Aspen on a budget: making the most of offseason local specials
Living in a resort town on a regular salary can be tough.
As many locals admit, one of the many benefits to living in Aspen full time are the countless specials extended to locals — especially during the offseason.
The perks are aplenty in a place that appreciates its locals as much as Aspen — so many, in fact, it’s tough to keep track of them all — especially in a town with so much going on.
Proving that it is possible to live the champagne life on a beer budget, here’s your guide to some of Aspen’s best food and drink specials — the new, the lesser-known and the classics.
Because why pay more when you don’t have to?
BREAKFAST ON A BUDGET
Let’s start with shots — espresso shots, that is.
Paradise Bakery and Cafe awards its environmentally conscious consumers who bring in their own mug or cup by filling it up with coffee or a soft drink for $1. The bakery also offers two local punch cards: Buy nine bakery items and get one free, or buy five espressos or cappuccinos and get the sixth free.
For late risers, Paradise discounts its croissants to $1.40 after 12:30 p.m. It also sells day-old cookies for $1 as well as day-old muffins for $1.40.
“And, of course, there’s always the sample plate,” manager Dyan Bronstein said.
Main Street Bakery and Cafe has 50-cent biscuits and donuts for $1. During the afternoon, Main Street Bakery often sells its leftover morning treats, including pastries, bagels, muffins, scones and doughnuts, under a buy-one-get-one deal, owner Bill Dinsmoor said.
For a heartier breakfast on a budget, Stoney Ridge Fridge is your go-to. The locally owned deli, which opened last summer, will soon sell $5 ready-to-go cheese, egg and meat breakfast burritos, aimed toward feeding hungry locals ready to hit the mountain. Until then, Stoney Ridge has three breakfast tacos for $9.50, or a three-egg omelet — with your choice of meat, cheese and three veggies — for $9. Co-owner Bryan Bennett said Stoney Ridge’s breakfast “is cheaper than anywhere in town.” Bennett said Stoney Ridge also plans to add more breakfast items, “healthy vegetarian” options and daily specials to its menu.
CHEAP EATS: LUNCH for less than $10
At Stoney Ridge, the $8 Battle Burger — which is grilled steak, sauteed mushrooms, swiss cheese and a fried egg on a fresh-baked sesame-seed bun — is “probably our best deal,” Bennett said.
For more sandwiches, subs and paninis at a reasonable price, the Grateful Deli is another local favorite. Open all offseason, the deli offers a sandwich special every day of the week. Joe Freeman, who’s owned Grateful Deli for eight-and-a-half years, said the deli usually makes up its daily special, which is something grilled on focaccia bread “about 95 percent of the time.” Freeman said the daily special usually runs between $7.50 and $9, and that the $6 egg salad is the cheapest item on the menu.
Another popular Aspen bakery, Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop, offers fresh sandwiches for $8.50 Monday through Saturday. But be sure and bring cash, as the old-fashioned shop doesn’t take credit cards.
The Big Wrap is another longtime local hotspot that only accepts cash and is closed Sundays. While The Big Wrap doesn’t have specials per se, “every day’s a deal at The Big Wrap,” owner Babs Menendez said. Offering a wide variety of homemade wraps, soups, smoothies, salads and more, The Big Wrap is one of the few places in town to get lunch for less than $10.
FOOD for less than $5
One of the least expensive meals you’ll find in town during the offseason is from The Butcher’s Block. The deli shop has a $3.95 bologna sandwich special that will start soon, perhaps in mid-October, manager Jim Strickbine said, adding that sometimes, it’ll sell for even less.
For more grub for less than $5, the Popcorn Wagon, which is open until 2 a.m., sells $4 hotdogs and half a dozen donuts for $2.97.
And, of course, there’s always New York Pizza, where large, New York-style thin slices range from $4 to $4.75. The late-night pizza joint, which opens at 11 a.m. for lunch, said it might start a football and/or beer special soon.
SPEAKING OF BEER …
Because it really is five o’clock somewhere.
Or 3 p.m., when Hops Culture kicks off its happy hour.
From 3 to 6 p.m. daily, Hops’ happy-hour menu offers a $3 Colorado Native Lager, a $5 shot and a beer, $6 house wine, $3 chorizo deviled eggs, $4 pretzel bites and more. Hops also has weekend meal specials, such as its $14 chicken-and-waffle plate on Sundays.
Little Annie’s Eating House has offseason dinner specials at a similar price during the week from Monday to Thursday. At $14.95 a meal, Monday night at Little Annie’s is all-you-can-eat BBQ beef ribs; Tuesday is Italian; Wednesday is fried chicken; and Thursday is Mexican. The bar also has its share of offseason drink specials, such as a beer and a shot for $4, five shots and a pitcher for $20, a $4.50 beer of the day and a $6 drink of the day. For a food and drink special, there’s the $10 burger and mug of beer special — but only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the bar.
