Simply put, being in Aspen in the summer means being outdoors! From hiking to biking to fishing to simply sitting in the park and enjoying the sound of the Roaring Fork River, the fresh mountain air and near-perfect climate draw one out from homes and hotels alike.


And being outdoors doesn’t stop when activities stop. The options for dining outdoors — breakfast, lunch and dinner — abound in Aspen.

Here’s a breakdown of a few favorite restaurants to keep you outdoors and your stomach full and energized for more activities all summer long.

Ajax Tavern

Little Nell Outdoor Dining in Aspen, summer
Little Nell Outdoor Dining in Aspen, summer

Located at the base of the gondola and part of the storied Little Nell restaurant the Ajax Tavern will let you envision snow on the slopes while sitting in the sun and dining in the heart of Aspen. The Tavern has one of the largest outdoor patios in Aspen making it more than capable of hosting large groups.

What to Order: The Tavern salad with its bibb lettuce and Dijon vinagarette will ease the guilt of the must-try truffle fries.

Learn More: www.thelittlenell.com/dining/ajax-tavern

Shlomo's

Right across gondola plaza from the Tavern is newly opened Shlomo’s. This deli and grill serves some delicious modern American and Jewish cuisine four meals a day — breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Shlomo Ben-Hamoo, the restaurant’s proprietor is no stranger to Aspen having operated the previous iteration of Shlomo’s in the space the Ajax Tavern now occupies nearly 30 years ago.



What to Order: For warm comfort food, the Shakshuka for breakfast can’t be beat and of course, the Matzah Ball soup is a must.

Learn more: www.shlomosaspen.com

White House Tavern

Located in a cozy, converted home on Hopkins Avenue, the White House Tavern has earned a devoted following among locals and regular visitors for its warm ambiance, curated wine list and beer selection, and — most of all — a superb roster of sandwiches. The small patio is perfect for evening dining on a warm summer day.

What to Order: There is beauty in the simplicity of the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which balances the juicy chicken with a spicy slaw on a torta roll. The Thai Steak and Noodle Salad has an avid following as well.

Learn more:
aspenwhitehouse.com

Meat and Cheese

Never has a restaurant titled after a dish it serves been more aptly named. Wendy Mitchell, the founder of Avalanche Cheese Company took her considerable culinary skills and knowledge of local dairy to task and created Meat and Cheese three years ago. The meat and cheese choices are paired on the menu with unique eastern infused dishes on a seasonally changing menu.


What to Order: The Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad is a favorite on the lighter side, but the variety of "boards" on the menu — which feature a mixture of cured meats, artisanal cheeses, and light noshes such as nuts, greens and relishes — are perfect for social dining.

Learn More: meatcheese.avalancheaspen.com


HOPS Culture

Beer
Beer

If beer is your thing, HOPS is your place. With more than 30 rotating drafts and 200 bottles, even the toughest-to-please beer drinker ought to be satisfied. The outdoor patio sits in the middle of the pedestrian mall making the social aspect of beer drinking an experience unique in Aspen. Pairing that beer with food is easily accomplished with the all-American menu.

What to Order: The "Small & Shares" menu is filled with classic American pub fare to complement the IPA you ordered: pretzel bites, chicken wings, quesadilla. Meanwhile, the Nana's Chicken N' Waffles is done right with a mix of real maple syrup and hot sauce perfect for spicy sweet game-day indulgences.

Learn More: www.hopsculture.com

The Lounge at the Limelight Hotel Aspen

Limelight Outdoor Dining in Aspen, summer
Limelight Outdoor Dining in Aspen, summer

For some reason, wood-fired pizza is hard to find in Aspen. But look hard enough, and the place to go is in fact a hotel rather than a full-fledged restaurant. The Limelight Hotel lobby is a great place for group gatherings for families and pizza lovers. With games, live music and a casual vibe, the Limelight offers two patios, one next to the pool and another with spectacular views of Aspen Mountain and fire pits for cool summer nights.

What to Order: Meat lovers can’t go wrong with the Diavolo pizza while those looking for a more unique take on pizza should try the Four Cheese & Fig. The offerings change seasonally, and in the summer, local peaches and fresh burrata cheese can often be found somewhere on the menu.

Learn More: www.limelighthotels.com/aspen

Woody Creek Tavern

Legendary might be an overused word in most instances, but how else can you describe this one-of-a-kind rustic cabin down valley in Woody Creek? Here, the only thing more potent than the margaritas are the tales of craziness about one-time patron Hunter S. Thompson. The interior is proudly decorated in gaudy fashion with memorabilia, candid photos and loosely hung Christmas lights than never come down, no matter the season. Visitors find it enchanting and beguiling; locals simply adore it.

What to Order: While it is best known for its ambiance, Woody Creek Tavern has earned some serious respect from aficionados of Southwestern and Baja cuisines. The fish tacos are a staple, as are the pork and vegetarian tamales.

Learn more: www.woodycreektavern.com

Mr. Grey

The newest addition to the list is actually one of Aspen's recent staples, reimagined. Formerly known as Grey Lady, Mr. Grey is an upscale take on New England's famed coastal cuisine, accented occasionally with ingredients that are uniquely Colorado. The restaurant's location at 305 S. Mill St. puts it (and its patio) right in the heart of the action in Aspen. Executive Chef Jonathan Bignelli is an alum of Wylie Dufresne's famed WD-50 in New York City.

What to Order: For shared plates, look for the Smoked Colorado Trout Paté with pickles and Persian flatbread. As a main, the New England Lobster Roll and the Seafood Linguine best define what Mr. Grey is all about.

Learn more: www.mrgreyaspen.com

Published August 2017; Updated July 2019

About the Author

Nicole Birkhold
Nicole Birkhold

NICOLE BIRKHOLD

With nothing but a pair of skis and a journalism degree from Michigan State University, Nicole headed west looking for mountains, snow, and someone to pay her to put words to paper. She found the writing gig in Freeskier Magazine for ten years, but needed to be closer to the mountains to she packed it up and came to Aspen where she still crafts words but with more time on the snow.

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