The state of Colorado continues to impress with its scenic views and popular lifestyle. Visitors come to Colorado for fun outdoor activities and mile-high city of Denver. There is so much to see and do around the state, and I encourage you to travel around to experience the best things Colorado has to offer.
Colorado has many mountain towns worth visiting and Estes Park is one of the best. Estes Park is one of the most visited spots in Colorado, thanks to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Stephen King fanatics may have something to do with it as well. After all, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park helped inspire King for his novel, The Shining.
The mountain towns of the West started to grow as the allure of getting rich off gold and living the pioneer life became more popular. The Arapaho tribe was the first to use the valley area during the summer season where Estes Park town is now. The Estes Park name stuck as the area became more established and is named after Joel Estes, one of the first pioneers to settle here during the mid-1800s.
There are many fun things to do and explore in Estes Park, Colorado, and the drive from Denver International Airport is an easy one. The city sits about 90 minutes northwest of Denver and an hour from Fort Collins.
What is great about traveling to these smaller mountain towns is the unique restaurants you can’t get anywhere else. Since Estes Park is a popular vacation destination, you can find delicious food anywhere, from a fine-dining restaurant to local mom-and-pop joints. Most of the best restaurants of Estes Park will be on the main roads of Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues, but there are some special spots off the beaten path as well. Use this guide to help discover the best restaurants in Estes Park while visiting the town!
Best Estes Park Restaurants
1. Bird & Jim
Address: 915 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
After a long day on the slopes, stop into Bird & Jim for seasonal rustic American food. The restaurant serves farm-to-table cuisine with local, high-quality meats and seasonal vegetables. The restaurant features contemporary décor, and you may think this is one of the upscale restaurants in Estes Park.
However, Colorado is know for its casual dress code. Estes Park restaurants don’t take themselves too seriously, and jeans are typical attire.
Start with their playful bar snacks like the upscale chicken nuggets or unique smoked pheasant chowder. Bird & Jim is a meat-heavy spot with dishes like the “Carnivore,” where you can have your meat and potatoes with elk, pork chops, or game sausage protein options.
Bird & Jim have vegetarian options if you prefer to avoid heavier dishes. Try their flavorful bowls and salads. The tasty vegetable sides come a la carte.
Bird & Jim have lunch and dinner menus, but the dinner menu has a more considerable variety of items in the Cast & Iron section. Sip on wine or a cocktail with their extensive wine and liquor list while taking in the views of Rocky Mountain National Park. The restaurant is open daily, usually from 11 am to 8 pm, but check their hours, as their times vary slightly depending on the day.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Breckenridge, Colorado
2. Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew
Address: 820 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Smokin’ Dave himself hails from Los Angeles, but you wouldn’t know it with his Southern-like style barbecue. He opened Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew in 2007 and continues to expand his barbecue empire around Colorado.
There are so many delicious offerings, and Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ is considered one of the best restaurants in Estes Park. It’s hard to choose from their extensive menu, but some honorable mentions include the Southern Catfish Tenders and Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie. Eating them will have you wondering if you’re in the Deep South instead!
Check out the meat platters for your main meal and get the Texas Beef Brisket or Carolina Pulled Pork. Have you ever had blackberry BBQ sauce?
The Smokin’ Buffalo Ribs are smothered in the sauce and are finger-licking good. As an excellent barbecue place should, Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ makes its own gluten-free sauce, and you can buy a bottle on-site.
The restaurant is open daily from 11 am to 8 pm. You can find other Smokin’ Dave’s locations in Longmont, Denver, and Lyons.
3. Twin Owls Steakhouse
Address: 3110 S St Vrain Ave Suite B, Estes Park, CO 80517
Twin Owls Steakhouse is nestled in the Rocky Mountains and is part of the Taharaa Mountain Lodge, which offers lodging on-site.
This fine dining restaurant serves award-winning cuisine and includes three dining rooms and a full-service bar. The views of Estes Park and the food are the stars of the show, making it one of the best Estes Park restaurants to visit.
Chef Rich Sickler serves contemporary American cuisine focusing on steak and fresh seafood. As a steakhouse, Twin Owls is known for their high-end cuts of meat.
