Jody Corey and Jeff Snook never gave much thought to Palisade when they regularly blew past the tiny Grand Valley town on their way from Steamboat Springs, where the couple lived, to mountain bike in Moab, Utah. “It was actually a girls’ trip to Palisade in October 2017 that made me think differently about the town,” Corey says. “We stayed at the Mesa View Motel and were horrified by its condition. But the town was so darling that I thought to myself, We should buy that hotel.

A little more than a year later, Corey and Snook did just that, opening the bicycle-themed Spoke and Vine Motel in May 2019. But they didn’t stop there. “There weren’t many restaurants in town,” says Snook, adding that dining out has always been one of the couple’s favorite pastimes. “When we found out that one of them—the Palisade Café—was going to close, we bought that, too.”

That (wildly truncated) story is how the 2,500-resident ag town wound up with Fidel’s Cocina & Bar, an upscale Mexican eatery that easily rivals similar Front Range spots, in April 2022.

Corey and Snook, both 49, had restaurant experience from their time in Steamboat, but like Spoke and Vine, this was an opportunity to do things their way. “We could design it, brand it, and do it operationally how we wanted to,” Corey says. “Here, we could make the decisions ourselves.”

Those decisions led the pair to shutter the Palisade Café in fall 2021—after several months of running it as it was—and reopen it as an industrial-chic taco joint with cocktails that never cloy (the coin-style margarita is as good as you’ll find anywhere) and dishes that are made almost entirely from scratch. Snook, who serves as the kitchen manager, flies in fresh fish twice per week and sources local ingredients, like tortillas from Grand Junction’s La Milpa Tortilla Factory and elk chorizo from Montrose-based Kinikin Craft Butchers & Processing. The laid-back, jovial atmosphere—created through the co-mixing of agri-tourists and locals hopped up on tequila, mezcal, and beer—is far livelier than one might expect in a zero stoplight kind of downtown.

Tacos at Fidel’s Cocina & Bar. Photo courtesy of Fidel’s Cocina & Bar

Although Snook says Fidel’s isn’t a “chef-driven” restaurant, the well-prepared food belies the fact that there’s no highly trained executive toque manning the burners. “The depth of talent in small markets is tough,” Snook says. “We have an amazing sous chef, who puts some of his own dishes on the menu, but everyone on the line can consistently execute our small menu. When people come in, we want the salsa, the drinks, and the tacos to be what they expect every time.”

If what they’re expecting is perfectly salted chips, piquant salsas (roasted tomatillo and salsa fresca), and some of the best fish tacos in the state, then they’re in luck. “I eat the tempura fish and the Oaxacan flank steak tacos literally every day,” Corey says, “but I also think our chile relleno is amazing. We roast our own peppers.”

Corey and Snook’s dog, Fidel. Photo courtesy of Fidel’s Cocina & Bar

For those who usually skip over Palisade on their way to someplace “better,” as Corey and Snook once did, autumn is an ideal time to fall in love with the town nestled by the Colorado River. Peach season has given way to the apple harvest. The leaves are changing. All of the area’s wineries—roughly 25 of them—are open and pouring everything from Riesling to Pinot Noir. “You can hike, bike, taste wine, and then come say hi to Fidel on the patio,” Corey says. Fidel, of course, is the couple’s dog, who, as a rescue, came with the name that Corey and Snook ultimately chose for their restaurant. If you bring by your own canines, the staff will treat them to a homemade chicken broth pupsicle on the house.

Corey and Snook have come to love the town they once overlooked. And they’re drawing other people in with their businesses. “We get a pretty decent Grand Junction crowd at Fidel’s,” Corey says. “There’s just not really anything like us there. And the motel is giving people from all over Colorado a nice place to stay to enjoy Palisade.”

Special Event

Snook and Corey will host a three-course tequila and mezcal tasting dinner ($65) on November 8 at 6 p.m.

113 W. Third St., Palisade