Pepi’s provides classic Austrian dishes delivered with warm smiles | VailDaily.com

Pepi’s provides classic Austrian dishes delivered with warm smiles

Katie Coakley
EAT magazine
If you go ... What: Pepi’s Bar and Restaurant, a spot with Bavarian charm and spirit. Where: 231 EAST GORE CREEK, VAIL. Cost: Lunch $7.50-$24; Dinner $8-$42. Signature dish: Weinerschnitzel and jägerschnitzel. More information: 970.476.5626 | PEPIS.COM.

Think back to an unforgettable evening, one that shines softly in the back of your mind. You remember: Your dining companion was charming, the waitstaff was impeccable and the food — oh, the food — you continued dreaming about the incomparable cuisine for weeks after. But when you return, trying to relive that experience…well, it’s never quite the same.

There’s one place, though, where every visit conjures the afterglow from the very first time.

In the tapestry of Vail’s dining scene, one bright golden thread has been glowing consistently for more than 40 years. Pepi’s is a culinary institution in the Village, providing classic Austrian dishes delivered with warm smiles only slightly more brilliant than the iconic yellow of the restaurant. Few things in life are guaranteed, but dining at Pepi’s is a chance to recreate an unforgettable evening, time and time again.

From the iconic Austrian outfits on the waitstaff to the classic Austrian and German fare, Pepi’s has been serving charm and käsespätzel since 1964. Perusing the menu is like reuniting with an old friend; classics like weinerschnitzel, jägerschnitzel (oh that mushroom sauce!), bratwurst and spätzle hold a hallowed place in the gastronomical memories of Vail visitors. In fact, the schnitzels (both weiner and jäger) are best sellers: Executive Chef Helmut Kaschitz and Sous Chef Richard Fraser say that they sell more than 2,000 of the dishes each year.

“That’s a lot of breading,” Chef Fraser says with a laugh.

And though some classics will never leave the menu — a riot might break out — chefs Kaschitz and Fraser are making small changes to keep the menu fresh and modern. One example is in the side dishes, where lighter options like a truffled root vegetable puree or quinoa are quietly replacing heavier fare. Start off with the Israeli couscous salad with salmon or beetroot carpaccio before indulging in classics like beef stroganoff, roasted salmon or a schnitzel.

For a truly interactive experience, make plans to dine in the Antlers Room. Here, the menu features wild game, including wild boar, venison and a rack of caribou for two. The “wilddieb” platter, featuring portions of quail, boar and elk, is a popular choice, explains Fraser, for those who want to try a bit of everything. But the fun really begins when ordering certain dishes, like the steak tartare or Caesar salad. These dishes, in addition to the elk steak medallions and Bananas “Foster” flambee, are prepared table-side.

“People really like that personalized service,” Kaschitz says. It adds to the experience and truly: Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of pyrotechnics at the table?

That’s why dining at Pepi’s is such a beloved experience in Vail. Generations have fallen in love with the antler décor and hearty Austrian fare, knowing that though some small things may change, the heart, spirit and schnitzel will remain.