Enjoy a perfectly cooked steak like the bone-in bison ribeye while listening to bluegrass or guitar from local music artists. If you have your eye on fresh seafood instead, then you can’t go wrong with the buttery Diver Sea Scallops served with pesto gnocchi and veggies.
Since Twin Owls Steakhouse is further north in the mountains of Estes Park, the parking lot and roads can get icy during the winter season. Ensure you have an all-wheel drive vehicle and snow tires during the colder months.
Twin Owls Steakhouse is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and may have adjusted seasonal hours. Call ahead to make sure they are open before making the drive.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Breckenridge, Colorado
4. Boss Burgers and Gyros
Address: 861 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
With fast and friendly service, Boss Burgers and Gyros is where the locals eat in Estes Park and where visitors come back repeatedly. The casual family-operated joint has a diner vibe where the food is cooked to order and served a la carte.
The menu includes griddle-style burgers, hot dogs, gyros, fried favorites, and more. You can tell you’re in the Rocky Mountains with the option to order an elk or buffalo burger. The most popular menu item is their traditional beef and lamb gyro, a pita pocket overflowing with meats, veggie toppings, and sauce.
Boss Burgers and Gyros might not be the place to stick to a strict diet, but fresh salads can offset that order of yummy fries. Try one of their delicious milkshakes, which solidifies that diner experience. They also serve Pepsi products, though this Southern girl prefers her Coca-Cola!
The restaurant is open 11 am – 7 pm each day, except on Wednesdays. They have a parking lot, so it is easy to get in and out if you need a quick meal.
5. SEASONED – An American Bistro
Address: 205 Park Ln, Estes Park, CO 80517
This chef-owned bistro focuses on farm-to-table cuisine, where you can enjoy perfectly presented dishes in their charming dining room. Chef Rob Corey may consider himself a New England native, but he has adopted Estes Park and Colorado as his home. He has made it his mission with SEASONED to use his skills and give back to the community through delicious food.
As the name suggests, SEASONED serves seasonal menus, so you can try something new with each visit to this fine-dining restaurant. Past menus have included dishes like Rocky Mountain Trout with crispy potatoes, a duck pot pie, and sticky figgy toffee bread pudding. They are considered one of the best Estes Park restaurants for dinner.
The rustic eatery also offers brunch with items like ricotta pancakes or Down n’ Dirty Fries with braised pork and a minty chimichurri sauce. SEASONED often creates special menus for holidays and events, so check their website for the latest food and drink options.
Take advantage of their patio during the warmer months to get glimpses of the Rocky Mountain peaks. The restaurant is only open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner and closes early at 9 pm. Brunch is served 10 am – 2 pm on Sundays.
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6. Himalayan Curry & Kebob
Address: 101 W Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, look no further than the Himalayan Curry & Kebob restaurant, which serves traditional Nepalese and Indian dishes. There are a couple of dining rooms inside, but they do have outdoor seating as well.
Himalayan Curry & Kebob is a family-friendly place, always ready to provide good vibes and fill you up with flavorful food. Located in downtown Estes Park, this is one of the best Estes Park restaurants for vegetarian fare, as most dishes can be made as meat-free options. The restaurant also offers gluten-free options and notes on the menu if something is dairy-free or halal.
Order dishes like butter chicken, spicy vindaloo, or Nepali curry if you want some of the traditional items. Be careful though, as Asian food generally has a higher spice level for more sensitive palates.
So discuss your spice tolerance with your wait staff! If you want to try a less mainstream dish that provides that sweet and savory combination, then order the lamb Kashmiri. The lamb is served in an onion and tomato gravy with a coconut and pineapple cream sauce, raisins, and almonds.
They are open daily from 11 am to 10 pm. You won’t leave hungry, but it’s worth stopping for a treat afterward. Make your way over to the nearby The Taffy Shop, where you can watch them make the candy for a fun kids activity!
7. Scratch Deli & Bakery
Address: 911 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
For straightforward sandwiches and tasty potato salad, wander over to the Scratch Deli & Bakery. They bake their own bread, which elevates the popular sandwiches.
The bakery is an excellent place for a quick bite or packing it for a picnic lunch as you explore Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The dining room area only has a few seats, so most people take their sandwiches to go, but there is an outside patio with some chairs.
