Almresi serves Bavarian favorites with plenty of heart | VailDaily.com

Almresi serves Bavarian favorites with plenty of heart

Katie Coakley
EAT magazine

Wandering through the streets of Vail Village with its Bavarian-inspired architecture, cobbled streets and no small amount of fur, it's easy to imagine yourself in a fairytale. However, if you follow the trail of breadcrumbs up the stairs to Almresi, you realize that magic is real. Surrounded by reclaimed forests and touches of whimsy, you've been transported into a cozy cabin that's home to the cauldron of plenty, dispensing never-ending dinners with plenty of heart.

If you visit early enough, from 3-4:30 p.m., you'll find yourself surrounded by the warriors of winter, celebrating their mastery of the mountain for Almresi's "Vertical Feet Challenge." These brave souls conquered 25,000 vertical feet on slopes in one day (and must display their mobile technology to prove it). With one free pint as a prize, these snow shredders quaff the fruit (barley and grains, mostly) of their labor with genial good spirit and camaraderie. But beware of those claiming false goals: The gentle gatekeepers of Almresi will put a pause on your perfidy. Some will choose to return to the cold to claim their prize; others will postpone the prize-winning for another day.

The bucolic clang of the cowbell signals the end of après and encourages patrons to make way for those who had the foresight to secure their spots for dinner. Making arrangements two weeks in advance is a good idea, but the crew at Almresi will always try to work their magic, says Alyssa Thoma.

"Of course, there are always last-minute cancellations and the chance to walk-in," Alyssa says. "We always try to keep some spaces open; the bar is quite nice. We always make it somehow work."

Almresi has a blend of large, family-style tables and smaller, more cozy settings; no matter where you're seated, the conversation is lively and the atmosphere is festive. Dining at Almresi feels like a celebration and the cuisine reflects this, too. Featuring German favorites alongside Austrian and Swiss flavors, the menu offers both hearty and lighter fare. Be prepared to discover some new favorites, like schweinshax'n, a pork shank with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes; schmorbraten, short ribs with shallots, red cabbage and spätzle and schweizer rösti, a Swiss rösti with homemade farmers cheese, fresh herbs and smoked salmon.

In true fairytale fashion, there's also a magic hat. An Austrian original, hutessen is a hot, iron hat upon which guests cook their beef and veal to their own specifications, served along with salad, potatoes and various dipping sauces. Though this hat might not sort you into houses, it's sure to send you satisfied back to your own.

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And just as in most stories of magic, the ending at Almresi is happy, too. If there's room for kaiserschmarr, a fluffy pancake, ripped into little pieces, with caramelized, powder sugar on top and cherry compote on the side, then this Austrian treat provides the sweet. However, even if there's no room for dessert, the warmth and heart of Almresi will follow you long after you go, providing pleasant dreams as you say "the end" to your enchanted day.

If you go …
What: Almresi, an enchanted forest cabin (with nary
an elf in sight).
Where: 298 Hanson Ranch Road, top of Bridge Street, Vail.
Cost: $9-$42
Signature dish: Hut Essen, “eat your hat”
More information: Call 970.470.4174 or visit almresi-vail.com.