail meals (and one of our best). We shared everything, as usual (with the course being brought to Dimitri and an empty plate being brought to me). Even though we ordered only one starter, one main and one dessert, we were brought 2 amuse bouche (another thing we love). They were little fennel salads with tiny bacon bits--quite tasty. The bread was good too: there was a white ciabatta, a 13-grain bread and parmesan crisps. We started with the seared La Bella Farms duck foie gras with saffron-pear purée, dates and pomegranate that was sublime. Ordinarily it was $23, with the discount it was $16.10. For our main we shared the roasted elk loin wrapped in Dakota bacon with caramelized baby carrots, Savoy cabbage, sun choke purée and huckleberry sauce. The elk was tender, cooked perfectly and when I asked for a spoon to taste the sauce, a pitcher of extra huckleberry sauce was brought. It was exquisite. The sun choke (Jerusalem artichoke) purée was unusual and delicious. The regular price for this dish was $39; with the discount it was $27.30. We ordered 2 glasses of Don Nicanor Malbec which were great. The regular price would have been $9 each, with the discount they cost $12.60. For dessert we had the lemon-huckleberry soufflé-another triumph. This dish would have cost $14 regularly but with the discount cost $9.80. So the entire meal with food tax ($5.31) and liquor tax ($1.26) cost $72.37 plus tip. We had a great meal and a great time! And, we were served mignardises even though we didn’t order coffee. We also love mignardises!

2. Restaurants We Thought Were Very Good

2.1 Avon Bakery & Deli, 0025 Hurd Lane #4, Avon, CO 81620, tel. 970-949-3354, web: This is the only bakery in the Vail Valley where we consistently liked the bread and the soups. We would order 2 small soups and it would be plenty for us. (2 soups $8.65).

2.2 Dusty Boot, 1099 Capitol St., Eagle, CO 81631, tel. 970-328-7002 We spent $62.10 plus tip for 5 people. When we went, they were having a buy one burger, get one free special. We ordered one order of Mussels for the table to start ($12.95) and then 4 burgers (getting 2 free). Although the burgers weren’t necessarily what we expected, everyone was happy and the place is fun; it was full. We sat in the bar at a large high table with bar stools. It was comfortable enough. We had 2 Fat Tire beers ($9.00), an iced tea and a Pole Star beer ($4.50). For dessert we all shared one bread pudding which was huge ($8.95). The subtotal, before the discount was $84.01.

2.3 The French Press, 34295 Highway 6, C1B, Edwards, CO 81632, Tel. 970-926-4740, web: We spent $40.91 plus tip and had a lovely meal. Our waitress, named Nicolle, was very good. The space is casual but nice. We had 2 entrées because, when we went, there was a 50% on entrées. We had one smoked salmon linguini served with vegetable ragout and pesto sauce ($18) that we shared as a starter and liked very much. For our main we had one mandarin glazed duck breast served with cranberry – zucchini ragout and country potato chips ($28). There were 2 large pieces of duck and it was delicious. We each had a glass of Budini Malbec from Mendoza ($8 x 2). The bread at the French Press was good too. We didn’t have dessert. It was a pleasant dinner.

2.4 Grouse Mountain Grill, Pines Lodge at Beaver Creek, 141 Scott Hill Road, Avon, CO, Tel. 970-949-0600, e-mail restaurant manager Tony McNally at:, web: We spent $59.95 plus tip and had a wonderful meal. It describes itself as mountain fine dining—regionally influenced, seasonally focused. We went because they were having a 3 course dinner special for $38 from their spring menu. When we made the reservation, we pre-cleared that we were having only one menu and an extra plate. That was fine. The room is large and has windows overlooking the Beaver Creek snow-covered slopes. There was a real (and well-made) fire in a fireplace in the room and there was live piano music performed by Tony Gulizia which was delightful. Our server, Jessica, was excellent. While we were waiting for our starter we were brought bread and a plate of three accompaniments: tapenade, butter and a fruity spread. We started with a warm lobster and mascarpone in a sandwich of crispy (but not crumbly) crisps with baby red lettuce and tomato vinaigrette. The lobster was quite good and the presentation was lovely. We ordered two glasses of a Bernardus red wine blend that was surprisingly good ($8.25 each). For our main we had the Colorado lamb two ways: tomato braised lamb shank and a seared 2 bone roasted lamb rack with braised cannellini beans, spinach and savory herbs. It was a wonderful dish and the lamb was delicious. For dessert we ordered an apple bread pudding with caramelized apples, 7 bean vanilla ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce. It was a huge order and very good. The subtotal was $54.50, to which was added a BC assessment of $2.92 and tax of $2.53 plus a tip for Jessica.

