When you run a place such as the much-loved Sweet Basil in Vail for 35 years, you learn a few things. That is obvious to anyone who has ever dined at the iconic, fine-dining restaurant. Now, partners Kevin Clair and Matt Morgan have taken those lessons and applied them to Mountain Standard, which opened below Sweet Basil in December.

The clean-lined, comfortable space feels like a seamless mash-up of Sweet Basil and Boulder’s Oak at Fourteenth. The centerpiece is chef Paul Anders‘ kitchen with its wood-fired oven and ever-working rotisserie. Dishes are cooked over the open flame and they’re lapped with just enough smoke to become interesting, but not so much that it feels like you’re eating over a campfire. Anders’ sense of balance is subtle and successful.

Case in point, the decadent shrimp and grits (pictured). Stirred with Creole butter, sweet piquillo peppers, and smoky pancetta, the starter—and it’s more than enough to share—enjoys all the nuances of excellent, white-tablecloth cooking without any of the pretense. That is a good summation of Mountain Standard as a whole: You’ll experience Anders’ prowess (he remains Sweet Basil’s executive chef) but in a generous, tavern-like setting.

Don’t miss: The crispy, crunchy, herbed onion rings are the best I’ve ever eaten.

193 Gore Creek Drive, Vail, 970-476-0123

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Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.