MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – A cadre of locals and visitors congregate around a massive U-shaped bar, spinning their ski-day tales beneath the shadow of a giant bellows hanging from the ceiling – a relic from a long-gone mining operation near Silverton.
Some customers sip sugar-rimmed martinis wearing fur boots, others gulp Guinness while still in their ski pants. A bartender squeezes pink grapefruit juice from a tall silver citrus press into a lowball glass, square ice cubes tinkling, as footage of an extreme skier’s decent of an Alaskan peak flashes shots of big mountain powder skiing in the background.
With its rustic/industrial décor blending with a decidedly hip ski-town vibe, Tomboy Tavern, the Mountain Village’s newest bar and dining establishment, fits the part of an authentic Telluride-style living room. It’s trendy without being ostentatious, comfortable without being homely, full of history without feeling like a cloying wannabe. And it’s just what its originators imagined as the newest après-ski stomping grounds at the Telluride Ski Resort’s base area.
Named for a once-bustling mining district above Telluride on Imogene Pass, the new Telluride Ski and Golf Company-owned restaurant-bar was modeled after such tried-and-true dining establishments as New York City’s Breslin, a gastro pub that has been trending alongside the industry’s hottest restaurants since its opening in 2009, says Telski CEO Dave Riley. Yet Mountain Village’s version boasts its own distinctively local flair. Timeworn photographs line the walls depicting Telluride’s mining and pre-skiing days – many showcasing Telluride’s own old-time celebrity Senior Mahoney. There’s an open-layout space highlighting the camaraderie-inducing, 30-seat U-shaped bar – also a nod to proven popular establishments, like Denver’s trendy Washington Park Grille, and the special request of ski resort owner Chuck Horning.
But to focus all attention on the zinc-patina bar, with its 32 beers flowing from porcelain taps surrounded by tumbled marble mosaic tile, would be to miss out on all the other little elements that together add up to Tomboy Tavern’s big personality.
Nick Mathers, a successful restaurateur whose inspired eateries in Hollywood and New York City epitomize what is vogue in contemporary dining, helped Horning and the Ski Company envision the new design for Mountain Village’s base restaurant, which was previously home to the Hop Garden.
“A lot of credit for the design needs to go to him,” Riley says of Mathers’ role in reimagining the space, which had been under construction for much of the fall until the Tavern’s opening last month.
The space received more than a face-lift. Re-envisioning the brand involved more than a mere name change. The location was expanded, encompassing what used to be adjacent office space, increasing capacity from 75 seats to 105. Cozy, custom-made leather-trimmed booths line one wall, while a feast-worthy 12-person wooden table holds court at the front of house opposite the fireplace seating area. High-top bar tables are interspersed throughout, lit by rustic industrial-style and antique light fixtures. The ceiling and floor showcase time-warped barn wood, sourced from barns in Canada and Carbondale, while the walls make space for flat-screen TVs.
“The concept was to make it feel like it’s been here for a hundred years,” Riley explains.
But Tomboy Tavern isn’t about looks alone. The menu there can hold its own, boasting casual dining that doesn’t skimp on flavor or panache. The Crispy Pork Schnitzel sandwich is a loyalist’s favorite, served on salt-sprinkled pretzel bread with Tomboy’s own apple-basil slaw, while the chili, mac ‘n cheese, and Tavern cheeseburger offer other comfort-food options. Bigger ticket meals include the Garlic Thyme Roasted Chicken, Grilled New York Strip, and the Mixed Sausage Grill featuring elk bratwurst and Kurobuta Chorizo with stone ground mustard and red onion marmalade.
Tomboy Tavern is open daily for lunch and dinner, with seating available inside as well as at the heated outdoor umbrella bar.