Offseason restaurants

A burger at Smuggler Union. (Courtesy photo)

As far as he knows — and he would know — La Cocina de Luz, Telluride’s popular Mexican cuisine/local’s hangout/kid’s ice cream emporium on Main Street, has never shuttered its doors for off-season. 

“The restaurant’s been open since I’ve lived here, and I was born here,” said Tristan Hodges, La Cocina’s server-bartender. “It’s kind of strange. This is the first time ever that we’ve closed.”

Kind of strange, but not remotely surprising: it’s been that sort of year. So by the time you read this Sunday, the restaurant’s staff will be on hiatus.

“We’re ready,” Hodges said simply. “I think this summer’s going to be another insane one, and a lot of us didn’t catch a break between last summer and winter. I think it’ll be slow enough around here that we can make it happen. We’re catching a little break now, so everyone can come back and be at their best.”

La Cocina’s closure will be brief — just two weeks will pass before the restaurant will open again, on or about May 1 — and hungry guests can again tuck into, say, lusty cheese enchilada platters laden with housemade red, or green (or both) chile sauce. 

“I always recommend them,” Hodges said. Come summer, there’ll be “a ton of specials again, which we rotate in every week,” singular dishes such as lamb adovado, Baja fish tacos, or green chile-cured salmon with cilantro-lime butter.

Caravan, right next to La Cocina, will remain open this off-season, serving take-out Middle Eastern specialties “so there’s some respite,” as Hodges put it drily.

Other restaurants, such as Smuggler Union brewpub, don’t plan to close.

“We take a couple of days off for cleaning, but we try not to have to close,” general manager Mark Hebert explained. Locals would be bummed if they did: the restaurant’s “Buy One, Get One” specials are revered in the Box Canyon. 

“We’re figuring out the BOGO menu right now,” Hebert said. “We only have two burgers on the menu” (a bacon burger and a truffle burger replete with mushrooms, a splash of truffle oil, and a smear of fois gras pate, if you were wondering). 

On the BOGO lunch menu, which ends at 3:30 p.m. daily (the restaurant is open seven days a week), is a short rib grilled cheese, which is shredded beef with Gruyere, cheddar, provolone “and carmelized onion jam on sourdough bread,” Hebert said. “It’s kind of an awesome sandwich.”

In short, off-season or no, you can eat very well here. 

What’s more, several favorite restaurants will return sooner than you might imagine: though technically, shoulder season extends from early April until mid-May, many places are reopening sooner. According to an online list maintained by the Telluride Visitors Bureau, Baked In Telluride, which closes today, will be back in business a short 10 days hence, on April 20. 

Ghost Town returns April 19, and will be open seven days a week. 

Brown Dog pizzeria, and its Detroit-style, International Pizza Challenge-winning square pies, is available to all comers straight into summer: the restaurant is open weekdays from 3 p.m.-9 p.m., and weekends from 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. 

Wood Ear returns April 14; the Liberty is open now, with no plans to shutter.

Be grateful some restaurants are returning at all: There, which launched in Telluride and has offered a carefully-curated selection of small bites and craft cocktails for the last decade, is now taking reservations for summer, according to its website (the restaurant’s sister space, in Denver, has closed, also according to its website).  

Missing your breakfast burrito fix? Craving home baked desserts (including what one local swears is the best carrot cake he’s ever eaten, even though it is not topped with cream-cheese frosting)? Wondering about that Wednesday fried chicken special? Wonder no more: The Butcher & The Baker, where you can find all those things (and much more) will soon be the place you can get them again: the airy Main Street eatery, where “everything is homemade or homegrown,” as owner Megan Ossola puts it, reopens with daily service on April 19. 

“We’ll continue offering online ordering, as before,” Ossola said. “But we’ll have tables back up, inside. So that will be new.” Also new will be “Our summer menu, which we’ll debut in May. Everything is planted,” Ossola added with satisfaction. She owns a farm (the restaurant sources as much of its fresh produce as it can from there), “and by June, we’ll be selling produce from the farm just outside the restaurant, in Spruce Park, once a week.” Before that, “We’ll be selling some local greens” for guests to take away. “It’s just field mix by the pound, and the selection is a little limited,” Ossola said. “But we’ll offer what we can.” 

 

For a list of restaurant hours in Telluride and Mountain Village over the next few weeks, see the list a telluride.com/off-season-dining/.