Steamboat is having a renaissance in dining
Steamboat’s dining scene has long been dominated by pub grub, from burgers and brews to loaded nachos paired with hefty margs. But with the addition of restaurants like Aurum, the riverfront standout that opened in 2014 on Yampa Street, and The Periodic Table, which reinvents itself twice yearly with a completely new theme, Steamboat’s dining scene is on the rise.
Last fall, I had my best meal of the year (the decade?) at Sauvage. Dinner started with the tiniest spoonful of lobster salad sprinkled with caviar and pickled tomatillos. This dainty nibble was billed as a palate cleanser and arrived with a glass of bubbly. “It’s really more to agitate your mouth, give a little sparkle,” said Victoria Vinokurova, owner of Sauvage, where we were kicking off a five-course palate-pleasing journey.
Sauvage is one of a handful of new(ish) restaurants on Yampa Street that represent a true renaissance in dining in the mountain town. “Over the past few years, there’s been an increased demand for more dining downtown,” says Laura Soard, marketing director for the Steamboat Chamber of Commerce. “Steamboat has a legacy of welcoming people; it’s ingrained into the culture.” The new dining scene is a balance between high-end dining and local joints, and Yampa Street has become a microclimate of that. “This is the next chapter for Steamboat,” adds Vinokurova.
Last fall, my husband, Jeff, and I spent two days on an epicurean adventure, sampling Steamboat’s eateries, wine bars, and bakeries, and we quickly discovered there were more options than we had time. Here’s a sampling of foodie destinations worth checking out, from a big splurge at Sauvage to artisanal cured jamón at Meatbar.
Sauvage serves a gourmet French-inspired three- or five-course menu filled with scratch-made cuisine. The restaurant is housed in the former Yampa Valley Electric Association building on Yampa Street, next door to Mountain Tap Brewery. After that unforgettable lobster bite, our first course (aka “First Impressions”) was a vichyssoise with leeks, purple potato croquette, and crème fraîche that delivered an unbelievable burst of flavor. Every course that followed was a triumph. Executive chef Garrett Kasper, formerly of Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel, adds an element of whimsy—and history—to his preparation. Beets were once used to give red velvet cake its color, so the beet salad arrived with a few bites of cake.
We finished off our journey with a Grand Marnier soufflé with crème anglaise poured tableside. The desserts are inspirations from pastry chef Sarah R. Helzer, who came to Steamboat by way of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Throughout our meal, the service was impeccable. At one point, an air vent overhead kicked on, and Vinokurova appeared from thin air with a blanket to lay over my lap.
Since our visit, new additions to the menu include a chilled corn soup made with Olathe corn and topped with a tiny tamale; Colorado beef with chanterelles, huitlacoche jus, and corn pudding; and a lemon tart with graham cracker, black pepper meringue, honey sorbet, warm berries, and a tarragon gel.
910 Yampa Street, #104; sauvage-restaurant.com
Located in the 1909 Steamboat Pilot building, Meatbar is a charcuterie and wine bar, specialty food shop, and European deli all in one. The eatery is the brainchild of Laura Posiak-Trider, aka Laura the Butcher, who embraces ethically sourced meats, humane farmers and ranchers, and zero-waste butchery. She learned about nose-to-tail butchery while working at a bed and breakfast in Italy.
Having moved from Maine to Colorado, she started a business of custom upscale meat, cheese, and fruit boards for home delivery in 2019. The following year, she launched a brick-and-mortar space that quickly gained popularity. Hanging in Meatbar’s Lincoln Avenue windows are cured jamón legs—handcrafted organic Iberico pork meat from Alberca, Spain. Posiak-Trider uses the artisanal cured jamón in her signature charcuterie boards, which are stacked with imported meats and cheeses, specialty fruits, pickles, olives, house-smoked nuts, and dark chocolate truffles. The freshly carved jamón also makes an appearance in Meatbar’s meat cones. Inspired by Barcelona street food, the cones also feature cheese, chorizo, and crackers from Spain and are topped with a pickle stick.
