Beano’s a winter treat for the whole family |

Beano’s a winter treat for the whole family

Alex Miller
Special to the Daily/Stephen Wilkes Beano's Cabin is a dining experience. Perched on the side of Beaver Creek Mountain, a snow-cat led sleigh hauls diners through the snow to the restaurant where a gourmet dinner awaits. Porcupines often appear at the cabin's front door to add to the memories.

BEAVER CREEK – Getting there might be half the fun, but for diners heading up to Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek this holiday season, the meal is a reward in itself.What is it about dining “experiences” that demand a certain amount of unusual travel to get there? The High Country is full of them, from Beano’s cat-driven sleigh ride to others offering horse-drawn sleighs and even the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, where one must snowshoe or ski to the dining hall.Call it a tongue-in-cheek form of “roughing it” or perhaps the notion, however silly, of having worked for your meal. Or simply chalk it up to an unusual experience: Instead of stepping out of a car and walking into the front door of the restaurant, you have to be pulled up the mountain in a giant sleigh. Can’t get that in New York or Dallas or L.A. Even if you live around here, it’s a step out of the ordinary, all this sleigh-ride business, and it certainly lends itself to the holiday season.

And the folks who run Beano’s Cabin have it down to a science – with a good deal of art thrown in as well. It is, after all, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant that gets high marks from Zagat as well as the Wine Spectator. But for a restaurant whose other main selling point is its picturesque location on the side of a mountain, the product is only as good as the ability to get people there.Diners assemble at the Beaver Creek Chophouse and await the sleigh. Several of them make the 15-minute trip from Beano’s to the Chophouse, so the wait is never long. At some point, the choice had to be made as to what form of energy would be used to haul sleighs up the mountain. Even the strongest horses move at a stately pace not necessarily conducive to hungry vacationers, and when the temperatures dip into the 20s, teens or below, even the most romantic diner might wish for something speedier.So snowcats it is, for Beano’s. They’re a little loud, a little smelly but they haul you up the hill in no time. On a clear night, you can enjoy the enormous spread of stars above while the Beano’s sleigh guy points out the sites and cracks jokes. Of course, on a snowy night – and there have been plenty of those lately – the sleigh ride is the perfect preamble to a trip to a warm cabin full of great food and drink.

DinnerBeano’s Cabin is a big, one-room lodge-style building with a high ceiling and timber and antlers everywhere. More fun than romantic, the dining room has more of a “big-hall” ambiance, a sense of shared dining adventure that’s casual and elegant at the same time. A large open kitchen adorns one side of the room, and there are a few glass enclosures for those looking for a more private time.Like the crew ferrying diners up the hill, the kitchen and dining room staff at Beano’s are highly efficient, moving a large number of folks through every night but still providing strong, personalized service. While a table’s main waiter or waitress takes time to go over the menu, suggest wines and answer questions, the roving bands of liveried support staff make things like drink refills or extra bread appear almost instantaneously.

In fact, Beano’s seems to have accomplished what few restaurants manage to do: Handle high volume while also providing extremely good service and great food. The prix fixe menu is American cuisine, ranging from appetizers of marinated duck breast and grilled ahi to entrees like Colorado rack of lamb, pheasant, salmon, swordfish and a venison chop.Beano’s is well-known for its extensive wine cellar, with a list that includes a number of vintages you’re not likely to see in many other places. But if some of the more extraordinary bottles are out of your price range, their house wines by the glass are also well-chosen and perfectly adequate.Because of the sleigh ride and the casual dining atmosphere, Beano’s is a popular place for families, with a special kids’ menu and seating available. There’s always a guitarist up next to the fireplace providing background music, and even a couple of live porcupines on the porch out front to add a little curiosity.

As for price, Beano’s is on the spendy side: Plan on $300 per couple, more if you opt for a high-end bottle of wine. Also, plan on a good three hours between your reservation time and when you’re finished.It’s not an experience to be rushed, and it’s certainly one to be tried … and remembered for years.For reservations, call 949-9090.

Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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