La crème de la crème of Aspen's bar food

By Oliver Sharpe
OpinionReal AspenAugust 25, 2010

King Crab Beignets at Cache Cache
Torre

There are a plethora of reasons to dine at the bar, not the least of which is your close proximity to the spirits. You get more exciting atmosphere and can choose to eat in solitude or invite the surrounding patrons to join your bar menu bacchanal.

For the unseasoned, a “bar menu” is a limited selection of dishes offered only in the bar area of an establishment. The concept came about as restaurant owners discovered that alcoholics have to eat every once in awhile and that certain free-spirited patrons probably shouldn’t be allowed to enter the respectable confines of the dining room.

Eating at the bar is also a great option for a first date or just about any date for that matter. If your jokes aren’t working on your paramour you can always try them on the bartender who is bound by an unspoken contract to at least smile at your wisecracks. You are paying him after all. Plus, regardless of whether a date is going swimmingly or heading down the drain, it is always advantageous to be close to the booze. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

Our alpine enclave has numerous watering holes at which to dine and we present you herewith our list of some of Aspen's best bar samplings.

Jimmy Yeager was a forerunner of the bar menu bonanza and his eponymous, Jimmy’s, an American Restaurant (205 S. Mill St.) still has a rollicking bar scene just about every night all year long. His success can be attributed to nightly dinner specials at the bar (steamed Alaskan King Crab legs on Thursday nights are a personal favorite), his legendary Crab Cakes and more tequila than you could possibly consume on your 21st birthday.

The Meat and Cheese Board at Brexi.
Troy Hooper

Brexi Brasserie (411 S. Monarch St.) is all about ambiance. Dark wood, warm lighting and a large, inviting bar set the mood for dishes to be shared like the Combination Meat and Cheese Board or to be kept to yourself such as the Steak au Poivre or Duck Confit. Traditional cocktails also abound so don’t forget the Woodford Manhattan or Nomandy Sidecar.

The subterranean scene at Elevation, (304 E. Hopkins Ave.) has long been a favorite of the young and hungry in Aspen. Under the watchful eye of smiling Swedes, bar menu staples like the Wasabi Caesar, Green Curry and Pistachio Gnocchi never disappoint. If you plan on burning the midnight oil, I also recommend Sleepless in Aspen for dessert, the Red Bull reduction will keep you awake to dance the night away.

The wild-eyed funny talker grinning at you from across the bar at L’Hostaria, (620 E. Hyman Ave.) is most likely Gibbo, one of the craziest Kiwis you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. This is the best place in town to find homemade pasta and I recommend starting with the Spaghetti alla Carbonara and a (bottomless) glass of Barolo followed by Tiramisu' dell'Hostaria. By the end of the meal you will be smiling and speaking in tongues as well.

Mike Shelton serving Bodhi's Bad Ass Blackened Tuna Tacos.
Torre

If Japanese is what you please Kenichi (533 E. Hopkins Ave.) is the place to be. The party in the bar at Kenichi rarely stops as Aspen bartender extraordinaire Mike Shelton and the crew always draw a crowd. Fill your belly with Bodhi’s Bad Ass Blackened Tuna Tacos, Yellowtail Serrano and Dynamite Shrimp before polishing off a bottle of Wandering Poet (Kenichi’s signature sake) and then retire to the “rock star booth” to dance on the table and party like a rock star.

If you’re looking to see and be seen, head to the recently renovated and expanded bar at Cache Cache (205 S. Mill St.). The U-shaped bar is perfect for people watching and the King Crab Beignets and Mac and Cheese are delicious and well priced.

Go forth, hungry citizens, and dine at the bar. You might not always get lucky but at least you’ll be full.


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