Looking for the best Grand Lake Colorado restaurants? You’ve come to the right place!
Grand Lake, Colorado, is a unique location, and tourists have made their way there since the late 1800s. The city was once the site of a real shootout in the 1880s. Today, the rustic charm of the wooden boardwalks that run along Grand Avenue adds to the ambiance of the town’s historic frontier history.
Grand Lake lies along the western border of Rocky Mountain National Park and is a lesser-known entrance for those who have explored the westside. The glacial lake is the largest natural body of water in Colorado, measuring 256 feet at its deepest point. After the ice sheets melted, glaciers slid down the mountains, forming the lake, especially the ice from one peak at the east end, Mount Craig, better known as Mount Baldy.
It was a summer fishing ground for indigenous Ute and Arapaho peoples– before the trappers came to hunt, and the prospectors showed up. Later the tourists arrived in Grand County by horse or rail from Denver, sixty-seven miles away. Those early travelers looked to discover the Rocky Mountains and later Rocky Mountain National Park once it opened in 1915.
The North Inlet, fed by the snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, is one of two rushing creeks that flow into Grand Lake. Permanently settled in 1867, the intrepid settlers set up lodges and shops to service their guests. The Rapids Lodge, a historic property on the banks of the North Inlet, was one of the first hotels to supply guests with running water, electricity, and heat produced by a water-powered generator.
The restaurants in Grand Lake offer their patrons relaxed dining with exceptional views. You can stay in town and enjoy the “Old West” vibe or dine at a waterside restaurant with spectacular Grand Lake vistas. Either way, you will be charmed by the experience, and you won’t leave hungry. Here are seven delicious restaurants to visit when you’re in town.
Visiting other destinations in Colorado? Check out our other guides:
- 7 Must-Try Breckenridge Restaurants
- 12 Best Things To Do In Breckenridge, CO
- 13 Most Iconic Denver Restaurants
- 10 Best Restaurants In Colorado Springs
- The 7 Best Grand Lake Colorado Restaurants
- Huntington House Tavern
- One Love Rum Kitchen
- Sagebrush BBQ & Grill
- The Historic Rapids Lodge and Restaurant
- Polly’s Sweet Shop – Now Ceaira’s Sweet Shop
- Blue Water Bakery
- Daven Haven Lodge Backstreet Steakhouse
- Which of these Grand Lake Colorado restaurants do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
The 7 Best Grand Lake Colorado Restaurants
15500 US Highway 34 //+ 1 (970) 800-4164
When the Grand Lake Lodge opened in 1920, the resort was touted to inspire guests’ adventurous spirit. The proximity of the property allowed visitors to embrace the untamed Colorado Rockies. The resort’s beauty earned a reputation for casual elegance, relaxation, and adventure throughout its long history, and the cabins and grounds are the perfect respites for an incredible mountain getaway. The hotel is listed as a National Historic Landmark (1993) for its “Rocky Mountain rustic stick style of architecture “Once so prevalent in the parks throughout the American West.”
The Huntington House Tavern, on the property of Grand Lake Lodge, has served visitors for over one hundred years. When you enter the space, you’ll marvel at the vaulted ceilings, antler chandeliers, and a wall of windows that overlooks Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. The views from the restaurant are breathtaking. And this year, for the first time in the resort’s storied history, they are open for the winter season. The regular season for 2022 begins in May and closes in early October.
Chef de Cuisine Karoline Schwartz’s menu is focused on local seasonal products and produce. The dinner prix fixe menu provides generous portions and offers two courses with some sharable sides. When we dined there in the late spring, I started with a Hamachi Crudo, still featured on the menu. The fresh Hiramasa King yellowtail tuna (gluten-free) was dressed in tamari, lime vinaigrette, and spiked with chili oil.
Other tempting options include a French Onion Soup with a sourdough crouton and shavings of melted gruyere cheese and a Fitch Ranch short rib empanada. The empanada has a slightly spicy salsa verde sauce for dipping, corn salad, pickled red onion, and queso fresco. The second course offers a variety of options. A vegetarian entree is on the list, a pasta entree, with two different seafood choices, venison, and beef. I enjoy some plant-based meals, but Colorado is known for its beef.
I chose the grilled prime Grand County Filet Mignon served with mashed potatoes and a black garlic compound butter. Perfectly cooked steak and buttery potatoes were perfect and a fantastic combination of rich flavors. Brunch is a favorite for locals and guests alike. That menu offers a delightful stuffed French Toast, a smoked trout filet plate, and Fitch Ranch steak and eggs. The craft-cocktail menu is beyond tempting, as is the impressive wine list, which allows terrific pairings to sip as you enjoy the delicious food and stunning view.
928 Grand Avenue // + 1 (970) 798-8067
The tagline at One Love Rum Kitchen is “Just another beach bar in the mountains serving the Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, salads & cocktails.” And they mean it; the flavors are vibrant. Add a colorful dining room, and you feel transported to white sands and turquoise waters.
After perusing the menu, you could start out with Poke nachos, Caribbean Ceviche (your choice of ahi tuna or octopus), or choose the Island Guacamole as we did. The classic, smooth, green dip was fresh and had the perfect hint of spice served with the crunchiest homemade chips. We were hungry but wanted to save room for the different tacos on the menu.
