When your evening plans in Grand Junction call for memorable cuisine, a bottle of Grand Valley wine and attentive service, head downtown to discover a wealth of unique dining opportunities.
Within just a few blocks, locally owned restaurants downtown present excellent choices — from top-quality steaks to authentic European cuisine — to satisfy hungry whims. Increased interest in the culinary arts has grown hand in hand with Colorado's expanding wine industry during the last 25 years — the ongoing search for perfect pairings of food and wine.
For 32 years Grand Junction residents celebrating special occasions have made their way past the flickering gas lamps to The Winery Restaurant. Flowered stained glass windows, bricks and barn wood transform a nearly-century-old, former fire station into a comfortable dining room. Steve Thoms, owner since 2005, says, "I want to provide diners an intimate setting and the best meal available." Thoms recommends the Filet Oscar as his personal favorite: a filet mignon topped with asparagus spears and covered with a lobster/crab Newburg sauce. Aged steaks and prime rib headline the steakhouse menu, but Colorado lamb chops, pork tenderloin and seafood entrees add variety. The wine list leans heavily to the reds — what better to serve with steak? — and local Colorado wineries are well represented: cabernet sauvignons from Canyon Wind Cellars and Two Rivers Winery; cabernet franc, sangiovese and syrah from Plum Creek and Grande River's Meritage Red — a full-bodied red with a hint of oak. A glass of Two Rivers Port and the Enstrom's Toffee Lovers ice cream are a lovely locally produced finishing touch.
For diners who love knowing their meal is accompanied by the perfect wine selection, plan a stop at 626 Rood during your visit. USA Today named it one of the Top 10 Wine Bars in the country, but their food menu is just as deserving of accolades. Open seven days a week for dinner (and Mon–Sat for lunch), 626 serves modern American fare from a menu that changes seasonally to take advantage of the Grand Valley's agricultural bounty. Chef Theo Otte takes pride in sourcing local and organic items, keeping a chef's garden of fresh herbs, and smoking of meats in-house to create his unique dishes. If it's on the menu when you visit, don't miss out on the rack of lamb.
The homemade breads, pastas and desserts at Il Bistro Italiano have earned the establishment a loyal following. Chef Brunella Gualerzi draws on her youth in Italy when creating the restaurant's acclaimed menus. While some diners come for the thin-crust, stone-oven pizzas, the pasta selections have fans of their own. Gnocchi with mushroom sauce; shrimp, avocado and prosciutto in a creamy white wine sauce over spinach tagliatelle; roasted beet-filled cannelloni with a gorgonzola walnut sauce all come highly recommended.
Gualerzi's menus and wine lists change quarterly to highlight seasonal flavors. Il Bistro offers a full page of Colorado wines including a dozen "by the glass" selections. Carlson Vineyards is well represented with Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Lemberger and the orange flavored Fat Cat Muscat, a great match for tiramisu. A deli in the front of the restaurant sells Italian ingredients, meats and cheeses, plus handmade pastas and bakery items.
Speaking of ingredients, it's chef Josh Niernberg's keen eye for finding quality local and regional goods that sets apart the cuisine at Bin 707. The former professional snowboarder turned chef opened 707 in 2007 and has worked hard to establish it as one of the city's premier dining establishments. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, expect an eclectic selection of seasonal items that blend tradition and creativity with delicious results. Their flatbreads are a great choice almost any time of day, and later in the evening, items like the pork tenderloin or the seared salmon are wonderful choices. While their wine menu is a delight, don't miss out on their selection of hand-crafted cocktails.
John Barbier, executive chef and owner of Le Rouge Restaurant brings a Frenchman's love of food and wine from the Loire Valley to Colorado's Grand Valley. Proclaiming his style as French Country, Barbier says, "Many are prepared from my dear grandmere's provincial recipes." A dinner of French onion soup, duck confit and raspberry creme brulee is guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest palates. The winter menu adds heartier wild game dishes. Barbier frequently selects Plum Creek's Riesling and merlot, Two Rivers' chardonnay and DeBeque Canyon's crisp, citrus viognier or claret for his ever-changing wine list. The first vintages from his own estate winery — merlot, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, rose and muscat — are also available.
Whether the mood calls for Italian, country French or a tender piece of beef, you'll find just the right destination in Grand Junction, Colorado.