Named for a notorious rapid north of Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, House Rock Kitchen makes waves with playful vegan bowls juxtaposed against serious house-smoked barbecue and an uplifting cocktail list starring Denver-brewed Happy Leaf kombucha.

Husband-wife owners Kenneth “Turtle” Cook, 46, and Jessica Jones, 43, opened their dream restaurant in June 2015 on Buena Vista’s buzzing Main Street, luring guests with a spacious courtyard festooned in picnic tables, fire pits, and yard games that—during normal non-COVID-affected summers—include bocce ball, Frisbee golf tees, giant Jenga, and a sand horseshoe pit.

Despite new social distancing guidelines, iconic Mount Princeton still paints the backdrop and bluegrass musicians can be found strumming on the small stage Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m. All the pieces patchwork into Cook’s vision of a space that feels like a party every day.

House Rock Kitchen. Photo by Lisa Blake
A kombucha cocktail at House Rock Kitchen. Photo by Lisa Blake

Cook and Jones worked in Vail Valley restaurants during their “ski bum days” and the couple’s healthy mountain town vibe shows up in House Rock’s organic from-scratch menu. Jones, who has chronic Lyme disease and a host of dietary restrictions, fashioned a clean menu catering to guests with food allergies and medical conditions, while appealing to both vegetarians and carnivores. Locals know to jump on the fast-casual, counter-service restaurant’s website to download the ChowNow app and pre-order online for swift pick up at the bar.

The menu brims with dairy-, gluten- and sugar-free options. Highlights include a sustainable salmon Moroccan Bowl ($19) with avocado and raisin-lemon sauce and the popular Southwest Bowl ($16 with a house made veggie patty) of brown rice and black beans with roasted green chiles and pumpkin pesto aïoli. Salads are laced with fun perks like jicama and mustard sprouts, while the wood smoker out back keeps pulled pork, beef brisket, and juicy turkey cradled in smoldering hickory. Local, grass-fed, zero-hormone bison burgers ($15) go best with a side of nourishing Super Slaw ($3.50), a bounty of kale, cabbage, chia, flax, and hemp hearts in a lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

The next time you wrap up a whitewater trip through Brown’s Canyon or bag one of the dozen Chaffee County fourteeners, carve out some time to kick back on House Rock Kitchen’s patio and sip Colorado suds or bubbly kombucha. It’s the perfect venue to idle away a lazy summer evening.

If you go: House Rock Kitchen is open daily, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; 421 E. Main St., Buena Vista, 719-966-2326

Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.