Some Colorado restaurants make you earn your lunch. Mango’s Mountain Grill in Red Cliff is one of those delicious rural destinations.

Start your journey by turning off I-70 at the Minturn exit, head south along the mountain-flanked ribbon of a road—and find Red Cliff, tucked behind namesake ruby-hued ledges along the stomach-dropping Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway. Hug a hard left before the iconic, arched green-steel bridge and find three-story brick Mango’s leaning into the mountainside on Red Cliff’s dirt thoroughfare.

The veiled tiny town eatery opened in 1999, and a steady stream of regulars know they can count on a friendly welcome as sure and sturdy as the pub’s thick pine barstools and scratch comfort menu. Grab a table in the first-floor bar among dollar bills stamped to the ceiling, a model green bridge perched over the bar, and black and white photos portraying mining boom days gone by.

After maneuvering the byway’s sheer non-guard-railed drops and the winding narrow path plunging into Red Cliff, you’ll need to unfurl white knuckles from the steering wheel and treat yourself to a hand-mixed bloody Mary ($10), made with house-infused jalapeño vodka and garnished with pickled accouterments. A full lineup of Colorado-brewed taps and a specialty margarita menu also quench thirsts.

Whitefish tacos and wings at Mango’s Mountain Grill in Red Cliff. Photo by Lisa Blake

The polished Mexican-American pub menu leans heavily on indulgent comfort-food bar bites. Order the Jamaican jerk dry rub wings ($12 for one pound) for a smoky, salty treat that’s flash fried to perfection. Mango’s is known for its seasoned and seared whitefish tacos ($5 each) drizzled with secret white sauce, and topped with mozzarella, lettuce, and fresh pico. For the ultimate bubbly crock of creamy coziness, dig into the five-cheese mac with a golden crown of gruyere ($10).

There’s no cell reception along this remote neck of Highway 24 between Minturn and Leadville, so make sure your company is conversation worthy or chat up the locals who are quick with a story and quirky doses of mountain lore. Seeking solitude? Find a spot on the sunny rooftop deck and take in pine trees and peaks for miles, or gaze out over buildings reconstructed from original 1897 mining settlement structures. (Note: If you’re looking for an off-the-path party venue, Mango’s—the highest rooftop bar in the Vail Valley—seats 75 guests for private receptions.)

Mango’s is open Monday–Thursday, 12–8 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–8 pm.; 166 ½ Eagle St., Red Cliff, 970-827-9109

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.