Vail’s Austrian spirit at Pepi’s Bar and Restaurant
If you don’t know the iconic Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer building, with its cheerful yellow stucco and painted millwork, you haven’t been to Vail, says Executive Chef Helmut Kaschitz, of Pepi’s Restaurant & Bar.
Sheika and Pepi Gramshammer opened their namesake hotel in 1964, and Kaschitz has been at the helm of the restaurant for nearly two decades. His charm, hospitality and dedication to his craft is exemplified in his homemade gluhwein, a hot, spiced red wine inspired by the traditional Christkindl winter markets in Austria and Germany.
“I put a ton of ingredients in there,” Kaschitz said. “The main ones are red wine, Stroh rum to flavor it up — that’s Austrian, 160 proof, it gives it a really, really good flavor — oranges, lemons, apples, cloves, cinnamon sticks, sugar; those are the main ingredients.
“There are a few other things that go in there, but I want to keep it in the dark,” he added with a laugh.
Located in Vail Village, Pepi’s is open for lunch and dinner, with two dining rooms, a bar area and a large, covered patio for people watching. The restaurant is famous for its Austrian cuisine, particularly its schnitzels, says Sous Chef Richard Fraser.
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“The schnitzels are all freshly done,” said Fraser, who traveled to Europe to learn the technique from restaurants he referred to as “schnitzel factories” because they crank out so many of the dishes. “It’s not a difficult process, but having the butter correct and breading it right, being not too heavy on the breading, is important.”
Both the wiener schnitzel, a pan-fried and breaded veal cutlet with roasted potatoes, and the jager schnitzel, pounded-thin veal medallions served with wild mushroom sauce and spaetzle, feature a side of Pepi’s wildly popular braised red cabbage.
“We take the cabbage and a lot of onions, lime and lemon juice and red wine and let it braise for an hour to an hour and a half and finish it with apple sauce,” Fraser said. “The balance comes out perfectly, being pickled and almost on the sweet side.”
The schnitzels appear on the menus for both the main dining room and the Antler’s Room, an intimate dinner space within Pepi’s known for its wild game and tableside service.
“Sheika likes to create this atmosphere in the Antler’s Room where we engage with people and get to show off what we have to offer,” Fraser said.
Highlights of the Antler’s Room menu include the oven-roasted rack of caribou, carved tableside and served with parsnip-apple puree and huckleberry jus; Wapiti steak medallions, pan seared tableside with sauteed woodland mushrooms, spaetzle and braised red cabbage; and the Wilddieb platter, a sampling of quail, Russian wild boar and venison complemented by wild rice and a trio of sauces: white mushroom, peppercorn and a third selection of the chef’s choosing.
The finale of an evening in the Antler’s Room is the bananas Foster, flambeed tableside.
“It’s really to die for,” Kaschitz promised.
231 East Gore Creek Drive
entrees $31-$58; dessert $18
A European ski lodge plucked from an Austrian fairytale
Wiener schnitzel, a pan-fried veal cutlet with roasted potatoes and braised red cabbage