From the mountain towns of Breckenridge and Aspen to rapidly growing Denver and Aurora, Colorado is a hot meetings destination right now, thanks to its diverse, beautiful scenery and central location.
As the state continues to trend up, impressive culinary experiences are on the rise too. No matter where in Colorado your event will be or what vibe or culinary experience you are looking for, you will be able to find something delicious for your group post-event.
Following are eight standout representatives you should consider during your next Colorado meeting or event.
Annette is a nationally acclaimed restaurant that offers semi-private setups for groups of up to 25 people and full restaurant buyouts for up to 80, and it’s conveniently located in Aurora, 20 minutes from Denver International Airport and 15 minutes from downtown Denver.
The restaurant space, according to Co-Owner Nelson Harvey, features custom touches including handmade wooden tables, a woven fabric installation, a firewood wall, wooden chandeliers and indoor plants.
“The open kitchen allows diners to interact with the chefs and watch them in action as they cook on the wood-fired grill,” he said. “The grill itself gives the space a dynamic and yet cozy feel.”
Annette is known for comfort food staples like house-made gnocchi with butternut squash and shiitake mushrooms, as well as adventurous dishes such as Spanish-style octopus patatas bravas.
“For larger groups, we typically recommend a selection of smaller dishes, which change from day to day depending on seasonal availability, followed by a few ‘entree-sized’ main courses, including a roasted chicken, a whole fish and a bone-in pork chop,” Harvey said.
Interested groups can arrange a cocktail class, during which they’ll learn how Annette’s bar staff works closely with the kitchen to cross-utilize seasonal ingredients.
Photo: Interior of Annette's, a popular spot in Aurora, Colorado; Credit: Annette's
Denver Milk Market, Denver
A fun option for group dining in Denver is the Denver Milk Market, a customizable venue featuring 16 culinary concepts that accommodates groups from 10 to 400-plus people.
“Take a lap around the market and you’ll be transported every 10 feet,” said Kristin Reinhart, director of catering and event sales. “From the light circus theme of Cornicello to the East Coast fish shop of Albina by the Sea, there’s always something to discover.”
Among the other eateries here are Mano Pastaria, Bonanno Brothers Pizzeria and Lou’s Hot and Naked for fried chicken.
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“We are thrilled to offer the Denver Milk Market for full or partial buyouts,” Reinhart said. “This space is best suited for groups that want to put a new spin on the format of their event, as it is not a traditional sit-down venue. We offer a combination of lounge area, counter seating, high top tables and bar stool seating.”
Add-on activities include bingo, cornhole, giant Jenga, Connect Four, mixology classes, beer and wine tastings, and private “sugar school” classes with an onsite pastry chef.
Pine Creek Cookhouse, Aspen
Pine Creek Cookhouse, 12 miles outside Aspen at the base of the Elk Mountain Range, is an idyllic setting for both large and small group dining functions.
The restaurant itself is a log cabin featuring large bay windows that showcase views of the surrounding peaks. Antler chandeliers and a warm mountain design make Pine Creek Cookhouse a cozy retreat.
“It’s an unbeatable place to get your group off the grid and into the heart of the mountains,” said Events Coordinator Johnny Wilcox. “Every table in the restaurant is backdropped by gorgeous views, any season of the year.”
Photo: The Pine Creek Cookhouse in Aspen is a log-cabin style restaurant that can accommodate large and small groups; Credit: Pine Creek Cookhouse
There is a private dining room that accommodates up to 55 people, and full buyouts are available for up to 250 guests with added tenting.
The seasonal menu features fresh options ranging from elk chops and buffalo loin steaks to steamed Nepalese momo dumplings.
“In the winter, guests can choose to cross-country ski, snowshoe or take a horse-drawn sleigh in to lunch or dinner, making the dining experience that much more unique,” Wilcox said.
Betula brought French Pan-American cuisine to downtown Aspen when it opened in during the 2018-2019 winter season.
According to Bema Alvarez, the restaurant’s maître d’ and event coordinator, the culinary and service teams will work with planners to deliver a delicious and memorable dining experience.
“They truly understand how important it is for large groups to find a place to bond over good food and drinks,” she said.
Betula’s ambience is that of a luxury Victorian mountain cabin that has a welcoming homey feel, including a living room with a fireplace and comfortable couches.
Buyouts are available, or groups can separately book the living room, main dining room or, during summer, the patio.
“Once the patio is open, during lunch service guests can enjoy the beautiful view of Ajax Mountain, and at night, surrounded by the flowers, when the fireplaces are on, you almost feel like you’re having dinner in your own garden,” Alvarez said.
