Mom & Pop Gem in Colorado
While driving through Pueblo last summer, I searched the internet for a lunch stop. Estela's Mill Stop Cafe had good reviews.
Don made a few comments while following my driving instructions. "Are you sure we're going the right way?" he questioned, as the directions led us into a somewhat sketchy section on the south side of town.
Near the Steel Mills
It became clear that the "Mill Stop" part of the cafe's name was due to the cafe's proximity to a steel mill.
We could spot the green and blue restaurant just past the Cosmopolitan Club. This was defiantly a cafe that attracted a blue collar work crowd, but we also saw a family heading that way.
Across from the Estella's, there was a huge parking lot.
Professional Travel of Pueblo? Who knows? But the old building looked interesting.
If we'd come during dinner hours, maybe we could have gone dancing afterward.
Cosmopolitan's was closed. It looked like someone had had a good time the night before. They deposited their empty whiskey bottle in the gutter.
Colors of Mexico
As soon as we reached the door, we knew we'd come to a good place. No more worries about location.
We could see the place was bustling with diners and we also noticed the sign for New Hours. The Mill Stop Cafe was closed on Saturday and Sunday, This Mom & Pop business must be doing well, to be able to close for weekends!
The cozy cafe didn't seem to have an empty table or booth, but there were a few stools at the counter.
Don and I were invited to sit at the counter until a table opened. We said we were happy to stay put at the counter.
It took only a moment to pick up on the happy energy in the place. There were at least 5 people behind the counter as we approached. I couldn't hear what they were all laughing about.
A young woman named Vanessa, handed us menus after we got settled. I pointed to a framed photo above the shelves and asked if the smiling woman was Estela.
Vanessa's smile was as big as her grandmother's. She said I was right and that the photo was of her grandparents. Both had passed away, but she pointed our her father and a cousin or two, in the cafe behind us. The room was filled with family.
I ordered a taco salad. It must have had an entire bag of chips circling the plate.
I'm guessing that most diners don't order salad. The man next to me was a regular and he seemed surprised to see my dish. He laughed at the size and said, "I thought salads were supposed to be healthy." I'm sure it wasn't. I felt like I was eating a giant 8-layer dip all by myself. It was yummy.
Don ordered the chicken enchiladas.
His plate was quite a blended feast! The soupy rice, (good!) spilled into the enchilada sauce. I stole many bites and we still couldn't finish.
Vanessa reminded us to save room for sopapillas. Her reminder came too late. I was stuffed.
But I changed my mind when 2 piping hot, complimentary sopas arrived.
Cinnamon and Honey
It's been a long time since I've indulged in one of these treats. I put on my glasses to make sure I aimed the honey correctly.
I still made a sticky mess! I ate more than my share and enjoyed every bit!
I told Vanessa that it seemed like everyone working (and even eating) seemed to be in such good moods. I was impressed with the efficient and friendly atmosphere.
Vanessa admitted her family was in extra good spirits because they were just about ready to close the restaurant for 2 weeks. They do this every year around July 4th. Christmas too, I think. She said the business was celebrating their 40 year anniversary!
As we headed off, I wondered what this happy family would do with their 2 weeks off. If the family smiles this much when they're working, I'd like to see them when they're relaxing and celebrating!
Highest Town in Colorado
The whole town of Leadville looks like a movie set. But the buildings are real and you can walk into the Silver Dollar Saloon and get yourself a beer or a whiskey.
But I was already woozy from the elevation of 10,152 feet. We just stopped in for lunch.
Leadville saloons get lots of interesting tourists. Luckily it was early when we arrived and there was only one motorcycle in front.
We've been to a couple Leadville Saloons on past travels. We've seen a few characters in these saloons.
I couldn't see much more than a reflection when I peeked in the festive window. The painted detail around the window looked a bit Scandinavian. I remembered something about painted shamrocks, the last time we entered this place.
Doors and Floors
We headed through both doors and I was as impressed as I was years ago.
Which was more interesting, the curious doors, or the combination of well-worn floors?
A lot of boots have walked across these old tiles. Evidently long ago, Doc Holiday walked these floors frequently. He gambled and drank here and in 1884, he shot a policeman... over a 5-dollar debt.
Other Notable Guests
Oscar Wilde was also a visitor. In 1882 he appeared at the Tabor Opera House across the street, while on a lecture tour.
The "Unsinkable Molly Brown" moved to Leadville when she was 18. She married and often came to the saloon with her husband. Which was a bold move, because ladies weren't allowed. Although curious women or worrying wives, could step inside the door and have a peek, if they stayed behind the "windbreak". That structure was good for keeping the winter wind from intruding, but it also allowed wives to see what their husbands were up to, without "entering" the bar.
Old and New
There was a lot of stuff decorating the walls and hanging from rafters. TVs and sports decor, reminded us that it was 2022. But mostly there were things that looked like they'd been on display for 100 years.