2.5 La Tour, 122 East Meadow Dr., Vail, tel. 970-476-4403, e-mail:, web: We went to this restaurant for dinner twice. We sat in the front room both times and it was a little cold (even with the gas fire). The first time we spent $53.17 plus tip. We started with the crispy veal sweetbreads, sautéed mushrooms, cipollini onion, haricot verts, and caper brown butter sauce ($15). They were very good and cooked perfectly. For our main we shared the pan seared Tasmanian salmon, Maryland blue crab cake, parsnip purée, spinach, tarragon gastrique, with crispy parsnip ($35). It was very well prepared. We each had a glass of Bodega Pirineos “Mesache” Somontano Spain 06 ($7.50 x 2 = $15). We didn’t have dessert. When we went, the restaurant was offering a 30% discount on entrées and an additional discount of 10% when we showed our Epic pass (Subtotal $65 -30% entrée = -10.50 and -10% Epic pass = -5.45 = $49.05 plus tax). We enjoyed the service too (the first time). The second time we went we didn’t like our server but the other staff were quite nice.

2.6 Minturn Country Club, 99 Main Street, Minturn, CO Tel. 970-827-4114. We had a blast at the Wednesday $2.99 for an 8-oz. steak night. We arrived at 6 p.m. and had to wait about ½ hour for a table (we learned to come when they open). We chose our steaks, sweet potatoes fries and one salad bar at the meat counter. Then we shared the one salad bar plate and cooked our steaks on the grill. It was packed and really fun. The fries were great too. We had 2 bottles of beer. The grand total was $26.87 plus tip. Each time Minturn Country Club had its $2.99 special, we went and it was always very good. What this place does, it does very well.

2.7 Mirabelle at Beaver Creek, 55 Village Road, Avon, CO 81620, tel. 970-949-7728, web: We spent $66.29 plus tip. The stand-alone country house is quaint and charming. The bar and sitting room when you enter is nice too. The dining room has lovely floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at a bucolic setting. The tables are well-space and lovely with white linen, little flowers vases and lovely candles. We went because of the special prix fixe three course menu for $35. We had pre-cleared that we were only going to order one three course menu and an extra plate. Our server at first said that there was a $6 charge for that. When we repeated we were only ordering one menu and an extra plate, he relented. There were little rolls and butter served while we waited for our starter. Our starter came fast, too fast actually. It was a lovely tuna sashimi in a cilantro crust that was in a light oil-based sauce and had a papaya pineapple salsa underneath. Honestly, we didn’t taste any papaya but the pineapple was a good contrast to the tuna. We each had a glass of Beringer sauvignon blanc ($8 each). For our main we had the roasted duck breast, sweet carrot mousseline and honey caramel sauce. It was tender, perfectly cooked and delicious. The carrot purée was really good and there were other vegetables to complete the plate. For our dessert, we had a fabulous Sabayon of champagne with mix berry gratin. It was very large. The food was very special. Although we weren’t simpatico with Jeffery, our server, he was “correct”. Even though we didn’t order coffee, mignardises were served which we love. When we got the bill, we noticed a 20% gratuity was added to the bill. The subtotal of food and wine was $51. The tax and gratuity added an additional $15.29. We scrutinized the menu and found nothing to alert us to that automatic addition. It was a lovely evening, the restaurant had a pleasant buzz of people and we didn’t complain.

