The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
Commuters traveling the high mountain stretch between Fairplay and Breckenridge have likely seen Otto’s Food Cart beckoning from the roadside in tiny town Alma. The scene is consistent: a grinning crowd clustered around picnic tables munching pit stop sandwiches and baskets of fries next to a buzzing line coiling from the grab-and-go window. Owner Brian “Otto” Beck beams and slings jokes from the other side of the glass, tossing out the restaurant’s catchphrase: Don’t eat and drive!
The half-humored, half-serious line makes sense once you wrap your hands around Otto’s soon-to-be-famous hot honey chicken sandwich ($15). The colossal delight is made with hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken breast that’s marinated in rich buttermilk before it’s tossed in a secret breading mix, seasoned with six or seven spices and a hint of brown sugar. Then, it’s off to the fryer and a quick dip in homemade hot honey buffalo sauce. Thoughtful touches make the sammy sing—a pickled serrano pepper house slaw offers crunch; house-crafted blue cheese dressing makes a slow, dripping journey; wild honey from a Minnesota farm adds sweetness; and a toasted brioche bun from Deby’s Bakery in Denver, sturdy yet delicate, holds it all together.
The kicker? It’s all gluten-free, and nothing is prepackaged. One Google reviewer doted that the food at Otto’s must be “sprinkled with miracles.” Another rejoiced after enjoying her first celiac-friendly fried chicken sandwich in 15 years.
“We want everybody in the car to have something to eat here: a cheesesteak for dad, gluten-free sandwich for mom, lots for the football fat-kid son who wants to crush chicken sandwiches,” Beck jokes. “No one walks away unsatisfied. Once you come here, you’re hooked. It’s fire.”
Growing up in South Carolina, Beck says a fried chicken sandwich with pickles was an always-present soul food. After finishing culinary school in Charleston, Beck worked his way through the restaurant circuit—dishwasher to line cook, to chef, to bartender. He picked up the nickname Otto along the way for his likeness to the long-haired, high-volume Simpsons character of the same name.
Beck worked in dives and high-end spots like Blue River Bistro in Breckenridge before being priced out of his Summit County rental and migrating south to lower-key Park County. He, his wife Emma, and Otto’s general manager Jordan Buller teamed up and built a home (literally, with their own hands) in Alma. Serendipity struck as their house neared final inspection stages. A food cart that had sat dormant for years now wore a for-sale sign at the end of their road.
Beck scooped it up and realized a longtime dream, opening Otto’s Food Cart in 2019. Since then, he and Emma have had a baby girl, he brought Buller on as a partner, and in May of 2022, they opened a second Otto’s location in Fairplay, where they proudly employ more than 20 locals with a generous living wage.
The Fairplay counter-service brick and mortar sits on the edge of a small gravel lot. The space has housed (and lost) two restaurants—the Dinky Dairy and Mason’s BBQ—in the last 30 years. But now, if Beck and Buller have their way, it will be a permanent home to the “best fried chicken sandwiches in Colorado.”
The menu has matured from a handful of stoner-munchie-type items to five full pages—one dedicated to six spins on fried chicken sandwiches—that include cooked-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Otto’s sources proteins from Scanga Meat Company in Salida, fruits and veggies from Kiki’s Peak Produce, and coffee from Breckenridge Coffee Roasters.
Consistent top-sellers include the original chicken sandwich ($12) with dill pickles and a simple pat of honey butter, Otto’s grilled cheesesteak ($14) with molten white American cheddar and caramelized onions, and the gargantuan breakfast burrito ($14) stuffed with steak, fried eggs, chopped hash browns, and cilantro black beans (a vegetarian version with fresh greens and avocado is at the ready for the same price). A basket of Cajun-spiced sweet potato fries ($11) with a side of Otto’s housemade special sauce (a creamy dill aioli) is an excellent post-ski share.
“We want to be known for grateful, high-energy customer service and a wonderfully positive restaurant and work environment. When you come to Otto’s, it’s not just a full belly you walk away with. It’s a whole vibe you carry away with you,” Buller says.
The next time you’re taking the “back way” home from the mountains, celebrate eluding I-70 traffic with a stop by either Otto’s location—both now serve the same full menu, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily—and nosh on some serious roadside indulgences. Just don’t eat and drive.