Best of Denver

The Ten Best I-70 Pit Stops Between Idaho Springs and Glenwood Springs

The Benderz double cheeseburger.
The Benderz double cheeseburger. Laura Shunk
One of the biggest perks of living in the Mile High City is the easy access it affords to the Rocky Mountains; just jump in your car and you can be in the foothills in fifteen minutes, and in true mountain towns not much more than fifteen minutes after that. Outdoor sports tend to dominate our perception of the mountains, which is not surprising, given the abundance of ski resorts, hiking trails and bike paths. But even if you're not a sports enthusiast, Colorado's mountain towns offer plenty of allure: hot springs, scenery and, of course, restaurants and bars. In addition to our list of iconic bars outside of Denver, we've rounded up the ten best edible and drinkable reasons to pull off I-70 between Idaho Springs and Glenwood Springs, listed from east to west. All are good for a post-hike snack or sip, an escape from the traffic or an excuse to hit the hills.

click to enlarge
Westbound and Down Brewing Co
Westbound & Down Brewing Company/The Buffalo
1617 Miner Street, Idaho Springs
720-502-3121

When were growing up in Colorado, every trip to the mountains ended with a pit stop in Idaho Springs, where we'd have either a Beau Jo's pizza (with plenty of honey for the crust) or (when we turned 21) a beer at Tommyknocker. Now we're drawn to Westbound & Down, a brewpub with a solid lineup of brews, plus a serious food game, thanks to chef Scott Parker (formerly of Table 6 and several other Denver restaurants). Grab a seat at the prominent bar and consider the hot chicken, the green chile cheese fries and the macaroni and cheese.

Bread Bar
1010 Main Street, Silver Plume
breadbarsp.com
If you've lived in Colorado long enough, you might remember purchasing actual bread at the building that now holds Bread Bar. The four friends who own this charming Silver Plume watering hole pay homage to that history, and to the magic of the mining town nestled on a mountainside. Pull off on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a cocktail in the cozy barroom or on the sunny deck; you might also find pop-up food vendors or a little live music.

click to enlarge
Grill your own steak at the Mint Steakhouse.
Laura Shunk
The Mint Steakhouse
347 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne
970-468-5247

The Mint calls itself "Summit County's oldest resident," citing a history that dates back to 1862 and traces iterations of the establishment from a small mining town called Kokomo, to Frisco, to the part of Dillon that now sits under the lake, and finally to its current home in Silverthorne. But even if you didn't know anything of its storied past, this steakhouse, housed in an old depot building, is worth a stop, because there just aren't many restaurants like it. Order drinks and sides from a server and then step over to the butcher counter to pick a cut of steak that you'll tend yourself on the pool-table-sized grill. Feel intimidated? A friendly local is sure to give you both advice on cooking and tips on how to mix up the best marinade from the vats of ingredients on offer. Pro tip: Don't forget to grill thick slices of buttered white bread, retrieved from the salad bar, to make your own Texas toast.

click to enlarge
Butterhorn via Facebook
Butterhorn Bakery
408 Main Street, Frisco
970-668-3997

Waits to secure a breakfast table at Frisco's Butterhorn Bakery can run long, and for good reason: The hearty, traditional breakfasts here are some of the best in Summit County, and many of the dishes are served all day. But even if you're pressed for time, it's still worth pulling over. Pop in for something from the pastry case, or do what we do, and call ahead for a takeaway breakfast sandwich. We like the Egg #3, which comes with soft scrambled eggs, bacon and cheddar on a housemade croissant.

click to enlarge
La Cantina sits in a Vail parking garage.
Laura Shunk
La Cantina
241 South Frontage Road East, Vail
970-476-7661

Talk about a pit stop: You can be in and out of La Cantina without ever leaving the garage. This quick-service Mexican joint holds a corner of the third level of the Vail Village parking structure, from which it doles a lengthy list of burritos, nachos, enchiladas and chiles rellenos. Although it has all the ambience of a food court, the carnitas, especially, are tasty, and the price is right. Just a handful of items on the menu surpass $10, and chips and salsa are free with every order. That's why it gets packed during ski season, when frugal locals also squeeze into the auxiliary margarita bar for a drink.


KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk