Restaurants are staying flexible during Aspen’s strangest winter season, finding engaging ways to serve skiers and locals as safely as possible
From Eater – Denever: By– January 2021
For a small ski town where the majority of locals’ livelihoods rely on tourism, when the pandemic hit, it hit hard. The ski season was cut abruptly short with mountain operations closing for good on March 20, 2020 — 30 days before official “closing day” festivities at Aspen Snowmass. Restaurants and bars were forced to close, too, throwing proprietors into a panic. (Even without a pandemic, Aspen’s notoriously sky-high rents make it difficult for restaurateurs to survive.) Once the initial lockdown restrictions were lifted, to-go became the go-to, and by summer, city officials okayed the use of sidewalks and parking lots as dining spaces, and turned most of downtown into a mandatory mask zone.
Now, amid what will likely go down in history as the strangest ski season ever, restaurants have adapted to indoor dining at 25 percent capacity and gotten creative with cool concepts ranging from temporary sidewalk structures to cozy patio igloos. But restrictions for Pitkin County remain a constantly moving target, making it harder than ever to plan for a meal out or in. And if you’re traveling from out of town, be prepared to complete the newly required online travel affidavit.
1. Mawa’s Kitchen
Mawa McQueen’s cooking journey took her from Ivory Coast to France, England, Maine, and finally Colorado. At the home base of her now three-restaurant group and catering company, the chef welcomes diners right into her kitchen, where she prepares “clean and healthy” breakfasts, brunches, and lunches — smoked salmon plates, potato latke Benedicts, and smashed avocado curries.