2.8 Terra Bistro, 352 East Meadow Drive, Vail, CO 81657, Tel. 970-476-6836, web: We ate at Terra Bistro twice for dinner. The first time the restaurant was celebrating its 16th anniversary using its original prices from 1993. We spent $54.21 plus tip and had a wonderful meal. They start by providing a dip of lentils with cumin, garlic onions and olive oil with the bread that we loved and that I could reproduce at home. For our starter we shared the caramelized scallops, wilted spinach, warm bacon sherry vinaigrette, truffle onions ($9) that was very good. For our main we shared the pine nut crusted Irish salmon, caramelized mirepoix and farfalle in jalapeno basil butter ($23) and had two glasses of Joel Gott California Sauvignon Blanc ’07 ($9 x 2). We liked the room and the service was excellent. We didn’t have dessert.

2.9 Up the Creek, 223 Gore Creek Drive, Ste. 103, Vail, tel. 970-476-8141, web:, We spent $72.09 plus tip. The bread was very good and we were told it was from Michelle’s (we never found a retail outlet). We shared the lobster and shrimp ravioli with lavender honey cream ($29) to start, which we really liked. For our main, we had Colorado striped bass with wild mushrooms, wilted spinach, roasted tomato butter ($28). It was beautifully cooked. We ordered a bottle of 07 Matua, Marlborough New Zealand ($40) and took home half of it. For dessert we had the pecan bourbon tart with cinnamon gelato, caramel sauce and Jim Beam whipped cream ($10). The subtotal was $107. When we went, they had a 50% discount on food and 30% discount on wine. So our discounted total was $66.50 plus tax.

2.10 Vista at Arrowhead, 676 Sawatch Drive, Edwards, CO 81632, tel. 970-926-2111, web: We spent $59.56 plus tip. The room is lovely and the service was very good. Geneen was working the front of the house; we didn’t see Gary Boris (owner/general manager). We ordered a bottle of ’06 Decero Malbec from Agrelo, Mendoza Region, Remolinos Vineyard that was very good ($38, less 30%). For our starter we shared one warm polenta terrine with peppers, mozzarella and sweet Italian sausage ($9) that we liked. For our main we shared one Chianti braised Colorado lamb shank, cannellini beans, currants, pine nuts, and ricotta gnocchi that we thought was excellent ($28). For dessert we had one Tuscan bread pudding made with panettone, mascarpone, Meyer lemon tuile ($6.50). Before the discount our total would have been $85.09. After the discount, our total was $59.56.

3. Restaurants We Thought Were Good

3.1 Carniceria Tepic, Beaver Creek Place, Chapel Square, Avon, CO 81620, tel. 949-6033. We used their take away several times. The best dish we had was the goat stew. The enchiladas weren’t interesting but the food was good enough. We generally spent around $25.

3.2 Gohan Ya, N Frontage Rd. W, West Vail, Tel. 970-476-7570. We would either have soup there for lunch or used their take away service. It was good but not great.

3.3 Iguanas Frogs, in back of the Seasons, Avon, Tel 970-845-7188. We used their take away and were freezing while we waited for it. The food was good. We spent $19 and had their chicken mole that we liked better than the one at Carniceria Tepic ($8.75) and their chilies rellenos that we also thought were better than the ones at Carniceria Tepic ($8.75) The refried beans were good as were the chips and the salsa.

3.4 May Palace, May Palace, 2109 N. Frontage Rd. West #A, West Vail, tel. 970-476-1657. We ate there once and had soup for lunch which was fine. We typically used their take away. After the first few times we got less and less enthralled.

3.5 Moe's Rib Place, in Lionshead. The place is not inviting so we used their take away. We got one small order of ribs ($15) and some sides. The ribs were very good and the sides were okay.

3.6 Nozawa at the Holiday Inn, West Vail. We went for their special lunch. The place is dark and it looks old and poorly maintained (as does the entrance area of the Holiday Inn). We had 1 Bento box lunch ($7.50 plus tax and tip) that was good but the place was not appealing for a return visit.

