Vail

Vail Food and Nightlife Review

Written by Karl Sander  • Last updated Oct 20, 2017
Photos by Greg and Heather Burke

On the Mountain

Vail has a dizzying array of on-mountain dining! One of the most popular places is the Two Elk Lodge at the top of China Bowl. They offer a salad bar, burritos, soup, pizza, burgers and hotdogs. There are two levels of food at Mid Vail, with the upper floor serving grilled food, pasta and sandwiches while the bottom floor features a salad bar, pizza, tacos, soups and Asian Food. You’ll probably smell the savory barbeque aromas of the Wildwood Smokehouse as you ride up Wildwood Express (#3) or Game Creek Express (#7)! In addition to the smoked and seasoned meat, you can find soups and salad there. Sit-down fine dining is available at the 10thnear Mid Vail and in a more casual experience can be had in Bistro Fourteen at Eagle’s Nest. Eagle’s Nest also has pizza by the slice at Gondoly’s, and a dining court at the Market Place.

Fancy some food at the summit?

Many of these areas get crowded between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, so you can try to time your break to miss the rush, or you can pop into Buffalo’s above Patrol Headquarters at the top of Northwoods Express (#11), which doesn’t tend to get as packed. If you pack your own lunch, there are also picnic areas scattered across the resort. Belle’s Camp at the top of Blue Sky Basin offers sandwiches, chips and baked goods but also has public grills available, so you can grill your own lunch for a unique alpine picnic experience!

Off the Mountain

The resort village is packed with all sorts of restaurants for just about any taste or budget, from quick casual bites to high-end elegant dining. Several of them require reservations in advance, and in a place as popular as Vail, they’re not a bad idea even when they’re not required. “Mountain casual” is the prevailing dress code, so ski clothes or jeans are perfectly acceptable - but, since it’s Vail, you’ll also see people dressed to the nines! Here’s just a sampling of what’s available but they’re some our favorites!

In the Golden Peakarea, the Fitz is an excellent place to après in addition to being a great choice for a casual dinner. Their focus is American comfort food, the vibe is casual , the service is great, and the deck has a great view. Larkspur is a somewhat more elegant option, located right at the base of Riva Bahn, with modern American cuisine – everything from grilled cheese to a lobster club sandwich and New York steak. Oh, and then there’s the expansive wine list!

In Vail Village, Sweet Basil was voted Colorado’s Most Popular Restaurant by a Zagat survey, so they must be doing something right! It’s been around for forty years and has become one of the iconic eateries in Vail. People love the service, the wine list, the martinis, and the creative twist on American cuisine. Mountain Standard is right downstairs, alongside Gore Creek, where most of the food is prepared over a wood fire and served in a rustic tavern setting with great cocktails and local beer.

If you’re looking for something a little more alpine to go with your mountain holiday and the Tyrolian vibe of the village, check out Almresi for German food in a setting that looks every inch a European chalet, or Pepi’s for German food in a location that’s been a Vail staple almost since the beginning. It also boasts Vail’s largest deck and live entertainment in the bar!

The Blü Cow also offers alpine food (as you might guess with the umlaut) in a more casual bar setting.

If your tastes are more south of the border, Los Amigos has great lunch and apres in addition to authentic Tex-Mex dinner, and its deck offers a front-row view of the show on Pepi’s Face.

Another choice for Mexican food that’s a bit more budget-friendly but still well-regarded is La Cantina in the transportation center.

Vendetta’s is a locals’ favorite for pizza and Italian in Vail Village, with generous portions at a good price. There’s no kid’s menu, but the pizzas are big enough that you could probably use their help!

In Lionshead, Tavern on the Square serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual atmosphere overlooking the Eagle Bahn Gondola. There’s outdoor seating, complete with a fire pit, a varied wine list and nice selection of microbrews, and a menu focusing on classics with unique twists such as a brisket BLT and bison steak chili.

Another good choice just steps away from Eagle Bahn is Garfinkel’s. It’s a casual sports bar with giant windows and a nice deck for lunch if you caught one of Colorado’s 300 sunny days. It has your standard sandwiches, salads, and wraps you’d expect for a bar, but also serves steak, pasta, chicken, and seafood for dinner - all with a full bar and an impressive array of beers including some Colorado craft offerings.

Montauk Seafood Grill brings an impressive selection of dining from the deep to the Rocky Mountains. You can enjoy anything from Hawaiian poke to Alaskan King Crab to oysters, all in a quiet, intimate setting.

Vail Chophouse also has seafood, but, as the name suggests, specializes in steak in addition to offering sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch.

Moe’s Original BBQ offers ribs, smoked chicken and pulled-pork sandwiches so big you might have a hard time eating them, all for pretty reasonable prices. It’s a little farther away from the base of the gondola, but it’s a locals’ favorite!

The Red Lion: Family-friendly by day, party central by night

Our favorites for families include Pazzo’s Pizza in Vail Village near the Solaris and the parking structure. They also serve pasta and sandwiches, and offer delivery. Bart & Yeti’s is another locals’ family favorite. Named for a pair of friendly dogs from Vail’s early days, it’s been around since 1975 and definitely has a less refined vibe. Even though it’s a bar it’s still got a kid’s menu and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Red Lion has been around since 1963, almost as long as the resort itself, and is one of those places that manages to be family-friendly by day and popular party spot at night. It’s rather reasonably priced for Vail, something families with kids in tow will certainly appreciate as much as the locals do!

Après

Just like restaurants, shopping, and the ski runs themselves, there’s a vast array of après and nightlife spots in Vail. In addition to their food, The Fitz, Larkspur, Red Lion, Los Amigos, Pepi’s (especially its deck!), Garfinkel's, and Bart & Yetis are all popular places for nightlife, most with live music at various times throughout the week.

But as great as all those places are, there’s more to check out!

The Frost Bar in the Sebastian has a hip atmosphere, specialty cocktails, spirits from around the world (including flights of whiskey, tequila, and mezcal), and a light casual menu in case you somehow missed dinner or if partying has worked up another appetite.

The Four Seasons’ Remedy bar offers a comfortable, contemporary place with floor-to-ceiling windows letting the outdoors in - or, you can step out onto the terrace to enjoy the fresh mountain air while gas fire pits keep you warm.

If you somehow still have the energy to cut a rug, the Shakedown Bar in Vail Village is an upbeat live music venue that manages to combine a hip vibe with rustic wood accents - but you’ll probably be too busy grooving to notice!

If you’re more in the mood for relaxing with wine or cocktails, the Root and Flower has a spot for you. It offers a comprehensive wine list for you to sample and an impressive array of spirits alongside a light food menu with things like charcuterie and cheese.

And, for the unrepentant hophead, there’s the Vail Ale House, with 20 craft beers on tap, sports on TV, live music and a menu in case you like it too much to leave for dinner!