You’ll never go hungry in Colorado’s mountain towns—picturesque locales as well known for their tasty cuisine as their outdoor pursuits. In Telluride, diners are already hard-pressed to cross every eatery off their lists, from Eliza Gavin’s beautiful, fine-fining plates at 221 South Oak to adventure-fueling breakfast sandwiches at the Butcher & the Baker to some of the state’s best Thai cuisine at Siam. On a recent road trip through southwestern Colorado, we discovered three newer spots to add to that lineup.
The Madeline Hotel & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection in Mountain Village recently underwent some major renovations (by that, we mean $10 million in upgrades), which included reimagining its lobby bar and après lounge. Timber Room opened in mid-January with seating designed for romantic evenings and couches for lounging with friends, as well as plenty of outdoor space. Executive chef Bill Greenwood’s menu is focused on shareable items, such as deviled eggs (our favorite was topped with house-cured char and dill) and local elk tartare. If you’re really hungry after a day on the slopes, we suggest splurging on one of the five “Feast” boards. The 20-ounce Rocky Mountain elk loin arrived perfectly cooked, topped with a huckleberry jus that cut the gaminess, and paired with a tangle of roasted veggies. It all sat atop on a cutting board made of native hardwoods by local woodworker Matt Downer.
The true highlight, though, is the cocktails. The Botanica Sour is an easy-sipping blend of gin, egg white, toasted coriander, and clementine. The New Fashioned is built around the slow-drip, house-infused spiced bourbon—inspired by a Japanese coffee brewing method. You can watch the hours-long process yourself as Buffalo Trace Bourbon trickles through a spice blend (cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar, star anise, and more) and into a beaker on the wood bar. The spirit is then blended with house-made bitters for a well-balanced, boozy tipple. 568 Mountain Village Blvd., Mountain Village
Friends Matthew Arnold (managing partner) and Kevin Bush (chef) opened this modern ramen bar in June 2018, but like most restaurateurs, they’ve made some changes in response to the pandemic. Currently, the subterranean spot is focusing on a tight selection of dishes that work well to-go. Don’t expect classic Asian eats. The food is a compilation of fun twists on American classics (like a wasabi Caesar salad and Buffalo cauliflower made with ginger and Sambal, a chile paste) and unexpected takes on Asian bites. Arnold and Bush both hail from Texas, and smoked brisket and pork shoulder can be found in three of the ramen options. We suggest the Hill Country, which blends the brisket with a rich, smoked bone broth, grilled corn, pickled carrots, and, of course, wood ear mushrooms. Another solid pick is the cold forbidden noodle salad, which tops black rice noodles, lotus root chips, watermelon radishes, and other vegetables with an addicting tahini-sesame dressing.
Behind the long, wooden bar—carved in the 1860s, you can still spot bullet holes in its frame, a reminder of the venue’s history as a brothel and saloon—diners will find about 100 whiskeys, with a focus on Japanese varieties, and 50 mezcals and tequilas. General manager Kent Barrow’s extensive cocktail list is equally playful, spinning smoky flavors or Japanese spirits into familiar tipples. Our favorite is the Samurai’s Sword, a twist on the well-known Penicillin drink that blends Hibiki Japanese Harmony whisky, lemon, honey, and ginger.
Arnold is in the process of acquiring a new barbecue pit and expects Wood Ear to start smoking additional meats and even selling them directly to customers in the coming months. Look for patio seating to open this summer. 135 E. Colorado Ave., Telluride
Step just off East Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main drag, and you may find yourself wandering into LittleHouse. You’ll be glad you took the less-trodden path. The European deli meets bakery meets happy hour hangout is welcoming both because of its indoor-outdoor ambience courtesy of a garage door and the delectable scents that waft out of said door. Launched by chefs Erich Owen and Ross Martin—the team behind the National—in December, LittleHouse is a casual spot, but the food from executive chef Will Nolan is thoughtful and scratch-made.
Choose your own adventure, whether that’s grabbing a cup of a daily rotating soup or a cold-case salad to-go; sitting down for a falafel sub amped up with harissa aïoli (one of seven sandwiches on the menu); or cutting into crispy skin salmon for dinner with a glass of wine. Don’t forget to order a house-made sweet to cap off your meal; the Swiss chocolate cake is a staff favorite. 219 W. Pacific Ave., Telluride