Have you ever seen those signs that say, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”? I think they might have been talking about Crested Butte. Over Labor Day Weekend, we gathered up a group of friends and made the trek over to “the last great Colorado ski town,” which is (arguably) a 4.5-hour drive from Denver.
This quaint mountain town has a bustling historic district stretching along Elk Avenue, where brightly painted shops and vibrant restaurants are interspersed with splintery wooden cabins and original buildings from the early 1900s. Surrounding the town are jutting mountains with groves of aspen trees snaking up the sides, stark rock cliffs and grassy meadows with swaying wildflowers. Apparently, Crested Butte is also nicknamed “The Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” which makes me want to come back in July to revel in all its summertime glory.
Although this area is mainly known for its outdoor pursuits (mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, you-name-it), I was surprised to find that it also has some great little spots for some of my favorite activities: eating and drinking. Here are a few of my recent discoveries:
1. Secret Stash
Imagine something like an opium den—deep-red walls, Far Eastern décor, glowing lanterns and cozy nooks with low tables and pillows on the floor to sit on—and imagine that the opium den just so happens to serve pizza. Like, really good pizza. That’s pretty much Secret Stash (well, without the opium). We ordered (and loved) Kaladi’s Favorite, which came with grilled vegetables, mozzarella and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic reduction. Of course, I already know what I want to try next time: the Notorious F.I.G, which comes with mozzarella, blue and asiago cheeses, prosciutto, black mission figs and truffle oil. Sigh. I can’t wait.
2. The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
Before you come here, beware: it’s really easy to accidentally have
three one too many drinks, because they’re SO delicious. I wish I were exaggerating. (About drinking too much, not the awesomeness of the cocktails.) Anyway, The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin looks completely unassuming from the outside, until you step through the doorway and into a midcentury modern mountain retreat, complete with starburst lamps, aspen tree wallpaper, exposed log beams and vintage knickknacks behind the bar. I tried quite a few of their artisan cocktails, but my favorites were the Vanilla Bean: a bright concoction of vodka, fresh vanilla bean and tart lemon juice, and the Beetnik: a blood-red blend of vodka, earthy beet juice and spicy ginger. Tip: Go during happy hour from 4-6 p.m., when martinis are only $6.
3. Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream
I’ve already professed my love (many times) for Denver’s Sweet Action, but I think I actually found something better. Blasphemy, you say? I don’t even care. So, Third Bowl is this little ice cream shop with about 16 different flavors, but I wish I could have eaten them all. I tried the Thai Basil Coconut, which was so rich and dense that it almost had a chewy consistency, and in the meantime, I was simultaneously swooning over the Salted Caramel flavor, which had pieces of chocolate-covered potato chips in it. I know—right? Amazing. Next time, I might need to buy a pint for the long ride home.