When you’re sitting on the spacious, riverfront deck at the Tipsy Trout in Basalt, the only way to get closer to the Frying Pan River would be to jump in it. But then you would miss out on the Tipsy Trout’s delicious new menu created by Basalt-native chef Matt Leblanc. And that would be a shame, because his elevated mountain offerings aren’t going to eat themselves.
Formerly known as the Riverside Grill, Claire and Andy Clarke, who have been involved in the local restaurant scene for 25 years, bought the restaurant in 2018. They’ve freshened up the place, while leaving the rustic mountain town decorations—think tin ceiling, bar seating with river views, massive timber supports, and glass garage doors to seamlessly meld outside and inside. The shell that’s long been hanging on the ceiling also remains.
“I’ve always loved this restaurant, just look at the location,” says Claire Clarke. “When it came to buy it, I also really wanted that boat to stay right where it was!”
The Clarkes gave Leblanc free reign when creating the menu, and he’s incorporated his work experiences, including a focus in fine dining, as well as his passion for local flavors into every bite. Confit salmon with a chipotle vin sauce is deliciously unique mouth explosion of tasty heat and the fatty unctuousness of the fish and a nod to his time at the Biltmore in Arizona. Braised short rib steam buns with chipotle aioli are a fun glimpse to Leblanc’s penchant for playing with flavors that developed while working at an improvisational restaurant. But some things hit closer to home.
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“My family harvests an elk every year. Having an elk burger on the menu just made sense to me,” says Leblanc of the elk burger, made of Colorado elk and served on a brioche roll with goat cheese, poblano peppers, pickled red onions and a bourbon blueberry sauce. The flavors meld together for a big, juicy burger with a big flavor profile that keeps you coming back for bite after tasty bite. In fact, on a recent visit, nary a truffle fry was eaten—and they were delicious—until the entire burger was devoured.
Leblanc’s Shrimp & Polenta dish is further proof of his desire to bring fine dining flavors and care to casual dining. Fried polenta cakes deliver a creamy tanginess thanks to goat cheese, while the addition of corn kernels adds a welcome textural variation. Sautéed spinach and shrimp top each yummy cake as well as citrus aioli for a plate that is beautiful, delicious and perfect for sharing.
Whether you come to enjoy upscale food in a casually comfortable location, swap fishing tales at the bar, take in the view or a combination of all three, the Clarkes’ and Leblanc’s take on elevated, mountain casual dining hits the mark.
Prices: Brunch, $6.95 to $12.95; bar menu, $5 to $9; soups, salads and starters, $7 to $14; lunch, $9 to $24; dinner, $13 to $28
Ambience: mountain casual right on the river.
Signature Dishes: Honey smoked trout dip (house smoked trout with jalapeno cream cheese, honey mustard, green onion and cilantro served with grilled pita); chicken & shrimp lettuce wraps (Claire Clarke used to work at Takah Sushi, and loved this recipe); elk burger; beef stroganoff (made the way it’s supposed to be with egg noodles, mushrooms, caramelized onions and a sherry cream sauce); chorizo eggs benedict (homemade hollandaise tops to poached eggs, chorizo, and avocado over polenta cakes)
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