The sandwiches are large and affordable, given their size, and will fill you up for that multi-hour hike. Many visitors make two meals out of one sandwich. You can’t go wrong with any of their offerings, but the Reuben and pastrami sandwiches are favorites among the crowd.
Scratch Deli tends to sell out of pastrami later in the day, so beat the lunch crowd if you can. They’re also known for their various breakfast burritos and baked goods.
Hours are 8 am to 3 pm and they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Scratch Deli is easily one of the top Estes Park restaurants marked on my list to visit when I’m in town.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Boulder, Colorado
8. Antonio’s Real New York Pizza
Address: 1560 Big Thompson Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
New York is known for its typical tourist fare with its cheap pizza slices served on the go for busy locals, but you don’t have to travel there to taste a piece. Four Long Islanders decided to bring some of that flavor to Estes Park by opening Antonio’s Real New York Pizza.
Antonio must be doing something right with his New York pizza. Food Network bestowed upon them the 2016 award as one of the top Estes Park restaurants in Rocky Mountain National Park. Their new location has expanded to include a large dining room for 150+ diners, two cozy fireplaces, and plenty of outdoor seating.
The pizza connoisseurs hand-toss their pizzas as they do in New York, so you can finally say you have experienced a New York pizza, even if in Estes Park. The owners have a love affair with the Sicilian style, though, which has a thicker dough and is usually cut into squares versus the pie slices.
If your family is extra hungry, order the Mega Don, which is 26 inches of pizza and can weigh up to 12 pounds depending on the toppings. Now that’s a pizza!
Antonio’s also offers calzones, hero sandwiches, desserts, and more. What I love about this place is how the owners connect to their food. Their pizza inspirations typically have a funny family story tied to the name or style of the pie.
If you get lucky, the owners may share one or two stories with you! You can’t get a slice Sunday or Monday, but they’re open for dinner from 4 pm to 8 pm Tuesday through Thursday, and 12 pm to 8 pm Friday and Saturday.
9. The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern
Address: 1675 CO-66, Estes Park, CO 80517
The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern had humble beginnings as a sandwich shop in 1937. Its prime location near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park has allowed the rustic-style eatery to expand. Today, The Rock Inn continues to be a popular haunt for locals and visitors.
The rustic-style eatery gives off a cozy cabin feeling in the winter, where you can warm up next to their two wood-burning fire stoves. Sit outside to enjoy the Rocky Mountain views and sip local craft beers in the summer.
The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern serves the “stick-to-your-ribs” kind of food, great after a hike or snow activity in Rocky Mountain National Park. Try lip-smacking appetizers like the Devils on Horseback, which are bacon-wrapped dates and garlic served with an aioli sauce.
For my vegetarian friends, try the Greens and Grains Bowl, which comes with your choice of three sauces: pineapple serrano, dill horseradish sour cream, or roasted red pepper cream sauce. Dive into their fresh seafood like the Rocky Mountain trout, or try one of their house-made pasta dishes. The menu has something for everyone, even the picky eaters!
The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern is known for its live music and boisterous atmosphere, so check their website for the latest line-up schedule! In Estes Park, July through September are the busiest months, and reservations are not accepted.
The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern recommends arriving before 6 pm to avoid a long wait. The restaurant opens daily at 4 pm.
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10. Mama Rose’s Restaurant
Address: 338 E Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Mama Rose’s is tucked in the back of a complex off Elkhorn Avenue, where you can get some bespoke Italian comfort food. With the home-style feel, Mama Rose’s is one of the best restaurants in Estes Park for families.
What other restaurant is going to offer not one but two spaghetti options? The old-world spaghetti is a favorite among diners. Each entree is served with some extra love: Mama’s garlic bread. Portions are enormous, so you will definitely take some home for a midnight snack!
For appetizers, skip the fried offerings and order the Caprese salad instead. I appreciate their vegetarian options if you’re not in the mood for a meat-heavy dish, like the portobello mushroom ravioli or angry eggplant dish.
The dining room is reminiscent of what you would expect a homey Italian restaurant to look like, but it can get noisy if you want an intimate setting. On a warm evening, try to snag a table on the outdoor riverside patio instead if you’re on a date. Mama Rose’s is open daily, and there’s often a wait, so get there early for a seat or make a reservation.
