“Aspen is the life to live, see how much there is to give. See how strongly you believe, see how much you may receive.” – John Denver
Recently in the span of a week’s time, I had several people reach out to me for suggestions of things to see and do. It reminded me what a dear friend mentioned to me many years ago that always stuck in my mind. She said, “You need to create a Durée’s List as a go-to resource.” So, I am finally doing just that! We are proud to unveil the inaugural edition of “Durée’s Deets” – starting with one of my favorite places – Aspen!
Whether it’s the newest hot spots, must do activities, fashion finds or must haves, let me be your go-to resource guide. Connecting people and places is my favorite thing to do (I’ve always said I found my calling!) and I’m happy to do it for you, too.
For over 20 years, I have called Aspen a second home, so finding the best places around town has been fun for me – and with quite a bit of trial and error – I am happy to share my findings.
As with everything in Aspen, keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of personalities, celebrities and characters! You never know who might be sitting right next to you.
With more than 100 bars and restaurants to choose from (and counting), here are some of my favorite spots for dining in this foodie’s paradise.
Eye candy galore. Ajax Tavern is located at the bottom of Aspen Mountain (known to locals as Ajax Mountain) inside The Little Nell. It’s the perfect place to people watch and enjoy the scenery. No matter the season, I enjoy sitting on the patio with a glass of Veuve Clicquot and ordering a lobster roll (available in the summer only!) or the famous Ajax wagyu double cheeseburger along with a heaping amount of parmesan truffle fries. Veuve Clicquot regularly partners with Ajax Tavern for winter and spring apres-ski events and also various picnic and outdoor movies in the summertime.
Insider’s Tip: Ask for their hummus and fresh baked warm bread when you sit down.
Ciao Bella! Located right next to Jing on Main Street is Aspen’s authentic Italian restaurant, Acquolina. The menu includes all the classics, as well as a variety of gourmet wood-fired pizzas. The octopus appetizer is tender and delicious, and the prosciutto pizza is fired to perfection. Numerous cocktail libations are available, and the all-Italian wine list is also a find.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss the cacio & pepe; it never disappoints.
The world is your oyster! Clark’s Aspen is the second location of McGuire Moorman’s popular Austin restaurant and it is located inside the historic Little Annie’s on East Hyman Avenue. Clark’s offers the freshest oyster and caviar selections from its signature marble raw bar. Some of my favorites include chargrilled Louisiana oysters with Creole butter, parmesan and the most delicious oven-roasted sourdough bread; jumbo shrimp cocktail; an overflowing lobster roll with shoestring fries and more. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance here because seating is very limited.
Insider’s Tip: the happy hour bar menu offers a delicious burger and some fantastic drink specials.
Sake bomb! Watch out, Matsuhisa, there’s another sushi spot in town. Jing is a part of the Charlie Huang restaurant group which is known in Colorado for its exceptional global fusion cuisine and sushi. In addition to the unbelievable selection of sushi rolls, you must start with the lobster tacos and any of the 10+ housemade dumplings are fantastic (my personal favorite dim sum is the porcini mushroom dumpling)! Jing has certainly become a new spot in town for sushi lovers like me. The Asian-fusion menu and fun atmosphere (sake bomb with the owner, anyone?) will make you want to return frequently.
Insider’s Tip: the dumplings sell out quickly each night so order early.
Do not skip this gem! Small but tasty! Owned by Hillstone Group, White House Tavern occupies one of Hopkins Avenue’s historic (and tiny!) buildings. The menu is small but mighty and includes premium sandwiches and a distinctive selection of wine, beer and cocktails. I love that they carry Schramsberg sparkling wine as it’s a personal favorite. You can’t go wrong with the world-famous crispy chicken sandwich or the honor burger. The sandwiches are quite heavy and perfect for sharing, but if you’re looking for something lighter, the macho salad with rotisserie chicken is a must. White House Tavern does not take reservations, but the wait will be worth it!
Insider’s Tip: The new to-go pizzas are delicious, and I highly recommend the wild mushroom pizza.
On the site of the old BB’s Kitchen, Betula features a sexy interior, lounge area with a DJ, and a gorgeous expansive exterior patio space with fireplace to dine al fresco in the summer. I love that Betula has a St. Barth’s vibe (it also has a sister restaurant in St. Barth’s called Bonito) right in the heart of Aspen. The French-Pan American cuisine changes with each season and you can’t go wrong with anything you order. I usually opt for the tuna tacos, house made burrata, and grilled tenderloin.
