For me, the happiest powder days begin and end around a table. Preferably one lined with friends cozied in down and wool, clinking glasses and sneaking bites from each others’ plates.
Arapahoe Cafe & Pub in Dillon has become a mountain go-to for such occasions thanks to its welcoming vibe, crowd-pleasing menu, and home-cooked creativity. “A-Cafe” owner and revered Summit County pit-master Doug Pierce recently passed the torch to his business partner and daughter, Bonnie Lehman. Their historic log home restaurant on the edge of Lake Dillon has been honing its feel-good American menu since 1945, carving a name with house-smoked barbecue platters and juicy burgers.
Upstairs is homey and simple, lined in 1960s pine paneling and aimed at family mealtime. Downstairs is where the party is. A-Cafe’s Pub Down Under packs in the après crowd with frosty Colorado taps, a pool table, swift service, and budget-minded specials beginning nightly at 4 p.m.
There’s a hunkered-down feel under the low ceiling, especially when settled in a booth, hands around a pint, taking in wafts of smoky goodness from the pit out back. Thursday night guests are treated to barbecue deals such as peppered Carolina pulled pork or chopped beef brisket sandwiches with skinny seasoned fries and crunchy shredded slaw ($7), or Flintstone-size half-racks of dry-rubbed, smoked pork ribs with fries and slaw ($13.95). Carnivores: For an extra treat, order a pound of meaty, house-smoked, cranberry-chipotle wings ($15.95). It’s no-frills mountain dining at its finest, complemented by generous wine and cocktail pours, all comfortably priced. Tuesday means tacos (of course), Wednesday is burger night, and on Mondays you’ll find delicious cheese steak sandwiches.
Arapahoe Cafe opens at 7 a.m. daily—so even the hardest-charging skiers can get a substantial breakfast in and still nab first chair. The breakfast line-up sings with corned beef brisket hash ($12.95), country chicken and waffles ($13.95), and a lighter plate of avocado toast and eggs ($9.95). Pierce, who still helms the kitchen, does that trendy plate right with queso fresco and chopped cilantro atop the avocado and thick sourdough toast, sided with eggs your way.
626 Lake Dillon Ave., Dillon; open seven days