3.7 Panda City, 222 Beaver Creek Place, Chapel Square, Avon, CO 81620, tel. 970-949-5188 We used their take away and spent $30 for one small hot & sour soup ($4.50), one Szechuan chicken ($10.95), and one moo shu pork ($12.95). It was all good and at a reasonable price.

3.8 The Saloon, 146 N. Main St., Minturn, CO 81645, tel. 970-827-5954. The first time we went we were impressed but after each subsequent visit we were less enchanted. The quail is good but the atmosphere isn’t and it’s generally cold in the restaurant at the time we go for dinner (early). The first time we went, we spent $32.45 plus tip. We shared one order of Quail enchilada ($18.95) that comes with 2 quail and one sorry enchilada. We ordered a side of refried beans ($3.25) that was good. We had one Fat Tire beer ($3.25) and one negra modelo beer ($2.25). The sopapillas for dessert were very good ($4.75).

3.9 Smiling Moose Deli, 1170 Edwards Village Blvd., Edwards, CO, Tel. 970-926-2400, web: We spent $8.50 for 2 soups and bread. They were good and the space is pleasant for lunch.

3.10 Zacca Za, Traer Creek Plaza, 0101 Fawcett Rd., Suite 100, Avon, CO 81620, Tel. 970-748-4848, web: We had lunch there once and spent $12 for 2 soups. The soups weren’t great and the place is not inviting.

3.11 Zuppa, N Frontage Road W, West Vail Shopping Center. We went to Zuppa for soups many times and thought that they were good (but not great). We spent $13 for 2 soups (one large and one small).

4. Restaurants We Don’t Recommend

4.1 Billy's Island Grill, Lionshead Village Mall, 610 W. Lionshead Circle, #C200, Vail, tel. 970-477-7480, web: We spent $46.14 + tip. We didn’t like the atmosphere or the environment. The service was fine. As usual we shared everything. We had one salad bar entrée ($15) and one seared tuna ($38), one glass of a white Nibilo ($8) and one glass of a white Kesseler ($8). The food was not distinguished but we went when Billy’s was having a 50% on it so the price of the meal was reasonable.

4.2 China Garden, 100 W. Beaver Creek Blvd., Avon, CO 81620, tel. 970-949-4986, We spent $8 for 1 small soup that was okay.

4.3 The Gashouse, 34185 US Hwy 6, Edwards, CO 81632, tel. 970-926-3613. We know this is an institution and everyone knows this restaurant. We didn’t like the atmosphere or the 2 soups we had for $8.36.

4.4 Matthew’s, 69 Edwards Access Rd., Suite 6, Tel. 970-926-8646, e-mail:, web: We didn’t like this restaurant. The room is okay and has a fireplace but the place is too pretentious, the prices are too high and we didn’t have a pleasant experience (although there wasn’t anything big wrong with the place.) We spent $52.20 plus tip (they were offering fish entrées at a 50% discount). We one red snapper with spinach and jasmine rice ($34) and it was good. The other entrée we had was a coconut tempura barramundi sea bass with pineapple-lime beurre blanc, wasabi mashed potatoes & spinach ($28). It was too heavily coated with the tempura for our taste. We each had a glass of Four Bears Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma ($8.50 x 2 = $17). The subtotal with tax was $85.20 before the 50% discount.
4.5 The Pantry, 291 Main St., Minturn, CO 81645, Tel. 970-477-7490. We went for lunch right after it opened. We had 2 soups at $5 each, plus tax and one pastry at $1.97. It was too expensive and not that good. We will give it another chance after they have been open for a while.

We were also able to eat at the major foodie events in the Vail Valley: the bon appétit Culinary & Wine Focus in January and the Taste of Vail in April. The food was fantastic and they were really fun events.

