Ridgway, the red-headed stepchild of the San Juan Skyway, is a great area for foodies

by Lindsay Mattison

When I told my friends I was headed to Ridgway for the weekend, it didn’t really surprise me when the response was, “Why?” It’s not that anyone hates on Ridgway; it just seems like a middle-of-nowhere kind of town, nestled unceremoniously between Telluride and Ouray on the San Juan Skyway. Weekend trips are usually planned around who has the best vistas (a ride on Telluride’s gondola, for sure) or the best access to hot springs (Ouray or Pagosa Springs, definitely). So why stop in the tiny town of Ridgway? If you knew what I knew, you’d plan a weekend trip right now, because Ridgway is one of the best foodie towns in the area.

As we drove into town, we got a peek at the dramatic views of the San Juan mountains. Unlike Ouray and Silverton, where you’re nestled in amongst the mountains, Ridgway is on the northern flank of the range, and you can see the full force of the peaks in the distance. Drive out to the reservoir at Ridgway State Park and the views are even better. So far, off to a good start, and I got a sudden hankering to re-watch “True Grit.”

There are only three hotels in town (although quite a few more Airbnbs), but we chose the one with its own springs access: Chipeta Solar Springs. We didn’t get dinner at the on-site restaurant, but the Sky Bar had a killer 365 view that was perfect for a sunset drink after a soak in their relaxing pools. As we headed out for dinner, we wandered into Steps Patio Tavern. The outdoor space was brand new – it’s only been open for a few months – but it’s designed to feel like you’re hanging out in someone’s backyard. We sidled up to the bar (a wooden backyard shed converted into a two-window bar area) as the crowd behind us cheered to the sound of the life-sized Jenga two-by-fours crashing to the ground. The bartender filled us in on the scoop: the only late-night bar in town (Steps) just opened this patio tavern, and they’re hoping it can stay open most of the year. He expects they’ll throw a bunch of parties throughout the year. In the summer months, they sling slushy pina coladas and margs, but winter warmers would certainly be on the menu in the cooler months.

We moved on to dinner and my favorite pizza in the state at Colorado Boy. As you walk in, the mirrors that line the back wall make the space feel larger than it is, but in reality, the stainless steel kettles and fermenters take up most of the indoor space, reminding you that they brew on site. You’ll have your choice of sitting at the 10-person bar or at a handful of indoor tables. It gets crowded, but luckily there’s plenty of patio picnic seating outside. They always have a great collection of beers, including a rotating cask (that day was pale ale, my fave). The pizza is phe-frickin-nomenal; the stone oven gets just hot enough to crisp up the edges of the crust without burning it like a wood-fired oven. The dough is chewy and bready, and they top it with sauce that actually tastes like tomatoes (no tomato paste-y sauce here). It’s so good that there’s no need to ask for a side of ranch (although I would fully recommend dipping the crust into their homemade chili oil).

The next morning we grabbed a light breakfast at the hotel. We knew it was going to be a gut-bomb kind of day, and we needed to work up an appetite. You can fish or paddle around the reservoir, go hiking (Blue Lakes Trailhead is only 30 minutes away), or golf up on the mesa at Loghill. No matter what you choose, you’ll definitely want to be hungry when you head into Tacos del Gnar. This next-level taco shop has a thousand tacos (okay, not really, but it feels overwhelming to have to choose). Hopefully you’re not a picky eater or have food allergies, because each taco is loaded up with ingredients. Choose from tacos filled with Bulgogi beef, crispy rice noodles, and funky kimchi, or go more traditional with house chorizo, queso, slaw, and something amazing called Rick Ross sauce. If seafood is your jam, they have beer battered cod, seared rare ahi tuna, or tempura shrimp, and there are more than a few veggie-friendly options. My personal favorite was the lambrizo (spicy lamb sausage), and I couldn’t get enough of the loaded yuca fries. They. Were. Everything.

After a few Underbergs and a brisk walk around the tiny town, we still weren’t really hungry for dinner, which was a bad combination dinner at the Adobe Inn. The portions are ginormous. As we walked down the dirt road to get there, we were pretty unimpressed with this hostel-meets-restaurant, but the inside was cozy and warm. The margaritas were strong and not too sweet, and their refried beans were absolutely out of this world. The entrées all come with this amazing corn pudding conglomeration that’s filled with sweet corn, savory cheese, and spicy chilies. Our only complaint is that we didn’t come with the appetite a place like this deserves.

Before heading out the next morning, we headed to Provisions at the Barbershop for brunch. The building looks like an Old West saloon; it’s modern and hip inside. A chunky brick wall lines the right side of the café, but the coffee counter is chic white marble. At night you can belly up to the marble bar for an adult beverage, but they’re all about the coffee drinks in the morning. It was almost impossible to decide what to get – Huevos rancheros? Brown butter waffles? Pastrami hash with duck fat roasted potatoes? – but I finally settled on the black bean and quinoa bowl. The tomatoes tasted garden fresh, and the addition of a parsley pistou and sunflower seeds really took it to the next level.

We tried our best to pack in all the food we could, but we’ll have to go back to try out the restaurants we missed. Just make sure to plan ahead. The entire town seems to shut down at 9 p.m., and most of the restaurants are closed between 2:30 and 5 p.m. (including Eatery 66, our white whale of this trip).

Lindsay Mattison


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