Best New Restaurant: E3 Chophouse
A riverside location, great ambiance and focus on fresh was all it took for E3 Chophouse to win Best New Restaurant in this year’s tally. While you likely won’t be sitting outside on its riverside patio during the winter, inside the thrust is all on its pasture-to-plate steaks, which come straight from co-owner Jeff LaRoche’s family ranch in Kansas. Raised in an all-natural environment, the certifiable Black Angus Prime — whether in 14-ounce New York strips, ribeyes and filet mignon or a whopping 24-ounce porterhouse — is its culinary calling card, which keeps customers coming back for more. That, and an emphasis on service and a happy hour that keeps locals spreading the word. “At E3, it’s truly all in the family,” LaRoche says. “Our steaks and chops are cut daily in-house and prepared the only way we know how — to perfection.” The restaurant also features daily specials, fresh fish (24 hours sea-to-table), wild game (try its elk tenderloin with cherry stout mole) and more, joining such local favorites as bacon-wrapped dates, jalapeno goat cheese fritters and lobster mac and cheese.
2. Low Country Kitchen
Founded by bistro c.v. owners Katy and Brian Vaughn, Low Country Kitchen gives your mouth such a taste of the South that you’ll think you’re dining on your front-porch swing. The new eatery at 435 Lincoln Ave. offers an array of tantalizing tidbits straight from Dixie, using fresh organic meats and produce and seafood from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Fill up on Southern-style crispy fried chicken, a heaping bowl of Cajun jambalaya, a BLT with, you guessed it, fried green tomatoes, all whipped up by chef Ryan Hoth as well as the Vaughns, who hail from down South and are stoked to bring its flavor to Steamboat, be it meats or mint juleps. “It’s the food we grew up eating,” says Katy, touting the Chicken Biscuit appetizer (with pepper jelly and Aioli sauce) and Shrimp and Grits as its best sellers. “We have a personal attachment to it, and it’s not food you can get anywhere else in town.” Says one reviewer on http://www.opentable.com: “… a refreshing contrast to the over-abundance of mountain chic in the area.”
3. Eureka Mediterranean Street Food
If you haven’t peeked in through its oversized garage doors opening to its outside dining patio, Carl’s Tavern owners Collin and Noella Kelley have created a new Mediterranean-themed restaurant next door that’s fast becoming a favorite for casual diners. Its street-food-inspired fare features traditional dishes served family-feast style, employing a pizza oven from Naples and two large rotisseries for Middle Eastern shawarma meats. “The Lebanese dishes, inspired by family recipes from Noella’s grandparents, have really been moving well,” Collin says. He also touts the homemade Neopolitan-style pizzas, complete with imported flour from Italy, fresh mozzarella, local honey, prosciutto de parma and grana padano (extra-aged Parmesan). “People love it,” he says. “No one else in town is doing them like it.”
Just don’t expect menus or waiters. A giant screen displays the day’s offerings, with your counter order brought to your table. “We’re trying to bring a different type of cuisine and service to town,” he says, adding that nothing on the menu is priced over $15. “We want a family of four to be able to get quick, affordable, great quality food for $50 to $60. It fills a great niche on Yampa Street.”
4. Aurum Food & Wine
Aurum, located at 811 Yampa St., offers “a new element in dining,” all in a fun, energetic atmosphere emphasizing food and service. Headed by executive chef Chase Wilbanks, who has cooked at Denver’s Shanahan’s Steakhouse, the menu varies with the seasons, encompassing everything from fine dining to more casual fare (favorites include its crab cakes and chanterelle mushroom fondue). A “local’s hour” menu augments its regular offerings, with the lounge offering Colorado liquors and beers along with a specialty drink list. Its menu is accompanied by wines custom blended by Colorado winemaker Joe Buckel, with other wines organized by region and changing seasonally. “Having our own vineyard is a huge element of the restaurant,” owner Phil Armstrong says. As for its menu, he adds that it changes with the seasons and that “we’re not stretching to serve things that aren’t in season. Our obsession is the guest experience. It’s not just the food or service, but the people who come through our doors.”
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