Food and Drink |

Food and Drink

Paul Conrad/Aspen Times WeeklyBest Cheap Eats: The Big Wrap

The Big Wrap absolutely ran away with this one with 35 votes. No surprise, either – the Wrap won this category last year and continues to serve up a solid menu of fast and filling fare, from the Asian “To Thai For” to the standard Mexican burrito. The nearest runner-up, the Grill Next Door, logged nine votes. There were numerous other spots that collected between one and five, including a number of downvalley eateries, but the only ones really in the game were La Cocina with eight, Johnny McGuire’s with eight and New York Pizza with seven.

In a town filled with pricey eats, picking the best one is no easy task. It was so hard, in fact, that our discerning readers couldn’t decide. Montagna at The Little Nell and Matsuhisa tied for first, appeasing deep-pocketed sushi lovers and meat eaters alike. Of note: Piñons, a longtime staple of Aspen’s fine-dining scene, came in just one vote behind for third place; the new Manrico Cashmere restaurant, the priciest of Aspen’s priciest, was way down the list; and we’re not sure where one reader regularly dines (or how much he’s ordering), but McDonald’s even made the list.

Once again, “the Stube” is Aspen’s breakfast place. The Wienerstube, a perennial Aspen favorite, regularly draws locals, tourists and gathering of the town’s true old-timers, who can be found debating the issue du jour over coffee and eggs, any style, at the community table.The Stube is open for breakfast and lunch, but it’s known for breakfast. “The best Eggs Benedict in town, with perfectly cooked asparagus,” raved one fan. And, there’s the familiar breakfast special – two eggs, toast and potatoes for $5.45. Add bacon or sausage and it’s $7.45. Add two pancakes for 75 cents. But early birds (before 8 a.m.) get a $1.50 discount on the meal.

This was a shocker for many of us at the Times. The J-Bar has been a de facto dynasty in this category for years, but in a stunning freshman-year performance, the Grill Next Door rocketed to the heights of the Aspen burger world. It’s understandable: The little joint down on Rio Grande Place serves up a fast and juicy burger with scrumptious curly fries for a cheap price (varies with the size of the patty).The J-Bar went out swinging, though, with 17 votes to the Grill Next Door’s 21. Other vote-getters included Little Annie’s with 14 and 39 Degrees with seven votes.

Aspen Mountain isn’t just a great place to ski. It’s apparently a good place to chow down, er, dine, as well. The Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain was the top vote-getter, with Bonnie’s coming in with a close second.We’re not sure what voters liked about the Sundeck (certainly, it can’t be the prices), but the views are certainly astounding. Bonnie’s, on the other hand – homemade soups and that apple strudel with whipped cream. Need we say more?At Snowmass, Gwyn’s High Alpine garnered more than a few votes and tiny Cloud Nine at Highlands also earned a mention. The soup at Cloud Nine is worth stopping for, even on a powder day.

We couldn’t believe it this year when our readers chose three bars in an exact tie for their favorite place to imbibe and socialize, none of which are connected to the Hotel Jerome. Eric’s, Jimmy’s and 39 Degrees share the honors this year with 13 votes apiece. Aspen residents love them all, but we might note that Eric’s draws a 20-something, new-to-Aspen meat market crowd; 39 Degrees (also informally referred to as the Sky Bar for its location within the Sky Hotel) brings out a slightly swankier hipster crowd of locals in-the-know; and there’s no better place to see a down-to-earth group of locals classing it up for the night than at Jimmy’s.Of course, the J-Bar got seven votes, and Bentley’s, the Red Onion and Cooper Street garnered six, five and three votes respectively. But we’d like to toast the reader who chose “Power Bar Cookie & Cream” as his favorite bar. You’ll beat us all to the gondola line in the morning, man.

You better hurry if you want to get the best margarita in town, because La Cocina is calling it quits this offseason. In the meantime, though, Aspen’s beloved quasi-Mexican eatery is still serving up their famous margs – on the rocks or blended; salt or no salt; with fruit or without … the perfect complement to a No. 7, No. 3, No. 2, or really just about anything on the menu. Once they’ve shuttered the doors, though, don’t panic. Our readers have plenty of suggestions for quenching that taste for tequila: the Cantina, Su Casa, Blue Maize and Jimmy’s topped the list of runners-up.

Aspen’s anticipated ice-cream war is apparently anything but. Paradise Bakery, the longest running purveyor of frozen treats, is hands-down the best, according to our readers. With 62 votes, Paradise is, well, paradise; newcomers Maggie Moo’s and Ben & Jerry’s were well behind with 19 and seven votes, respectively. Time may tell a different story, of course, but there’s something to be said for a top-notch ice-cream shop that also serves homemade cookies and piping hot coffee.

Ink! Coffee gets the nod as Aspen’s favorite coffee spot. It’s less than a block from the outlet for that ubiquitous Seattle brand, but java fans apparently favor the local feel of Ink!Or maybe it’s that Ink! roasts its beans in the mountains – at 6,610 feet – allowing them to roast the beans longer at lower temperature and giving the coffee “its distinctive smooth finish without any bitterness,” according to Ink! literature. The shop makes a variety of its roasted beans available for purchase.As popular as the coffees are Ink! Coffee’s blended concoctions, like the Black & White – espresso, dark and white chocolate, milk and ice – blended into frosty irresistibility.

After hitting the ski hill or cooling down from a long hike, it appears more people prefer the Ajax Tavern next to the gondola. The eatery garnered 12 votes to nip Jimmy’s, which had 10.The Ajax Tavern is renowned for its truffle fries, a delectable mixture of truffles and parmesan cheese. Also popular are the smoked chicken salad and tuna pressata sandwich, washed down by a refreshing strawberry lemonade.Also getting plenty of mention were the Jerome patio, Pacifica and, perhaps the most scenic, the Riverside Grill in Basalt.

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