Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).
Winter Park is a venerable resort where Denver families have grown up skiing and creating memories together for more than 80 years. I’ll never forget the day my son insisted he was ready to take on the famous Outhouse expert mogul run when he was about 10 years old. I wasn’t sure he was, but he did great. And I couldn’t keep up.
But whenever I make that beautiful descent off Berthoud Pass, I’m not thinking about the lovely cruising runs on the Winter Park side of the resort or the famous bumps of Mary Jane. I’m craving the strawberry and cream cheese croissant I’m going to savor at the Coffee & Tea Market, located in the 70-year-old Balcony House at the Winter Park base.
I discovered them back in the ’90s, and ever since, I won’t step into my skis before my strawberry croissant fix. There’s something about the blend of sweet strawberry preserves, tangy cream cheese and flaky, buttery pastry that makes it heavenly. The setting is pretty sweet, too.
The Coffee & Tea Market is small, intimate, decidedly old-school and often crowded. And the Balcony House, built in the mid-1950s, is a delightful reminder of skiing’s simpler past.
Original owners Carol Holzworth-Moore and Fred Moore opened the Coffee & Tea Market on Nov. 30, 1980, three months after they were married. Carol’s mother had baked them a carrot cake for the wedding — they say her fingers were orange for weeks because baking at 9,000 feet required considerable experimentation — and they used her recipe when they opened the restaurant. That carrot cake today is the most popular item on the menu.
The Moores retired to Florida three years ago after selling the place to Skylr Olson and Laura Gray. Olson grew up in Winter Park and used to do his homework at the Coffee & Tea Market while waiting for his mom to get off work. A lot of kids did that.
“I’d sit in that corner, that same chairlift chair,” Olson said. “Mom would work around the resort. I grew up eating that carrot cake. I had to get that recipe.”
Olson and Gray, who are married, have taken great care to preserve the personality, atmosphere and menu that made the restaurant successful for four decades.
“They had a good thing going,” Gray said of the Moores. “They were owners for 40 years, so we didn’t change much. The baked goods were some of the things we needed to keep the same, because everybody was a big fan.”
They’ve also maintained the friendly warmth of the place.
“What we always wanted you to feel like when you were coming into our restaurant, you’re coming into our home,” Fred Moore said in a phone interview. “We’re going to greet you with a smile, we’re going to call you by name, we’re going to ask how you’re doing.”
And, Carol interjected, “We’re going to know what you drink.”
“We had three generations of people working for us over the years,” Carol said. “Their kids would come in, and then their grandkids were coming in. We’ve kept our prices low. For training anybody to work there, it was always, ‘Put a smile on your face, you’re the last person they see before they hit the slopes. You want their day to be great.’”
In addition to a wide selection of pastries, the Coffee & Tea Market serves breakfast items and lunch selections that include soups, chili, sandwiches and handheld meat pies. It has a cocktail menu with weekday drink specials and daily happy hour from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
The hospitality and timeless nature of the place is what makes it so special.
“It’s iconic,” said Jennifer Mitchell, the restaurant’s manager, who has worked there for 15 years. “If I could tell you how many people come into this restaurant and say to me, ‘I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.’ After COVID I honestly had a woman walk in and start crying, because she was so happy to see all of us here and that this restaurant was open. This place means a lot to a lot of people.”
So do those croissants, baked fresh daily. Grab one before you hit the slopes, because they do sell out.
“There’s just love in the air,” Olson said. “There’s a community here that people pick up on.”
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