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The Red Lion

Wren Wertlin

You can sauce any piece of meat, but unless it’s slow-smoked over wood chips you can’t call it true barbecue. The folks at The Red Lion don’t have to worry about semantics ” they’ve got a large, battle-scarred rotisserie-smoker that gets plenty of action. Baby back ribs, beef brisket and pork shoulder get shut into the contraption and they don’t see the light of day until they’re tender and smoky. Try them with the house-made sauce, and you’ll wonder when The Red Lion became a barbecue joint. Well, they didn’t. But Executive Chef James Frese continues to be proud of the American fare his kitchen produces, and he doesn’t believe in shortcuts. Chips come in the door as tortillas, and are sliced and fried daily. Sauces simmer on the stove while crisp veggies are chopped for a variety of dishes. It’s from-scratch cooking without pretense.

Frese has created a batter for his onion rings that doesn’t burn before the onions are cooked. Lightly spiced with red and black pepper, the large, sweet rings are encased in a paper-thin crust. Based on the coating-to-onion ratio, we really can classify this dish as a vegetable and eat it without guilt. It’s a classic accompaniment to one of the hand-patted burgers that continue to be a local favorite. In honor of the changing appetites of summer, the Game Creek Bowl is a new addition. Romaine lettuce, avocado and grilled artichokes are tossed with balsamic dressing and crowned with a grilled chicken breast. Lightly sauced with marinade, the chicken is covered with a thin slice of melted cheese.

As good as the food is, The Red Lion is first and foremost a place to kick back with friends, families ” and strangers. The large accordion doors flanking the bar are usually pushed open, allowing the patio to be a part of the room. It’s a good spot for people watching during the day, and listening to live music most evenings. “For some reason, this is the place to hang out. We cater to tourists, to locals, and to tourists who return every year so they fell like locals,” says Jen Long, who owns The Red Lion with her husband, Phil, and Rod Linafelter and Kevin Fay. Jen and Phil met at the restaurant, when he was playing his now-famous apres-ski show and she was a ski bum on hiatus from her “real job.” They fell in love with each other and the Lion, and when the owners were finally ready to sell in 2000 they jumped at the chance. Sit on the deck on a hot summer day and you’ll jump at the chance for a cold, bubbly one.


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