Dining in Colorado is generally casual. Dinner hours are typically from 6 pm to 10 pm, but many small-town and rural eateries close by 9 pm. Authentic ethnic food is hard to find outside the big cities and major resort towns.
Meals and Mealtimes
Although you can find all types of cuisine in Colorado's major cities and resort towns, don't forget to try native dishes like trout, elk, and buffalo (the latter two have less fat than beef and are just as tasty). Steak is a mainstay in the Rocky Mountains. Chile verde, also known as green chile, is a popular menu item at Mexican restaurants in Colorado. Many restaurants serve vegetarian items, and some are exclusively vegetarian. Organic fruits and vegetables are also readily available.
Reservations and Dress
Regardless of where you are, it's a good idea to make a reservation if you can. In some places it's expected. We only mention them specifically when reservations are essential (there's no other way you'll ever get a table) or when they are not accepted. For popular restaurants, book as far ahead as you can (often 30 days), and reconfirm as soon as you arrive. Large parties should always call ahead to check the reservations policy. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie—which is almost never in the Rockies.
Smoking and Marijuana Laws
Cigarette smoking is prohibited in Colorado's public places, including restaurants and bars.
Since December 2012, Colorado has allowed the legalized sale, possession, cultivation, and use of recreational marijuana for persons 21 years of age and older. It is important to note that the law varies between residents and visitors, and statutes are subject to change by the year. The industry is highly regulated and taxed by the state government, but certain municipalities statewide have their own local ordinances banning the sale of marijuana outside of prior medicinal laws that date back to 2000.
Retail marijuana must be purchased at authorized dispensaries, which are available in most major cities and towns, but not all outlets provide both recreational and medicinal marijuana. All use, be it smoked or consumed in edibles like drinks or candies, must take place in private residences or in the increasingly popular “420-friendly” hotels or other rentals. It is prohibited to smoke or consume marijuana in any public space. Consumption in motor vehicles or public transportation is also illegal. When in doubt, do your research before partaking. Be aware that transporting marijuana through airports or neighboring states remains a federal crime as of this writing.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
The legal drinking age in Colorado is 21. Colorado liquor laws do not allow anyone to bring their own alcohol to restaurants. You'll find renowned breweries throughout Colorado, including, of course, the nation's second-largest brewer: MillerCoors. There are dozens of microbreweries in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and the resort towns—if you're a beer drinker, be sure to try some local brews. Although the region is not known for its wines, the wineries in the Grand Junction area and along the Front Range are earning increased acclaim.