Poppy’s and Mama Rose’s
342 East Elkhorn Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517
National Park: Rocky Mountain
On an active family vacation in the national parks, one of the last things you’ll want to do is cook. While making dinner together can be an excellent way to sit back and enjoy the evening campfire, it takes time and energy that, after a long day on the trails, you simply won’t have. But have no fear- Estes Park, a small and beautiful resort town, sits directly outside Rocky Mountain and offers a wide array of places to be served a great meal.
Two noteworthy options lie in the heart of the quaint downtown area: Poppy’s and Mama Rose’s. Situated across from each other, both restaurants are owned by locals Rob and Julie Pieper. To the north, the town’s bustling main street is teeming with tourists from around the world, perusing local artistry, homemade candies and the latest outdoor gear. Facing south, the Big Thompson River runs between a peaceful riverwalk and a hillside left entirely undeveloped by the town. With plenty of outdoor seating, you can experience either of these dueling realities while enjoying top notch food served by an extraordinarily friendly staff.
Poppy’s serves a variety of savory sandwiches and selections from the grill but you can’t leave the restaurant without trying one of their artisan pizzas. You can either pick one of their internationally inspired pizza offerings or tailor one to your specific preferences, choosing from 5 distinct sauces and a laundry of toppings. Luckily for large families, if everyone can’t agree on a single idea, each person can get their own personal pizza. Paired with a trip to Poppy’s salad bar, you’re sure to find all the food you may be missing from home. With a relaxing atmosphere that is always welcoming, Poppy’s has been a staple destination for my family for nearly a decade.
Mama Rose’s, just a stone’s throw away, offers a healthy balance of classic Italian dishes and unique creations. From chicken parmesan to polenta puttanesca, Mama Rose’s can both introduce you to a new culinary delight or deliver some finely prepared comfort food. The Restaurant fits well for a variety of occasions but I recommend choosing Mama Rose’s as final dinner location, when you can order a bottle of wine, enjoy their many fine desserts and reflect on your trip as you watch the sunset gleam off the Big Thompson River.
Both restaurants make you feel right at home, which will be much appreciated after time on the road. Furthermore, the Piepers are members of the Estes Park community, dedicated to preserving the area’s natural beauty and unique charm. It is an ethic that parallels that of the Park Service and ensures future generations will enjoy these places just as we do today. Check out Poppy’s menu here and Mama Rose’s dishes here. Be sure to drop by while you’re in Estes Park for a night of great food!
In general, it’s a good idea to make your own breakfast and lunch while out hiking in the Park but plan to come back to town for an evening meal. Often, time dedicated to cooking dinner is better spent reminiscing about the day’s highlights over a meal downtown. There are many excellent restaurants in Estes Park and it shows you that there is no need to sacrifice fine dining when traveling in the great outdoors.