The One-Love Original recipe Tacos offers your choice of proteins: jerk chicken, pork belly chicharrones, poke seared tuna, octopus, or black bean topped with pineapple salsa, spicy mayo, sweet soy, and cabbage slaw.
I chose the jerk chicken with all the toppings and loved the pop of those Caribbean spices in a taco. The chicken wasn’t too spicy for my taste, and it was juicy. But if you don’t like the spices, you may find this a tad hot. I adored the cinnamon, nutmeg, and scotch bonnet flavors. The toppings, especially that flavorful pineapple salsa, paired perfectly with the right combination of spicy and sweet. The white rice and black beans were a comforting side, and the beans were creamy and well-seasoned. I devoured my lunch.
I was impressed with the bar drinks as they floated by. Since we had a full day ahead, we didn’t choose from the craft cocktails such as the Painkiller with spiced rum, coconut, pineapple, and orange juice on ice with grated nutmeg on top. I briefly regretted my choice of iced tea with lemon. There are beers – both local and domestic, and Red Stripe (Jamaican beer) and fountain drinks. The lively crowd enjoys indoor and outdoor seating, and everyone loves the colorful ambiance, even if you are in the heart of the Rockies.
1101 Grand Avenue // +1 (970) 627-1404
When Dave Freeman opened Sagebrush BBQ & Grill in1999, he wanted to open a place with great food where people could gather. The menu is western (think beef and game), but you’ll find salmon, chicken, pasta, and vegetarian items too. The bartenders are warm, and the bar is a friendly stop for sports on tv, tap beers, wine, and mixed drinks. The indoor dining room has several large windows overlooking Grand Avenue for excellent people and hummingbird watching.
When I hear BBQ, I want BBQ, and this restaurant serves it up right. While there are plenty of items to choose from on the extensive menu, I turned to the barbecue portion of the list. On that page, you can order platters like a rack of pork ribs, a half chicken, pulled buffalo or pork, and beef brisket. Or you can “Name Your Own” platter, which includes two sides and cornbread. I chose this option to get two of my favorites, splitting it with my sister-in-law. We agreed on Brisket, three pork ribs each (considered three items), fries, and coleslaw.
While we opted for three types of meat, there are thirteen proteins to choose from, so the possibilities are endless. And you can pick up to four on your custom platter. My brother opted for the Prime Rib, which is a specialty of the house. It is slow-roasted local Fitch Ranch beef with au jus and horseradish sauce served with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and garlic bread. To say we feasted is an understatement.
Our platter was piled high with Brisket that was fork-tender and succulent. The ribs fell off the bone, and the rub on the ribs made an incredible crust. We added the house bbq, but you can choose mustard or a zesty sauce. I loved the house sauce, which was ketchup-based with a ton of sweet and spicy flavor. But honestly, you don’t even need it; it was that good.
The service was swift even though it was a busy night at the Sagebrush. The prime rib was rare (to order) and juicy. He loved his cut, a 10-ounce portion, but patrons can choose from an 8 or 12 oz. portion. Our server’s demeanor was hilarious, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the fun ambiance at Sagebrush. If you like to barbecue or game, you’ll love it here.
210 Rapids Lane // + 1 (970) 627-3707
The Historic Rapids Lodge was opened in 1915 by owner John Lapsley Ish and his family. Using an “overshot” water wheel (his design), he harnessed power from the rushing North Inlet, which provided his guests with running water and electricity. It was quite the marvel for those days. Ish built the Lodge with his own hands using the Lodgepole pines plentiful in Grand Lake.
He later helped his son Leslie build and operate The Pine Cone Inn using the same construction material. The Lodgepole pines gave his Rapids Lodge that classic western look. His obituary after his death in 1943 described his many talents and accomplishments as a pioneer and homesteader. Ish loved the outdoors and made the most of his opportunities through hard work and determination.
At today’s Lodge, you can still stay and eat dinner right along that same rushing inlet that used to sport the overshot wheel. Specialties like filet mignon, pork chops, Elk medallions, Colorado lamb, pasta, and seafood dishes please locals and visitors. Reservations are required. We were lucky to get a table and the waterside gazebo sitting right on the Inlet.
As we looked over the menu, we were amazed by the power of the rushing snowmelt running into Grand Lake from our perch on the North Inlet. Our server was lovely and helpful. She offered us suggestions about what to order, and the pork chop was the item she referred to as a show stopper.
The maple-brined bone-in chop came with a maple brandied smoked peach sauce on the side. To say the chop was mammoth was no exaggeration. The perfectly cooked pork was slightly pink (as I requested) juicy and tender. The flavors of the maple and peach accompanied the protein’s grilled flavor perfectly. I enjoyed diving into the creamy mashed potatoes and crisp haricot vert (string beans) that came alongside.
We dined like kings on the banks of the Inlet. The other entrees– grilled rare Colorado lamb chops topped with a mustard shallot sauce and ravioli with pine nuts included several sautéed shrimp in a red pepper cream sauce. Our meals were all delicious, and the portions were generous as well.
