If E3 Chophouse, a Steamboat steakhouse, served sawdust, it would still be popular. The Adirondack chairs and umbrella-shaded tables scattered throughout its flower gardens sit right alongside the Yampa River, so the water’s babble (and all-natural air conditioning) provides idyllic ambience.
Those gardens also beautify the semicircular dining room, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that open like garage doors to eliminate boundaries between indoors and out. The ranch-inspired decor is spare—sumptuous leather chairs, polished barnwood and iron—so the stunning outdoor setting provides the window-dressing. It’s lovely.
Drinkers seated at the bar face away from the windows, but E3’s deep Happy Hour discounts have made this one of the most popular spots in town ever since it opened in December 2013. From 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to midnight, draft beer, glasses of wine, and well drinks are all half-priced, as are select appetizers (such as sliders, lobster and poblano mac and cheese, and Caesar salad).
Should you stay for dinner, stick with the steaks. Restaurant owners Andy, Jeff, and Adam LaRoche serve Black Angus beef from Adam’s E3 Ranch in southeastern Kansas (Adam also plays baseball for the Chicago White Sox). The rib-eye ($38) is marvelously tender and glossy with full-flavored juices—just as it should be. Its richness pairs perfectly with crisp truffle-Parmesan shoestring fries ($7).
Other dishes aren’t as impressive. On a recent visit, the mac and cheese suffered from rubbery lobster and pasty noodles, and the seared ahi appetizer—topped with an Asian-Mexican fusion of wasabi, chile, and avocado—had been prepared so far in advance that it had lost all flavor and succulence. The lamb chops ($52) were bland and underseasoned, and their accompanying parsnip purée was gluey.
But the beef-and-potatoes crowd will still find much to love about E3. So will anyone who feels that indulgent meals deserve a splendid setting.
701 Yampa St., Steamboat Springs, 970-879-7167
—Photo via Shutterstock