Road-Trip Restaurants

Sometimes a meal is a destination in itself.
August 2006
Food is often the best reason to travel—especially if the experience you crave can’t be found close to home. We journeyed outside the city in search of distinctive restaurants, places where every detail receives special attention, the atmosphere lulls diners into a relaxed state, and each dish tastes better than the last.

After more than 1,500 miles in the car, we found our favorites: We dined on sable in Fort Collins, snacked on Kobe beef short ribs in Frisco, sipped wine in a mountain’s shadow in Edwards, and found a gourmet version of Southern shrimp ‘n’ grits in Basalt. So pack your bags, your appetite, and your sense of adventure—let’s eat.

Fish: Fort Collins, 150 W. Oak St., 970-224-1188

The paper tablecloths are missing and the humid breeze absent, but a meal at Fish hangs only a lost shaker of salt away from coastal seafood perfection. Peering into the eatery’s windows off Oak Street in Old Town Fort Collins proves Fish could just as easily reside on a sandy street just minutes from the dunes in a small seaside town. Live Maine lobsters and Dungeness crabs swim in a large, briny tank, a hanging dry-erase board presents the day’s specials scrawled in green marker, and a supermarket-style glass display case glistens with an assortment of fresh jewels from the sea.

Samplings: Frisco, 320 Main St., 970-668-8466

Striking. Sophisticated. Sexy. Samplings should be in New York City. But it’s not. It’s in Frisco, which is so much better. Sweetly nestled on a corner of Main Street, this urban-cool-meets-mountain-lodge restaurant draws a varied crowd of Frisco locals, tourists, and day-tripping Coloradans for après and dinner.

Eat! Drink!: Edwards, 56 Edwards Village Blvd., 970-926-1393

There’s something delicious about being on the floor of a mountain valley. With the cobalt sky above and the land bowed around you, it feels like a gentle embrace. The city is suddenly long gone when you sink into a chair on Eat! Drinks!’s patio and watch the sun drop over the ridge. Just as the apricot alpenglow falters, a slow, European-style feast begins with a rectangular platter heaped with paper-thin slices of speck, finocchiona, and salami, each waiting to be wrapped around a slender breadstick and dipped into ruby-red pomegranate reduction. A sip of the vaguely tart Domaine du Salvard Cheverny is followed with bites of candylike prosciutto-fig-mascarpone bruschetta. Then a cheese plate delivers hunks of mild and goaty Humboldt Fog, creamy Robiola Due Latte, and funky Tasmanian Roaring 40s Bleu for sharing and spreading on crusty ciabatta.

Dogwood Grill: Basalt, 305 Gold Rivers Court, 970-927-4000

Huge bamboo-colored fans turn slowly as if the air—so thick with humidity and heat—might break them at a faster pace. The Dogwood Grill conjures the idea that you’re vacationing someplace hot and sultry, where a barely there breeze and limey gin-and-tonics are the only refuge. A menu stocked with shrimp and creamy grits, sweet-potato fries, and free-range fried chicken furthers the lazy feeling of the Deep South. That is, until you look a little closer. The chicory salad gets tossed with julienne endive, poached pear, and artisan blue cheese, and the crispy voodoo calamari comes with a side of smoked tomato cocktail sauce and a fresh herb salad. Dogwood offers not the cozy soul food found in most Southern kitchens, but gourmet, highly creative dishes served in Basalt—some 20 miles outside of Aspen.