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Fourth-generation Coloradan chef Josh Niernberg has lived in Grand Junction since 2007, running two regional farm-to-table restaurants: Bin 707 Foodbar and Tacoparty. With harvest underway in the agricultural mecca, now’s the time to follow him on a grand tour of the best of the Western Slope.
Nearly four hours after leaving Denver, head straight to downtown Grand Junction for lunch at Cafe Sol (420 Main St.), where the menu changes seasonally, sourcing is local, prices are affordable, and the vibe is unpretentious. Niernberg recommends the quiche of the day and the quinoa tabbouleh.
Check into Palisade’s hip, four-month-old boutique Spoke and Vine Motel (424 W. 8th St.), then walk to chef Matt Chasseur’s brand-new, hyper-seasonal spot, Pêche Restaurant (336 Main St.) for dinner and drinks. Niernberg says not to miss the bellini with Colorado peaches and Chasseur’s tangy heirloom tomato gazpacho.
Enjoy complimentary pastries and Bestslope Coffee Co. java at the motel, then drive about a half-hour to Fruita, where your second cup—taken to go—comes from Bestslope’s shop (129 N. Peach St.). “It’s where all the locals go,” Niernberg says.
Sip your joe as you wander across the street to Fruita’s Civic Center Park for the town’s Saturday morning farmers’ market (through September 21, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.). Pro tip: On September 7, don’t miss the Bake Sale Bread Co. stand, where you can buy Ramona and Matt Haberkorn’s tangy sourdough baguettes and boules.
Drive 20 minutes northwest on U.S. 50 to the Kokopelli trailhead to ride Mary’s Loop, which overlooks the Colorado River. “The Grand Valley is the best place in the state to ride mountain bikes,” Niernberg says, “and this is the most picturesque, yet accessible, trail.”
Check out beloved local icon Hot Tomato Pizza (124 N. Mulberry St.) once you’re back in Fruita. The bike-part-adorned spot, owned by cyclists Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller (who also own Bestslope and are the subjects of the Patagonia-produced short film Life of Pie), serves fantastic stromboli you can wash down with pints of Colorado suds.
In Grand Junction, peruse Main Street’s charming shops. Don’t miss the four-month-old tasting room of award-winning Carlson Vineyards (545 Main St.). Every wine in the gorgeous emporium is crafted with Palisade fruit.
Grab dinner at Niernberg’s Tacoparty (126 S. 5th St.), where he says the best seat in the house is “at the garage-door window facing the monument as the sun begins to set.” His go-to order includes the al pastor taco with green chile and cheese fondue wrapped in a tortilla made from local corn—but save room for this month’s soft-serve flavor (a sweet corn and white chocolate blend).
Check out of the motel before walking four blocks to Pressed Coffee & Wine House (392 W. 3rd St.) for breakfast treats (keep an eye out for Sweet Kiwi Bakery’s flaky-as-can-be croissants) and a CBD-infused espresso drink. “It’s a super community-focused coffeeshop that uses CBD from the owners’ own hemp farm,” Niernberg says.
Before your ride back to the Front Range, swing by Blaine’s Farm Store (3419 Front St.) in nearby Clifton for souvenirs like hot sauces and jams made with Western Slope ingredients, edible flowers, and, per Niernberg, “the best heirloom tomatoes in the state.”
Go for Grapes
Palisade’s 28th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest (September 19 to 22) will showcase 64 Centennial State wineries, not to mention area cheesemakers, peach growers, and chefs.