I think people don’t really believe me when I share that hunting for new dive bars is a beloved past time of mine. I guess if I heard that I would assume there were some sort of alcohol issues under the surface but that couldn’t be farther from the truth and the reality is I can’t resist venturing a little bit off the path to root out hidden gems, even if it means driving four hours for a single meal.
Tucked off the highway just outside of Aspen in the valley of the Roaring Fork River is the small town of Woody Creek, an area that has been called home by an ecclectic array of musicians and celebrities from Don Henley and Nancy Pelosi with the most notable being gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
The Woody Creek Tavern is a landmark. Once a favorite watering hole for Thompson and his local buddies, the Tavern has been written up in numerous travel magazines, cited on blogs, talked about on chairlifts around Colorado and heck, even Rachel Ray has credited the bar for dishing up her favorite margarita north of the border.
When a trusted friend suggested I check it out if I was ever in the Aspen area I took his word and decided to take a four hour drive for a late lunch and a couple of beers, impulsive but very necessary with cabin fever hitting me hard in Breckenridge.
Following the lazy curves of the highway we stumbled on Woody Creek Tavern in the middle of a spring time snow storm. Heavy, wet flakes blanketed fence posts and tree branches making the whole landscape seem eerily quiet, a lovely change of pace from Breckenridge during Spring Break.
Walking through the door my eyes darted from the bar decked out in memorabilia to the walls covered in old pictures and magazine cutouts, all illuminated by a down-right impressive collection of various Christmas lights strewn across the ceiling.
Opting for a corner booth during the lull between lunch and dinner we were some of the only people in the restaurant expect for the few waitresses swapping stories and rolling silverware in preparations for that night’s dinner rush.
Although the fare isn’t exactly cheap for being so tucked away, I remind myself that we were close to Aspen after all so I suck it up and didn’t bother worrying about shelling out $14 for the fish tacos. Twenty minutes later I was kicking myself for even thinking such a thing because the tacos were some of the best I have had, with fresh tasting ingredients and perfectly seasoned fish.
Jake’s tamales won him over immediately and the portions were generous, which lead to subsequent food coma causing us to take up our booth for a few hours as we casually sipped on our beers and digested over conversation and laughter. It’s no surprise this place has become famous for being a dive, it doesn’t apologize for the over-the-top decor or the laid back attitude and the simplicity of kicking back at staring at old photos is enough to make you want to come back and experience it again in case you missed something the first time.
It was a perfect spur of the moment day, the kind that always remind me you don’t have to travel very far to completely escape. Next time we are bringing a designated driver so we can test out the famed margaritas.