Restaurant Spotlight: Ridge + River

Vail

When I first entered the dining hall at Ridge + River, I turned right back around to check the sign on the door for fear that we had just interrupted a private family gathering instead of entering a restaurant. The scene seemed so immediately intimate compared to a typical restaurant setting that I couldn’t be sure I hadn’t made a wrong turn. Tables basked in the glow of an engulfing fireplace, precisely spaced out so that each party could easily maintain their own privacy while still close enough to feed off of the laughter carrying from the next group over. Across from the fire, a panorama window looking down on the Vail slopes spans the entire opposing wall. Most of the light emanates softly from the fire, the setting sun, two pendant lamps above the mantle and flickering candles at each seating place. Walking in feels like stumbling upon a secret that deserves sharing … but you also wouldn’t mind keeping all to yourself.

Photos by Townsend Bessent

Ridge + River occupies a cozy corner on the second floor on the Manor Vail Lodge. Its warm presence gives it an unpretentious charm without missing a beat of elegance as comfort meets sophistication. The ambience sets the stage for the night to come from the second you walk in the door (because yes, you are in the right place and not somebody’s luxury living room).

 

From there, the meal itself feels like a natural part of the package instead of the main attraction. I mean that in the best way possible; it’s the entire night that matters, not the meal alone. You’ll likely get nearly as much satisfaction from just reading the list of creative cocktails ranging from warm and sweet to sharp and startling as you will from enjoying your final choice. But, neither the drink nor food list is overly large, as proof that the kitchen puts care into each production and believes strongly enough in its work that you don’t need an overwhelming amount of choices to find your perfect match.

 

The food selection at Ridge + River emphasizes “regionally sourced ingredients from nearby mountains and rivers” as inspiration for the name. Shareables like crispy balsamic brussels sprouts with pancetta and shishito peppers or truffle fries with porcini and manchego flavors emphasize the same combination of familiar and distinctive as with the drinks. For the main course, you can continue to follow the whims of your unique taste buds with your choice of butcher cuts and sauce samplers, or put the pairings in the hands of the experts to tuck into a pre-crafted plate. The elk loin melts in your mouth, especially if you’re not afraid to let the kitchen err on the rare side, atop a bed of risotto with a welcome tang from a sneaky hint of huckleberry. The cider-brined pork chop, another favorite, also accents the savory center of attention — sharply seasoned meat and cheddar polenta — with a sweet undercurrent of pear and apricot.

 

The whole point of Ridge + River is to create an atmosphere that feels like coming home — if you lived in the mountainside castle of your dreams. You’ll find restoration in the chance to spruce up and wind down all in the same breath.

595 Vail Valley Dr, Vail
manorvail.com

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