Vail, it’s known for extensive terrain and meadowy back bowls, crowned by a glittering purpose built village that attracts every type of rider from i-70 ski bums to the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills.

Fortunately for us, catering to such broad tastes means Vail also has some of the best dining options in Colorado to refuel them.

From pub food to Michelin recommendations, sleigh ride dinners, and everything in between, we’ve curated a collection of restaurants in Vail, Colorado to suit your individual taste.

Cocktails and coffee – Two Arrows

Two Arrows coffee. Photo credit: Two Arrows

We’ll start with a coffee shop because few Australians can ski without it. Two Arrows is where you should begin and end your day in Vail. The café-come-cocktail bar is one of the few in the country that knows how to brew a smooth flat white without turning it into a burnt milk foamball.

Later in the day, the hip hop music gets louder, the space gets a bit squeezy but the cocktails are the best in the village. It’s always buzzing, possibly thanks to the espresso-heavy bar menu that could keep the most jetlagged of us awake.

Old school classic dining – Pepi’s

Pepi’s in Vail.

The place to “be seen” just below the base of Gondola One on Vail square, Pepi’s has possibly the sunniest deck in the village. Beware the goggle tan when you’re lounging on the wooden patio of this 1960s Austrian gasthof (guest house) guzzling beers in radiant Colorado weather.

Pepi Gramshammer came to Vail as a ski racer, and his family still operates the hotel (the only remaining in Vail in the same family’s hands since inception). It’s famous for enormous schnitzels and generous goulash keeping modern skiers fueled. The fine dining restaurant, Antler’s Room, only opens in winter and prides itself on wild game dishes of boar, elk, venison and Caribou.

Mexican food with altitude – El Segundo

Photo credit: El Segundo

Speaking of generous servings, it’s rare to find a Mexican restaurant in a ski town that offers them for a reasonable price. El Segundo is a delightful contradiction to this rule, dishing up enormous tacos packed to the brim with authentic, tangy fillings. Two is enough to fill most average appetites. Two is also probably enough of the tequila-heavy margaritas. Remember the alcohol hits hard at altitude (Vail village sits at 2,470 metres or 8,120 feet).

BBQ two miles high at Wildwood

Wildwood Smokehouse. Photo credit: Vail Resorts

Smoking barbecue meats at two miles high, this on-mountain institution is hard to miss. You’ll smell the mouthwatering Wildwood Smokehouse grills before you reach them – wafting  brisket, ribs, chilli and pulled pork through the crisp Colorado air.

The Two-Mile-High plate with three meat choices is piled as high as it advertises. Locals swear by the chicken and wild rice soup. It doesn’t sound like something you’d order at a barbeque joint but when it was pulled off the menu a couple of years ago, Vail dealt with so many complaints that they were obliged to bring it back.

Long on-mountain lunches at The 10th

The 10th. Photo credit: Vail Resorts

The 10th is your classy choice for long lunches overlooking the majestic Gore Range from the top of Gondola One. Named as a nod to 10th mountain division, which trained for World War II in the mountains surrounding Vail. It’s a great choice for non-skiers who can ride the gondola up from Vail village to meet their boot-clad friends.

The signature chicken pot pie is served up in a hot iron pan with flaky pastry cresting a comforting, creamy, chicken and veggie mush. Come for this, order a side of crispy brussels sprouts, and stay for the decadent cheesecake. Bookings recommended but if you can’t find a table you can often grab a seat at the bar, order a cocktail with a side of truffle fries and be as happy as the groups who reserved in advance.

A contemporary twist on the Old West at the Slope Room

Slope Room restaurant, Vail. Photo credit: Slope Room

Thoughtfully sourced produce is what the Slope Room is all about with pasture-raised, grass-fed, wild-caught, organic and sustainable peppered throughout their new American style menu. Think of it as ranchers to restaurant with a touch of the Old West. Expect creative cocktails, a sleek bar and fancy pants interior, the perfect environment to chow down on pork belly lettuce cups and white tuna curd or 24 hour beef short ribs and Grand Teton lamb ragu. Vegans need not apply.

Long time favourite – Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil, Vail. Photo credit: Sweet Basil

The Michelin guide debuted in Colorado in September 2023. Five restaurants in the state were awarded Michelin stars, while about 30 received Michelin recommendations.

One of those to receive a recommendation is Sweet Basil in Vail, which has been a valley institution since it opened in 1977. The menu is elegant and local with a few Asian twists. At lunch you can indulge in chicken katsu ramen, crispy Korean pork belly sandwiches or lobster rolls. Expect to fork out more at dinner but you won’t be disappointed by the memorable bites like whipped feta drizzled in persimmon and ginger honey, yellowtail sashimi, king salmon and venison tartare.

Small plates and wine flights at Root & Flower

Root & Flower, Vail. Photo credit: Root & Flower

It’s not all iconic, rare and exotic wines at Root & Flower (though they do scour the world to find the best), they also offer cocktails for the spirited and Zero Proof Cocktails for those who prefer not to imbibe – Don’t Call Me Shirley, anyone?

Try the truffle popcorn with Australia’s own Murray River Salt or settle in for a cheese and charcuterie board. For something more substantial try the raw bar or the Banh mi and quesadillas. While you’re there sign up for a wine or cocktail class for the inside trac con what’s on the top shelf.

Comfort luxe at Margie’s Haas

Margie’s Hass. Photo credit: Hythe, Vail

Margie was an Austrian home cook who welcomed US soldiers from the 10th into her home when they trained in the Tyrol region in World War II. Margie’s Haas offers a taste of the same Austrian hospitality and comfort food but is an impressive step up from what we’d consider traditional home cooking. It’s set inside Vail’s newest luxury hotel, The Hythe, which opened in 2022 after a cool US$40 million renovation.

Margie’s famous US$45 breakfast buffet draws the biggest crowd. On the a la carte menu, a chicken and waffle sandwich, signature baked blueberry skillet pancake for two, or the Colorado miner’s omelette (a protein explosion of brisket, chilli, chorizo and potatoes in eggs) will power you through Vail’s back bowls all day.

Sports and family at Tavern on the Square

The Arrabelle, Vail. Photo credit: Vail Resorts

The perfect mix of casual and classy, with tried-and-tested pub favourites in a cosy atmosphere. Tavern on the Square overlooks the ice rink at the Arabelle Hotel in Lionshead Village, just steps from Eagle Bahn gondola with great views on a sunny day. There are TVs for watching sport and booths large enough to fit family groups. Every type of eater will be satisfied, whether you hanker for Bison burgers, tuna poke bowls, nachos, or vegetarian mezze.

Why Colorado has our snow heart (and will have yours too)