Groups at Betula can easily share dishes, she added, including rotisserie lamb, duck and rib eye. There are also many seafood dishes, from grilled octopus to Chilean sea bass.
Base Camp Bar & Grill, Snowmass Village
Base Camp Bar & Grill, a casual dining space with mountain decor, views of ski slopes and the vibe of a gastropub, has four spaces available for private events, and buyouts are available.
“Our downstairs space has the capability to slide open our large glass doors to connect the dining room with our outdoor patio, complete with a fire pit and lounge couches,” said Operations Manager Charlie Burrows.
He added the second story space has a terrace that boasts great views of Snowmass Mountain Ski Resort, and is equipped with audiovisual equipment and a stage for live music.
Menu specialties include nachos, ‘build your own” mac and cheese, burgers made with local Colorado beef and 30-plus Colorado craft beers. (Photo: Base Camp Bar & Grill in Snowmass Village can do beer tastings for groups or host private events; Credit: Base Camp Bar & Grill)
“We can offer tastings on beers, tequila, whiskey or wine, and we can create a unique menu for a pairing dinner,” Burrows said. “We can make any group feel special. We have plenty of TVs for slideshows, and our upstairs space with projection screens is perfect for seminars.”
Corrida, a Spanish-influenced steak restaurant located on the rooftop level of downtown Boulder's Pearl West building, opened in Boulder in 2018 and offers unobstructed views of the Flatirons.
“Corrida is the perfect, picturesque venue for any occasion,” said Bryan Dayton, founder/beverage director of Half Eaten Cookie Hospitality, the restaurant group that includes Corrida. “Corrida's design meets the needs of guests who are interested in a formal dining experience or a casual rooftop setting for drinks and small bites.”
The indoor/outdoor space offers a sophisticated palette of walnut wood and cream leathers, and the rooftop patio features firepits and lounge seating.
Tapas and pintxos, meats, cheeses and tinned seafood are popular orders for a reception, and for sit-down meals, groups can share large plates such as seafood paella. There is also a popular carne menu starring top-quality meats ranging from bone-in rib eyes to strip loins.
“Corrida has a lovely private dining room that accommodates up to 20 guests for a seated dinner, and it also offers patio and full restaurant buyouts,” Dayton said. “Between the patio and dining room, we can accommodate up to 300 guests for a standing cocktail-style reception.”
Corrida has an all-Spanish wine list and Spanish beers and offers mixology classes as well as wine and sherry seminars.
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Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., Colorado Springs
Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., housed in an historic building that dates back to 1901, will appeal to billiards fanatics, historians, beer enthusiasts and foodies alike, according to its events director, Tricia Long.
The venue features more than eight private event spaces to accommodate groups of all sizes.
Among them are the dining room, which has booth and table seating as well as an expansive bar, a second-floor billiards hall with 10 pool tables, darts, cornhole and an outdoor patio, and the newly renovated third-floor events hall with wood floors, high ceilings and arched windows with scenic views of downtown Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountains.
“All of our spaces feature built-in AV, food-and-beverage packages and a dedicated team to take care of the group,” Long said. “We also offer brewery tours and tasting experiences for groups.”
Full and two-floor buyouts are available. Popular menu items include soft pretzels with beer cheese, fried pickles, charcuterie boards and lemon Tabasco fried chicken.
Sweet Basil, Vail
The long-standing Sweet Basil is a favorite restaurant in Vail’s lineup of group-friendly eateries.
The restaurant showcases paintings and sculptures from local galleries, and the back patio looks out onto Gore Creek.
“We have an amazing chef team that continues to create food on a world-class level, always being innovative and creative,” said Jennifer Lewis, the restaurant’s group coordinator.
Favorite shareable dishes presently include the whipped feta and warm king crab dip appetizers, and rack of lamb is an ongoing nightly special that is “out-of-this-world good,” Lewis said.
The restaurant has a private dining room that accommodates up to 50 people, a semi-private alcove that seats up to 20 and a full buyout of the restaurant accommodates up to 120 guests.
Chef Jennifer Jasinski
Crafted Concepts restaurants:
Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, Rioja, Stoic & Genuine, Ultreia
How would you describe the current culinary scene in Denver?
The culinary scene in Denver is exploding with great talent and tons of great restaurant concepts. Our city has been booming for four to five years now, and it’s great to see our culinary talent recognized on a national level with James Beard awards, Food & Wine best chef nods and other national acclaim. (Photo: Jennifer Jasinski is the chef at Denver's Crafted Concepts five restaurants; Credit: Joni Schrantz)
What are some unique culinary experiences for corporate groups meeting in Denver?
