Bavarian hospitality in Vail: Pepi’s Restaurant offers warmth and history

Herb-crusted Colorado rack of lamb with roasted root vegetables, parsnip puree and natural jus.
Barry Eckhaus/EAT Magazine

Pepi’s was President Gerald Ford’s favorite restaurant in Vail, and it’s easy to see why. Between the Bavarian cuisine, European architecture and hospitality, sitting on the shaded deck transports you to a timeless place, where sipping a fine European wine while gazing at gondola cars dotting the terrain of Vail Mountain seems like all there is.

Pepi’s has always maintained an allure that reaches back to Vail’s origins; Austrian ski racer Pepi Gramshammer fell in love with the budding mountain town — and specifically the ski runs that went “Forever.” He opened his European-inspired restaurant and hotel in 1964. He and his wife, Sheika, infused Pepi’s with warm hospitality, which is part of the legacy.

“It should feel like home, like back in the Austrian Alps, very cozy,” said Executive Chef Helmut Kaschitz. Kaschitz grew up in Austria and brings more than 35 years of experience working at restaurants in Switzerland, Germany and Jamaica. He met his sous chef, Richard Frazer, in Jamaica, and together they make a great team: For more than 15 years, Kaschitz has been bringing new twists to traditional

German and Austrian dishes, while Frazer comes up with completely new recipes. Still, Pepi’s is renowned for its wiener schnitzel and jägerschnitzel, the latter of which features a wild mushroom sauce, so Kaschitz doesn’t dare switch those out. In fact, Pepi’s has garnered such a following with its classic menu that it always keeps 75% of the items the same.

If wiener schnitzel, bratwurst or Hungarian veal goulash don’t happen to be your thing, Pepi’s offers a host of delicious meat entrées, fish dishes, burgers, salads and vegetarian delights.

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The tuna crudo is a demure tower of sashimi-grade fish and smooth avocado. With little kicks of pickled ginger relish and juicy orange segments, the fish shines without being overwhelmed. Sriracha aioli and lemon vinaigrette round out the summer dish. The rack of lamb is classically prepared, with a buttery herb crust and roasted in a hot oven. Plated with parsnip puree — an excellent foil for the lamb in both texture and flavor — roasted root vegetables round out the dish.

Pepi’s Tuna Crudo with lemon vinaigrette, avocado, jalapeño rings, orange segments, toasted sesame seeds, sliced cucumbers and shaved fennel slaw.
Barry Eckhaus/EAT Magazine

Other low-key favorites include a great burger, cooked to order and served on a buttery pretzel bun. Also, the French onion soup features a flavorful broth with a hint of sweetness and small, crunchy breadcrumbs within the melted cheese.

And don’t skip dessert: Pepi’s is known for apple strudel, with its thin and tasty pastry, light whipped cream and generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

No matter what you order, you can taste the quality ingredients; Kaschitz and his team insist on using only the finest products.

Pepi’s open-air bar overlooks the pedestrian village, and they often host live music. The bar features a variety of wines from various global regions and on tap plenty of German beers — as well as a large selection of German and Austrian bottles and cans, American IPAs and other artisan brews. The bar menu, served after 3 p.m., includes big, soft pretzels, smoked salmon, buffalo wings, brats, hummus, salad and an assorted cheese platter. So, go ahead: Immerse yourself in Pepi’s rich Bavarian tradition, located in the heart of the Vail Village.

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