In the minds of most Denverites, Estes Park is synonymous with Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes as a dining destination? Not so much.

But what most flat landers don’t know is that every weekend, the Stanley Hotel’s more intimate neighbor, the Lodge at the Stanley, hosts a different guest chef to cook a multicourse, gourmet meal for no more than 20 diners. Table, as the pop-up series is called, gives locals and tourists alike the chance to gather for food, drink, and conversation every Friday and Saturday night.

Table was born after the 2013 Colorado floods, which left Estes Park and the surrounding communities devastated. John Cullen, the owner of the Stanley Hotel, initially devised the 11-week pop-up dinner series (then called “Great Roads to Great Chefs”) as a way to give back to the community. Due to local demand, however, Midge Knerr, the innkeeper and pastry chef at the Lodge, reinstated the weekly dinner series later that year and has been running it ever since.

A pioneering chef in New York City back in the late ‘70s (when females in professional kitchens were few), Knerr effectively uses Table as a way to showcase Colorado’s top chefs to the Estes Park community. Past guests have included Alex Seidel, Frank Bonanno, Lon Symensma, and Frasca Food and Wine’s Ian Wortham. For city dwellers familiar with their restaurants, it’s a nice chance to connect with the chefs in a more personal and informal setting. Although the price of entry—$95 before gratuity—might not be cheap, the quality of the food, the free-flowing booze, and the socially minded dining experience certainly justifies it.

You don’t have to be a guest at the Stanley to reserve seats at Table, but trust me—you’ll want to book a room. Courses are paired with generous pours of spirits, whether its vino from boutique wineries, beer from local brewers (Telluride Brewing Company, Horse and Dragon Brewing Company, and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse are all slated for dinners this summer), or themed whiskey selections from the Stanley’s extensive whiskey bar.

Another reason to book a room at the Lodge? You won’t want to miss Knerr’s incredible breakfast spread, replete with her house-made jams and pastries like croissants and blueberry-crumb coffee cake. It’s just the thing to soak up all the booze from the previous evening before embarking on a hike at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bonus: Unlike the Stanley Hotel, the Lodge is happy to host your dog (if Fido is under 50 pounds). Rooms are outfitted with dog beds and water bowls, and Knerr will even provide some of her special peanut butter-banana dog treats.

Nate Singer of Blackbelly Market and Butcher will be cooking at Table this weekend (June 24 and 25). Find more details and reserve your seats here.

333 E. Wonderview Ave., Estes Park, 970-577-4000

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.