Exit 205 has always been a portal to something magnificent, says Travis Holton, president of Pug Ryan’s Brewery & Steakhouse in Dillon (purveyors of the acclaimed Peacemaker Pilsner and operators of Pug Ryan’s Lakeside Tiki Bar).
It starts with the Dillon Reservoir, a massive, manmade freshwater lake home to one of the best inland marinas in the country. And then there’s the nearby Tenmile Range, where you’ll find some of the state’s storied 14ers, mountains with summits measuring 14,000 feet or more above sea level. There’s the recreation—countless trailheads leading into the area’s magnetic natural beauty—and the full-time residents of Silverthorne and Dillon who contribute to a vibrant community. And, of course, there’s the food.
From Dillon’s Pug Ryan’s, which opened in 1975, to Silverthorne’s Angry James Brewery, there has always been a flourishing culinary scene here tucked beyond the chain restaurants and shops clustered around Exit 205. Until recently, though, the area’s award-winning breweries and laudable cuisine have beenperhaps the area’s best-kept secret.
Islands Among the Chains
First, some history. For years, Exit 205 on Interstate 70 was little more than a pit stop bustling with fast food chains and several highway intersections. Or so it seemed to millions of visitors passing through on their way to or from Colorado’s high country. Many rarely got out of their cars, save to gas up or shop at the Outlets at Silverthorne. Had they stopped to explore, those busy motorists would have discovered eateries small and large founded by locals determined to carve out an idyllic mountain lifestyle away from nearby resort towns.
“There’s always been a robust local restaurant scene,” says Barb Richard, longtime marketing manager for Dillon Dam Brewery, the largest craft brewer in the Colorado Rockies that just celebrated its 20th anniversary. “People from all over the world come here to enjoy our ski areas and mountains, and they really want to experience a local place.”
It doesn’t get more local than Dillon or Silverthorne, where entrepreneurs who treasure their low-key lifestyle pour themselves into building excellent breweries and restaurants, most of which are mostly family-owned or supported by a team of resident investors. More, with culinary pioneers like Pug Ryan’s and Dillon Dam Brewery paving the way, today’s Exit 205 is home to a modern casual dining scene where legacy eateries and up-and-comers coexist and support one another.
Eat Here Now
Take Angry James Brewery, the brainchild of Denver native A.J. Brinkerhoff and his wife Darcy. Set to open later this year, the brewery has been a work in progress since September 2014 when the couple quit their finance jobs in Denver, bought an empty lot in downtown Silverthorne, and relocated to the mountains to pursue their craft brewery dreams. Angry James will have a modern, open floor plan with an outdoor beer garden and fire pit. Brinkerhoff plans to serve light snacks like pretzels and Bavarian sausage, and possibly have food trucks pull up on the weekends. For Brinkerhoff, the effort has been nonstop and worth every moment of stress, exhaustion, and doubt, especially as opening day draws nearer.
“Silverthorne is a very hardworking community,” says Brinkerhoff. “And that’s why we wanted to come here, as opposed to anywhere else in the mountains. Our goal is to have a business that’s supported by the community and in turn supports the community with good, fresh beer. It’s really that simple.”