Some of Colorado’s best cuisine can be found in its historic hotels and restaurants. Many of these places have been proudly serving guests for more than 100 years. Dining in these historic places takes you back to times gone by, from the Victorian Age to the rowdy cowboy days to the Roaring ‘20s.
Here are some of our favorite historic restaurants and hotels in Denver and the Front Range.
321 17th St.
Denver, Colorado 80202
Emperors, kings and U.S. presidents, including “Teddy” Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, have stayed and dined in Denver’s historic Brown Palace Hotel. Denver, the “Queen City of the Plains,” was only 34 years old when Henry Brown opened the doors of his downtown hotel in 1892. With four restaurants and traditional afternoon tea served in the lobby, the hotel provides many culinary adventures for its guests. Its dinner menu features signature items such as rack of Colorado lamb and filet of King Canyon Bison “Rossini,” as well as creative, contemporary dishes using fresh local produce from Colorado.
Palace Arms offers upscale lunches Mondays-Fridays and dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays. The lunch burgers are made with Kobe beef and topped with foie gras, caramelized onions and truffle cheese. Traditional afternoon tea at the Brown has been cherished by guests for more than a century. It is served daily, from noon to 4 p.m., in engraved silver tea pots in the beautiful atrium lobby accompanied by the soothing sounds of a harpist or pianist. Scones, tea pastries and tea sandwiches are artfully prepared by the hotel’s culinary staff each day.
2115 13th St.
Boulder, Colorado 80302
When the Hotel Boulderado opened on New Year’s Day 1909, it became a Boulder landmark. It was named for “Boulder” and “Colorado” so that guests wouldn’t forget where they stayed. Its Q’s Restaurant was awarded a Mobil three-star rating. In the elegant dining room, chef and staff serve contemporary American cuisine, adding their own creative spark, dynamic style and artful presentation.
We dined at Q’s for Sunday brunch recently, and I enjoyed an organic greens salad with grilled salmon. We could see the original large orange-red sandstone foundation in the former porch area of the dining room where we were seated.
19192 Highway 8
Morrison, Colorado 80465
The Fort, a replica of Bent’s Fort, near LaJunta, Colorado, may not be as old as many other Colorado dining establishments, but it most likely wins the prize for making the most history in recent times. During the past two decades, The Fort has served old and new western foods to many famous guests and dignitaries, including Russia’s former Mikhail Gorbachev, the Prince of Jordan, country super star Waylon Jennings and chiefs of state from the richest industrialized countries of the world at the Summit of the Eight hosted by former President Bill Clinton.
“Our most famous stars, however, are our loyal customers who come back every month and sometimes each week,” says Holly Arnold Kinney, proprietress and daughter of the late Sam Arnold, who founded the historic restaurant in 1963.
Known for its unique architecture and tantalizing selection of old and new foods from the Great West, this award-winning restaurant with nine dining rooms is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Buckhorn Exchange
1000 Osage St.
Denver, Colorado 80204
Dine at The Buckhorn Exchange and get a taste of Colorado’s Old West history. Founded in 1893 by Henry Zietz, a scout with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, the historic Buckhorn Exchange is Denver’s oldest drinking and eating establishment, holding liquor license No. 1 in Colorado. Designated a National Historic Landmark and Western Museum, the restaurant abounds with stuffed animal heads and antiques. It is located across the street from a light-rail stop right in one of Denver’s oldest downtown neighborhoods.
The Dutch Lunch is similar to those served in early days to cattlemen, railroaders, rogues and tycoons. It includes Buckhorn’s famous bean soup, a platter of bratwurst, baby back pork ribs, beef brisket, baked beans and coleslaw.
1 Lake Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906
When mining millionaire Spencer Penrose opened The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs in 1918, he charged his executive chef with bringing inventive and international cuisine to the West. Coming from a prominent Philadelphia family, Penrose was raised to appreciate fine cuisine and wines, and he made sure both were available to his discriminating guests, which included many U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries and celebrities. To this day, Penrose’s influence can be felt in the professionalism of the hotel’s culinary team.
With nine restaurants to choose from, one of my favorites is Lake Terrace (the hotel’s original dining room), which offers a great weekday breakfast. On Sunday, its brunch is an extravaganza accented by ice sculptures and live classical piano music.
Chautauqua Dining Hall
900 Baseline Road
Boulder, Colorado 80302
When the weather is nice, it’s a special treat to dine on the deck of the old 1898 dining hall located in Chautauqua Park Historic District at the base of the majestic Flatiron Mountains west of Boulder. It’s a great place for Sunday brunch or evening dinner. The menu features many natural foods prepared in a tasty way, and the scenery is magnificent. Established in 1898, Chautauqua Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a local landmark. Chautauqua Park is also home to the Chautauqua Summer Festival and the esteemed Colorado Music Festival, which are held in the Chautauqua Auditorium.
Margaret Malsam is a freelance writer who lives in Westminster, Colorado.