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to give us such a full report. Really good stuff. And congratulations on being able to get "deals" during ski season. Maybe it was the economy this year, but I don't recall the high dollar places having discounts during season. The prices you mention sound like "mud season" and early fall pricing. People who haven't eaten in the Vail/Beaver Creek area should not think the total bills you experienced are normal and should definitely not budget based on those figures. They need to remember you only ordered one meal and that a customary meal for two would be at least twice what you paid. Additionally, if one orders a bottle of wine, that one thing will most likely cost more than the total checks you experienced.

    One other thing I'm wondering -- did you try Larkspur and Sweet Basil in Vail, Golden Eagle Inn in Beaver Creek, Juniper in Edwards or Avondale in Avon?

    The chef at Splendido is David Walford.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ddavis

      DD, thanks for the question I was about to ask, Did you try any of the Big Five, to which I'd add Dish and make it six. And Mud Season pricing started towards the end of March this year.

      Aledm is spot on about Gas House, Zucca Za, The Saloon. Be aware that the Dusty Boot referenced is the new one in Eagle, not the Beav version.

      1. re: BlueOx

        Greetings ddavis and BlueOx,
        I didn't want you to think that your comments and questions had gone un-noticed. For some reason chow didn't show my Reply as "New" so I was concerned that you hadn't seen it! Hopefully this reply will alert you, aledm

        1. re: aledm

          Not a problem. I agree with most of your reviews and I think DD was concerned about folks thinking they could get those kind of deals during peak ski season.

          Living here, I get stuck in a rut not trying places outside of the "big six". However, what I've seen lately is a bigger gap between the haves and the have not;s. as far as service and food goes. Believe it or not, today I heard that for the winter season, Vail's tax revenue is down only 3%. But down Valley has been hit a lot harder than that.

          I think we are going to have to re-try Kelly Liken's. My earlier experience was with no view or mountain atmosphere it was completely lacking in energy and was priced at the high end. But I'll try it again

          By the way, check Larkspur's Wine University schedule this summer and the 4 specials at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens schedule. They includes a Champagne tasting by the wine guy at Sweet Basil, and sessions with 3 other chefs in the Gardens.

          I would not go any place else in July and take a chance of missing the Bravo sessions (Dallas, Philadelphia and New York Symphonies). I now its over worked, but we came here for the winters and have stayed here because of the summers.

    2. We are thrilled that you thought our reviews were helpful. Dm of aledm thinks I (ale) put too much detail in our reviews.

      You are absolutely right when you observe the deals we enjoyed at the restaurants were in early December 2008 and in April 2009 (mainly after Easter). Otherwise, we stayed at home and I cooked during the season. Or, we loved experiencing the culture in Vail of being invited to wonderful dinner parties at other people's houses.

      We really wanted to go to Sweet Basil, particularly after we met Theresa Jimenez-Anders, Food & Beverage Manager at the Vilar and new bride of Paul Anders, the chef at Sweet Basil. Sadly, Sweet Basil never had a discounted menu so we didn't go. For a snap of me with Paul Anders when we were volunteering at the Taste of Vail go to: []. We thought that the Whiskey Spiked Chicken Liver Pate from Paul Anders at Sweet Basil was one of the best dishes at the Taste of Vail (out of a field of excellent dishes). The recipe was reproduced in the Taste of Vail booklet that was given out at the event. When I made it at home for a dinner party it was a triumph.

      We also took a snap of me with the chefs of Juniper when we were volunteering at the bon appétit Culinary & Wine Focus grand tasting. Have a look at: []. Juniper is another restaurant we didn't go to because they didn't have any discounts on offer. We meant to go to Avondale for the half-price buffet breakfast that was recommended but we never made it there. Larkspur in Vail, Golden Eagle in Beaver Creek and Dish are still on the menu to try!

      By the way we are delighted to report that by sharing one starter, main and dessert, we were able to keep our weight in check during this ski season. Also, I apologize to David Walford, the Executive Chef of Splendido for mispelling his name!

      Have a look at all of our photos from our season in Vail: [] or all of our photos at

      I repeatedly try to upload photos to Chow when I do reviews and have so far been unsuccessful.