Sometimes it’s nice to carve out space, take in the scene and try new small plates and cocktails at your own easy flowing pace. Follow locals’ cues and arrive early to these Aspen institutions. Belly up and watch select, only-from-your-bar stool indulgences unfold.
This 10-year-old locally adored upmarket Italian spot is revered for its inventive yet comfortable contemporary dishes and a 1,500-bottle wine list. Regulars tap the bar menu for braised artichokes, pork belly tacos with grilled pineapple and halibut ceviche at lowered price points. 430 E. Hyman Ave., 970.925.2976, ellinaaspen.com
Fresh, familiar ingredients and seasonal American menus have kept Piñons soaring since 1988. Stop in for a $35 two-course dinner in the bar and choose from appetizers such as a romaine, bacon and tomato Freddy salad. Move on to main course options spanning herb-crusted Colorado trout with jumbo lump crab to an impressive tofu enchilada. (Menu options change with the seasons.) 105 S. Mill St., 970.920.2021, pinons.net
Housemade pasta, extensive vino offerings and patio seating are the draw at this warm Italian space. The bar menu reveals a bounty of insalatas—try the arugula, gorgonzola and pear with walnuts and balsamic— followed by savory primi selections like the ravioli al pomodoro. Craving seafood? For your secondi selection, the zuppa di pesce stands up as a hearty meal of salmon, clams, mussels, crab claw, shrimp, tomato lobster broth and toasted crostini. 620 E. Hyman Ave., 970.925.9022, hostaria.com
You can get Jimmy’s famous steaks and classic cocktails at the bar, but real insiders know to ask about the daily specials on the bar menu. Saturday’s prime rib of beef is a treat. Seek out the Locally Priced lineup for popular picks that include a street-smart surf and turf of fillet tips and ahi tuna with mashed potatoes and veggies, along with a slew of shareables such as the popular Jimmy’s mac and cheese mixed with bacon and jalapenos. 205 S. Mill St., 970.925.6020, jimmysaspen.com
This locally owned staple since 1987 is just 1.5 blocks from the gondola and boasts a generous bar menu. Snag a coveted seat and relish in wallet-friendly linguini with wild mushrooms and sage marsala sauce, grilled jumbo shrimp with roasted red pepper coulis, a N.Y. Strip with port wine demi and Mezzaluna’s legendary wood-fired pizzas. 624 E. Cooper Ave., 970.925.5882, mezzalunaaspen.com