Mountaintop dining at Game Creek Restaurant |

Mountaintop dining at Game Creek Restaurant

Kimberly Nicoletti
In Vail, CO
Jack Affleck / Vail Resorts |





Riding up a gondola to alpine-lodge dining is a unique experience, but gliding up Vail Mountain’s natural grass-covered runs on a warm night is even more remarkable — and this is how an evening at Game Creek Restaurant begins.

From the top of Eagle Bahn Gondola, a comfortable van ushers guests to the Swiss chalet inspired Game Creek Restaurant, located in one of Vail’s renowned bowls. Green valleys, hills and peaks surround the deck, where guests can enjoy cocktails and an extensive appetizer menu from 5:30-7 p.m. Or, arrive on horseback, partaking in a “four course by horse” complete dining experience.

While executive chef Collin Meyer describes Game Creek’s atmosphere as “refined, yet casual and laid-back,” it’s the “refined” characteristic Meyer leans toward when creating cuisine.

“We do everything traditionally,” he says. “First of all, it’s all about starting from scratch. Everything we do, we start with raw ingredients and end up with finished (dishes featuring) locally sourced products and flavors from around the world.”

One look at the appetizers signals the trans-world cuisine to come. Deck apps offer an array of flavorful dishes, from Berkshire pork belly with Vietnamese caramel, apple and achara to heirloom tomatoes matched with French feta, watermelon, basil and lambrusco vinaigrette; wagyu, a tender beef with Okinawa yam, xo sauce, chive and maldon salt; and artisan cheeses with truffle honey, a baguette and fig jam.

Within the dining room, guests indulge in a three-, four- or five-course prix fixe menu. The five-course menu highlights some of the chef’s favorite dishes, such as the wagyu; sea bass; hazelnut beets with Valdeón cheese, hearts of palm and fruit; elk with hominy grits and forest mushrooms; and a cherry lemon cream tart.

His latest twist on sea bass dusts the fish with fumet and pairs it with mussels, tomato, fennel, dry vermouth, rouille and focaccia.

Three- and four-course meals feature savory salmon, scallops, duck, beef and lamb, with shrimp, pork belly, wild mushrooms and cobia acting as starters, and salads and soups including arugula mixed with pecans, pears and goat cheese; summer vegetables; and sweet corn bisque.

Meyer employs traditional French cooking methods, which emphasize fresh ingredients, and then “puts a little accent on things” by playing with flavors inspired from various regions of the world. He spices his lamb with cumin, sumac, kumquat yoghurt and more, while his housemade tofu – which not many restaurants can claim — smacks of coconut, lemongrass, macadamia nut and shallot.

“It’s upscale cuisine in a laid-back, comfortable atmosphere,” Meyer says.

And, summer is perhaps the best time to visit Game Creek because the quality cuisine and ambiance remains the same, but the price decreases. While the prix fixe menu begins at $89 in the winter for three courses, it begins at $70 in the summer.

Of course, the discount is just the icing on the cake. With a house sommelier offering artistic wine pairings, a full bar available both in the dining room and on the deck, Meyer’s upscale cuisine, and the stunning views from the deck or tables lining windows illuminating the alpine environment, Game Creek redefines restaurants.

“It’s a dining experience as opposed to just dinner,” Meyer says, “from the ride up the gondola to hanging out by the fire to watching the sunset.”

Support Local Journalism