The front and back bars were definitely original. But, back in 1900, no drinkers would have been sitting at the bar. Instead of barstools, they had a foot rail and plenty of brass spittoons,
Backbar & Mirror
The white oak backbar and the diamond dust mirrors were mighty deluxe! Over a century ago, the bar and mirrors arrived in pieces, after traveling by train and covered wagon, from St. Louis.
I noticed the snout of a coyote (or wolf?) peering from above the rounded top.
Don and I were ridiculously lucky to be seated at one of the 2 booths in the main bar. A rather grumpy bartender tried to steer us towards the back room, which had much less appeal. I sort of begged and we got our way.
I'm pretty sure I impressed her with my cowboy boots, which I had just slipped on in the car. (Sometimes I have to dress for the theme of our dining adventure) I was extra delighted to read that the 2 booths had once been train seats, from the very train that brought the backbar and mirrors to Leadville. They look more like pews to me, but I'd like to believe this story.
Surrounded by Old Stuff
I was pretty delighted with our booth. We had a good view of the bar and the people coming and going. We were also surrounded by lots of curious stuff.
I'm sure there's a story behind every item on display. But I didn't ask our server Elizabeth. (who was absolutely fantastic by the way) But Don did ask her about the corned beef hash.
Breakfast for Lunch!
Elizabeth went into great detail about how the meat was cut up each morning. Her enthusiasm won Don over. He ordered the hearty breakfast plate and couldn't have been happier.
I sampled his corned beef hash, as well as his fried egg, potatoes and toast! It was pretty amazing!
Turkey, Bacon & Cheese
I'm not sure what possessed me to order an open faced turkey and bacon melt. But I was glad that I did.
There was a generous amount of turkey and the bacon was thick and crispy. The homemade toast underneath, didn't even get soggy! We honestly hadn't expected such good food at the old saloon! Both were fantastic.
Off We Go
By the time we finished up, the bar was getting busier. A few people had started playing pool next to us. We dodged the cues as we slid out of our booth. We could have had a more dramatic end to our lunch experience, if one of us had been skewered on our way out!
We thanked Elizabeth, for making our lunch extra pleasurable. We left feeling happy and satisfied. We headed for the car and I took a quick pic from across the street.
When I later compared to my 9 year old photo, I was surprised at how different the buildings looked. The Saloon looked bright with yellow and green paint... and shamrocks. The nearby buildings had no plywood in windows. This photo was taken long before Covid messed with tourism.
I'm so glad things are starting to look better with this pandemic. So glad we stopped in and had more than a beer this time! I hope others do as well!
Family Owned Since 1893
Don and I lucked into this place, over a year ago. It was located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 8,026 feet.
We were traveling from Crested Butte towards Gunnison and it was time for lunch. When I spotted this place, it made me think of Lincoln Logs or Tootsie Rolls. I insisted we give it a try.
The sign on the left read, "Almont Anglers". It was clear that that we could get more than food at our stop.
Evidently they sold tackle and fishing licenses and handled fishing and rafting trips.
I'm still a little confused about the resort history, but I think it began with about 15 cabins. I believe one of the cabins had been the town's first post office.
This entrance looked pretty sweet with the screen door and flower baskets.
Once inside the dining room, I found a photo of the same exterior. (minus the porch) These folks look a little worn out in this photo. I wonder who they are?
Knotty Pine and Critters
I love a lodge, so the interior appealed to me.
I don't just adore dead animals, but they fit the scene.
The stone fireplace was impressive, although I would have preferred an open fire.
The log beams and Old Hickory furniture made us feel right at home. We have the same vintage style chairs at our cabin. We had the dining room to ourselves.
Don and I were on the road, so that usually means light lunch. I had soup and salad as you can see.
This meal was over a year ago and I can't for the life of me recall what the soup was... or what Don ate. I just remember feeling cozy and comfy and satisfied. I also remember wondering where all the other diners were?
We finished our lunch quietly, while watching some birds out the window. It looked like a nice deck. I hope that during these covid months, the business has been able to make use. Now it's December 2020 and I hope all is well at Almont.
So, one more little memory to share as we isolate and wait for days when dining out is safe again! Wish I had some of that soup and salad and view, right now!
A Day in Vail
It's hard to believe it's been a year since Don and I joined our kids in Colorado. I'm thinking back to a wonderful lunch we had in Vail, with our son and daughter-in-law.
We spotted this corner restaurant, when we first hit the touristy town. We'd never been to Vail before, so we were going with the outward appearance. I was game to dine a place that looked like a cute little Swiss chalet, tucked into the mountains.
The interior was pretty sweet, too. The door was propped open to let in the fresh mountain air.
Soft lamps hung down from the pretty wooden ceiling.
There were shelves with copper knickknacks and framed paintings, that reminded me of "Heidi's" grandfather.
I made Scott and Chali pose with the menu and the painting on the wall.
Scott looks a little young to be the storybook grandfather, but his beard fit the part.
