Tucked into a quaint Victorian house on Main Street, Explore Bistro and Bookstore is a popular Aspen establishment frequented by residents and out-of-towners alike. As a well-stocked independent bookstore and a popular vegetarian bistro, Explore fuses a cozy ambiance of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of literary and nonfiction classics with a delightful bistro, coffee shop, and dining room. It is a warm and hospitable retreat for skiers, tourists, and locals looking to sip fresh espresso while curling up with a good book or lunching on a piping-hot cup of homemade black bean soup or ranchero tostadas.
For 30 years, Explore Bookstore and Bistro has been a popular meeting point for those drawn to the town’s progressive, intellectual, and bohemian circuit. A compelling ownership back-story briefly attracted national attention a few years ago, when passionate anti-fur crusader and popular founding owner, Katherine Thalberg, passed away in 2006. Sam Wyly, an eccentric Texan billionaire businessman and philanthropist, bought the store and bistro for a staggering sum. Wyly, an outspoken political conservative, didn’t want to see his favorite independent bookstore lost to the tides of Aspen’s perpetual real estate development. With Wyly as proprietor, Explore’s stature as a vibrant confluence of Aspen intellectualism continues, hosting best-selling authors for speaking events and in-store book signings. Explore is also a sponsor of the popular Aspen Writer’s Foundation and Winter Words series, which draws literary heavyweights such as Augusten Burroughs, Andrew Sean Greer, and Jeffrey Eugenides to speak about their craft as authors during the busy ski season.
Explore is the type of cozy bookstore where a bookworm can spend an entire day browsing the obscure volumes of collectible first-edition classics, popular mystery thrillers, and brand-new best sellers in search of the perfect vacation read. A ground floor coffee and espresso bar whips up lattes and fresh brewed coffees to sip while shopping.
However, Explore’s appeal is not reserved distinctly for bookworms. Walk up the wooden staircase on the first floor to one of Aspen’s best-kept dining secrets. The all-vegetarian bistro is both a healthy and delicious dining experience that will win over the hearts and taste buds of the most devoted carnivores. Patrons have the option of sitting in a bright, sun-filled dining room or in a quiet, elegant tearoom with a fireplace in full blaze.
The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner, as well as brunch specials throughout the week. The all-vegetarian menu is thoughtfully organic and will “wow” health conscious granola-types, as well as skeptical meat-and-potato types with zesty dishes such as an artichoke strudel with phyllo, parmigiano and goat cheese and a savory red-pepper sauce or butternut squash gnocchi with pears and blue cheese in a walnut-curry sauce. Other offerings include delectable fare like avocado omelets, braised tofu and an avocado tartar. Even the mouthwatering veggie burger with tempeh bacon, caramelized onions, avocado, and melted cheese will delightfully surprise those thinking they’re getting a standard beef patty.
A variety of creative salad creations, from a hearty winter root salad to the spinach salad with roasted sunflower seeds are the perfect way to start or finish the all-veggie feast. Wash it all down with fine selection of organic wine and beers, or the special two-dollar mimosas during brunch. The combination of a friendly and knowledgeable staff, literary atmosphere, and a surprising delicious and healthy meal will be sure to send you back to the mountain buzzing about this unique Aspen experience.
Explore Bookstore and Bistro
221 East Main Street
Aspen, CO 81611
970.925.5336 – Bookstore
970.925.5338 – Bistro