Telluride Is for Food Lovers

Why have so many great chefs flocked to this tiny mountain town? I don't know, but after five days of eating well, I wasn't complaining. Here are some of the highlights:

It was impossible to get a table at Cosmopolitan, so my friend and I showed up early after a spa day and ate at the bar. We learned the hard way reservations are nearly required for all the better restaurants in town. But once you're in the door at Cosmopolitan, you'll find a lack of pretension right down to the décor. When you just want to settle down in a leather chair in front of an open fire with a glass of wine, chances are your wish will be granted.

For dinner we started with the lobster pot stickers, which came in a Thai broth sprinkled with julienned jicama. This was great California fusion cuisine - fresh bursts of flavor from China, Thailand, and Mexico, all in one bowl. The pear and gorgonzola salad was prettily presented, also quite fresh and good. Though the attentive bartender tried to steer me in the direction of the New Zealand lamb, which is supposed to be excellent, I was curious about the nouvelle take on chicken and biscuits. The chicken was served in a creamless broth, and the biscuits were made with ricotta. All of this was nice, but the added ingredient of pesto pushed the dish over the top. Barbecued salmon was simpler and more successful. All in all, from service to ambiance to food, this was the best restaurant we tried in Telluride. The wine list is also excellent; try the Acacia Pinot Noir. Reservations recommended.

Cosmopolitan Restaurant
300 West San Juan Avenue

The food at La Cocina de Luz was amazingly fresh and tasty for such a low price. Chicken tostadas came heaped with greens and jicama (we seem to be missing out on this ingredient in New York). The chicken itself was deliciously stewed and not too spicy, but the variety of free, fresh salsas could easily change that situation. Handmade tortillas. This was a great lunch place, very casual. Don't be put off by the line; it moves quickly.

La Cocina de Luz
123 E. Colorado Avenue

They were out of oysters the night we went to Blue Point Grill, but the tuna and salmon we tried were fantastic. I suppose I'll have to do away with my rule of not ordering fish in a land-locked state; where there are resourceful chefs, there is good seafood. Salmon was prepared tandoori-style with mint pesto on the side. Neither of us had ever tried salmon tandoori, but I hope I see this on another menu again soon: fresh, buttery salmon can really stand up to the Indian spices, especially when baked perfectly medium-rare, as this filet was. My "tuxedo" Ahi tuna arrived black-and-blue, set in a glaze of delicious sweet soy sauce and pressed with black and white sesame seeds. The verdict: Blue Point Grill has spacey service, a rather cool and removed atmosphere, but great seafood. Reservations recommended.

Blue Point Grill
123 S. Oak Street

Claiming to have "the best bagels in the West," Baked in Telluride is a popular local breakfast and lunch spot. The name perhaps best sums up the service in general in Telluride. A confirmed urbanite, I could sometimes get in the groove and just take it easy as I waited fifteen minutes for a latte (at Cabin 8, not here), other times I felt like the only very frustrated, non-stoned person at the party. Anyway, the service at Baked in Telluride was counterintuitively fast and peppy. The mochas were great, and, drum roll please...so were the bagels. There was no stinting on the garlic in the everything bagels. And not a blueberry in sight.

Baked in Telluride
127 S. Fir Street

A trip to Telluride wouldn't be complete without a stop at Allred's at the top of the gondola. We didn't eat here, because the dining room was a little too fancy for our purposes. Allred's may have a reputation for being touristy and pricey, but it's still the best place in town for après ski. You can dump all your ski equipment just inside the door and exchange painful ski boots for slippers, which Allred's offers on loan. Get a freshly-made hot cocoa with Bailey's and vie for a spot - you guessed it - in a leather chair by the open fire.

Gondola Station, St. Sophia

Other highlights included:

The Steaming Bean Coffee Co. at 221 W. Colorado Avenue, 970-728-0793. Excellent espressos, lattes, etc., prepared fast enough to satisfy even the most impatient city slicker (me).

Las Montanas, 100 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-5114. Huge portions of Tex-Mex food and a fun bar scene. You can usually walk in and get a table.

Excelsior Cafe, 200 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-4250. Another place where, blessedly, you can walk in without reservations. The food and wine are good too. Cool exposed-brick bar area with double-height ceilings.

Honga's Lotus Petal, 133 East Colorado Avenue, 970-728-5134. We couldn't get a table here. Despite the somewhat suspect premise of this restaurant to be all things to all Asian-curious people - it's a combination of Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Korean food (where's the Mongolian?) - it was insanely popular and had just moved to a seemingly larger space. Let me know if the food is good.

The San Sophia Inn, 330 West Pacific Avenue, (970) 728-3001. Brunch here was a lavish spread of muffins, chicken-apple sausages, egg and mushroom casserole, fruit, oatmeal, homemade granola, yogurt, freshly-squeezed juices, coffee and tea, all for a mere $14.

The New Sheridan Bar, 233 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-3911. You can almost imagine Butch Cassidy sidling up to the ornate, antique bar here. OK, so he was in Telluride in 1889 and this place didn't open til 1895, but still. Shockingly, the wine here is great; Butch would have approved.