There are a few different culinary tour operators that appeal to groups.
In our restaurants, we craft customized events—perhaps we do a cooking class and event; maybe even a participative, hands-on class; or a cocktail lab. We do events in our spaces, which do not feel corporate so guests love the vibe.
What is your view of the role food plays during a meeting?
Dining and food are what really bring people together. It is in the restaurants and over a meal where we truly connect. Visit Denver has determined that food is a major decider when a meeting planner is choosing a town for a meeting.
When people travel here from another city, what better way to get a sense of Denver than the dining scene? We have a great downtown where groups could stay and easily walk to dine out without having to jump in a taxi or Uber. And with the free 16th Street Mall shuttle, many restaurants are effectively within a block of the major downtown hotels.
What is your approach to creating a memorable F&B experience for groups at your restaurants?
Customization creates memorable dining experiences. We really like to craft a menu and entire experience to our guests’ expectations, not just send out a cookie cutter menu and hope it fits. Our locations also make each event unique and special to Denver.
At Bistro Vendôme, we have state-of-the-art video capabilities in a cozy French bistro. We can show a movie in French with English subtitles on the big screen and pair it with a custom menu that fits the movie theme.
Stoic & Genuine is all about the seafood and we’ve done oyster shucking classes, crab boils and lobster feasts. We pair our oysters and make creative cocktails with house-made granita.
Our newest is Ultreia, featuring the cuisine of the Iberian Peninsula. During the summer, with Denver’s best farmers’ market right outside our doors, we make giant 48-inch pans of paella on the patio. The tapas and pintxos, typical for Spain and Portugal, are perfect event nibbles.
Euclid Hall has a semi-private upstairs where our hand-cranked sausages and house-made mustards and pickles reign supreme.
Rioja is our flagship restaurant with house-made pastas and local ingredients. Our Pasta Ninja conducts frequent pasta-making classes.
Aspen | Aspen Chamber Resort Association | 970.925.1940
- W Aspen and The Sky Residences at W Aspen opened at the base of Aspen Mountain in August 2019 with 88 guest rooms and 11 W-branded fractional residences. The W Aspen features a 12,000-square-foot rooftop bar and pool, and two event rooms.
- The Little Nell, which has 92 guest accommodations and a variety of meeting venues, renovated its living room, lobby and Ajax Tavern in fall 2019.
Aurora | Visit Aurora | 720.487.1360
- The 250-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Denver-Aurora recently completed a renovation including guest room updates. The hotel has 14,000 square feet of event space including ballrooms, boardrooms and a 100-seat amphitheater.
- The 226-room Hyatt Place Pena Station/Denver Airport opened in summer 2019 with 4,000 square feet of function space.
- Tru by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton Denver Airport Tower Road, a dual property, opened in August 2019 with 186 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 90 people.
- The 123-room Wingate by Wyndham Denver Airport which has two meeting rooms, opened in summer 2019.
Boulder | Boulder CVB | 303.442.2911
Colorado Springs | Visit Colorado Springs | 719.635.7506
- Hilton Garden Inn Downtown opened in late 2019 with 167 guest rooms and four meeting rooms.
- The 309-room Colorado Springs Marriott completed a renovation in August 2019 that included updates to guest rooms and its 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
- The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum is scheduled to open in May. The highly interactive museum will feature several meeting spaces, including the atrium, a boardroom and an indoor/outdoor venue.
Denver | Visit Denver | 303.892.1112
- Hilton Garden Inn Denver Union Station opened in April 2019 with 233 guest rooms and 9,500 square feet of event space.
- A 525-room Marriott situated near the Colorado Convention Center is scheduled to open in 2022 with 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 8,500-square-foot ballroom and a rooftop bar.
Snowmass | Snowmass Tourism | 970.923.2000
- This ski season sees the completion of the $600 million Snowmass Base Village, which includes three new restaurants and bars, a new yoga studio, shops and the Collective Snowmass, a hub for community events. The Collective Snowmass also hosts groups in its spaces, including a game lounge and an ice rink.
Vail | Visit Vail Valley | 970.476.1000
- Grand Hyatt Vail recently opened at the base of Vail Mountain with 285 guest rooms, including 29 suites, and 13 meeting spaces, including a ballroom, boardrooms and outdoor venues.
About the Author: Carolyn Blackburn has been writing and editing professionally for nearly 20 years. Her relationship with Meetings Today began as an on-staff features editor, and since 2006 she has been a contributing writer covering meetings destinations, news and trends.