There’s a good reason the mountain town of Vail is known as a base for outdoor activity- the mountains, the lakes and rivers, and the forests are just the beginning of the natural wonder surrounding the town. But Vail is much more than the mountains. As the town has grown, its culinary scene has garnered some well-deserved attention. Vail’s Bavarian roots are just the beginning of the town’s international melting pot restaurant scene. From fine French dining to authentic Italian or Japanese cuisine, there’s something for every preference. And while the food may be the star at Vail’s top restaurants, the setting can also be ethereal- this is Vail, after all.

Vail’s Headliner Restaurants

Most locals will tell you that you haven’t truly dined in Vail if you haven’t splurged at Sweet Basil or Mountain Standard. Sweet Basil boasts fresh seasonal ingredients, interesting flavors, and top-notch service in a swanky dining space. Sweet Basil’s sister restaurant, Mountain Standard, also offers interesting flavors but with a tavern vibe. For both, be sure to make reservations in advance.

Bavarian Dining Experiences in Vail

Considering the alpine-inspired architecture around Vail Village and Lionshead Village, it will come as no surprise that Vail is home to some incredible Bavarian food. 

Schnitzel and hefeweizen are best enjoyed on the patio of the Alpenrose, which overlooks the cobblestone street of East Meadow Drive. For something totally unique and intimate, Alpenrose also offers an all-inclusive fondue gondola experience, allowing diners to enjoy a three-course meal in a custom-outfitted gondola.

20200818_VLMD_Dine_n_Stroll_1141.jpg
Vail offers several Alpine-themed restaurants. © Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

Fondue, as well as raclette (another melted cheese-based dish), are also staples at Swiss Chalet. Located in the Sonnenalp Hotel, the entire dining experience just might convince you that you’ve been transported to Switzerland.

At long-standing Pepi’s Restaurant, guests enjoy European specialties and Austrian beer. Sit at the large, covered deck bordered by colorful flowers to enjoy the fresh mountain air with your meal during the summer. 

Guests will undoubtedly believe they have stepped into the Swiss Alps as they enter Almresi. From the decor to the food, little imagination is required to feel the Bavarian charm. Make sure to try the Schlitten-Fondue and the homemade Black Forest cake.

Vail Steak Restaurants

Before Vail was a Bavarian-inspired mountain town, it was ranchland, so it’s no surprise that it’s home to a variety of steakhouses as well.

Russell’s, a long-time local favorite, is located at the entrance to the Covered Bridge, with windows both along the creek and Bridge Street. They serve an excellent variety of steaks, but diners frequently rave about the crab legs. 

Flame, located in the Four Seasons Vail, is an exceptional dining experience. Dinner here is a veritable culinary journey, complete with the exemplary service and luxurious furnishings that the Four Seasons is known for.

For a truly Colorado experience, visit the steakhouse founded by the Denver Bronco’s former Quarterback and General Manager. Elway’s, located in the Lodge at Vail, is known for more than just good steaks- be sure to try the grilled artichoke and lamb chop fondue.

The Vail Chophouse, at the base of the mountain in Lionshead Village, is home to a lively après ski experience. Here you can often find local music and entertainment on the large patio, along with great food, of course.

20190710_TV_Vibrant_Village_Affleck_000259 (1).jpg
The architecture in Vail is heavily inspired by classic Bavarian towns. © Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

International Cuisine in Vail

When it comes to Vail’s global culinary scene, Italy is well represented, especially in the retail and restaurant block on East Meadow Drive. 

La Nonna is a charming and friendly Italian restaurant where guests feel warmly welcomed. Here, Chef Simone serves fresh and authentic Italian cuisine. Be sure to try one of the dishes featuring fresh pasta or gnocchi.

Just a couple of buildings away, La Bottega also offers Italian food, along with a wine bar that is a popular stop in the evenings. There’s never been a better cheesesteak sandwich to be had at an Italian restaurant than the one offered at La Bottega.

Authentic and intimate, Osaki’s Sushi in Vail is one restaurant visitors don’t visit for the luxury ambiance, but rather the incredible food and sake. Go omakase if you can and let sushi chef Takeshi Osaki delight you with surprises.

If you are looking for a more high-end Japanese dining experience, head next door to Matsuhisa. Located in the bustling Solaris Plaza, dinner here is an unforgettable experience.

For a memorable dining experience of fine French cuisine, make reservations at La Tour. Chef Paul Ferzacca crafts unique flavors into both delicate and bold dishes. Hand-crafted cocktails and an impressive wine list are available for pairing, sometimes as part of a special preset menu. 

New Restaurants in Vail

A few of the restaurants to grace the culinary scene in Vail more recently include the hip, high-end Mexican El Segundo and the innovative American Slope Room located in Gravity Haus. And coming soon is Barrio Social, a high-end tapas bar created by the owners of La Bottega restaurant.

Casual Dining in Vail

If you’re after great cuisine that doesn’t break the bank, Vail offers a few places to enjoy a great meal in a more casual environment. Vail boasts a few pretty good pizza joints such as Blue Moose PizzaVendetta’s, or Pazzo’s Pizzeria. Not craving pizza? Grab a sandwich from Joe’s Deli or an Alabama barbeque platter from Moe’s BBQ.

Bars, Breweries & Nightlife

For an evening tasting experience, stop in at Root and Flower. This wine bar offers more than 50 carefully curated wines, along with exciting craft cocktails, all of which they can pair with small plates of food, often in interesting and unexpected combinations.

20190817_VLMD_FarmToTable_000305.jpg
Many of Vail's restaurants offer views of the natural beauty. © Jack Affleck / Discover Vail

Bully Ranch may be best known by locals for its famous mudslides, but this casual restaurant, located in the Sonnenalp Resort, is a fantastic venue to end either a day on the slopes or an evening out.

Vail is home to local brewers of beer and whiskey as well as coffee. Stop in for some local flavor at Vail Brewing Company and 10th Mountain Whiskey, or head down the road to quirky Minturn for a beverage from Vail Mountain Coffee.

Nightlife is more than just drinks. It’s also about entertainment, and Vail has a history of unique live music. Music can often be found at local bars or even pop-up performances around town. The patios of Vail have been filled over the years, not just with great musicians but also great entertainers. There’s a good chance of finding some great live music at The Red Lion, Vail Chophouse, Shakedown Bar, and several other restaurants throughout town.

Vail’s Food and Wine Festivals

Each fall, Vail offers several food and wine festivals that allow locals and visitors alike to sample dishes from various eateries. From Taste of Vail to Gourmet on Gore, these festivals bring out a variety of Vail restaurants to show off unique dishes on the cobblestone streets of Vail with the spectacular Gore Range as a backdrop.

Sponsored by Discover Vail

As a travel entertainment and inspirational media outlet, we sometimes incorporate brand sponsors into our efforts. This activity is clearly labeled across our platforms.

This story was crafted collaboratively between Discover Vail and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

With sponsored content, both Lonely Planet and our brand partners have specific responsibilities:

  • Brand partner

    Determines the concept, provides briefing, research material, and may provide feedback.

  • Lonely Planet

    We provide expertise, firsthand insights, and verify with third-party sources when needed.

Explore related stories

HeroAsset_Vail.png

Skiing

Postcard from Vail: My winter getaway in pics

Jan 24, 2023 • 6 min read