One of my favorite things about vacations and visiting new places is the food. To me, cuisine is an art form and an enjoyable way to get to know a new locale or even a new culture.

As a native-born Texan, I am a person who will eat just about anything you put in front of me, so it’s exciting to always experiment with the menu. These days the movement to live a healthier lifestyle is a trending standard that seems to be a challenge for some restaurants to meet while offering options that accommodate all the various dietary needs. However, one of the beautiful aspects of where we live is the accessibility to the outdoors and being active as well as being able to enjoy going out to eat and having options that are healthy and delicious.

I have been a resident of the valley for seven years, and when a new restaurant popped up on Main Street in Buena Vista three years ago boasting a fresh and innovative approach to healthy food plus in-house smoked, locally-sourced meat, I knew it would become a staple for the valley and be included on my list of go-to eateries.

Like I said, I relish a well-prepared meal of any kind, but there is something about eating a comfort food-style dish that makes me feel good about what I put into my body and the energy it will provide to take on the rest of my day. House Rock Kitchen has successfully filled the niche of a casual dining experience with an easygoing atmosphere and has created an entire menu that will suit the needs and desires of absolutely any dietary necessity.

Turtle and Jess Cook are the co-owners of House Rock Kitchen and have created an establishment that truly sets them apart from other restaurants. With a big-city menu offering all homemade organic products and a small-town ambience that is fun for the entire family, it is difficult to resist making it a regular stop for lunch and dinner. Trust me, with the seasonal specials they offer, you can always find something different to satisfy your cravings. Fish and chips anyone? Seriously, follow House Rock’s Facebook page and do yourself a favor the next time they post it as their special.

Because of Jess’s personal battle with Lyme disease, she and Turtle have based the entire menu off an anti-inflammatory diet that enables her to eat out worry free. The menu is 95-percent free of gluten, sugar, dairy, soy, corn and GMOs. Having said that, you can add a variety of cheeses to any meal and, of course, their barbecue-inspired protein options too. Seriously y’all, anytime I walk past House Rock Kitchen, the smoky aroma filling the air takes me back to the South.

“Turtle always wanted to open a place that would be a fun atmosphere and hang-out that would help with the revitalization of Main Street, and I am really passionate about helping to change the food culture in America. This is our creation of those two dreams,” said Jess.

“It makes me proud of this flourishing little mountain town to see people from all over waiting in line to try a dish at HRK. I know I live the good life when I can meander down Main Street with my dog by my side any day of the week and grab one of the best house-smoked beef brisket burritos I have ever had and enjoy it outside surrounded by mountains, the river and smiling faces. That is the combination for a pretty great afternoon.”

“We wanted to give this town the best of ourselves and the best quality food and best quality experience that we can imagine, and I feel like that’s what we’ve done here,” said Turtle.