I was fortunate enough to call Aspen home for six amazing years. Overseeing food and beverage at The Little Nell, my snowboard was in my office and the outdoors was my playground. With 300 days of sunshine, Aspen prides itself on celebrating its surroundings regardless of the season. Whether you’re there to play in the snow or hike and bike in the mountains, there’s something for everyone. Here are some of my favorite places to sip, snack, and get a true taste of "a little place called Aasssspen."
One of the great things about Aspen is how compact it is. It's not uncommon to head out for an evening and visit three or four restaurants over the course of a night with a short stroll beneath the stars to get you door to door.
Cache Cache: Restaurants come and go in Aspen but Cache Cache has withstood the test of time. Long-time owner Jodi Larner is the consummate host. Post up at the bar, order a glass of champagne, nosh on a smoked salmon plate, and join the party.
Element 47: I may be a little biased, but I can’t think of a better place in Aspen to enjoy a great bottle of wine fireside or poolside (depending on the season) than Element 47 at The Little Nell. The property has graduated 10 Master Sommeliers including Carlton McCoy, who currently presides over the Grand Award wine program. The burger, and the people-watching, are legendary.
Matsuhisa: Sushi in the mountains? Yup, care of Nobu Matsuhisa no less! Matsuhisa (or Matsu as the locals call it) is THE place to get your sushi fix. There’s a great no-reservations pop-up bar scene upstairs, and you can get ringside seats downstairs to watch head chef Phil Tanaka work his magic. If you happen to be there in the winter, you can get a bowl of udon (served downstairs only), one of the most soulful dishes in town and the perfect end to an epic powder day.
In most ski towns “après” is a preposition referring to a post-skiing celebration. In Aspen, it has morphed into a verb that transcends the seasons and simply refers to any opportunity (usually while the sun is still up) to raise a glass with friends and probably make some new ones along the way.
The Oasis: There are speakeasies, there are champagne bars, and then… there is The Oasis. The world’s first and only ski-in, ski-out pop-up champagne bar just so happens to reside somewhere on Aspen Mountain. Each week from President’s Day until the end of ski season, clues are revealed as to where it’s located. Once you find it, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views, bottles of bubbles, and a smiling staff working out of arguably the best office on the planet. If you’re hungry, get the fish 'n' chips (that’s the only thing on the menu). You may be surprised at first when a tin of caviar and a bag of potato chips appears, but remember T.I.A. (This Is Aspen).
Jimmy’s: For almost 20 years, Jimmy Yeager has been welcoming diners and drinkers to his namesake restaurant on Hopkins Ave. There’s a steakhouse in the back and bar in the front. Jimmy single-handedly raised the bar for cocktails in Aspen. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on all things agave and an all around great guy. Start (or finish) your night with an Ernesto en Jalisco (Hemingway Daiquiri with Tequila) and an order of the famous Jimmy Mac.
Ajax Tavern: Patio seating is some of the most sought-after real estate in Aspen, and Ajax Tavern’s ample supply makes it the ultimate après spot, regardless of the season. In the summer, Pimm’s Cups, Aperol Spritzes, and bottles of rosé set the tone for soaking in the sun or fueling high stakes bocce ball games. In the winter, bands and DJs bring the patio to life, reminding you just how far away the real world is.
Photos: The Little Nell, @cachecacheaspen, @aguynamedpatrick, @ti_diniz, Sabato Sagaria, @woodycreekdistillery, @jenniferbroometv