11. Dunraven Inn Restaurant
Address: 1700 Colorado Peaks Dr, Estes Park, CO 80517
For peaceful views of Lake Estes, drive to the Estes Park Resort and stop at the Dunraven Inn Restaurant. With floor-to-ceiling windows, you can enjoy the lake views from the dining room or sit on the patio on those warmer days. Take a peek at the Estes Park Resort rooms, where you can take advantage of the walking trail around Lake Estes.
The Dunraven Inn Restaurant in Estes Park is another excellent option for fresh seafood and home-style Italian cooking. Their homemade Italian dishes include hearty lasagna, pesto pasta with a sun-dried tomato tapenade, mushroom ravioli, and more.
Are you more excited by the fresh seafood options? Order from their casual Italian wines list to go with their Cioppino dish, which includes various shellfish in a flavorful tomato and wine sauce. It makes my mouth water thinking about it!
This casual yet classy eatery does have a full-service bar and offers fun beverages during breakfast. Try the limoncello spritz, or finish your dinner with hot buttered rum during the colder season.
A fun tradition Dunraven Inn Restaurant does is encouraging their guests to add their decorated dollar bill to the wall or ceiling if you can get up there! The tradition started in the 1970s and is a great way to say you’ve been to one of the best restaurants in Estes Park and Lake Estes!
The restaurant also donates the older dollar bills to charity when they’re ready to retire from the wall. That’s enough reason for me to put up a dollar! They are open daily from 7 am to 9 pm.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Fort Collins, Colorado
12. Big Horn Restaurant
Address: 401 W Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
The Big Horn Restaurant has a Western diner vibe: cue the big horned sheep mounted on the wall. They are a family-owned Estes Park staple that has been open since 1972. If you’re feeling extra hungry, then head here to get hefty portions of items like country-fried steak, fluffy pancakes, burgers, and more.
Green chili is a way of life in Colorado, so try the smothered huevos rancheros, or order their pork green chili on the side to top off your dish of choice. The Big Horn Restaurant is considered one of the prime breakfast restaurants in Estes Park, but they also serve the lunch and dinner crowd.
The Big Horn Restaurant is open from 6 am to 2 pm Sunday through Tuesday and until 8 pm Wednesday through Saturday. You will find most Estes Park restaurants close around 8 or 9 pm. If you have a large party, reservations are recommended!
13. The Egg of Estes
Address: 393 E Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
There are a lot of great breakfast restaurants in Estes Park for the early risers who want a full day of outdoor time. Another spot worth checking out for that early bird-grabbing breakfast is The Egg of Estes in downtown Estes Park.
They get busy, so I recommend going before 8 am. They are open from 7 am to 2:30 pm on weekends and until 2 pm during the week.
Reward yourself for getting up with the sun with a fun, alcoholic beverage like a mimosa or bloody Mary while you eat breakfast. The Egg of Estes serves a variety of elevated versions of American breakfast staples like omelets, eggs Benedict, and avocado toast.
Try the Hiker’s Benedict or the Colorado Jack Scramble for locally inspired dishes. A side of ranch potatoes is also a favorite among visitors.
The restaurant started as a breakfast franchise, but the owners set out to make it a local spot unique to Estes Park and become one of the best Estes Park restaurants for breakfast and lunch. The owners strive to use locally sourced and sustainable ingredients for their menu items, and you can see their list of partners on their website. Their dedication to local ingredients has made them one of the most popular restaurants in Estes Park.
If you have time, stop at the nearby Kind Coffee to grab a bag of Elkin’s Colorado Distilled Coffee Whiskey. The coffee company keeps coffee beans in an Elkin’s whiskey barrel for two weeks to trap in that whiskey aroma before roasting them!
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14. The Post Chicken & Beer
Address: 333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Outside the Estes Park Visitor’s Center is the infamous Stanley Hotel that inspired the novel and movie, The Shining. There are a couple of notable restaurants if you want to visit the hotel.
The Whiskey Bar at Cascades Restaurant is an option if you want more of a fine-dining experience. However, The Post Chicken & Beer restaurant is the more casual place to get some decent fried chicken and a local beer.
