The following article first appeared in GoColorado, an adventure travel guide for favorite spots and off-the-beaten-path destinations in the Centennial State. This region of Colorado is one of my all-time favorites.
Take a drive through rural Western Colorado and you’ll encounter more horses than humans, but when you vacation in Crested Butte, you’ll be astounded at the array of gourmet restaurant choices in this hamlet of fewer than 2,000 locals. In fact, restaurants in Crested Butte are so plentiful that restaurateurs showcase two large food festivals during the year, the Wine and Food Festival and Restaurant Week.
Whenever you arrive, you’ll enjoy a surprisingly ample assortment of independently-owned dining options that will keep your palette entertained seven days a week. Most are open year-round, and nearly all of Crested Butte’s patio restaurants welcome humans to dine alongside their well-behaved dogs.
Journey to the Himalayas at Sherpa Cafe
Crested Butte’s craggy alpine backdrop is the perfect setting to embark on a culinary journey to the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. Depart for your trip at Sherpa Café on 3rd Street, which serves a spicy blend of Indian and Nepalese cooking. Step inside to inhale the exotic aromas of curries and masala and you’ll immediately know why locals gave this relatively new restaurant their seal of approval in 2010 when they voted it “Best Ethnic Food in Crested Butte.”
A snowy view of downtown Crested Butte
The enchanting flavors of Nepalese and Indian cooking are presented in a dazzling menu that includes the region’s best native cuisine, such as momo, a snack consisting of wrapped dumpling filled with veggies or meats that’s typically sold by food cart vendors.
Other adventurous indulgences include Tibetan noodles, sherpa fried rice, and Thenthuk, a noodle stew with vegetables and meats. All of these traditional dishes are less than $13 each, and there are many options for both vegetarians and meat-eaters.
Carnivores Delight in Elegant Dining at Maxwell’s
Crested Butte’s reputation as a laid-back, casual resort town makes it such an attractive escape from the buzz of Colorado’s busier resort destinations. However, when you’re looking for a first class experience to celebrate with friends and family, Maxwell’s fits the bill.
Located on Elk Avenue in the historic region, this upscale restaurant caters to a carnivore’s palette by presenting an array of high quality, hand-cut meat-based entrees ranging from 18 oz. rib eye steaks to racks of lamb. Executive Chef David Wooding infuses all his dishes with a blend of his favorite ethnic cuisines which can range from American Southern to French to Italian, depending on the day’s produce harvest.
But do leave your vegetarian friends at home; they’ll go hungry unless they’re content choosing from a seafood dish or two, or entree salads topped with goat cheese or smoked salmon. Maxwell’s is open seven days a week for dinner starting at 5:00 pm.
Reach Nirvana at Ryce Asian Bistro
When you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, but can’t decide between Thai, Chinese or Japanese, Ryce Asian Bistro is a perfect place to delve into all three at once. This relative newcomer in Crested Butte’s restaurant scene is known for its hearty and reasonably priced Asian-based entrees made from the freshest ingredients, such as Chinese or Vietnamese eggrolls, lemongrass chicken and tropical favorites like coconut shrimp over rice.
Locals rave about the staff’s exceptionally friendly service, outstanding quality of ingredients, and Ryce’s made-to-order menu choices that are served hot upon ordering, seven days a week. All entrees are priced at under $20, which makes Ryce a fun, inexpensive place to eat.
Travel to the Tropics at Montanya Distillers
Colorado might seem like an odd place to launch a rum distillery, but the founders of Montanya Distillers don’t think so. The elements that create their award-winning rum are distinctly local and include distilling with spring-fed water 350 feet beneath the town, high altitude fermentation, infusing each batch with a shot of caramelized honey from the San Juan Mountains and aging in whiskey barrels from the Stranahan’s whiskey distillery in Denver.
Founders Karen and Brice Hoskin recently relocated their alpine rum enterprise from Silverton into Crested Butte’s Historic Powerhouse on Elk Avenue, where their larger facility can ferment, distill, age, bottle, package and ship to 30 U.S. states. Visitors can tour the distillery, then enjoy a rum tasting at the bar every day beginning at 3:30 pm.
Let Loose with Lively Locals at Eco-Friendly Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub
Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub is one of Crested Butte’s oldest and most lively watering holes featuring pizza by the slice or whole, in addition to hearty sub sandwiches, juicy hamburgers and a long list of bar snacks for grown-ups and kids.
For health-conscious eaters, there’s an array of choices in Brick Oven’s gluten-free menu that even features non-dairy cheese options for vegans. Whatever you consume at Brick Oven, you can feel good about it; the environmentally-conscious owners go out of their way to reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint, including repurposing their fryer grease into bio-fuel, choosing consumables made with recycled and biodegradable materials and utilizing local Colorado produce when the season’s just right.
Keep in mind that if you’re looking for a quiet place to talk, this lively hangout isn’t the place. The exuberant crowd is often cheering over several sporting events on an array of large HDTVs, and celebrations are an hourly occurrence at one of the town’s best settings for letting loose with friends and family.
Rise and Shine at the EastSide Bistro
Crested Butte’s quaint downtown area features several places to lounge over coffee or a hearty American breakfast, but when you want a more elegant way to start your day, the popular EastSide Bistro on Sixth Street is a good choice on weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, the restaurant presents a gourmet selection of brunch-style entrees ranging from a decadent indulgence of Deconstructed Glazed Jelly Doughnuts to heartier Mexican fare like chilaquiles, which consists of tortilla chips sautéed with Mole Poblano, eggs and queso cheese. Reservations are suggested if you want to experience this long-time favorite of the Crested Butte restaurant scene.
If You Go
To find out more about the Crested Butte Wine and Food Festival: http://www.crestedbuttewine.com
Get more information about Crested Butte Restaurant Week: http://www.cbchamber.com/crested-butte-restaurant-week.html
313 3rd Street, Crested Butte, CO 81224
Open every day. http://sherpacafecrestedbutte.com
226 Elk Avenue, Crested Butte 81224
Open every day. http://www.maxwellscb.com
Ryce Asian Bistro
120 Elk Avenue, Unit B, Crested Butte, CO
Open every day. http://www.ryceasianbistro.com
Montanya Distillery and Tasting Room
130 Elk Avenue, Crested Butte, CO 81224
Open every day starting at 3:30pm-8:30pm. http://www.montanyarum.com
Brick Oven Pizzeria and Pub
229 Elk Ave. Crested Butte, CO 81224
Open every day. http://www.brickovencb.com
435 Sixth St. Crested Butte, CO 81224
Open for dinner Wed – Sat 5pm
Saturday & Sunday brunch 10 to 2pm. http://www.eastsidebistro.com