In 1999 high school friends and Boston natives Dave Pepin and Pete Boniface opened what was then Backcountry Provisions in Steamboat Springs. The two grew up together surfing and working in hospitality. In 1991 Boniface moved out for some years of ski-bumming, while Pepin remained on the East Coast climbing the ladder of the then pervasive Back Bay Restaurant Group, eventually becoming general manager of the famed Atlantic Fish Company.
After a conversation while on a camping trip in Southern Utah — in which Boniface voiced his dissatisfaction about the state of sandwiches in Steamboat — Pepin was convinced to move west and the shop was born. Fast-forward 20 years, the business has changed names twice, has added three locations in Denver and one in Fort Collins and continues to serve some of the best sandwiches on the front range. The Yampa Sandwich Company — formerly Backcountry Delicatessen and now named after the Yampa Valley of Steamboat — makes impressive fare with a commitment to quality ingredients and devoted service.
The menu consists of nearly 30 sandwiches ($5.49-10.49)— divided between breakfast, turkey and chicken, ham, veggie, beef, European and fish. A few salads, soups and sides are also available, and while the list isn’t long the quality more than makes up for the lack of variety. The Panzanella salad is house-marinated artichoke hearts, tomatoes, capers, house-toasted croutons, greens and balsamic vinaigrette. Chicken can be added, and should if it fits personal dietary restrictions. Soups rotate daily and the cookies — chocolate chip, triple chocolate chunk and oatmeal raisin — all made in-house, are worthy of investigation.
The sandwiches — most of which arrive on a crisp, French baguette from the Aspen Bakery in Denver — run the gamut from exceptionally executed classics to creative concoctions. The Grand is a classic Italian mix with prosciutto, capocollo, dry salami, sharp provolone, tomato, pepperoncini, romaine lettuce, garlic mayo and red wine vinaigrette. The Summit combines Black Forest ham, applewood smoked bacon, house-made cranberry chutney, romaine and chipotle mayo. Pepin and Boniface say the sandwich was partially inspired by the epic post-surf feasts the two would enjoy after their high school surf excursions. Boniface’s mom would unleash a spread of ingredients to be used in sandwiches for lunch and “all of a sudden it would be dinner with the lemon biscotti with pistachio and anise,” mused Boniface. This smorgasbord approach helped to inform the way the two continue to develop the menu.
The vegetarian sandwiches are impressive in both girth and flavor. The Sherpa is thick slabs of roasted eggplant, asiago, sweet roasted red peppers, tomato, romaine lettuce and garlic mayo. Breakfast sandwiches like the veggie florentine — with fresh egg, basil pesto, tomato, field greens and feta — are served on toasted brioche.
“Every single sandwich that goes out the door is a new relationship,” said Pepin. While this claim can be hard to substantiate, the proprietors’ boots-on-the-ground approach proves that they walk the walk. Some days they will drive to the Fort Collins shop, then swing through all three Denver locations before returning to Steamboat for dinner.“We serve the high school student to the hedge-funder and everything in between,” laughed Pepin, “The kids who grew up on the food are now Denver executives.”
The shop’s proliferation should come as no surprise. The food is the kind of cuisine that can make for lifetime regulars.
Yampa Sandwich has three locations in Denver. At 444 17th St., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. At 1617 Wazee St., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. 4919 South Newport St., Denver. It is open Monday – Friday 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. The original location is at 635 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs. It is open every day from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
All photography by Danielle Webster.