There are more upscale restaurants based on the prices, but you’re visiting for the experience! As far as Estes Park restaurants go, you can’t beat Rocky Mountain National Park views and the notoriety of the Stanley Hotel. The hotel does guided and spirit tours if you want a more in-depth look at the historic building.
The Post Chicken & Beer is also a brewery serving its own beer and cocktails with a full-service bar. They get creative with the menu by doing items like Thighfries, fried chicken strips served with El Corn beer mustard and curry ketchup.
Try their other exciting flavors, like bone-in chicken tossed in a yellow curry or hot honey chile sauces. Plus, there is a green chile mac and cheese for a side, so that’s reason enough to visit right there.
If you need something less heavy than the fried yumminess they offer, there are options like the Yoga Pants Salad, which is filled with fresh veggies and a white balsamic dressing. Kudos to you if you resist the fried chicken options, but you will need the treat after that salad! Top it with a homemade chocolate whoopie pie or chocolate s’mores pudding jar.
They are open daily, but times vary, and brunch is served only on weekends. The Post Chicken & Beer gets busy, so book a reservation or expect a wait. You can also order to-go if you don’t want to deal with the wait.
15. Mountain Home Cafe
Address: 457 E Wonderview Ave Ste C-1, Estes Park, CO 80517
Another family-owned restaurant, the Mountain Home Cafe, is one of the best restaurants in Estes Park to get breakfast and lunch. The brunch spot is unassuming and located in a strip mall next to Notchtop Bakery & Cafe, which is another excellent place to try if you have time! It’s hard to get a lousy breakfast at any of the local restaurants in Estes Park.
Mountain Home Cafe has the standard fare, but there are some interesting dishes you should order. Try their breakfast taco version, delicious migas tacos with chorizo, eggs, peppers, onions, and cheese. The pro tip is to get the side of pork green chili to dip the tacos in or drizzle the salsa on top — perfection!
They hit the spot before exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park. Some other tasty treats I recommend are the sweet Swedish roll-ups and their delicious mimosas!
The cafe is open daily from 7 am to 2:30 pm except on Sunday when it closes at 2 pm. They don’t deliver, but you can order pick-up from their website. If going in person, keep an eye on the live waitlist right on their website.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Denver, Colorado
16. Inkwell & Brew
Address: 150 E Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
Every place I visit, I like to search for a cute, local coffee shop in the area. Inkwell & Brew is one of the best restaurants in Estes Park to get a cup of Joe and some peace. They are tucked back a bit from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
The building has the quintessential mountain-town vibe with cabin-chic wooden features. The outside patio is delightful in the warmer weather, as Inkwell & Brew decorates it with flowers and greenery. Plus, the sounds of the river add to the ambiance.
Inkwell & Brew encourage guests to take their time here and return to the days before the addiction to the digital age. They don’t even have a phone number, though you can still reach them by e-mail if you need to contact them.
It’s a place to bring a book or write in your journal while drinking a pour-over coffee from their self-identified slow coffee bar. They serve a limited menu of baked goods and breakfast sandwiches, so the ambiance and coffee are the stars of this place more so than the food.
The coffee shop also has a store inside that sells small goods like art, journals, and cards. They are open daily from 7 am to 6 pm. After re-charging with a honey and lavender latte, take a peek in the local bookstore next door, the Macdonald Book Shop. It’s another place I love to visit!
17. Donut Haus
Address: 860 Moraine Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517
If there is another spot that I seek out in every town, it is a local bakery that serves delectable donuts. Donut Haus is that place for Estes Park. While it’s not a restaurant per se, it’s a must on your Estes Park bucket list! While you fill up with gas and snacks before heading to the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance, stop over at the donut counter.
The owners have been operating out of the Sinclair gas station since 2019, when they had to close the original Estes Park location. But that hasn’t slowed down their cult following of locals and visitors. Donut Haus is considered one of the best restaurants in Estes Park to get a delicious treat!
They have a variety of donuts, sweet rolls, muffins, and more. Anything you order will be delicious. I enjoy a simple glazed yeast donut, but if you’re looking for something richer, I recommend one of their nut rolls or a Bavarian Long John.
They are closed Monday and Tuesday but open 6 am – 12 pm the rest of the week. Go early, though, as the line gets long, and they often will sell out of the best stuff! Donut Haus is the place to stop when you visit Estes Park.