what to eat & where to stay


Modern Eclectic: Café Diva
Asian Inspired: Cottonwood Grill
French Twist: L’Apogée
Lunch on the Slopes:
Fresh Tex-Mex: La Montaña
Hearty Breakfast:
Egg and I
Creekside Café and Grill
Kid Friendly

Mountain Cabin: Timberline at Trappeurs Crossing



by Tejal Rao and Antoinette Bruno
January 2007

Winter sports have played a crucial role in the cultural development of Steamboat Springs, Colorado for centuries, beginning simply as transportation through the snow but quickly developing the small town into a top destination for serious skiers and snowboarders. While the Yampa River running through Steamboat makes for kayaking and rafting year-round and the geo-thermal hot springs are always warm, peak tourist-season begins with the first snow and ends in the spring. As a result, Steamboat restaurants face the challenges of seasonal tourism and must rely on a flux of seasonal cooks to help out in the busy season.

A large portion of seasonal cooks choose their work location according to their hobbies. It’s guaranteed that a team of young part-time or seasonal cooks traveling to Steamboat for the winter season are avid skiers or snowboarders looking to hit the slopes every morning before work. Tourists generally choose to rent cabins or condos rather than stay at hotels, meaning they have access to a full kitchen. Those who choose to get lunch on-the-go opt for the ease of casual lunching at the ski resort’s cafes right on the slopes. Consequently, a lot of restaurants don’t bother opening for lunch but do open early for dinner.

To attract employees to the remote mountain location, the City of Steamboat Springs offers cooks working at least 20 hours a week and their families free skiing and skating passes and bus passes; they are also paid overtime and offered workers compensation. The downside? Seasonal employees are considered “at-will” employees who can both resign at any time and be terminated at any time according to demand and performance. The downside for the chefs is the possibility of inconsistency in a team that stays only part-time and then leaves for another kitchen and another set of standards.

For chefs balancing a kitchen of full-time, part-time and seasonal cooks, scheduling the kitchen is a constant challenge. Committed first and foremost to their permanent employees, chefs must also adapt to meet the season’s flux of tourists. The solution for some restaurants is offering their full-timers generous vacations in the off-season or closing the kitchen altogether for a fall break before the winter rush. Another way to build in a return employee pull is partnering with a seasonal restaurant in the opposite season, guaranteeing that the same team will return year after year.

For both the seasonal restaurants and those open year-round, the fundamental culinary theme has naturally evolved into large portions of hearty comfort food and starch-centric dishes to boost carb-craving athletes. But Steamboat also offers eclectic cafés and restaurants that range from Modern American and Asian-inspired to greasy breakfast joints and our favorites in every category from dives to fine dining follow.

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Café Diva

1855 Ski Time Square Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 871 0508
Daily: 5:30-close

Asian Duck Confit Tacos at Café Diva on StarChefs.com

Asian Duck Confit Tacos at Café Diva

There’s no doubt that Café Diva is the shining culinary jewel of Steamboat Springs. At her hearty fine dining restaurant at the base of the slopes Executive Chef Kate Rench exercises the refined sensibilities of Jean Georges in New York, where she held a Chef de Partie position for 2 years before coming to Steamboat. Similarly to Vongerichten, Rench composes sophisticated and satisfying dishes that boldly draw inspiration from an international pantry of spices and ingredients.

Dishes: Balsamic, Bacon and Chestnut Glazed Pheasant with Shiitake-Leek Bread Pudding and Baby Brussels Sprouts; Nut-Spice Crusted Sea Bass with Parmesan-Jasmine Rice Cake and Warm Tomato-Vegetable Vinaigrette; Panettone French Toast with Maple Syrup Crème Anglaise and Pistachio Gelato

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Cottonwood Grill
701 Yampa Street
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 879 2229
Winter hours: daily 5:30-close
Spring hours: Wednesday-Sunday 5:30-close
Summer hours: daily 5:30 close
Fall hours: Wednesday-Sunday 5:30-close

Banana Cream Pie at Cottonwood Grill on StarChefs.com

Banana Cream Pie at Cottonwood Grill

Executive Chef Michael Fragola creates an Asian-American fusion menu where everything from the pesto to the coleslaw has a twist. Cottonwood is the perfect place to load up on carbs before skiing, with pretty views of the Yampa River and gardens.

