Exceptional dining experiences are a priority for all Colorado mountain towns, and Steamboat Springs, even during the pandemic era, has pushed its food and beverage scene to the next level. While longstanding favorites like Harwigs and Mazzola’s Italian Diner are still thriving, the town’s ever-increasing list of must-visit establishments includes a couple of newcomers, including a French bistro and a seasonally inspired breakfast and lunch café. Here’s where you can taste the culinary innovation.
This riverfront bistro made big waves when it opened in 2014—and it hasn’t lost steam since. If you’re not walking through the door at 4 p.m. for happy hour (a fantastic opportunity for discounted noshing and glasses of top-notch wine or cocktails), you’d better have a reservation. The menu is concise and always seasonally focused, featuring salads, small plates, and mains with splashes of global flair. The tender beef skewers come with naan; pork chops are served with homemade pasta; and fries are accompanied by your choice of crab seasoning, beer cheese sauce, or both. In the spirit of imaginative social-distancing, Aurum is installing heated yurts above the river this winter for private dining experiences. Daily, 4 p.m.–close; 811 Yampa St., Steamboat, 970-879-9500
Centrally located on Yampa Street (aka Restaurant Row), Mountain Tap’s suds and wood-fueled-oven fare has attracted patrons since 2016. Its Picking Hops IPA is a favorite of hops connoisseurs and the easy-to-drink quality of the Locals’ Lager is downright dangerous, but what makes the place really shine is its simple but sumptuous thin crust pizzas. Try the classic Margherita or the Pesca, topped with peaches, pancetta, garlic, Calabrian chiles, basil, and a beer glaze. In a creative effort to tackle pandemic-dining protocol once the cooler weather sets in, Mountain Tap is installing repurposed gondolas on its patio this fall; each will be heated and equipped with Bluetooth speakers. Tuesday–Friday, 3:30–9 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday, 12–9 p.m.; 910 Yampa St., Steamboat Springs, 970-879-6646
Locals enthusiastically point out that this new French bistro is unlike anything the town has ever seen, but really, there’s nothing like it in all of Colorado. Russia-born, French-trained chef-owner Victoria Vinokurova rolled the dice opening her first U.S. restaurant during the COVID-19-restricted summer, but Sauvage has been booked solid since its launch in late July. From the wonderful assortment of freshly baked breads to every exquisite sauce and carefully constructed dessert, every item on the menu is made from scratch.
The mezzanine menu features European-inspired comfort fare—French onion soup with short rib croquettes, escargots, and puff pastry-enveloped masterpieces for dessert—but the real experience is found in the three- or five-course, wine-paired dinner menu. Come hungry for a parade of highlights like cracked crab legs with smoking watermelon ice; vichyssoise soignée (cold artichoke soup) served table side; 36-hour-braised lamb topped with delicate legume blossoms; and wild salmon on a bed of succulent chanterelles. Thursday–Sunday, 5–9 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.; 910 Yampa St., #104, 970-761-3737
Although it launched back in 2014, Storm Peak has recently moved up the ranks as Steamboat’s most popular venue for local suds. Located in an unassuming corner of industrial space at the north end of town, there are rarely empty tables or a tap among the 14 or so original brews on offer that someone in your group won’t love. From anchor offerings like the aptly named Chowder IPA and house-made hard seltzer to seasonal concoctions like the blueberry-infused Afternoon Delight or gingery the Zest is Yet to Come, this is the spot for pint-sipping. Daily, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; 1885 Elk River Plaza, Steamboat Springs, 970-879-1999
This two-month-old garden-fresh café is the latest delectable spot from Hannah Hopkins (also behind Mambo and the James Beard Foundation-recognized Bésame), who has clearly made her mark on the Boat’s new dawn of culinary prowess. Herbs and edible flowers are plucked from the patio right before your eyes to adorn your dish or morning cocktail. And oh, those cocktails! You may never again be satisfied with a mimosa after you’ve sipped an apricot juice, turmeric, peach bitters, and fresh mint-filled Sunshine Lift or a Candied Ginger Drop made with Denver’s Deviation Distilling Mountain Gin, sweet ginger purée, and Marble Distilling Gingercello.
Then comes the extravaganza of decadent breakfast and lunch fare: the hot daily loaf (such as banana bread dripping in chocolate ganache), 7X Wagyu steak and eggs, a house-made, smoked carrot vegan hot dog, and probably the most delicious Monte Cristo on sourdough French toast you’ll ever tuck into. Daily, 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; 207 9th St., Steamboat Springs, 970-875-3989