Wanting to make sure you don’t waste your precious time during the Dine Around Estes event? Looking for amazing restaurants and blow-your-mind food and brew experiences in charming Estes Park?
It started with one online article that I stumbled across – I don’t even remember where or how. And it was every Thursday in March – and Jason’s birthday was a Thursday in March – it was perfect! It was fate.
“Want to taste all the Estes Park restaurant scene has to offer?”https://www.visitestespark.com/blog/post/dine-around/
But, there was barely any information about Dine Around Estes online – information from the official Estes Park website, and that one article I randomly came across – and that’s it! So we didn’t really even know if it was a real thing. Even driving up there, planning our route, we kept making backup plans in case it wasn’t actually a real event.
My husband, Jason, and I love road trips and adventures, and we love Estes Park. It’s an easy, pleasant drive for us. Jason is a talented wildlife photographer and these are the roads that are most familiar to him that he drives to track elk, foxes, and moose.
With the family we always love to make this drive a full experience, with an early morning drive up Mt. Evans – the best scenic drive in this area of Colorado (yep, my opinion, try it and see what I’m on about 😊) and lunch at Beau Jo’s – classic.
I also love driving up to Estes Park just me! As a working mom and a serious introvert, when I have a rare full day to recharge, I oftentimes drive up to Estes Park in order to grab my favorite treat (a Fitz cream soda from Rocket Fizz – trust me, you’ve got to try one), get a book from Macdonald and sit and write morning pages at Inkwell & Brew.
Also, feel free to take these recommendations for your own adventures up to Estes Park. We highly recommend it for a family afternoon, or leaving in the morning for a lunch date. A mini road trip for good food? Yes please!
Estes park brewery 4:30
Our experience: a strange atmosphere. We have always loved the beer brewed here, but now we recommend either the tasting counter on the first floor or buying from a liquor store.
This was our first stop, and so we got there the first minute we could – and we were pumped! But, when we told the server we were there for Dine Around Estes, the waiter literally rolled his eyes. We ordered our first beers of the night and asked about what they had for the special – and he again rolled his eyes and pointed at this weird sign on the table advertising burritos? It was completely separate from the menu and felt absolutely random.
It really is a blow to the gut that the first place we went to had such a bad attitude and lazy choice for Dine Around Estes. We’re so thankful that everywhere else that we went was so thoughtful and aware of the event, had good choices, and made us feel special. But this experience first made us worry that our theory that Dine Around Estes wasn’t truly a full event – was true.
In summary, amazing beer, but not worth the trip to the second floor.
We skipped this one for only one reason – Jason and I hate mushrooms, they were offering Mushroom Marsala as their Dine Around dish. What they offered was super clear and inviting – on a big sign. They feel local and cozy, and the interior design fit perfectly with the atmosphere. Excited to try this place in the future! It smelled amazing.
Note to self: put this on the list for 2023!
Smokin’ Daves BBQ
Our first true tasting plate! We were SO excited as soon as we heard it was a sampler.
The ambience was so cozy and fun, and as soon as we walked in it smelled absolutely amazing. And even though practically every table was full, carry out orders were being brought out constantly – it was a pretty quick turn around to being sat down.
Our server knew exactly what we were looking for as soon as we started talking and even asked us if all the options sounded good. We also got drinks to support them and have recommended them to many people since.
One beef slider, one pulled pork slider, half a sausage, cole slaw, and baked beans. The baked beans were KILLER! Get them as soon as you’re able.
Barbecue is just a clear and automatic yes for us and this was amazing food and an incredible experience.
The Cascades 6pm
GOOD FOOD, AND at the Stanley – which is classic. They also had a more expanded menu: two $5 menu choices – one vegan – and a $5 wine on the menu with your choice of red or white. Great food, great menu!
Jason and I both got wild game chili – which is so Colorado! It was spiced well with good meat and broth balance and was filling and the perfect thickness. Also, I’m a sucker for thick, sweet cornbread and this cornbread rocked.
Ambience: very crowded, tables too close together. We were seated immediately but it was tight and loud. Interior design wise: gaudy design. Also, two of the ceiling tiles were upside down and as an interior designer I noticed.. but I bet not many other people did.
Note for 2023: order the purple drink 💜😁
Rock Cut Brewing Company
I loved the bartender here – knowledgeable, friendly, without being overbearing or up in our business. One of the brewers was there coming in and out, giving out free tasters and asking opinions, and he was genuinely interested in us and asked us where else we went for Dine Around Estes. The locals were chatting, and it was a fun atmosphere without feeling like we didn’t fit in.
My favorite beers are dark beers – like Porters and Stouts, and I loved their vanilla one! Not as much a fan of their Imperial Stout… but that’s 100% my taste.
YOU NEED PIE 7:15
These guys were all about Dine Around Estes and that was so refreshing considering we started somewhere that had a pretty negative attitude towards it! A huge sign outside advertising it and the cutest little taster plates with two pie options. Two cookies, a half piece of pie, and a mini cupcake. Everyone who worked there was so positive, friendly, and warm! We got ours to go, and I recommend it. Mostly since there isn’t a lot of seating available – only 5 or 6 tables if I remember correctly – and all of them were full. Looks like there’s a counter for ordering just pie to go if that’s more up your alley!
The atmosphere is what’s special here – everyone was welcoming and friendly. The pie definitely is a step or two above store bought (not high end or the best pie I’ve ever had) but everything else here was what made this experience special.
Dine Around Estes
Started off as a rocky experience, but ended with some of the best food and experiences all in a row. Hopefully, this article will convince you to give it a try. And, like us, if you are having a hard time finding information, do not worry! Dine Around Estes is a fun, real event that almost all of the restaurants and locations made important. For our Dine Around Estes experience, the variety is what made the whole event feel fully worth it.
We already love Estes, but especially after our first experience at Dine Around Estes we will definitely be making time to make this a regular thing for us – hopefully even two weeks out of the month next year!
Some tips and tricks for the road:
- Pick your priorities and go there first! We got to a full experience at 5 restaurants, and I don’t think it would be easily possible to pack more into Dine Around Estes than that. We arrived the first minute and left last minute of the event, so use your time wisely!
- Don’t get discouraged! Even though the first place we went was an unsettling and unpleasant experience, every other place was special and amazing, with yummy food too.
- Be flexible! We didn’t end up staying at Sweet Basilico because of the menu choice, and got to experience other places because of this! Every week of the Dine Around Estes experience has a different menu offering from each restaurant, and always know there is next year (we’re looking forward to it) – or you can come up to Estes and visit restaurants and breweries outside of the event as well.
- Know a little of what to expect! Though a few options along the main stretch of main street, all of our places were far enough to drive at least four minutes between them. Park as close as you can and get ready to run back out to your car! Reach out if you have specific questions – I’m happy to share more of my personal experience.
No matter your strategy, mapping preferences, or choice of restaurants – you should go and experience it.
I hope to hear about your experience! Comment below with your stories, send restaurant recommendations by way, and feel free to DM me on Instagram to share your story!