Estes Park in general & also Ed’s will be filled for this weekend’s Elk Fest
I interrupt this series of restaurant posts from my East Coast visit to mention a recent meal at Ed’s Cantina & Grill, an Estes Park standby that we used to frequent after hiking, ski touring or snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. We had been in an Ed’s rut for so long that once we decided to get out of it, we stayed out for a really long time.
I recently gave a presentation at the Estes Valley Library across the street from Ed’s. My husband came up to provide much-needed and alway-appreciated tech support, so we went to Ed’s for a quick bite. We felt at home again. The menu hadn’t changed much and neither had the restaurant since its major makeover several years ago, and the service was pleasant.
The restaurant was setting up for a big party in the bar area on the Elkhorn Avenue side, but quiet in the rear dining room on a post-Labor Day weeknight, and it was too cool to eat on the pleasant patio overlooking the Big Thompson River, which here isn’t very big at all. This weekend will be a different story. During Estes Park’s popular annual Elk Fest, it and every other eatery in town will jammed. In fact, the last time we went to Ed’s might have been during Elk Fest four or five years ago.
Price Check: Appetizers, $2 for chips & salsa to $8.50 for nachos; soups and salads, $5-$10; burritos, $7.50-$8.50; burgers and sandwiches, $7-$10; platters, $9-$15; à la carte items, $2-$4; gluten-free, $7-$11.
Small restaurant serves big-flavor Asian dishes at small prices
The Thai Kitchen & Bar boasts that it is the “best Thai restaurant in town.” Since there is only one other, whose specialty is pho, it has a 50 percent chance of ranking itself properly. With ongoing service from the time it unlocks it door until it closes, the Thai Kitchen services continuously, which is great for us, because we usually stop in town after hiking, snowshoeing or skiing. The to-go menu and the website have slightly different hours, but they are essentially from late morning to well into the evening. Only two tables were occupied when we arrived in mid-afternoon, then several other parties came in, ate quickly and departed. When we left, there were again just two other tables occupied.
Located in a simple, low-slung building off the Elkhorn Avenue main drag through Estes Park, the Thai Kitchen serves a range of appetizers, soups, Thai curries, stir-fries, noodle dishes and rice — mostly from Southeast Asia but also with powerful influences from China and India, like Southeast Asia itself — plus some Nepali and Tibetan dishes for good measure. Many of the same ingredients appear in different dishes, assembled with mix-and-match inventiveness.
Estes Park restaurant combhines comfort food and forward thinking practices
A look at the Rock Inn’s crowded parking lot with pickups and Harleys spilling over to roadside parking, and you think this over-sized log cabin probably serves biker-bar cuisine, cheap beer and undrinkable wines to a cast straight out of “Easy Rider.” Au contraire. Turns out The Rock Inn is a locals’ hangout, and by and large, they don’t go for fancy cars.
The kitchen sends out varied and interesting scratch-made dishes, some fine renditions of comfort classics and others innovative. The menu changes seasonally. The vegetables were well cooked, which to me is a sure sign that the kitchen cares. Among the wines they serve (even by the glass) is Trinity Oaks, a winery that partners with Trees for the Future and plants a tree for every bottle sold. As of today, they had counted more than 3.8 million trees in the Americas, Asia and primarily Africa. And the Rock Inn is green too. Take-out boxes are by Bio-Plus Earth #2, made from recycled paperboard and are recyclable. No Styrofoam guilt when walking out with a doggie bag. They’ve even got a joice bar. It’s couldn’t help but think that there’s a lot of Boulder-style eco-consciousness at The Rock Inn.
My friend Jeannie and I dined at The Rock Inn a couple of weeks ago. I knew it was a place my husband would like, so we returned last weekend after a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Each experience was happy, with tasty and satisfying, good service and affordable prices — especially at happy hour, nightly from 4:00 to 6:00. Another plus is that on neither visit was to music so loud that talking/hearing were impossible. Here’s what was ordered on my nearly back-to-back visits to The Rock Inn.
Price check:Appetizers, $5-$9; crocks of soup, $3.50-$4.50; $9-$9.50 plus 75¢-$1.25 per extra topping; salads, $7.50-$8.50; sandwiches, $7.75-$13; steaks, $24-$29; other entrees, $20-$22; pasta, $9-$15; à la carte sides, $3.50-$4.25.
Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.