Insider’s Tip: don’t miss specialty cocktails including Palomas in adorable birdie glasses or the signature Bubbling Bonito!
Eat, drink and dance! Not only am I friends with Executive Chef Byron Gomez who stars in Bravo TV’s 2021 season of “Top Chef,” but I also frequent his chic restaurant and lounge. 7908 is known for its soulful and sophisticated menu and atmosphere. The menu changes seasonally and offers something for everyone. In addition to its regular menu, the restaurant serves late-night eats until 1 a.m. and progressively turns into a nightclub with a DJ.
Insider’s Tip: Keep an eye out for their themed nights (80s night, anyone?)!
C is for Cookie! Did you save room for dessert? Year-round, Paradise Bakery’s line wraps out the door and down the block as people look to indulge in homemade ice cream and gelato and numerous fresh baked sweets. No matter the season, my ultimate favorites are the traditional chocolate chip cookies and the black diamond cookies. You can also start your day off as early as 6:30 a.m. with delicious fresh baked muffins (the orange muffin is my favorite). Summer or winter, Paradise Bakery serves the best made-from-scratch-baked goods daily!
Insider’s tip: Paradise’s giant cookies make for a fun and delish celebration and only need to be ordered a few hours in advance. During the summer months, students from the Aspen Music Festival play their instruments in their courtyard outside each evening and it makes for a sweet spot to indulge!
Caviar, please! The Caribou Club, which you can only step foot into with a member, opened its doors in 1990 as Aspen’s first members-only club, offering a high-end dining experience, a robust wine list, a chic bar and – my personal favorite – a nightclub! Make a whole evening out of your stop here with pre-dinner cocktails, a delicious meal and then dance all night long to the DJ that starts around 10 p.m. each night.
The dining room at Caribou Club is renowned for its decadent and creative dishes and can accommodate private parties of any size. Known for its world-class cuisine in the Roaring Fork Valley, off-site catering is offered through the club for members and offers luxury menu options that incorporate sustainable ingredients. Take advantage of a cozy dinner for two in one of the elegant banquettes or go BIG in a private dining room. See you on the dance floor!
Insiders tip: Be sure to order the Hamachi Bomb with yellowtail sashimi, crisp black masa, aji Amarillo and avocado mayo. You won’t regret it!
Mangia Mangia! More than just a restaurant, (yes, they have private club memberships available, too!) Casa Tua is a total experience. From the outside, Casa Tua resembles a charming ski lodge or mountain home. The restaurant, which also has a location in Miami Beach, has a large outdoor patio in front and is perfect for people-watching and celebrity sightings. Make sure to try the Tuna Tartare, with capers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes or the burrata with tomatoes and fresh basil. Be sure to save room for dessert because the deconstructed key lime pie is not to be missed.
Casa Tua has a private club that is on the top of the restaurant. The members-only space, where you can take in views of both downtown Aspen and Ajax Mountain, seats 120 guests for dinner and 170 guests for cocktails.
Insider’s tip: Can’t enjoy the glutenous Italian fare? No problem! All of their pasta dishes have a gluten-free option.
But first, Brunch! Mawa’s Kitchen, owned only by successful businesswoman, Mawa McQueen offers a diverse menu of catering and meal planning services as well as breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. Located in the Aspen Airport Business Center, adjacent to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, the menu features a healthy eating concept and new take on farm-to-table dishes. The “must have warm banana bread” was among the best I’ve ever tasted and made with locally sourced ingredients. In addition to their brunch specialties, you can also enjoy classic breakfast favorites, salads, sandwiches and more.
Insider’s Tip: The gluten-free pancakes topped with bananas and chocolate chips and the gluten-free French toast (it was topped with something maybe it’s on the menu) are outstanding and offer a guilt free take on already popular menu items.
Please enjoy my list of personal favorite restaurants though I must admit that all the dining in Aspen is simply superb. If you are planning a trip to Aspen, Snowmass and the Roaring Fork Valley and are looking for any other suggestions, please contact me. As saying goes, “a bad day in Aspen beats a good day anywhere else.”
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