Exploring Sun Valley ID -> Beer, Food & Entertainment
In my last post I wet your appetite with hiking and the outdoors. All that activity will get you mighty hungry so before you waste away to skinny nothingness, I’m going to take you to the “other side” of Sun Valley and help you replenish those calories with beer and culinary delights. It’s the least I can do 🙂
One of the nice things about being in an upscale ski town is that there are plenty of options for all of these activities. Ketchum (and nearby Hailey) cater to pretty much every food taste out there and although much of it is “upscale”, if you go looking you’ll be able to find options that are both down-to-earth and affordable. In addition there are weekly farmers markets, great grocery stores and tons of entertainment options, many of which are even free.
Also, despite initial appearances to the contrary there are actually quite a lot of dog-friendly eateries in town. Local policy prohibits dogs wherever food is served (including patio’s) but that policy doesn’t seem to extend to the pavement. So if the restaurant has a patio as well as a few tables on the street or pavement, then you can usually take your dog to the latter. It’s an interesting quirk. The locals love dogs too, so even if you’re just strolling around you’ll find lots of dog-love and doggie bowls with water (literally all over downtown).
So, let’s dig in and get started on my next installment of “best of the best” for the belly and mind:
Beer & Cocktails
One of the many things that convinced us to come to Sun Valley for Polly’s rehab was the local beer. Not only are there three local breweries all within biking distance of our RV park (what I like to call B to B, or Bike to Beer), there are many more bar and pub options for those craving a more extensive selection. We didn’t get to sample them all (we DID try, I promise), but we definitely found a few favs which I consider worth sharing:
Sawtooth Brewery: Of the three breweries in town (Sun Valley, Warfield, & Sawtooth), Sawtooth Brewery is hands down the absolute best. They have only been around since 2011, but their brews have become so popular they’ve been able to expand to 21 beers on tap and two locations. There’s a tap room in downtown Hailey and a restaurant/tap room in Ketchum, both of which are quite lovely. They make a Last Chair Stout which is decent (a bit light for my taste, but very drinkable), but where they hit the jackpot is their IPA’s, especially their Freeheler Rye (Paul loved it), their Tandem Double Rye (also very tasty) and their Idahome IPA (classic hop forward). They also carry guest taps, which included some very nice Imperial Stouts for those of us (like me) who like something with a little extra oomph. Extra bonus? Both places are pooch-friendly.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! The Hailey location is dog-friendly, even inside the tap room. The Ketchum location doesn’t allow dogs inside (because they serve food there), but they have pleasant outdoor seating on a small terrace (to the right of the restaurant) that is dog-friendly.
Cellar Pub: For your classic hole-in-the-wall pub experience it’s worth giving the Cellar Pub a visit. The beer selection is small but decent, the cocktails interesting (I recommend trying their signature Moscow Mule in a copper cup), and the is atmosphere cozy. It was laid-back and we enjoyed it.
DOG FRIENDLY? NO. No dogs allowed here, even on outdoor terrace.
Others: There were a few other spots that hit our radar, but we didn’t get around to trying including the Power House in Hailey (apparently the best beer list in the area) and the Pioneer Saloon (known for their cocktails). Let me know if you go…
Coffee & Coffee Beans
I’m a bit of a coffee-lover and I’m not ashamed to admit we hit pretty much all the coffee spots in town at one time or another during our AM bike rides into town. I would say everything we tried was pretty decent, but only one place reached the pinnacle of true coffee perfection:
Lizzy’s Coffee: If you’re a die-hard coffee lover and connoisseur Lizzy’s Coffee is THE place to come. I honestly haven’t tasted coffee this good since we had Stumptown in Portland, and for those of you who know coffee you’ll know this is very high praise indeed. Their in-house fresh roasted beans are SUPERB and their coffee-making skills are matched. From fresh-made drip (as you wait) to Mocha’s so chocolaty creamy you might want to chug four or five, this was by far our fav spot. The little coffee bar is only open 8AM-11AM, so get there while you can.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! No dogs allowed inside the “bar”, but there’s a very small outdoor seating area where you can enjoy your cup with pooch.
Leadville Espresso House: Although the coffee quality here is not up to par with Lizzy’s, Leadville Espresso House is a very pleasant, quiet place to have a Mocha and enjoy some people watching. We came here when we wanted to hang with doggie downtown.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! Several, pleasant outdoor tables which are dog-friendly. Polly loved it here.
Another place that deserves a mention (with a caveat) is Java On Fourth. It’s got some nice outdoor dog-friendly seating (on the pavement), and Mocha’s were about even with Leadville but it’s HUGELY popular. The three times we tried to come here there was a long line and ~20-25 minute wait for coffee. We liked it, but we preferred the other two spots for their more laid-back and quiet atmosphere.
Eating & Dining
For our dining out experiences we focused exclusively on non-fancy stuff. We hit all our spots at lunch so that we could pair our indulgences with a bike-ride into town on the Wood River Trail (better for the waistline and lunch tends to be cheaper), and we took on a few “missions” too. Paul was on a mission to find the best burger in town and we couldn’t resist trying Pizza and at least one Asian place. We didn’t get close to trying everything and we certainly missed all the high-end dining options (of which there are plenty), but we definitely found a few gems worth sharing.
