From outdoor cabins to take-out food, dining looks different this winter
Special Thanks to Elizabeth Guest. Telluride Daily Planet
Local restaurants rallied this summer with outdoor tables and curbside pickup to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, but as daylight dwindled and snow accumulated, picnics became a less viable dining option. While take-out options are better than ever, winter dining during a pandemic demands new, creative approaches.
The Cabins at Mountain Village, debuting this season, are a collection of gondola cabins and tented dining pavilions scattered throughout the plazas. Twenty refurbished gondola cars—similar to the ones used on the ski resort—are equipped with tables, benches, lighting, heat, and ventilation. Eight are located around the fire pit in the center of the village core, four by the base of Life 4 and Tomboy Tavern, and four more by the top of Lift 1 and La Piazza.
The cabins operate as dining rooms for take-out food and libations from any Mountain Village restaurant or bar. They fit up to eight people and afford families more flexibility in food choices—kids can order pizza or cheeseburgers from one restaurant, while parents can get something more upscale from somewhere else, and still eat together.
Kathrine Warren is the public information officer for Mountain Village; the town, its business development committee, and the local homeowners association collaborated on the project. “The gondola is a treasured Mountain Village asset, so we might as well play on that idea, as well as support local restaurants,” says Warren.
The Cabins at Mountain Village also include outdoor dining pavilions for patrons of La Piazza, Trax Café, Poacher’s Pub, and The Coffee Company. These tented structures seat eight and provide comfort and shelter from the outdoor elements. They’re adaptable, with flaps that roll up and down depending on the weather. An oversized dining pavilion for larger parties is also available outside the Telluride Conference Center.
There are no reservations for the Cabins at Mountain Village, which operate on a first-come, first-serve basis with expectations of respectful patronage: Don’t take too long of a gondola “ride,” and let cabins air out before climbing aboard. Menus are available at www.townofmountainvillage/dining. Also, since drinking alcohol is allowed outdoors in Mountain Village, folks can disembark their gondola and enjoy the last sips of a hot toddy on a starlit stroll through the plaza.
Downtown Telluride restaurants are also finding food service solutions. Expecting a busy winter, The National has re-designed the interior space to accommodate socially distanced dining as well as plexiglass partitioning at the bar. “People are still wanting to go out,” says Ross Martin, The National’s co-executive chef with Erich Owen. “Dining in-house this winter will be a coveted thing for Telluride; reservations are going fast.”
Grab and Go
No available tables? No problem—90 percent of The National menu is available online for contact-less, curbside pick-up. For groups of four and more, they recommend you order 48 hours in advance for a restaurant-caliber meal in the comfort of your own abode.
The National also has a new offshoot restaurant called Littlehouse, a few blocks away, at 219 West Pacific Street. The farm-fresh gourmet delicatessen is open 11 a.m-9 p.m. for lunch and dinner. Like The National, the food features high-end quality ingredients and craftsmanship, but with more family-friendly offerings in a more casual setting. The atmosphere is lively yet comfortable with lots of natural light, clean contemporary finishes and rustic mountain feel. A large open garage door in front features floor-to-ceiling lighting, opening on sunny days for a cool indoor-meets-outdoor space, the perfect place to lunch on a sunny ski day, and a close walk from the gondola and Lift 8. There’s a full bar, beer, and wine with pre-order family-style meals also available. Littlehouse caters to little people with items like grilled cheese and parmesan pasta, but also includes more sophisticated samplings: Thai noodle salad, ahi tuna poke, Tuscan five bean kale salad, crab cakes from the case, plus six different sandwiches, vegan lasagna, beef Bourguignon, Brussel sprouts, and soups and salad paired with cocktails like a Mezcal Old Fashioned or a simple glass of Sauvignon blanc. “We felt that town was in need of this,” says Chef Martin. “A kind of California-European Delicatessen.”
There’s another new restaurant in town opening during the pandemic: Lunch Money, located in the breezeway of the Heritage building at 126 West Colorado Avenue. Focused on foodies, Lunch Money is for mid-day munchies and also seasonal take-home meals five days a week, so you don’t have to cook dinner. The menu changes frequently to highlight fresh ingredients and healthy fare: salads, noodle bowls, sushi, soups, wraps, snacks, sweet treats, and cold-pressed juices, with ample vegetarian and vegan options. And no green guilt—Lunch Money uses environmentally-friendly to-go containers.
If there is one good thing that has come out of the pandemic, it’s that most restaurants, even the fine dining ones, have upped their take-out game and there is also a good variety of grab-and-go food available. The Butcher & The Baker has a deli case full of to-go sides and dishes, and offers chicken dinners to bring home, and you can order meals online to pick up at Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Siam. Virtually everything you can find in a restaurant is now available to eat at home; the new Telluride dining world is, as they say, your oyster.