Stoke & Rye's American Accent

The Westin refocuses the culinary theme of its signature dining room to emphasize local bounty, with democratic flair.

By Amanda M. Faison November 28, 2022 Published in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

If you scored a dinner reservation at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa tonight and were hoping to feast on authentic carne asada street tacos, you’ll have to walk across the railroad tracks to the food cart parked at downtown Avon’s transportation center. After nine years, famed chef Richard Sandoval has renovated and rebranded Maya, the luxury hotel’s in-house modern Mexican restaurant, as Stoke & Rye. “It was time to reconceptualize with something that fits the mountains,” he explains. “Stoke & Rye fits.”
If you were a regular at Maya, you won’t recognize the space—it’s bright, airy, and bigger, and the views of Beaver Creek Mountain across the Eagle River seem even grander. That vista has always been there, of course, but Maya’s rustic decor was more turned inward with dark woodwork, Mexican tile, amber lighting, and drapery befitting the culinary theme. Now, with the drapes gone and a clean palette of spa-inspired creams and grays, the focus has been adjusted outward. It seems to say, Savor the view, and celebrate this place.

The same can be said for the food. The menu, overseen by executive chef Angel Munoz Jr., covers a wide expanse, from smoked oysters to a monster-size 52-ounce tomahawk steak. The cuisine at Stoke & Rye is unabashedly American with European alpine influences (cue the Raclette appetizer!). “Being in a hotel, we wanted to be more approachable,” is how Sandoval explains the about-face from niche modern Mexican to mainstream Americana: “We wanted to cater to a diverse group, including families with children. We wanted guests to eat here more than once during their stay.”

Cast iron chicken and grits.

If that makes it sound like Stoke & Rye has been watered down in terms of culinary ambition, it most decidedly has not. The American grill still bears the hallmarks of Sandoval style—big presentations and layered flavors. Take those smoked oysters, for example. They come expertly shucked, dolloped with lemon-bourbon aioli, trout caviar, and mignonette on the side. The presentation is gorgeous, with fresh pine boughs and lightly smoked wood chips cradling the shells. (Although the mignonette can overpower the delicate balance of the oysters, the bright, herbal tang that lingers on the tongue makes an exquisite companion to the house-made rolls and bites of grilled steak or cast-iron crisped chicken.)

Presentation matters here, and Sandoval recommends keeping an eye out for the arrival of a wintry Colorado lamb. The lamb will be roasted and carved tableside—a pomp-and-circumstance trend that is coming back in a big way. “We’re seeing it around the world,” Sandoval says. “It’s engaging and it shows a style of service.” It’s also old-school, indicating that diners—who for so long during the pandemic had to keep their distance from restaurants—are again enjoying the spectacle and flair of hands-on service.

Where Maya traded in tequila and mezcals, Stoke & Rye has amassed a hefty collection of whiskeys, many of which are showcased on the cocktail list. Highlights include the Cabin Fever with 10th Mountain rye, Graham’s 10-year tawny, Lo-Fi amaro, and plum bitters, shaken and served in a coupe. Beverages, too, get the Sandoval treatment, like the Smoked Peach Ring, a rum cocktail that arrives in a small and ornate crystal decanter. When the stopper is tugged off, an Instagram-worthy puff of smoke wafts out. (The drink itself tastes a lot like one of those peach ring-shaped candies; if the first sip is too sweet for your taste, wait until the ice cube melts to beautifully balance the drink.)
It’s no secret that resort towns need restaurants that please two distinct crowds: Out-of-towners splurging on a memorable meal and locals looking for a place to call their own. Stoke & Rye satisfies both. While most locals aren’t going to ante in $195 for a tomahawk or even $76 for a rib-eye, one can still wander in, sit at the bar, and sample a collection of small plates like the romanesco cauliflower ($16), which is roasted and served with cashew aioli and chimichurri, the wild mushroom ravioli ($21), and a cold brown ale from Telluride. Or take chef Munoz’s advice and pair a generous pour of the house red with the ever-decadent cacio e pepe ($28), his favorite dish.

Stoke & Rye’s airy dining room maximizes a dynamic view of Beaver Creek Mountain.

Presenting diners with multiple price points highlighted by a degree of accessibility and comfort was an important part of the redux says Sandoval, who adds, “We want to embrace the community and make Stoke & Rye feel like it’s their restaurant.” So even if they aren’t supping on the tomahawk, they still think, and act, like they own the place.

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