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Up the Pass

A day trip out of town is punctuated by some delightful rest stops with great food and drink.

Shimmering aspen, vibrant wildflowers, cascading mountain streams—the drive up Ute Pass in springtime is visually stunning. But where do you find amazing, can’t-miss eateries along the way? Sometimes, all it takes is a little insider knowledge.

The Wines of Colorado    

Nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak, just steps from the Pikes Peak Highway, The Wines of Colorado (winesofcolorado.com) offers a romantic getaway a mere 15 minutes from the Springs. While dining creekside, you can enjoy such Colorado favorites as pan-seared trout almondine or the buffalo wine burger, heaped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and roasted green chiles. For a dessert to remember, try the carrot cake. This decadent treat serves four hungry travelers. What makes The Wines of Colorado truly unique is its extensive selection of Colorado wines. With more than 95 in-state wineries represented, the choices are dizzying, so complimentary wine tasting is encouraged. Before you leave, make sure to stop by the gift shop for some wine-related keepsakes.

The Pantry   

There’s nothing like it! With its creaky doors, crooked walls, down-home cooking, and spectacular outdoor seating, The Pantry (thepantryingreenmtnfallsco.com) is an experience you’ll never forget. For more than 60 years, guests have feasted on everything from benedicts and huevos to burgers and chicken-fried steak. But the place is most known for the home-baked bread, and the homemade cinnamon roll French toast will make you a believer! From June first through the end of August, on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm, you can also enjoy the bodacious, all-you-can-eat Creekside Cowboy breakfast buffet. The whole family will love singing along with entertainer extraordinaire Ted Newman, who’s played with such greats as Johnny Cash and John Denver.

Blue Moose Tavern

With its Colorado mountain bar feel, The Blue Moose (facebook.com/thebluemoosetavern) is the perfect place to get down with some hot wings, cold brews, and smokin’ bands. Hungry for pizza? Order the Mountain Man, a hearty mix of elk sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and Italian sausage on a homemade garlic crust, and chase it down with a frosty cold microbrew. For a dessert drink, try the chocolate-covered cherry shot, layered with grenadine, Kahlua, and Bailey’s Irish cream. Saturday nights, follow the blue neon lights to the stage and jam out to live music from bluegrass to rock. For a more mellow vibe, enjoy Sundays on the patio, listening to acoustic guitar while sipping a bacon-topped Bloody Mary and gazing at Gazebo Lake.

The Mucky Duck

With its twinkling lights and rustic charm, The Mucky Duck (muckyduckco.com) offers fine dining with flair. For Sunday brunch, the menu is always presented on an easel tableside. Favorites include a delightful array of eggs benedict, from the Santa Fe with ham, avocado, green chile, and cheddar to the California with turkey, bacon, and avocado. On Saturday evenings, you can enjoy live entertainment from classic folk rock to gypsy jazz while feasting on such delicacies as the duck breast topped with a ginger teriyaki glaze and the rib-eye pork chop topped with a creamy mustard sauce. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, enjoy dining with a glass of wine on the sunny rooftop patio.

Donut Mill

For 35 years, locals and travelers alike have made the world-famous Donut Mill (thedonutmill.com) a must stop on any up-the-pass adventure. When the doors open at 5 am, lines of hungry customers snake outside as they wait patiently for their breakfast favorites from bear claws and scones to strudels and donuts. Crispy and sweet, the apple fritters are a local fan favorite. The giant cinnamon roll, weighing in at three pounds, is the most photographed item in the showcase. The super-secret recipe for biscuits and gravy has more than 15 different ingredients and has been passed down from owner to owner since the place opened. For a homey experience you’ll never forget, join that line!

McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub

Sure and begorrah! There’s a taste o’ the Irish in the wee town of Divide. Locally owned, McGinty’s (mcgintyswoodovenpub.com) offers fresh, made-from-scratch food with an Irish flair. Beer-battered and fried, the fish and chips are legendary. But beware, they’re only available on Fridays. The pizza potpies are local favorites. Pizza toppings are baked in a flaky crust and arrive steaming hot and perfect to share. You’ll be raving over the Nutty Irishman, an outrageously flavorful burger with creamy peanut butter, raspberry jalapeño jelly, bacon, and cheddar. Accompany them with a Guinness or a McGinty Red, created especially for McGinty’s by Bristol Brewing Company, and you’ll be singing “Danny Boy” as you relax on the covered patio.

Iron Tree Restaurant and Brewery   

Rustic and cozy, the Iron Tree Restaurant and Brewery (irontreerestaurant.com) was founded by two passionate Culinary Institute of America grads. They offer farm-to-table dining with everything made from scratch and locally sourced. Breakfast includes such delights as crème brûlée french toast and breakfast tacos with sausage or bacon, cheddar cheese, and salsa. Rich and flavorful, the brisket is smoked in-house. The Iron Tree burger with sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli is addictive. And the desserts? OMG. The German chocolate cheesecake flies out of the case, and the brownies turn into molten chocolate cakes when heated. On a sunny day, relax on the patio with some frosty brews, such as the Freak Easy IPA or the Far Out Milk Stout, courtesy of Funky Town, the restaurant’s very own brewery.

• The Wines of Colorado: 8045 U.S. 24, Cascade
• The Pantry: 6980 Lake St., Green Mountain Falls
• Blue Moose Tavern: 10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls
• The Mucky Duck: 10530 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls
• Donut Mill: 310 W. Midland Ave., Woodland Park
• McGinty’s Wood Oven Pub: 11115 U.S. 24, Divide
• Iron Tree Restaurant and Brewery: 37 Costello Ave., Florissant