As a rule, mountain towns suffer from a dearth of restaurants that appeal to tourists and locals. In Aspen, that all-too-rare pairing can be found at Meat & Cheese, in Breckenridge at Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant, and in Vail, at Mountain Standard. But now there’s a new Vail eatery vying for a slot on the favorites list: In January, Pendulum opened in the former Ore House space on Bridge Street. Is it as local-friendly as it is tourist-driven? Not on first glance, but there’s potential.

The space, thankfully reimagined from its tired predecessor, is gorgeous with rustic wood and rock details and elegant lighting. The polished decor sets off chef Jake Burkhardt‘s upscale American dishes, which ring with subtle Spanish, Argentinian, and Peruvian influences in the form of chiles, smoky sauces, chimichurri, and escabeche.

At $29 for a fire-roasted head of cauliflower and $56 for the ash-crusted wagyu sirloin, entrée prices are more in line with the tourist set. But that’s not where you’ll find Burkhardt’s strengths anyway. The small plates—fantastically tender butter-poached hakurei turnips in tangy romesco ($12), hearty mole-spiced chorizo flatbread ($18), and briney hearth-baked clams ($18)—are the real draw. Round those dishes out with an acidic butter lettuce salad ($14) with apples, walnuts, pickled red onion, and manchego and you’ve got a satisfying and special dinner for two.

Bonus: San Francisco bar veterans Jacques Bezuidenhout and Ken Luciano deftly stir and shake exquisite cocktails, including one of the best Boulevardiers served in Colorado.

232 Bridge St., Vail, 970-470-4803

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.