Taking a Lunch Break in Aspen

What’s for lunch after a morning of trying to remain upright in the Roaring Fork River while searching for trout?  or after a  strenuous bike ride or uphill hike in high altitude? 

Aspen offers a wide range of healthy eats for those great lunches you are hankering for.  I suggest you check out the following places.  Each has lots of tasty choices for anyone who seeks mostly veg options.

If it’s Saturday, it’s market day, so head to the middle of town and check out the vibrant farmers’ market. WIth fruit, veggies, baked goods and fresh cheese all available, come prepared to collect whatever appeals and pack it to go.

This market rotates food and artisan vendors so take your time checking out the ceramics, fiber and jewelry as well. All food must be Colorado grown in order to be sold here, so you know you are supporting local farmers.

Walk a couple of blocks to the gondola and head straight up Ajax mountain for awe-inspiring views and music on the mountaintop on Saturdays and Sundays at midday. Saturdays are classical days with musicians from the Aspen Music Festival toting their instruments to the 11,000 foot summit of Ajax to bounce their glorious tones across the snow capped peaks. On Sundays, catch lively bluegrass between 12-3.

Check out Pyramid Bistro, upstairs from the longstanding Explore Booksellers right on E. Main St. You can’t miss the historic Victorian house set behind a picket fence with the perennial garden alongside the sidewalk.

Pyramid is open daily for lunch and dinners, offering both indoor and patio dining. WIth its mission of  “providing fresh, nutrient dense food that is organic and locally sourced whenever possible” it’s perfect for anyone with dietary restrictions as they are happy to accommodate meat free, dairy or gluten free, or vegan needs.

We chose three of the four starters, and delighted in knowing that all four were veg. The Vietnamese spring rolls presented perfectly julienned, crisp raw jicama and carrots that were flavor packed when dipped into the curried peanut sauce.

Tofu and Vegetables was not an unexpected variation but the deep brown and sticky Forbidden Rice lent additional toothsome, nutty flavor and the veggies were al denti, in keeping with the Chef’s focus on maintaining as many nutrients as possible by cooking at low temps. Chef Martin Olwald uses an abundance of bright veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits, grains and beans here. All fish are caught wild and there is always an organic chicken on the menu for the carnivores.

And right next door is the Main Street Bakery and Cafe, a true landmark housed in a tiny free-standing stucco building. It serves breakfast and lunch only, highlighting their freshly baked baguettes and six grain bread, along with options to eat indoors at communal tables, or on the shaded patio among the strollers and families.

Breakfast burritos bursting with black beans and cheese, “Berried Treasure” homemade buttermilk pancakes oozing with jammy blueberries, or omelets and scrambles any way you  want ‘em, are all great choices. Inside, the communal tables are buzzing with neighbors and kids. One summer, we arrived here every morning by 7:30 and made friends with a visiting conductor performing at the Music Festival. It’s a friendly, slightly frenzied kind of place.

Lunches are basic but again, any way you want it. Caesar salad with grilled tofu is my fave, and there are always plenty of veg options, including at least one soup that fits the bill.

Not far from the gondola, and down a flight of stairs that leads you to a hair studio, a marijuana store, and a clothing store, is 520 Grill.

Affordable, fast, cooked to order eats ranging from fish tacos, to “veggie farmer” salad with options to top it off with wild salmon or sushi grade tuna are the order here.

Owners Wheaton Augur and Troy Selby created a lot more than a lunch counter by offering a range that pleases lots of palates. We went back 2x in as many days, to get our fill of the kale-quinoa salad, fish tacos  and the sweet potato fries.  It’s all a little messy for the slopes but it’s perfect to eat right there, indoors or outside on a little shaded postage stamp of a patio.

Finally, just below the gondola, is The Big Wrap, a tiny take-out shop, that takes the orders fast and moves you down the line efficiently.  You can get exactly what you want here, with homemade veg and vegan soups, “little wrapsicals” for the kids and lots of great choices of salads and full size, ok,  BIG wraps.

“Mr. Potato Head” is a guy’s dream, with roasted potatoes, spinach, grilled portabellos, beans and brown rice nestled in with greens, sour cream and salsa on a whole wheat wrap.

When I finally reach the counter during the noontime rush (the line runs up the steps and spills out onto the sidewalk so they are doing something right!) I say, “I’ll take a “swift kick” and they laugh, knowing that I’ve ordered a burrito bursting with roasted veggies, black bean spread, guacamole, sauteed peppers and onions with roasted tomatillo salsa.

Do they laugh each time an out of towner says, “I’ll take a swift kick”? Who cares? After a hunger prompting hike, bike, or morning on the slopes, this is where I am heading if my muscles have given out on me and I can’t walk any further!

And if I’ve done my job right and have you hankerin’ for lunch just about now, check out one of Alison Richman’s perfect lunch offerings from her catering company, Rabbit’s Garden, discussed in last week’s post on Aspen. She  definitely shopped the farmers’ market this week!

Garden Zucchini and Tomato Tart

Garden Zucchini and Tomato Tart

Since store bought puff pastry comes folded, I cut in the fold line, making a rectangle. Alternatively, cut the rectangle in half so u get 6 squares from one sheet.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough - cut into desired shapes
  • 2 ea green zucchini
  • 2 ea yellow zucchini
  • cherry tomatoes
  • braised spring onions
  • herbs: basil, mint, thyme, oregano, parsley, dill
  • 2 T xvoo
  • salt & Pepper

Instructions

  1. Slice the squash either thin with your knife or on a Japanese mandolin. Put all squash in a bowl, toss with cherry tomatoes which have been cut in half. add picked herbs ( you do not have to chop them), add extra virgin olive oil and salt & Pepper. Place mixture on the tart dough in the center of dough so there is a ledge add the braised onions if you have them. Bake tarts on a sheet pan with parchment paper in a 400 degree oven @ 20 mins.
  2. Dough will be slightly brown on sides.
  3. Enjoy!

Notes

Thank you to Alison Richman, Rabbits Garden, Aspen, for providing this recipe.

http://kosherlikeme.com/on-the-road/taking-a-lunch-break-in-aspen

 

16 Comments

  1. Fun, fun fun! Liz, Aspen is definitly a great place to go in the summer and share with friends. The music, markets,hiking, biking, and natural beauty PLus fabulous resteraunts! What more could one ask for? Thanks for sharing.

    • Be in touch if you want to know more about the dining scene. There are other great places to dine, but concern for my readers’ attention span limited how much I could include here!

    • Glad you like! Between the scenery, great weather, the Aspen Music Festival, many outstanding dining choices, Aspen is really a great destination in both summer and winter.

  2. Liz,
    This is great! Going to Aspen on Vacation for a week mid August and was hoping for some insight about where to go! Any other great suggestions?

    • I would definitely add Montagna, at Little Nell, to my list of faves. Try to eat on the patio. It is a great spot and the food prep is world class. LMK if you need info on a fishing guide. I have a great one!

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