Dishes: Calamari on a Bed of Wasabi Aioli and Chilies and Stuffed with Macadamia Cilantro Pesto Served with Asian Slaw and a Sweet and Sour Sauce; Banana Cream Pie

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911 Lincoln Avenue
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 879 1919

Lobster Gratin at L’Apogee on StarChefs.com

Lobster Gratin at L’Apogée

L’Apogée features an Continental menu with French classics like escargots and raclette, but the dishes are served Steamboat style, which is to say they're hearty and unpretentious.

Dishes: Lobster Gratin; Crème Brulée

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In Rendezvous Saddle at the Ski Area
970 871-5150
December-March, Friday-Sunday

Ragner’s lunches and dinners perfectly suit its location halfway down the High Noon slopes. Have a mug of spiced glogg on a fun sleigh ride up to the restaurant before indulging in Scandinavian lunches and dinners with dishes like Traditional Norwegian Chowder and Gravlax with Mustard Dill Sauce.

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La Montaña
2500 Village Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 879 5800
Summer Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 5:30pm-9:30pm
Winter Hours: Monday-Sunday 5:00pm-10:00pm

Eclectic Salad with Pepitas at La Montana on StarChefs.com

Eclectic Salad with Pepitas at La Montana

Chef Damon Denfroe runs a bustling Southwestern restaurant in the Village Center Plaza. Made-to-order tortillas arrive tender and hot with the customary beef, chicken and pork as well as local elk.

Dishes: Shrimp Tacos with Sweet Rice and Beans; Eclectic Salad with Pepitas

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Egg and I
325 Anglers Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 871 4633
Daily: 7am-2pm

Breakfast before a hard day on the slopes should be hearty and filling. At Egg and I, eggs, waffles and pancakes are available in every imaginable way at reasonable prices.

Dishes: Corned Beef Hash; Sunrise Chile Rellenos

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Creekside Café and Grill
131 11th St
Steamboat Spgs, CO 80487
(970) 879-4925

Go to Creekside for the ultimate breakfast of overstuffed burritos, eggs benedict, or something more carb-centric for pre-ski fuel. If you’re taking a break after some skiing, Creekside is the place for comforting American style snacks like hamburgers and pasta dishes.

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57 ½ 8th Street
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970 879 9939
Closed for fall break, reopens December 1st daily, 5:30 pm to close

Miso-Crusted Chicken Skewers at Antares on StarChefs.com

Miso-Crusted Chicken Skewers at Antares

Chef Paul “Rocky” Lebron showcases his wildly eclectic culinary style at Antares. His love for spice and curry comes through in an inspired international menu and juices are squeezed to order for the best margaritas in town. But don’t let the spicy food and boozy drinks give you the wrong idea: Antares is completely kid-friendly, featuring a great kids menu and a friendly staff.

Dishes: Miso-Crusted Chicken Skewers with Pickled Ginger Aioli; One Quarter Shiny Duck with Ginger Plum Sauce; King Crab with Shiitake Mushrooms, Shallots and Mirin Butter Sauce

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Timberline at Trappeurs Crossing

2800 Village Drive
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
800 634 9618

Timberline is a small community of Southwestern cottages two blocks away from the gondola ride to the top of the mountain. The combination of Alpine and Santa Fe style come together in a surprisingly sophisticated and charming way. Each comfortable cottage has a fully equipped kitchen, whirlpool tub, fireplace, balcony, washer and dryer as well as a complimentary on-call car during ski season that shuttles guests to the gondola or nearby downtown Steamboat. While the resort town boasts a few big names like Sheraton and Holiday Inn, renting a home at the base of the slopes offers the luxuries of a hotel room with an intimacy and coziness that really fit the Steamboat vibe.

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Chef Paul Lebron of Antares likes the burgers at Slopeslide and Old Towne Pub. He goes to Mocha Molly for coffee and Celebes for Indonesian Coffee. The best Italian, according to Lebron, is at Giovanni’s, and the best breakfast is at Creekside Café.

Chef Michael Fragola of Cottonwood Grill likes to eat at Antares and Café Diva. He loves the Chocolate Soup at The Grand Hotel, the pasta at Giovanni’s, the fresh tortillas at La Montaña, and the coffee at Mocha Molly.

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