Since my last post about I-70 traffic, I've done a lot of research!
I've driven from Denver to the mountains twice on Friday (usually do the Saturday morning routine as a day trip. One word: DON'T!!! but if you do, you have to leave before 6:30. 7:00 doesn't cut it anymore.) evenings and it has not been bad at all. Granted, I haven't done it on holiday weekends but on a typical Friday evening, I can get to Keystone from my house in South Denver in an hour and 15. It's really not all that bad on Friday. It's Saturday and Sunday evening that's killer.
Come to think of it, the first time I drove to Keystone on Friday evening was the first weekend of the X-Games in Aspen. The drive home on Sunday was killer. It took me 2 and a half hours just to get to the Eisenhower tunnel from Keystone; a drive that would normally take 30 minutes, tops.
Another option is to go around town on C-470 and hit Route 285 West into Fairplay. If you have the time, it's a beautiful drive. More mileage but more senic and less traffic. Once you hit the one and only traffic light in Fairplay, hang a right and it'll take you into the back roads to Breck (I believe it's CO Rte. 9).
Another food option in Idaho Springs (where the buffalo burgers are) is BeauJo's (www.beaujos.com). Excellent, CO style pizza and the first one ever! Great atmosphere; they got a running napkin drawing contest that's posted all over the walls. CO style pizza is thick, like scilian but you take the crust and dip it in honey. Yeah, sounds nasty but it's the best dessert after a hearty pizza!
If you want to get to the mountains as quickly as possible, I wouldn't stop for lunch in Denver, get it on the way. However, the first Chipotle ever (EVER!!!!) is on Evans in Denver. That's my Meccah.....