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North of Winter Park and south of Granby—not far from the area’s famous mountain biking and ski slopes—lies a bucolic valley centered around the Fraser River. The land is speckled with grazing cattle, mountain silhouettes, and, for foodies, a handful of stellar restaurants you should work into your next trip. The area’s restaurateurs are upping their game with locally raised beef, historic family recipes, mountain-made coffee and cocktails, and Western hospitality. Here’s where to dine and what to order this fall and winter.
Rocky Mountain Roastery Cafe
This widely coveted coffeehouse sits in Fraser’s modest shopping plaza, touting a short menu of hot beverages, scratch-baked goods, and savory breakfast bites. Each batch of coffee beans is micro-roasted by hand and tailored to order, making for a smooth, high-quality cup of joe. Complement your pick-me-up with a freshly baked, gluten-free orange-cranberry muffin ($4) or vanilla scone ($3). Loftier appetites will appreciate the sausage, egg, cheese, spinach, and pesto sandwich ($6) on a chewy Hatch green chile cheddar bagel. Kick back in the Adirondack chairs out front while baristas prepare your order and be sure to grab a bag of Fraser’s Finest dark roast beans to enjoy back home. 543 Zerex St. (Hwy. 40), Fraser; also try the Granby location at 516 E. Agate Ave., Granby
The blue trailer parked on the lawn at Fraser River Beer Company offers a spread of satisfying post-hike brews and street tacos. Shreddy’s Tacos is making its name slinging queso-doused Mexican street food that pairs perfectly with the brewery’s malt-forward pale, brown, and golden ales. Order the spicy-tangy nopales totopos ($13), Shreddy’s take on homemade, corn-tortilla nachos topped with bits of soft cactus paddles marinated in Fraser River Beer Company beer, Serrano peppers, and secret spices, and topped with queso blanco, onion, and cilantro. Bring your pup—the lively patio offers plenty of aspen shade, picnic-table seating, and a fire pit. 218 Eisenhower Dr., Fraser
Fraser Valley Distilling
Experience award-winning Colorado hooch at family-owned Fraser Valley Distilling via its thoughtful seasonal cocktail menu and generous flights. Nab a patio seat, take in the valley views, and treat your taste buds to a Garden Glow ($9), gin, lemon, lavender and vanilla liqueur or a Grandhattan ($9), the bartender’s take on a rye Manhattan juiced up with house lemoncello. Nosh on heaping skillets of “Whisky-consin” cheese curds ($11), made with whiskey tempura batter and served with homemade ranch dip. The menu also includes vittles from regional partners like Mystic Mountain Mushrooms, Tabernash Honey, Hay Hook Cattle Company, and Fitch Ranch in its farm-fresh salads ($10–$12), cast iron cornbread with local honey ($6), and Mediterranean and charcuterie boards ($18) stacked with local salami, pickled vegetables, and goat-cheese-stuffed peppadews. 410 Zerex St. (Hwy. 40), Fraser (Note: closed for mud season until November 26)
Just up the lonesome highway in the tiny town of Tabernash, boots-n-jeans fine dining unfolds at the Tabernash Tavern. Salvaged wood, dim lighting, saddles, and vintage skis complete the saloon ambience while the menu showcases rotating New American specialties. Fall picks include crispy buffalo Brussels sprouts ($16) with bleu cheese crumbles and glazed walnuts, bourbon and maple syrup candied bacon skewers ($18), and an Oktoberfest Scottish salmon ($42) served with spinach German potato salad and a beet-dill purée. Choose from mussels four ways ($17)—the meunière version is divine with butter, chardonnay, parsley, and lemon—or mac and cheese three ways ($11–$19). We recommend going big with the seafood mac ($19), with lobster, shrimp, crab, and peas. The chardonnay-laced French onion soup ($10) is also a hit, along with the caraway-crusted rack of lamb ($50). Reservations recommended. 72287 Hwy. 40, Tabernash
Indulge in fajitas and margaritas at this locally owned, Mexican staple. Azteca gathered so much acclaim they opened two additional outposts in Granby and Idaho Springs since launching their original Fraser location in 2008. Regulars return to the homey, no-frills restaurant for the warm, homemade salted chips and fresh salsas, as well as the substantial lunch and dinner portions of traditional Mexican standouts like red chile tripe menudo ($12), fresh poblano chile rellenos ($7), and shredded pork masa tamales ($4). The house favorite burrito relleno ($12) is a hefty hybrid of the popular dishes—wrapping Azteca’s famous chile relleno in a flour tortilla loaded with rice and beans and topped with melted cheese, green chile, and sour cream. Pair the burrito with the Azteca Special Margarita ($16)—32 ounces of tequila, lime juice, lemons, limes, and cherries—and you may need to be rolled out to your car. 5 Co. Rd. 72, Fraser