Kickin’ it at Route 6 Cafe | VailDaily.com

Kickin’ it at Route 6 Cafe

Wren Wertin

Vail Daily/ Bret HartmanRoute 6 Cafe just started serving dinner, Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Route 6 Cafe is the funky little diner behind the gas pumps on Hwy. 6 in Eagle-Vail. Steve “Ollie” Holdstock bought the joint last year, and began with an extensive breakfast and lunch menu. A month ago he decided to tackle dinners and private parties, and he’s not looking back.

“This place scrubs up nice,” he said.

For dinner, they turn off the florescent lights and put candles on the tables. With the colorful hanging lighting over the full-service bar, a warm atmosphere permeates the room. And the menu prices keep the relaxed feeling going.

Though it’s a got a blue-collar roadhouse ambience, the cafe caters to all sorts of eaters ” vegetarians, carnivores, rednecks and yuppies. He only asks that you arrive hungry.

“I think the cross-section of the menu is great,” continued Holdstock. He recently hired Chef Ed Yows, culinary school graduate and veteran of the kitchen line at both the Ritz-Carlton and Sato’s. Yows offers a bit of an Asian flair to some of the items, while others are pure Americana.

Most appetizers hover in the $5 to $6 range. The Thai beef skewers ($5.25) served with a sweet chili sauce and marinated cucumber salad are good to share, as are the Buffalo wings ($5.95) served with a choice of marinades. Looking for a little crunch? The Caesar salad ($3.25) is popular, as is the grilled pear salad ($7.50). A generous grilled pear wedge crowns mixed greens toss with a port wine vinaigrette. Roadhouse, indeed.

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All of the breads are baked in house, though not by the Route 6 staff. Holdstock leases out the enormous pastry kitchen to the Grouse Mountain Grill baker, keeping as much fresh baked bread, muffins and rolls as he needs. With breakfast served until 3 p.m. and lunch service beginning at 11 a.m., a lot of bread flies out of the kitchen, be it as toast or sandwiches. If you get a chance, try the wheat bread, sliced thick. A hint of honey permeates the loaf and sticks to the bones.

At this year’s Harvest Party, the cafe served their inimitable meatloaf ($10.95). What makes it so special?

“It’s Colorado buffalo meat, girlfriend,” said Holdstock without missing a beat. “That means it’s less fatty and more flavorful. It’s also topped off with a smoked tomato and shallot relish. It really is good.”

The Route 6 tilapia ($11.95) is a signature item, too. An African farm-raised fish, Yows lightly seasons and pan sears it, serving it with a pepper jack polenta cake, grilled asparagus and a tomato-based puttanesca sauce. The salmon ($12.95) is cooked directly on a cedar plank, imbuing the fish with a slightly smoky tang. Those looking for something heartier can try the braised lamb shank ($12.95) with a carrot lentil ragout and sauteed kale.

Route 6 Cafe used to be called the Eagle-Vail Cafe. When Holdstock became the owner, he kept the staff on, too.

“It’s important to me to have a staff that doesn’t turn over,” he explained. “It makes everyone feel more comfortable. That way, when regulars come in and ask one of the girls for ‘the usual,’ they get it.”

Of course, with the gradual changes he and Yows are making on the menu, people will be amending their “usuals.”

Route 6 Cafe is available for private functions, too. Birthday parties are a big hit, and festive groups can have the run of the place for $1,500, which is applied directly to food and liquor costs. And with Holdstock’s prices, that’s a hell of a party.

“It’s like Mayberry,” he said. “Ten friends in front, talking and laughing. That’s what this place should be like. We’re not fine dining, but we’re a neighborhood place.”

Route 6 is open for breakfast Monday through Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Lunch service begins at 11 a.m. daily and runs until 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday 5-9 p.m.

All prices are from the dinner menu.