How to eat and drink your way through Steamboat Springs

As we sat on a balcony overlooking the Yampa River this fall, my dog Daisy let out a deep, guttural growl.

I looked up from my magazine and glanced over to the Yampa River Core Trail that runs along the water. Just a black dog, I thought, and kept reading.

But Daisy didn’t let up. I looked up again and focused my eyes more intently on the furry four-legged creature making its way down the path. This time I finally understood what Daisy was trying to tell me: It was a bear.

We watched as the bear waddled right toward us across the river. When he made it to our side, he sniffed the grass gingerly, then lumbered over to a berry bush, sat down and promptly started munching.

By now, many other guests at the iconic Rabbit Ears Motel had stuck their heads outside to see what the commotion was all about. We all silently watched the bear together, enjoying a collective moment of awe and appreciation for the still-wild nature of Steamboat Springs.

Though this mountain town is best known for its close proximity to nature and varied outdoor activities — ranging from downhill skiing to mountain biking, hiking and fly-fishing — Steamboat Springs is also putting its own unique Wild West-meets-modern-Colorado-adventure spin on fine dining, craft beer and spirits, healthy snacks and more.

Steamboat is a road trip-worthy food and beverage destination, and it’s the perfect place to spend a long weekend eating and drinking right now.

“Maybe 10 years ago, we weren’t necessarily known as a foodie destination, but over the last decade that has definitely changed,” said Kara Stoller, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Chamber. “One thing that makes Steamboat stand out is how approachable every restaurant and bar is, and I don’t think you find that everywhere. Even our super high-end fine dining restaurants are really approachable and you feel welcomed no matter what. It’s just one little taste of our Western hospitality that runs through the entire community.”

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Here’s where to eat and drink during a visit to Steamboat. (Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but should give you a good starting point for your itinerary.) Each of the businesses offers takeout and outdoor dining options, but do check for any current pandemic restrictions or closures before you head out.

Sauvage

910 Yampa St. #104

Sauvage — which means “wild” or “natural” in French — is a fitting newcomer on the Steamboat food scene. This high-end restaurant, which opened during the pandemic in July, is the brainchild of Victoria Vinokurova, a Russian-born, French-trained chef who moved to Steamboat with her husband and two kids four years ago.

The main attractions here are the three-course, five-course and, soon, eight-course chef’s tasting menus created by executive chef Garrett Kasper. The restaurant is located inside the historic Yampa Valley Electric Association Building, built in 1954.

In addition to coming up with the ever-changing French cuisine-inspired menu items, Kasper writes witty descriptions for each dish — beneath the braised lamb pave, for instance, Kasper wrote: “Itty bitty ratatouille, sauce that takes four days to make.” For the venison tartare, he wrote: “Mushrooms that are wild, venison that is not, fresh horseradish cream that is not store-bought.”

“Dinner nowadays is a form of entertainment more than ever, and having some sort of normalcy that you probably took for granted a lot of the time,” Kasper said. “So we just want to have fun and interact with our guests.”

That playful attitude, coupled with reasonable price points (the tasting menus start at $60 and there’s also a more casual mezzanine menu), help make fine-dining more accessible in a laid-back town like Steamboat.

“We opened the place where we would go ourselves,” said Vinokurova. “I was missing that place in Steamboat where I can come with my husband and have a glass of champagne with a nice dinner, talk family business and have a nice moment together.”

Mountain Tap Brewery

910 Yampa St. #103







Rich Tucciarone is a craft brewing veteran, with gigs at Breckenridge Brewery and Kona Brewing Company on his résumé. But four years ago, he decided it was time to set out on his own, in the mountain town where he first met his wife, Wendy Tucciarone, in the 1990s.

The Tucciarones, along with partner Jeff Goodhand, have been serving up craft beer and wood-fired pizzas in downtown Steamboat Springs since 2016. Their space, also part of the old Yampa Valley Electric Association Building, has become a hub for Steamboat locals and visitors alike. You’ll often find mountain bikes, fly rods, skis and snowboards leaning up against the patio railing, and people sipping beer in partial wetsuits and ski gear, depending on the season.

“That is what we’re known for — people gather after a bike ride or a ski day,” said Wendy Tucciarone.

