Where to Eat in Telluride

Prospectors used to call this old mining town “To Hell You Ride,” a name that still aptly applies, but for different reasons. As a ski resort, the majority of runs here are black diamonds. Although novices are welcome, this is not a beginner’s mountain. Telluride is Colorado ski country at its best. Rugged. Remote. Utterly unpretentious. And incomprehensibly beautiful. Telluride exudes a greater sense of community — and a better restaurant scene — than any other ski resort in the state. (Sorry, Aspen, but it’s true.)

I hit the slopes here again in February at the tail end of a truly wondrous blizzard. The mountain was absolutely primed. If you’re heading that way, here’s where to eat. Most places fill up fast, so it’s imperative to book reservations in advance.

1. Alpino Vino
At 11,966 feet above sea level, this charming on-mountain chalet is America’s highest-altitude restaurant. It might also be the very best restaurant in Telluride. The restaurant seats only 26 people inside (if you squeeze everyone in like sardines!). There’s a wood-burning fireplace and several different nooks and crannies to create a sense of intimacy, despite the cramped quarters. The menu is mostly Italian. At lunch, which is ski-in/ski-out, this means exquisite salumi and bresaola but also a terrific grilled cheese sandwich served with tomato soup. Come dinnertime when the mountain goes quiet, the restaurant is accessible only by snowcat (blankets provided for the slow crawl up the hill.) The nighttime menu goes all out, a prix fixe five-course menu: porcini consomme with mushroom biscotti; ricotta and spinach ravioli with fresh pea pesto and carbonara, for example, complete with sommeliers and sexy hostesses. Skiers: Take the Gold Hill Express, Lift 14; turn left off the lift and ski See Forever, which will take you to the font door. 970-728-7474

2. 221 South Oak
This charming historic house in downtown Telluride is the perfect spot for date night. Chef Eliza Gavin makes some of the best sausage in Colorado, which doesn’t sound very glamorous, but she manages to make it just that. Rocky mountain trout is pure locavore perfection. Grilled elk chop, brilliant. The bone-in buffalo ribeye is as good as any USDA Prime steak you’ll ever eat. Pumpkin and butterscotch custard pie? Yes please. 221 South Oak St., Telluride, 970-728-9507

3. Chop House
Come nightfall, this is the social epicenter of downtown Telluride. The USDA Prime steaks are excellent. There’s also wagyu carpaccio with black truffles, frisee salad with miso-glazed pork belly and creamed corn brûlée. The wine list is deep, with splurge-worthy selections from Harlan Estate, Merry Edwards, Petrus… Lunchtime brings a decent steak frites, but dinnertime is when you really want to be here. New Sheridan Hotel, 231 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, 970-728-9100

4. Allred’s
The views from here are epic — guaranteed to blow your mind. It’s no wonder this is the most popular sunset happy hour scene in Telluride. Located on-mountain at the gondola stop (Station Saint Sophia) midway between Telluride and Mountain Village, the restaurant is perfectly accessible with or without skis. This is also the most expensive restaurant in town, naturally. Elk carpaccio. Crumb-crusted rack of Colorado lamb. Sticky toffee pudding. Saint Sophia Station, Gondola, 970-728-7474

5. La Marmotte
Chef Mark Reggiannini serves truly excellent French bistro cuisine with a modern American twist. He stuffs quail with mushroom risotto and serves them alongside red quinoa with hedgehog mushrooms, pine nut oil and quail jus. Duck breast is roasted with vanilla and spiked with kumquats and fennel. 150 San Juan Avenue, Telluride, 970-728-6232

6. Bon Vivant
Telluride’s newest on-mountain dining is a fabulous little alfresco cafe. It’s essentially just one giant umbrella outfitted with heat lamps, perched on a cliff overlooking the ski basin. But don’t underestimate the French-Alps-inspired kitchen. The seared foie gras is perfect, served with house-pickled vegetables. The mushroom soup en croute is a soulful embrace. The croque madame, the crepes, the poached pears, all excellent. Take the Polar Queen Express lift. 970-728-6900

7. Tomboy Tavern
A gastropub at the base of the mountain just steps from the ski lift, this is Mountain Village’s hottest happy hour. This is where you’ll find the best Bloody Marys in Telluride, hands-down. The burgers are monstrous. And while it might sound weird to put kale in the guacamole, it’s actually really good. Great beer selection, too. Mountain Village Core, 970-728-7467

8. Cosmopolitan
This is always one of the most popular restaurants in Telluride, located across the street from the Gondola. The wagyu steak for two is superb and gives the steakhouse around the corner a run for its money. The burrata is made in-house. The seafood stew is very good, although I don’t really go to the mountains for shrimp and lobster. The blueberry pie is legendary. Impeccable service, especially as it relates to the sommelier. You’ll definitely enjoy the wine list here. Hotel Columbia, 300 West San Juan Avenue, 970-728-1292

9. There
This is one of the toughest tables in Telluride. Several reasons for that: One, the place is tiny, with just a few small tables and a half-dozen seats at the bar. Two, the artisanal cocktails are easily the best in town. And three, the Asian-inspired food is very good, especially the pork belly bao and the wagyu satay. 627 West Pacific Ave., 970-728-1213

10. Gorrono Ranch
Located mid-mountain on the Misty Maiden trail, Gorrono Ranch is always a blast. There’s usually a live band playing on stage outside. There’s an indoor bar, with killer hot chocolate and whiskey, and there’s another bar outside near the stage. The main kitchen creates great burgers and chili, while a hidden barbecue hut behind the bar smokes some amazing low-and-slow pulled pork, but it often sells out by 2 pm, so it’s best to make a pitstop here on the early side of lunch. This is one of the best meeting spots on the mountain. Take Village Express Lift, then Misty Maiden trail, 970-728-7566


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