Zane’s Tavern has its “burger and a Bud” special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well. During happy hour at Zane’s from 4 to 6 p.m., it also offers 50-cent chicken wings, $1 off pints and $2 off pitchers.
For local beer on a budget, Aspen Brewing Co. has $4 pints every day during its 5 to 7 p.m. happy hour. Make it a pitcher and add popcorn for $20 during any NFL or college football game.
The Red Onion’s happy hour is so nice it happens twice — every day from 4 to 6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m, and it’s $1 off every well, wine, draft and bottled beer — plus live music on Mondays.
“It’s a locals hangout in here for sure,” bartender Erin Mitchell said.
The Red Onion is among a handful of places in town to give new meaning to Mondays, a night that’s traditionally slower in most bars.
At Ryno’s Pub & Pizzeria, karaoke night on Mondays is so popular that the bar reaches capacity by 10:30 p.m., owner Ryan Sweeney said. While karaoke night doesn’t have its own special food or drink deals, Ryno’s prices are “overall pretty reasonable,” Sweeney said, with $3 shots, $4 domestic drafts and $6 chips and queso. The owner said he hopes to get a happy-hour special going as soon as Ryno’s slows down a bit.
Monday Night Football at the Hickory House means $2.50 sliders, a $12 racks of ribs and 65-cent wings as well as beer starting at $2.50.
Matsuhisa celebrates Monday Night Football in its own fashion. The upscale sushi joint kicked off its offseason special this week: Matsuhisa Monday. From 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Matsuhisa offers $10 tempura fried shrimp and $6 hand-rolled sushi, which the restaurant says it’ll change weekly, as well as $2 Budweisers or Bud Lights; hot or cold sake — $5 for a small or $10 for a large and $5 glasses of red or white.
Seeking more great deals on wine? Look no further than Justice Snow’s newest weekly special: Wine Wednesdays. From 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays throughout the offseason, locals get half off a bottle of wine with the purchase of any dinner entree, excluding the burger. Happy hour runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and offers $5 margaritas, mojitos and mimosas; a shot and a beer for $3.50; and $1 off draft beer. Be on the lookout for more Justice Snow’s specials soon — general manager Sean Robinso said the American restaurant and bar “has more ideas in the works.”
The hump-day celebrations and libations continue at bb’s kitchen, where customers get 30 percent off all bottles of wine every Wednesday.
Wine time is all week at Mezzaluna. The Italian restaurant has 25 percent off all bottles of wine every day as well as happy-hour food and drink specials from 3 to 5:30 p.m. or until 6:30 p.m. at the bar. Happy-hour drink specials include a $3 Coors, $4 Pinot Grigio, $5 house margaritas and $6 specialty cocktails.
FOR FINER DINING and DRINKING ON A DIME
Mezzaluna’s bar menu is a must, with entrees such as $11 spaghettini Bolognese or $16.50 New York strip steak with pommes frites and port demi wine. Mezzaluna’s $8 pizzas are a popular happy-hour favorite as well, manager Anna Svensson said.
Svensson said Mezzaluna plans to add offseason specials as soon as it slows down, maybe sometime in October. For now, she said the bar is still busy, especially around 5 p.m. when locals get off work and can take advantage of the bar’s happy-hour specials.
Campo de Fiori, another popular Italian restaurant and bar, also will soon debut its offseason specials. Campo’s $15 cocktail and appetizer special as well as its limited 25 percent-discounted offseason menu will start during the first week of October, according to manager Duan Chaffey.
While you’re waiting, take advantage of Creperie du Village’s specials, which end the first week of October when the restaurant closes for the offseason. From now until October, the French Alpine Bistro is offering 40 percent off beef, cheese and chocolate fondue from open to close as well as 50 percent off all rosé wines during its 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour.
GET YOUR PRIX FIXE
For special occasions, or those with more forgiving budgets, many restaurants in town have special prix fix menus at a discounted price for locals in the offseason.
Brexi Brasserie’s three-course offseason prix fixe is $38 from 5:30 to close Tuesday through Sunday.
Casa Tua has a special bar menu and $39 prix fixe every night during the offseason.
Pinons’ two-course prix fixe is $35 at the bar, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Ajax Tavern offers a three-course special all day everyday for $37 from now until “probably Thanksgiving,” restaurant supervisor Shuman Pradhan said. Ajax also offers two entree specials during its happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. every day, a double burger and draft beer for $17 or a half-dozen oysters for $18.
Just downstairs, Element 47 has a $47 dinner special that consists of an appetizer, entree and dessert from 6 to 9 p.m. until Nov. 26.
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