After temporarily expanding their patio space into Yampa Street this summer, they began brainstorming COVID-19-friendly outdoor dining options for the colder months. Those conversations led them to buy and renovate three gondola cabins that had been used to shuttle skiers up and down Killington Ski Resort in Vermont.

They added tables, made door handles out of used bike parks and installed electric heaters and Bluetooth speakers in each gondola, which can comfortably seat six adults and two kids.

“Giving the gondolas new life, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” said Rich Tucciarone. “Also we’re all pretty over this pandemic thing, so we figure we need to have a little fun with it and do something other than putting a generic Tuff Shed on our patio.”

Yampa Valley Kitchen

207 9th St.











For breakfast and lunch, wander over to Yampa Valley Kitchen, a new concept from the team behind the popular Steamboat restaurants Mambo and Besame.

Yampa Valley Kitchen opened in July with a focus on local, organic and sustainable ingredients and scratch-made meals dreamed up by executive chef Joseph Campbell. Menu items include dishes like a Cubano eggs benedict and a gluten-free rosti, a Swiss-style potato pancake served with ham, gruyere, caramelized onions and a sunny-side-up egg.

The food here is fresh and light, and the space feels bright and modern, with floral wallpaper behind the bar, plants dangling in the windows and massive artsy photographs of livestock and other farm scenes. Co-owner Hannah Hopkins says the restaurant is a great place for a long, relaxed lunch with a bottle of wine.

Yampa Valley Kitchen also has a robust drink bar, complete with cocktails (available as zero-proof, too) and speciality coffee drinks, like a pistachio matcha latte. The restaurant is located inside a renovated 1918 house and has a large outdoor seating area.

“What we’re really going for is to be that beloved neighborhood restaurant,” said Hopkins.

Drink Kombucha

2432 Lincoln Ave.

Heidi and Jason Breidert, owners of Wave Brewing Co., began making kombucha and selling it at local breweries and restaurants about a year ago. But this year, they decided it was time to launch their own storefront so, in July, they opened Drink Kombucha on the west end of Steamboat.

Drink Kombucha, which shares space with Big Iron Coffee, is a kombucha bar with eight to 10 rotating flavors on tap. You can sip a cup of kombucha right there, or grab a growler or bottles to go. On the menu, you’ll also find baked goods and other fermented items like pickled onions and kimchi.

“Basically, it’s a nonalcoholic bar,” said Heidi Breidert. “My husband doesn’t drink and I recently stopped drinking, but we wanted to have something that we could drink and hang out with when we went out to eat or to bars.”

Choose from rotating kombuchas like grapefruit ginger hibiscus, passionfruit blood orange guava, watermelon cucumber and “hot buch,” a cold-temperature drink featuring cayenne and black pepper that will warm you from the inside, according to Heidi Breidert.

Steamboat Whiskey Company 

1103 Lincoln Ave.













Steamboat Whiskey Company isn’t new, but the distillery recently moved to a new, larger and much more visible location on Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Steamboat.

Owned by husband-and-wife team Nathan and Jessica Newhall, Steamboat Whiskey Company first opened in 2017 and expanded to the new location last December. The distillery makes vodka, gin, moonshine, rum and a popular dessert liqueur called “whiskeycello” in lemon and orange.

It also makes Warrior Whiskey, a blended whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that’s a nod to the 13 years Nathan Newhall spent as a U.S. Navy Seal and the couple’s commitment to supporting veterans. The distillery not only tries to hire as many veterans as possible, but also gives a portion of sale proceeds to veteran-related charities.

If you visit the tasting room, you can order a spirit flight or choose from dozens of cocktails while snacking on share plates, sandwiches, soups or dessert. There’s also ample outdoor seating, complete with blankets, fire pits and heat lamps. Plus, to-go cocktails and bottle sales.

Also new and notable:

This winter, Aurum Food & Wine is offering four heated outdoor dining yurts that can accommodate up to eight people. The yurts require a reservation and feature a special multi-course chef’s tasting menu.

Meatbar is a new charcuterie bar concept from Steamboat’s Laura the Butcher. The shop, which is currently open by reservation only, features small meat and cheese bites, beer, wine, cider and speciality drinks. It will also be home to a supper club and butchery and charcuterie classes.

And Steamboat Resort is unveiling a new mobile pizza kitchen called Pizza Ranger for on the slopes this winter.

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