To experience Bridge Street like a true local, head to Los Amigos | VailDaily.com

To experience Bridge Street like a true local, head to Los Amigos

Melanie Wong
EAT Magazine
Price: $5-$20 Ambiance: Energetic bar and taqueria in the heart of Vail Village Signature dish: Lobster tacos

To experience Bridge Street like a true local, head to Los Amigos, a restaurant nearly as old as Vail Village itself.

In the winter, its location — just steps from Gondola One in Mountain Plaza — makes Los Amigos a great place to watch skiers scream down the frontside of the mountain. During the summer, the long, sunny deck invites diners to bask in the sun with a margarita in hand as hikers, bikers and tourists file past. It’s a quirky, welcoming place that’s equally great as a spot to grab a quick bite to eat, to bring the family for dinner or to belly up to the bar and people watch. As one of the few truly casual restaurants in Vail Village with prices to match, Los Amigos can be a refreshing alternative to the town’s many upscale dining options.

As an institution, Los Amigos has been in Vail for more than 40 years. When current owners Michael Staughton and Ron Riley bought and rebuilt the property in 1995, the restaurant stayed, with Executive Chef Todd Purse at the helm. Purse has now been at Los Amigos for nearly 20 years, making the small, colorful restaurant with the million-dollar view into a Bridge Street staple.

“It’s a beautiful view, and everyone loves to hang out on the deck,” says Purse. “I like to think it’s the food, but we’ve gotten quite a following over the years.”

With the help and expertise of his kitchen staff, Purse and company have come up with a winning menu filled with fresh, Mexican favorites such as steak street tacos and cheesy enchiladas, complete with all the satisfying fixings. However, they stretch their creative wings with a constant rotation of specials that often feature seafood-focused entrées and creative combinations.

One special that has become a diner favorite is Los Amigos’ rendition of lobster tacos, with the shellfish deep fried, served with a spiced mayo saucer and topped with a refreshing cabbage slaw. A side of squash blossom rellenos hit the spot fried into gooey cheese.

Want a bit of everything? Try the Three Amigos, a combination plate that includes two mini tacos, a chimichanga and a jalapeño shrimp popper. The latter is generously portioned and packs a spicy punch that nicely complements the juicy shrimp. More favorites include the chicken mini tacos, proof that simple ingredients can create an exceptional meal. The meat on these hand-sized tacos is tender, and each taco is topped with a house-made mango salsa that first sizzles sweet, then spicy on the tongue.

The secret to Los Amigos’ success, says Purse, lies in fresh ingredients, a menu almost completely made from scratch, and a seasoned staff that has been churning out Los Amigos hits for years. Purse often works hand in hand with his longtime sous chef, who brings expertise from his Mexican heritage, to create and tweak new recipes.

“Everything is fresh, and it’s authentic,” Purse says. “We always use dried or fresh chilies, we cut our own meats and all our salsas and sauces are made in house.”