Venga Venga

Best Place to Après Ski,” “Best Patio,” “Best Margarita,”and “Best Happy Hour” in The Aspen Times Best of Aspen Snowmass awards. Need we say more?

Situated slopeside at the end of the Snowmass Mall, Venga Venga’s patio is a place where imbibers and families alike can coexist to the sounds on busy days under the Colorado sunshine. The patio overlooks the slopes and features an indoor-outdoor bar, where après-ski deals provide a delicious sampling of the restaurant’s modern Mexican cuisine and tasty margaritas. An inside dining room offers a more elegant dining option popular at dinnertime.

The après and cantina menu, from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, offer a great value, and there’s live music during Happy Hour Thursday through Saturday. Classic margaritas are $8, but my favorite was the hot-pink prickly pear-blueberry version for $8 — with Sauza Blue tequila, prickly pear, blueberry-infused tequila and fresh citrus. It paired perfectly with the al pastor pork tacos in corn tortillas with fresh pineapple — just $3 each or $9 for three during après. Many other appetizers and tapas are half-off during après, too.

Modern Mexican cuisine is a theme at many of chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval’s establishments, but each place does it a little differently. Chef de cuisine Eddy Chimal said there are a lot of creative twists on many classic dishes at Venga Venga, but much of the inspiration is from traditional Mexican food.

The chicken zarape features tender grilled chicken breast topped with smoky bacon and three sauces — chipotle adobo, chipotle cream and tomatillo sauce, served with creamy cotija rice and refried black beans. It’s a comforting, hearty dish, great after some powder turns at Snowmass.

The more traditional al pastor tacos come with adobo-marinated pork and pineapple topped with onions and cilantro like you’d find at a street cart in Mexico. Roasted pork carnitas and carne asada served with chimichurri sauce are other big hits.

On a warm, sunny day, opt for the stuffed avocado shrimp salad with greens, citrus-adobo shrimp, corn relish, cilantro pesto and pickled onions — full of vibrant colors and flavors.

Chimal stresses that just about everything is made in-house. From the creative sauces to the pickled onions, the ingredients are fresh.

Guests can customize their guacamole, prepared tableside, with as much citrus, onion or hot chili as desired.

Listen to the live music happening daily, and belly up with a margarita at one of several patio tables with fire pits while the kids roast marshmallows and build their own s’mores. Venga Venga has managed to achieve an atmosphere that truly welcomes people of all ages.

Prices: $12 – $26 Ambience: Mountain-side causal with great patio. Signature dishes: Chile Relleno, Shrimp Enchiladas.