Where to eat in the west.Cutthroat's Saloon
Incline Village, Nev.
(near Diamond Peak, Mount Rose, Northstar-at-Tahoe)
After a $47 million renovation, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino is a showcase of river-rock walls, vaulted log ceilings and monumental fireplaces, not to mention the decadent casino and spa. But it's not the luxury that Incline Village locals are excited about: It's the resort's rowdy bar.
Named after Lake Tahoe's native trout¿a trophy of which hangs over the door¿the rustic, lantern-lit Cutthroat's Saloon is the perfect place to recount the day's slopeside exploits. Live acoustic music sets a mellow mood, food arrives on tin camping plates with red-and-white-checkered picnic napkins, and the newsprint-papered walls are lined with historic Lake Tahoe prints. Gambling wins are squandered here, if not on beer, then on the ceiling beams, which are dripping with dollar bills that have been pinned to tacks and tossed up by boisterous customers.
The menu includes crowd-pleasing buckets of deep-fried shrimp with fries and dipping sauces ($11.95) and burn-your-lips-off-spicy quesadillas ($7.25). Things really heat up on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights, when ruddy-cheeked, gridiron-crazed guests slug down beers from Mason jars and scoop handfuls of peanuts from full wooden barrels, tossing the shells on the floor.
Information: 888-899-5019; www.laketahoehyatt.com.
Bendistillery Sampling Room
(near Mt. Bachelor, Hoodoo)
It's a dark boîte, hidden in a brick alley, with no visible signage. The interior is Prohibition-era cool, with red-velvet theater seats, a leather couch, black carpeting, mahogany furnishings and a Bakelite-topped bar. No one can remember its real name, so insiders simply refer to it as "The Martini Bar." And by 8:30 p.m., it's packed. Sound like a chic speakeasy in New York? Happily, the Bendistillery Sampling Room calls downtown Bend home.
Don't expect Prada-clad nightcrawlers at the Sampling Room (although, if you happened to stuff some Prada in your ski bag, this is the place to bust it out). Rather, it's simply a venue for sampling locally distilled premium gins and vodkas, much like a microbrewery's pub or a winery's tasting room. You can find Bendistillery spirits throughout the West, but they'll never taste quite as good as they do here.
Hit the Sampling Room at appe-tizer hour for the hors d'oeuvre special ($5.50-$6.50), which can range from a lox platter to gourmet breads and spreads. And wash it down with a martini ($5.25) or a cocktail mixed with fresh-squeezed juices ($4.50-$5.25). Just be sure not to spill on those sleek Prada pants.
Information: 541-388-6868; www.bendistillery.com.
Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery
(near Bogus Basin, Brundage, Sun Valley)
Homespun cocktails are the specialty at Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery, the only spot in ski country where private-label vodka, gin and rum are distilled on-site. The 1905 brick warehouse features a soaring arched wood ceiling¿perfect for dissipating cigar smoke¿and, of course, an expansive bar. Mixology is a science here: Liquors are stored in freezers, juices are squeezed fresh and precisely calibrated glasses are used to measure perfection. Martinis are the most popular drink, but those in the know order the mojitos, featuring fresh-pressed lime juice, Cuban rum and mint grown in the restaurant's windows. The massive drink menu also includes an impressive wine list, full of tasting notes and heavy on West Coast wineries. And to boot, the glasses are hand-blown crystal. Some skiers simply swing by to dine. Menu highlights include the tender lamb and beef meatloaf with pale-ale gravy ($7.75) and the grilled chorizo sandwich ($5.75), a nod to the restaurant's location on Boise's Basque Block (Boise boasts the world's largest Basque population outside Spain). But the prime time forr skiers is 5 p.m.¿"bardenay hour" in sailor speak¿when a refreshing cocktail is the perfect antidote to the aches and pains of a ski day.
Information: 208-426-0538; www.bardenay.com.