Aspen, Colorado (Photo: Thinkstock)
Ah, Thursday night—the only truly social night of the week. It’s the night when babysitters are booked, friends convene and drinks are imbibed. There are no family obligations to fulfill, no amateurish weekend crowds to elbow through—and the possibilities are endless. The night starts after work and ends whenever you want. In any city. All over the world.
This week, we present the perfect Thursday night in Aspen.
This weekend’s Food & Wine Classic is a reminder that there is no more idyllic place to indulge yourself than Aspen, Colorado, with its snowcapped mountains, blissful rivers and unspoiled valleys.
Of course, you don’t need a culinary festival with Michael Symon, José Andrés and Gail Simmons to eat, drink and party like a food-world insider in Aspen. Whether it’s ski season or not, you can work up an appetite before the best kind of Thursday night on the town.
Rio Grande (Photo: Marko Forsten/Flickr)
Yes, you could drive to Woody Creek Tavern, where legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson used to hold court. But it’s much more fun and energizing to take the 8-mile bike ride on the scenic Rio Grande Trail that starts behind the Aspen post office.
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If an entire flea market’s junk was airlifted to a ramshackle mountain community, you’d get something like the decor at Woody Creek Tavern. Marvel at the seemingly random art, children’s drawings and photos of hundreds of patrons who decided they wanted their pictures plastered on the walls. If you’d like your mug here, just ask to be photographed.
This place is a beautiful mess inside, but the pro move is to sit outside and have nachos and a beer ( not too much to drink if you’re biking back) while looking at the mountains and realizing that there’s no appointment or deadline that should keep you from lingering at this wonderful slice of Americana.
Chefs Club Aspen’s St. Regis (Photo: St. Regis Hotels and Resorts/Flickr)
Chefs Club by Food & Wine at Aspen’s St. Regis resort likes to keep the delicious surprises coming. Every year, the magazine picks a group from its Best New Chef list to curate the menu. Chris Shepherd (of Underbelly in Houston), Matthew Gaudet (of West Bridge in Cambridge, MA), Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman (of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis) and Jason Vincent (who recently left Nightwood in Chicago) are currently at the helm. It’s like there’s a food festival here every week: Expect all-over-the-map dishes like Shepherd’s Korean braised goat with seared rice dumplings and Ticer and Hudman’s butterfish with fennel, leek, broccoli, potato and soia fermentata (that’s Italian for fermented soybeans).
The National playing at The Belly (Photo: Courtesy of The Belly in Aspen)
From Chefs Club, it’s less than a 5-minute walk to dance the calories away at Belly Up, a 450-person capacity music venue known for regularly booking talent that sells out much larger spaces around the country. The sound, sightlines and party-happy crowds rival the best rock clubs, and Belly Up is a fine place to see DJs and country artists. This summer’s Thursday calendar includes Moby, Nightmares on Wax, Kacey Musgraves, Everlast and John Hiatt. It’s wise to buy tickets in advance.
If the music doesn’t suit your taste, walk over to Jimmy’s, a restaurant/bar where the always convivial proprietor Jimmy Yeager’s “ice program” serves cocktails with immaculate 3-inch cubes carved from 300-pound blocks made with purified water. (Yeager refers to these cubes as BFICs.) The Jimmy Mac, with Macallan 15, Amaro Averna, Benedectine and orange bitters, works as a nightcap … or the beginning of an after-dinner bender.
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Caribou Bar at Caribou Club (Photo: Courtesy of Caribou Club)
Buy a temporary membership (starting at $500 a week for two people), befriend a regular or try to sweet-talk the door if you want access to the exclusive Caribou Club. It’s a strange sort of nightspot, with taxidermy, a ping-pong table and a tiny dance floor, but it’s where both the young and fabulous and the old and ridiculously wealthy close things out when in town. If all you’re in search of is just one more drink, though, J-Bar at the swanktastic Hotel Jerome is a cozy alternative to overheated nightlife. Its Aspen Crud with whisky, vanilla ice cream and milk is a sweet way to wind down. Classic indeed.