Access to adventure spurs in all directions from the quick-blip mountain town of Nederland. Indian Peaks Wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park, Roosevelt National Forest, and James Peak Wilderness draw a steady flow of summer hikers, bikers, and campers, setting Ned (as the locals say) up as the perfect refuel stop and watering hole.
Just 44 miles from Denver and in a world all its own, Ned’s 1,400 residents happily share their breweries, taco joints, Thai fare, and bounteous vegan offerings with carloads of passerby. If you’ve been to the rugged former mining town, you’ve likely tried Crosscut Pizzeria and Taphouse and New Moon Bakery and Cafe—both solid staples—but we invite you to venture out and visit these lesser-known Ned gems.
The catchphrase “always delicious, not necessarily nutritious” rings true in the form of biscuits and gravy, gigantic Belgian waffles with peanut butter chips and bacon, and piled-high half-pound burgers. Flowering with small town charm, Ned’s opens at 7 a.m. with no-frills home cookin’ and keeps diners satisfied through the lunch rush. For a memorable breakfast, order Ned’s Muffin ($14.95)—a mess of eggs, ham, cream cheese, sliced avocado, melted cheddar, and mozzarella on a toasted English muffin sprinkled with secret spices. The hunky salty-crispy homefries steal the show. 121 N. Jefferson St., Nederland, 303-258-0614
Even the most avid carnivores love this vegan food trailer’s comfort snacks and sandwiches. The East Coast Mama ($13) delivers the submarine goods with homemade pepperoni seitan, sautéed bell peppers and onions, kale, homemade mozzarella, and banana peppers. The gluten-free Lions Mane Roll ($13)—a vegan version of the Maine lobster roll made with organic local lions mane mushrooms—is a cool summer indulgence. In heady Ned fashion, the Vegetable Express has a Pay It Forward option on the menu to help those in need; donate a meal to support the cause. 85 E. 1st St., Nederland, 720-256-6209
Stiff hand-shaken margs, homemade inventive salsa, and authentic street tacos make Tres Gringo’s sunny dog-friendly patio a blissful afternoon destination. Tequila connoisseurs will appreciate the full-page menu showcasing blanco and silver, reposado, anejo, and a handful of mezcal options. Start with a basket of warm homemade tortilla chips and a salsa flight ($8). Roja, verde, tropical arbol, blackberry serrano, and pico de gallo keep hands busy. Then conjure Cozumel with slow-braised barbacoa tacos ($4) doused in house chimichurri and cradled in thick hand-pressed masa tortillas. 20 Lakeview Dr., #207, Nederland, 303-258-3170
The Busey crew knows their meat and beer. The family-owned and operated craft brewery keeps pit and hop purists happy with legendary smoked wings ($16), mouth-melting prime rib ($15) and a dozen house-brewed beers on tap with tongue-in-cheek monikers like If Looks Could Pilz, Wheat Your Whistle, and Everybody Loves Rye-mond. Almost everything at Busey’s is smoked—the nachos, the pulled pork green chile, the plump hot links—even the tofu earns a spin on the smoker. Order the house fave St. Louis–style pork ribs ($28 for a full rack). They’re dry rubbed, glazed, smoked to heavenly perfection, and best savored in the pup-friendly beer garden next to the rushing creek. 70 E. 1st St., Nederland, 855-633-2739
Navigate this colorful and expansive menu of curries, noodles, soups, and stir-fry entrees with confidence. Dig into Tibetan-style momos ($11.95) for delicate homemade dumplings stuffed with chicken or veggies and served steamed or fried. The mango curry ($12.95) is a hit with bell peppers, carrots, cabbage, peas, and mango in coconut milk. Branch out of comfort zones and dip into the specialty pan-fried dishes. The how mok ta le ($15.95) marries shrimp, scallops, and squid in a coconut red curry sauce with eggs, mushrooms, snow peas, red pepper, cabbage, celery, and basil leaves. Duck specials and Nepali and Indian entrées round out the worldly menu. 155 CO-119, Nederland, 303-258-3194