When Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer opened the Antlers Room inside their Alps-style hotel in Colorado nearly 50 years ago, eating wild game at a fine dining establishment in the Vail Valley was something adventurous and new. Today, lingering in an antler-festooned, wood-paneled, Austrian-style stubel over a hearty plate of roasted elk loin with red cabbage and spätzle seems like a retro choice. But traditional fine alpine cuisine centered on wild meats and fowl (the European style that inspired the Antlers Room) had at its core a focus on local and natural ingredients expressing a gastronomic sense of place—the very concept driving the best mountain dining today. Antlers’ executive chef Helmut Kaschitz buys from sustainable, free-range herds that graze on the native flora of open Western foothills and grasslands. “The meat is flavorful but not intensely gamey,” he explains. “It is healthy, with no to low cholesterol and very low fat.” No wonder game is making a comeback—albeit with new choices and fresh style—in ski towns across the West.
Here are a few of our favorite restaurants that showcase game dishes boldly and flavorfully.