I’m resuming my road trip through Colorado, hitting a couple of high mountain towns.
After following the tortuous road over Independence Pass (12,100 feet) and down into Aspen, Highway 82 heading west is a smooth, four-lane freeway, complete with high-occupancy vehicle lanes (I’m not sure where all this commuter traffic is heading, though). Beyond the chi chi town of Basalt, I pull into Carbondale. It partly made its early living supplying potatoes to miners in Aspen. The tradition continues, with Carbondale acting as a cheaper bedroom community to the resort. One cool thing, at night, is skies dark enough to see the stars, or the start of a meteorite shower when I’m there.
Looking for some spirited nightlife in this otherwise quiet town? Just stop for an excellent ale or two at Carbondale Beerworks (647 Main Street, Monday to Thursday 4 pm-11 pm, Friday till 1 am and weekends 2 pm-11 pm) especially during one of their boisterous Trivial Pursuits nights, when the cheers, cowbells and clinking of pint glasses make it hard for waitresses to be heard calling out orders for high-end dogs, wings and fries. Once the show’s over, many of the young patrons hop onto their bikes and wobble off into the night. If you want to pick up some distinctive Colorado microbrews to go, drop into Main Street Spirits (“Buy your ale in Carbondale”), where Rosemary lets me fill my own assorted six pack. 389 Main Street. Monday to Thursday 10 am-10 pm, Friday and Satuday 10 am to 11 pm.
For an early-morning eye opener, be sure to stop at The Blend Coffee Company. They make great coffee, whether it’s the house espresso blend or a nice pour over. This is coffee with rich, complex flavours, primarily from Denver-based roaster Novo. Let’s see: great coffee, cozy atmosphere, friendly, accommodating staff (Greg let me sample the drip brew before I order). Think it warrants a *.
The Blend Coffee Company
1150 Highway 133, Carbondale
Weekdays 6:30 am-5 pm, weekends 7 am-5 pm
*Village Smithy Restaurant (“We reserve the right to serve everyone”) is humming minutes after the 7 am opening. Customers are streaming into the 1904 house and tucking into hearty omelettes, breakfast quesadillas and pancakes or Belgian waffles mounded with fresh fruit. My breakfast is simple but first class, nailing all the details. The eggs are perfectly over easy, the hash browns hot and crispy, the slightly sweet apple-chicken sausages nicely grilled and the two pieces of multi-grain toast (you really don’t need four) covered edge to edge in butter and accompanied by a pot of fresh raspberry jam. The kicker is a delicious, house-made salsa that I dip everything in.
Village Smithy Restaurant
26 South 3 Street, Carbondale
Daily 7 am-2 pm
Now, here’s a concept: give customers samples to help them decide what to order. That’s what The Lost Cajun does with its soups. When you sit down in this small Frisco eatery, you’re given three little Dixie cups of gumbo—one a Gulf shrimp and crab in a dark roux and another a spicy chicken and sausage—along with my favourite, a creamy shrimp and lobster bisque with a mild bite. Then, to cover all the bases for you readers, I actually switch gears and order a breaded and fried catfish po boy, a crunchy treat inside a garlic-buttered mini French loaf.
The Lost Cajun
204 Main Street, Frisco
Sunday to Wednesday 11 am-8 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-9 pm
Steamboat Springs has hot springs, of course, ski hills and all the usual outdoor sports that demand the Colorado emblem that goes with this lifestyle: the Subaru wagon. I swear that in five minutes of sitting on a street corner, I watch 20 Subarus go by. Almost as popular in these parts are half-ton trucks. I’m guessing you can tell who’s a Democratic or Republican supporter simply by what they’re driving. I’ll let you guess who’s who. Most of the town’s restaurants can be found on or just off the main drag, Lincoln Avenue.
On a long road trip, I’m always looking for something different, especially for breakfast. So when I peruse the menu at *Creekside Cafe & Grill, I’m ready to move right past the usual eggs Benedict with hollandaise atop an English muffin until I see a version with a quarter pound of shredded corned beef. When I hear the corned beef is seasoned, cooked and pulled apart in house, I’m on board. And I must say it’s a delight, with the tender, slightly salty meat nicely balancing the lemony sauce. Creekside also offers a corned beef hash, large enough, the waitress tells me, that many folks take the leftovers home to make a pseudo Reuben. Creekside looks after the small details, making their own breads, biscuits, hamburger buns and gluten-free granola; you can buy a bag of the latter to go. When I say I’m hitting the road right after breakfast, the waitress even offers to refill my coffee in a to-go cup. Nice.
Creekside Cafe & Grill
131 11 Street, Steamboat Springs
Daily 6 am-2 pm
I don’t get a chance to eat at Winona’s Restaurant & Bakery (I’ve just polished off a big breakfast at Creekside). But judging by the recommendation of two locals and the full house by eight on a Saturday morning, I’d say it’s well worth a breakfast visit. The restaurant is famous for its cinnamon bun, featured in Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, and big enough to feed a linebacker. Winona’s also makes highly regarded French toast, Belgian waffles and creative pancakes such as apple streusel, banana granola and chocolate strawberry.
Winona’s Restaurant & Bakery
617 Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs
Daily 7 am-3 pm
5th Street Market & Deli is a good destination for a quick, hot pastrami, turkey-bacon or roasted pepper sandwich. My grilled meatloaf sandwich with melted provolone and arugula greens on a rectangular panini hits the spot; it comes with a small pasta salad. At $10, the price is a little steep, though perhaps not by resort standards.
5th Street Market & Deli
435 Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs
Monday to Saturday 10 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-3 pm
Just up the street, and down the stairs, The Steaming Bean has nice java (including French press) and smoothies. Besides the usual breakfast treats, it also offers toasted bagels, homemade granola and oatmeal with blueberries. 635 Lincoln Avenue. Daily 7 am-6 pm