The Gramshammers from Austria
We learned a little about the owners, by reading the back of the menu.
Pepi was an international ski racer and a member of the Austrian "Super" Ski Team from 1955 to 1960. He's pictured with his wife Sheika, who was once a dancer and model. They came to Vail in 1962 and opened Pepi's, two years later.
Pepi is in the House
As we studied our menus, I happened to notice a fellow in a purple shirt and gray vest. He seemed to be getting quite a bit of attention as he headed out.
I asked our server and she said that was indeed Pepi. He was 87, I believe and had just finished his lunch.
Luckily, we were are all fans of German/Austrian food! We were starved.
Don and Chali ordered the mussels and were both happy.
Scott and I got Jagerschnitzel and Hungarian Veal Goulash... or was it Wiener Schnitzel!!? Why do I let a year go by before posting?
I do remember the Spatzle was smooth and buttery and red cabbage was tangy good. We were mighty content on that day in late May.
This is the room where Pepi had enjoyed his lunch. I believe we were told that the Gramshammers live in the hotel above.
The bar was empty when I passed through in search of the restroom.
I got sidetracked for quite a while, studying the walls of photos.
Pepi and Sheika evidently met a lot of famous celebrities over their years, hosting guests at their hotel and restaurant. Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, Dustin Hoffman and Leonard Bernstein...
I didn't get a photo of the Gramshammers with President Ford, but there's a photo with Arnold! The Fords spent a lot of time in Vail and Pepi and Sheika were frequent guests at the White House.
So we are staying close to home this Memorial Day weekend. No travels or dining out, due to the pandemic.
We're just thinking about some of the fun places we ate and visited a year ago.
Here we are heading back to our car after our feast. I believe those may be leftovers that Scott is carrying.
Sadly, I did a little internet search just now and learned that just a few months after our visit, Pepi died. He passed away on August 17 at the age of 87. We were so very lucky to catch a glimpse of Pepi. May he rest in peace.
Breakfast at the Lodge
I have such fond memories of this sweet, lodge-y place!
Mostly, I remember the relief of stepping inside with our 4 hungry children who only moments before had been crabby and woozy from altitude! Echo Lodge was as comforting as Grandma's house!
Now and Then
Echo Lake Lodge is no longer a lodge. The sign tells us, it's a restaurant and gift shop and yes, it has film! I can't remember the last time I bought film.
The lodge was built in 1926 to accommodate visitors to Denver Mountain Parks. Although I heard somewhere that it had been a brothel. Not sure about that.
During WWII, the lodge was used as a high altitude training camp for the military.
The lodge is at 10,600 feet. That's high enough to make me feel winded. So it's funny to remember that day, when Echo Lodge felt blissfully low. We all felt like Echo Lake Lodge was at sea level, after coming down from the top of Mount Evans, at 14,271 feet.
Don and I returned to Echo Lake Lodge early last June. I was happy to see the chocolate brown building!
I love shapes, so this wonderful structure appealed to me. This was the original shape of the lodge. A year later they added a wing.
We climbed the stairs and entered the building. Since we are huge fans of historic hotels and lodges, it was killing me to know we could no longer book a room in this wonderful place.
But we could shop! And we could chat. The woman behind the jewelry counter had been working there for 32 years. She said Barb was the current owner, since 1989. "But, she won't be coming in today. She's been ill..."
I spotted 2 openings, one with a sign for the dining room and the other for cocktails.
My new friend Denise, at the jewelry counter, warned me. "There's a 2 drink limit of cocktails!" Luckily I was only in need of a peek. It looked more like a soda fountain to me!
Some curly horned sheep met us at the front of the dining room.
I have fond memories of our visit to Mount Evans years ago and spotting a few real, curly horned sheep, climbing up in the rocks.
Pick of the Place
At 10:30 am, we had a pick of all the tables. Everyone else seemed to be buying tee shirts and postcards. There were lots of windows and many large tables, with old cafe chairs.
There was a sweet set of Old Hickory chairs next to a piano. They seemed to be inviting Don and me to play a duet with Don... but I'm not sure we could even pull off Chopsticks! It looked like an old stone fireplace, at the end of the room. A roaring fire would have been cozier than that funny, vintage heater.
Don and I picked a corner table in the front.
My French toast was perfectly-old-timey-tasty! Don's ham & egg scramble, with hash browns, was gone before I got a picture.
Don had a view of Echo Lake from his seat.
But, I had a view of the humming bird feeder, just outside our window. I saw 8 at once.
We said good-by to Denise at the counter. She had some good advice for us.
Take a Hike
Denise told us to walk up the road. "Why? Is the view good?" She laughed and said we should go to just enjoy the quiet, free of cars.
The road to Mount Evans was still closed, after their long winter. So we walked around the barricades and walked a quarter mile. Just enough to burn off a quarter piece of my French toast. Maybe when I get a job at the lodge, I'll hike up, the full 14 miles!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.