Crested Butte The word is Getting Out - Fun, Food and Libation are on the Rise

Joe Ross

The word is getting out about one of Colorado’s best-kept winter secrets. Once overlooked as the middle of nowhere, Crested Butte has deployed a secret weapon to assure winter visitors return for more than great skiing and boarding. Families can find fun eats for the kids, and foodies can feast on international fare and fine craft beverages.

The former coal-mining town is tucked in the West Elk Mountains in the southwest part of the state. The Town of Crested Butte’s funky, non-traditional offerings are ringing the bell for more people who truly want to escape the long lines and pretentiousness associated with larger Colorado destinations. However, executive chef and restaurant owner Kate Ladoulis points out that those visitors also bring loftier expectations when it comes to drinking and dining.

Kate and husband Chris Ladoulis opened LoCo (Local Colorado Spirits & Food) downtown last fall with a bevy of cocktails and a short menu of dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients. Appetizers include braised Colorado beef, pork meatballs and creamy polenta. A favorite among entrées is the spice-rubbed pork riblets with Colorado Honey-Bourbon BBQ Sauce. “Guests are really diverse and well-traveled,” Kate says. “And they like really good food and beverages … with none of the pretense.”

 Photo: Josh Futterman

Photo: Josh Futterman

The Ladoulises understand the local food and beverage evolution. For eight years, they have operated Django’s Restaurant and Wine Bar at the base of Mt. Crested Butte.

To assure a smooth opening at LoCo, they also enlisted “master cocktail craftsman” Kyle Anderson to have a little fun behind the bar. Anderson, who grew up in the small Colorado town of 1,500 people with dreams of being paid to snowboard, has spent the last 10 years perfecting his craft, which includes new twists on the Old Fashioned, the Negroni and other favorites. Anderson is serving all-Colorado spirits and you can bet he is taking advantage of his neighbors a few doors away: Montanya Distillers. If he mixes up a daiquiri, it will include Montanya’s rum, which has won a mantel full of awards in recent years. The distiller recently released a new, limited-edition rum that is aged for 36 months and named The Exclusiva.

Just a few more steps down the street you’ll find The Eldo Brewery and Taproom, “a sunny place for shady people.” At least a half-dozen freshly crafted brews are on tap throughout the year and great burgers and fun bands are available to go with your favorite libation.

Closer to the skiing and boarding, 9380 Prime Restaurant and Bar is located in the Elevation Hotel and Spa in Mt. Crested Butte. In addition to fine food, a first-rate selection of Colorado breweries are featured, including Oskar Blues, Odell Brewing Co., Avery Brewing Co., New Belgium and Coors. 9380 Prime General Manager Greg Melear said the restaurant is always working to keep up with expanding tastes of visitors by adding new beers.

Of course, no one is trying to take the fun out of funky. The Secret Stash Pizzeria, which moved into new digs in the summer of 2013, invites visitors to “kick back, relax and chill.” The vibe makes one feel like a hookah should be burning in the middle of the room at the Stash. Locals love the place and it will bring out the hippie in even the most conservative of folks.

The town, which had shrunk to a tiny village less than 50 years ago, has successfully blended the Old West with the new, ever-expanding population that seeks out adventure. So if Crested Butte is the destination for winter fun – skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or sleigh rides with the family – enjoy the fact that the middle of nowhere has a growing reputation for having it all when you arrive.