We toasted John Lapsley Ish, who found this idyllic spot and created a stunning lodge that withstood the test of time. A dinner here is magical for many reasons, the location, the menu of local proteins (pork, lamb, and beef), and seasonal vegetables that are portioned to serve hearty eaters. We did the best we could get through incredible food and enjoyed a lovely evening outdoors at this historic place. It is not to be missed.
1106 Grand Avenue // +1 (720)788-4832
If you were around Grand Lake in 1957, you witnessed the grand opening of Polly’s Sweets and Ice Cream shop. 65 years later, it’s still THE place to get hand-scooped ice cream, soft serve on homemade waffle cones, sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, caramel apples, snow cones, taffy, shaved ice, and more! In May and throughout the summer, locals and visitors line up to get their favorite ice cream fix at this charming A-frame establishment on the boardwalk on Grand Avenue.
In 2016, Polly’s came under new ownership. After continued growth summer after summer, the owners decided to rename Polly’s to Ceaira’s Sweet Shop. It still offers creamy homemade ice cream and candies under a new name.
Speaking of Polly, she was a character. She used to trade treats for fresh fish from the customers who caught them that day. The name change is a new step for the opening day during the summer of 2022. The owners are ready to take this step. They will serve all the favorites, including Huckleberry Ice Cream (apparently nobody makes it better) and real bubble gum, two favorites from back in the day.
We had to try Polly’s and see for ourselves what all the fuss was about, and it was incredible. The natural and fresh ingredients and the portion sizes made our cones completely memorable. When the shop reopens in May, there will be a big celebration and plenty of free offerings. Run, don’t walk to get your ice cream. It’s the best in town.
928 Grand Avenue // + 1(970) 627-5416
Suppose you plan an early hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, a leisurely day kayaking on Grand Lake, or shopping in town. In that case, Blue Water Bakery has delicious coffee, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and hot breakfast plates to fuel your busy day. The line begins early, so make sure you get in place before all the treats sell out.
We didn’t want a hot breakfast on our hike day, but we stopped in to purchase hot coffee and some of the most delectable pastries we’ve tried. The fresh blueberry muffins, scones (the tart cherry scone was terrific), cinnamon rolls, croissants, and coffee cakes are scrumptious. We bought a variety to munch and found we loved the homemade creations coming out of Blue Water’s kitchen.
Everything is made from scratch daily using real butter and baked on the premises. We got there so early that the items were still warm. There’s seating outdoors and inside for larger, heartier fare if you have the time. The menu offers Denver omelets, egg wraps, bagel sandwiches, stuffed French Toast, or a vegan tofu scrambler. They also have gluten-free options and homemade bread.
Blue Water was our breakfast stop of choice when we were in town. If you are there for lunch, you can grab a cold or hot sandwich on the homemade bread of your choice. The warm turkey and brie sandwiches have a cranberry compote on top. It is a casual setting, but they know how to make great food. Blue Water also serves up chili and soups during cooler spring afternoons or summery salads to refresh when the temperatures heat up in the summer months. But, the pastries here really take the cake.
604 Marina Drive // + 1 (970) 627-8144
If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy “The best steak in Grand Lake,” you must try dinner at Backstreet Steakhouse. This casual, rustic setting is total comfort, and you’ll have a relaxed evening with great food. The steaks are hand-cut daily, and the dining room has both indoor and outdoor seating (conditions permitting).
Daven Haven has served customers since the 1930s as a lodge and restaurant and has only had three long-term owners in its storied history. Once on the Main street of Grand Lake (Grand Avenue is now the main street), the Lodge was next to a gas station and some tourist cabins. The cabins are now behind Daven Haven as lodging for employees. The latest caretakers (since 1990) of Daven Haven, the Barnes Family, welcome long-time and new guests with the same warm hospitality as the owners before them.
Classics like burgers, mac n’ cheese (with tuna, shrimp, or tenderloin), and fish and chips are on the menu. But the real draw is the “All You Can Eat Shrimp” or the “Prime Rib Special” night. We showed up on Prime Rib night, and two in my party ordered the same entrée– the Prime Rib. The rib is oven-roasted with garlic, rosemary, and a house rub. It was cooked to order and didn’t disappoint.
I went traditional and ordered a hand-cut ribeye steak. All entrees are served with salad or soup, a choice of classic baked potato, fries, or rice, and seasonal vegetables. I upgraded my side and ordered the twice-baked potato, which was yummy. The plate was generous, and the sides were perfect alongside my medium-rare steak. I loved the twice-baked potato, which was tasty. The filling is removed, seasoned, and returned to the crisped shell.
This is not a place to worry about calories, so just forget your diet. The food is hearty and plentiful. The meat was simply seasoned, tender, and reasonably priced. They know their audience and offer great prices on simple, honest food. You can host events and weddings in their banquet spaces. It’s just a warm, friendly place to dine.
What else could you want in a fantastic location alongside a beautiful glacial lake? Grand Lake is not fancy because it’s the Rockies. It’s just a fun, friendly place steps away from an incredible National Park. You will be well-fed and welcomed warmly here.
Which of these Grand Lake Colorado restaurants do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad.