Some Colorado restaurants make you earn your lunch. Mango’s Mountain Grill in Red Cliff is one of those delicious rural destinations.

Start your journey by turning off I-70 at the Minturn exit, head south along the mountain-flanked ribbon of a road—and find Red Cliff, tucked behind namesake ruby-hued ledges along the stomach-dropping Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. Hug a hard left before the iconic, arched green-steel bridge and find three-story brick Mango’s leaning into the mountainside on Red Cliff’s dirt thoroughfare.

The veiled tiny town eatery opened in 1999, and a steady stream of regulars know they can count on a friendly welcome as sure and sturdy as the pub’s thick pine barstools and scratch comfort menu. Grab a table in the first-floor bar among dollar bills stamped to the ceiling, a model green bridge perched over the bar, and black and white photos portraying mining boom days gone by.

After maneuvering the byway’s sheer non-guard-railed drops and the winding narrow path plunging into Red Cliff, you’ll need to unfurl white knuckles from the steering wheel and treat yourself to a hand-mixed bloody Mary ($10), made with house-infused jalapeño vodka and garnished with pickled accouterments. A full lineup of Colorado-brewed taps and a specialty margarita menu also quench thirsts.

Whitefish tacos and wings at Mango’s Mountain Grill in Red Cliff. Photo by Lisa Blake

The polished Mexican-American pub menu leans heavily on indulgent comfort-food bar bites. Order the Jamaican jerk dry rub wings ($12 for one pound) for a smoky, salty treat that’s flash fried to perfection. Mango’s is known for its seasoned and seared whitefish tacos ($5 each) drizzled with secret white sauce, and topped with mozzarella, lettuce, and fresh pico. For the ultimate bubbly crock of creamy coziness, dig into the five-cheese mac with a golden crown of gruyere ($10).

There’s no cell reception along this remote neck of Highway 24 between Minturn and Leadville, so make sure your company is conversation worthy or chat up the locals who are quick with a story and quirky doses of mountain lore. Seeking solitude? Find a spot on the sunny rooftop deck and take in pine trees and peaks for miles, or gaze out over buildings reconstructed from original 1897 mining settlement structures. (Note: If you’re looking for an off-the-path party venue, Mango’s—the highest rooftop bar in the Vail Valley—seats 75 guests for private receptions.)

Mango’s is open Monday–Thursday, 12–8 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–8 pm.; 166 ½ Eagle St., Red Cliff, 970-827-9109