1009 Lincoln Avenue; laurathebutcher.com
Yampa Valley Kitchen
Tucked inside a 100-year-old home that’s on the national historic registry, Yampa Valley Kitchen, or YVK as it’s known, uses local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, right down to the salts, oils, and spices. YVK opened in July 2020 from the owners of Mambo, an Italian staple in Steamboat for 20 years, and Bésame, a Latin-fusion restaurant with James Beard caliber cuisine. Executive chef Joseph Campbell oversees YVK, Mambo, and Bésame, fortified by a talented group of sous chefs. The drink program at YVK employs seedlip, a nonalcoholic distilled spirit that gives an herbaceous lift to YVK’s zero-proof cocktails.
After a long hike, we sat among blooming wildflowers on the patio with views of Howelsen Hill. Jeff ordered the matcha and mint G+T (matcha with green juice, lime, tonic, deviation mountain herb gin, and alpino bitters). My dazzlingly purple beet down sour (beet and berry shrub with lemon deviation citrus rose gin) was the perfect full-proof prelude to the sesame salmon bowl—which came with seared salmon, puffed salmon skin, kimchi, ginger, sweet potato, brussels sprouts, and a gochujang vinaigrette.
207 9th Street; yampavalleykitchen.com
Standard Wine Bar + Gallery
During our visit, we met friends for a glass of white burgundy at Standard Wine Bar + Gallery, a space created by Dustin Posiak-Trider, a fine-art photographer and Laura the Butcher’s partner. We sat at a rough-hewn wooden table, surrounded by large-scale works of art hung on exposed brick. Artists featured in the gallery include Andre Bolam of Truckee, California, whose work is an homage to the American West. Standard hosts micro-exhibitions and artist talks, but on any night (except Monday), you can stop in for a bottle or a glass, tasting flights, and artisan brews paired with a charcuterie platter crafted by (of course) Laura the Butcher.
907 Lincoln Avenue; standardartgallery.com
Primrose debuted in February 2021 on Steamboat’s revitalized Yampa Street and has since become a hotspot. Chef-Director of operationsor Collin Kelley offers a menu featuring hand-cut steaks and fresh seafood, and Steamboat celebrity chef Patrick Ayres (of Cloverdale and The Periodic Table) is the resident pastry chef. We settled into a booth fashioned from handcrafted American bison bison leather banquettes for social hour appetizers and a glass of wine by the glass poured from Primrose’s spiffy wine-preservation system, which uses argon to keep an assortment of bottles at the ready. When it was time to go, the bill came in a Hemingway cigar box.
1110 Yampa Street; primrosesteamboat.com
While it isn’t new, we had the chance to sup at The Laundry, an iconic eatery from local restaurateur Rex Brice. Located in the historic Soda Creek building, which was home to the Steamboat Laundry from 1910 to 1977, The Laundry serves up shareable plates of upmarket comfort food utilizing seasonally and locally grown products. We sat in the bar area and sipped rosemary lemon drops made with lemon-infused vodka (look for the large jars of house infusions marinating above the bar), served in sugar-rimmed martini glasses. When it came time for dinner, our waiter cautioned: “These aren’t big city small plates.” We ordered the hash, a melange of flavors with charred brussels sprouts, fried onions, house bacon, and goat cheese. It was indeed a hefty serving for a small plate. We combined it with steak frites—a large plate—and it was plenty of sustenance for two.
127 11th Street; thelaundryrestaurant.com
Inclusions Bakery and Dessert Bar
On our way out of town, we stopped by Inclusions Bakery for delectable scratch-made cupcakes, tarts, and sticky buns at Steamboat’s first dedicated gluten-free environment (my daughter has celiac, so places like this are a revelation). Since opening in January 2021, the bakery has been nominated for Best of the Boat awards in multiple categories, including best bakery. Owner Grace Riley tapped recipes handed down from her grandmother, an artisanal master baker. On weekends, look for seasonal offerings like a honeycrisp and blue cheese galette with candied peaches. “There’s so much beautiful produce here in the valley,” says Riley, who perfected her trade by baking for 122 farmers markets a year. “This is a passion project for me. It’s about what can we feature that’s local and fresh?” This coming winter, Riley will add more savory options, additional take and bake items, and, brace for it skiers, breakfast sandwiches.
685 Marketplace Plaza; inclusionssteamboat.com