Best Pizza: For our tastes the best pizza in town was hands down Wiseguy Pizza Pie. They have oddly mixed reviews on Yelp, but we had great service both times we went and we honestly found the pizza delicious. Their gluten-free crust was awesome and they had a VERY nice (small, but excellent) beer selection on tap too. We loved it.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! There is outdoor dog-friendly seating area on the pavement.
Best Burger: We hit three burgers spots around town and honestly they were all pretty good. Sawtooth Brewery (Ketchum location) offers a nice selection of somewhat more “fancy” burgers (their elk burger was lovely). Lefty’s Bar & Grill, right next door makes a very tasty and down-to-earth flame-grilled burger (great char). But I think our fav was Grumpy’s for overall quality, taste and atmosphere. I loved their Ahi Tuna Burger (cooked med rare to perfection) and Paul definitely enjoyed his regular burger. None of the 3 spots offered gluten-free bread, but all three places had a good beer selection.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES & MAYBE..Sawtooth has an outdoor dog-friendly seating on their terrace to the right of the brewery. Lefty’s does not allow dogs on their patio, but they have several tables on the pavement right below which are dog-friendly. Grumpy’s has “no dog” signs all over their outdoor seating area, but we saw 2-3 tables with dogs while we were there and no-one seemed to mind. I’d say they have a strict sign policy which is very relaxed in practice?
Best Asian: We only tried one Asian place in town, so I can’t really say if this was the “best”, but it was certainly very tasty. A Taste of Thai in downtown Ketchum has an awesome (and very inexpensive) lunch menu. For only ~$18 we got 2 great dishes that were large enough to fill us up. They offer a good selection of vegan and veggie options too, for those looking.
DOG FRIENDLY? NO. No dogs allowed here.
Best Breakfast: When Paul first drove over here with Polly last month he had breakfast at The Kneadery and declared it “most delicious”. This place serves hearty portions and gets very busy on the week-ends, but if you’re a breakfast (or brunch) lover it’s worth the effort to go.
DOG FRIENDLY? NO. No dogs allowed here.
Others: Again, several spots we didn’t get around to trying, but were on our radar. In specific, Rickshaw (for Asian), JC’s Peruvian Cuisine and Zou 75. All 3 places were recommended to us by locals or friends.
Farmers Markets & Grocery
In addition to actual going out there are absolutely excellent food & food shopping options in the area.
Farmer’s Markets: In summer season, both Hailey & Ketchum offer a weekly farmers market. Of the two locations the Ketchum market (2-6PM every Tues) is most definitely the largest and offers the biggest variety. We were able to find an excellent section of organic veggies, some good grass-fed meat options (pricey, but very tasty), plus we enjoyed browsing the arts and crafts.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! The Farmer’s Market is dog-friendly!
Grocery: I honestly didn’t expect to find much good grocery shopping in this area, but once again the “upscale” ski town thing came into play. For everyday grocery shopping there is a very nice Albertson’s just north of Hailey (they even offer beer tasting & growler fills here), and that’s where we did most of our shopping. For specialty groceries Atkinson’s Market in downton Ketchum cannot be beat. The best way to describe the latter is a “Whole Foods” type store with literally every organic, fancy schmancy, exclusive thing you’d want. It’s pricey, but an outstanding store.
Art & Entertainment
I always enjoy a town that’s “artsy” and Ketchum definitely fits that description. It’s got a cute downtown with tons of street sculptures and art galleries, it has a solid local live theater scene and it offers plenty of summertime entertainment, both paid and free.
Free Summer Concerts: The free Summer Concert series in Sun Valley is one of the MOST comprehensive I’ve seen in any town, anywhere. Every Sunday there’s “Jazz in the Park” at Ketchum Rotary Park. Every Tuesday evening there’s “Ketch’em Alive” at Forrest Service Park and then there’s the super awesome Symphony Series at the Sun Valley Pavillion. The extra bonus? All of these are held next to grassy or open outdoor areas where you can bring a glass, picnic and your doggie.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES! You can hang on the grass w/ doggie.
Art Walk: For those wanting an official tour, there are 7 gallery walks offered by the Sun Valley Gallery Association every year. Or, just download this handy little art brocure and do the walk on your own. No dogs allowed inside the art galleries obviously, but you can certainly walk around town and enjoy the various street sculptures with doggie in tow.
DOG FRIENDLY? YES, if you stick to the streets!
Ice Show: Ice skating in summer? Yes indeed, and not just any old ice skating but an all-star line-up of medalists and world champions. We were given the chance to see this thanks (yet again) to blog reader and local resident John (who works for Sun Valley Resorts) and it….was…spectacular! This is a paid outing and a bit of a splurge, especially if you pair it with the (most excellent) buffet dinner beforehand but you’ll have a total blast if you go. A definite recommend!
DOG FRIENDLY? NO. No dogs allowed at the ice rink.
That wraps up installment number 2 of my Sun Valley series. Up Next -> RV Camping & Wrap-Up. Stay tuned….
Useful External Links: