Restaurant 1858 isn't your typical tourist attraction snack bar. Quite the opposite, it was born with The Broadmoor's five-star, five-diamond pedigree, and adds a mega-dose of opulence to a beloved site of natural wonder. The only drawback, as an $18 bison burger indicates, is that many of us will be priced out of a post-hike meal.
After the hotel acquired the flood-damaged property from the Hill family, who'd held it nearly 70 years, local scuttlebutt revolved around accessibility. After all, the Broadmoor would surely have to recoup at least some of the $11 million it spent on erecting the high-end restaurant and other outbuildings; beautifying nearly a mile of canyon roadway; and reinforcing the stream bed, banks and falls pool.
But a $14 park-entry fee ($8, ages 2 to 12) strikes me as pretty fair for the thrill of climbing the 224 falls-side stairs, hiking to another fall and overlook, and riding the elevator to the Eagle's Nest for a head-on view of the dramatic feathered cascade. Plus it gets you access to the eatery on a free hotel shuttle, since cars are no longer allowed here.
Indeed, naturalist grump Edward Abbey would have approved of The Broadmoor's efforts to keep automobiles from this "sanctum." All that offends the senses are the occasional fumes from shuttles and grounds-keeping carts, when they pass by on your optional walk along the driveway. And you should walk, particularly after dinner, when tastefully sparse lighting dramatically illuminates various rock wall segments, leaving whole corridors wonderfully dark for stargazing. Also dig the nicest mobile toilet known to man — seriously, a slice of The Broadmoor on wheels — near the gift shop. Then enjoy the mystery of discovering where to await the next shuttle, when staff doesn't inform you on the way out of 1858. (Hint: It's near the roundabout inside the gate.)
1858's design was conceived by the same minds who were behind the hotel's luxurious Cloud Camp. A Bavarian Alps vibe emanates from warm woods everywhere, including exposed brown strips in the white ceiling, plus gridded picture windows. Though staff continue to claim those windows overlook the falls, what you actually see is a green-hued stretch of stream-turned-trout-pond.
The Western pioneer theme is announced at the host stand with a stuffed mountain lion, and behind the bar with early 20th-century muralist Dean Cornwell's striking, two-panel "Gold Rush," another gem from Broadmoor owner Philip Anschutz's extensive art collection. It's a crowded wagon-train scene with all subject movement driving the eye to the frame's west edge, and then around a corner into the long dining room.
There, vintage Seven Falls photos and postcards fill a wall. Large domed chandeliers accented by rings of camping lanterns dimly light mahogany-toned, riveted leather booths and seats. Table settings stay modest, with Wine Punts for glassware, and heavy dimple-handled silverware on heavy kraft-paper placemats.
Chef de cuisine Kathleen Symons, fresh from Las Vegas, and Broadmoor executive sous chef David Patterson also themed the menu around the Gold Rush, capturing the culinary spirit of inbound immigrants fused with regional tradition. For example, a $30 mixed grill places quail, venison and bison over a German spaetzle flecked with black pepper, diced pole beans and whole roasted garlic cloves. Oak smoke from a 3-by-4-foot, wood-burning, hand-cranked grill, over which the chefs fawn, deeply flavors the meats, which are otherwise treated with restraint.
"We like food to be presented for what it is," Symons says. "We want you to enjoy the true flavors of the meats, and taste the gaminess."
The tender buffalo tri-tip gets only salt and pepper, a sear on the grill and a slow roast. The quail segments again pick up a salty edge and clean char flavors. The venison sausage, mild with apple-moisture and faint sweetness, grabs enough smoke through its casing, though despite the chefs' intentions, I pine for a fancy whole-grain mustard.
Nearly a quarter of the one-page menu devotes space to Rocky Mountain trout served eight ways, each $26. Passing up alluring offers like a bourbon and honey glaze with almond brown butter, we opt for a "back east" treatment, wrapping the fillet with prosciutto-like Virginia ham. That intense saltiness "almost cures the fish," Symons says, before it bakes with a grill-kissed, brandied Palisade peach. We wanted to like it more than we did — our peach tasted under-ripe and scantly booze-bettered, and that salty ham sweat somehow intensified a fishiness.
Hey, not all miners strike gold.
But a grilled vegan burger comes damn close, tasting masterfully meaty thanks again to the oak-smoke infusion. Ground black beans, quinoa and mushrooms create a remarkable texture, while a topping of caramelized onions, Portobello strands and grilled Arkansas Valley Organic Growers peppers round out a big bite. Also, we're impressed that our $12 children's-menu chicken fingers challenge little palates with broccolini and oyster mushrooms in its side veggie mix.
For apps, onion rings hold bready and crunchy; cut them up so you can spear them with garnishing red onions and pickled jalapeños, then dunk it all into a ranch dip. Deviled eggs pull a page from the Golden Bee's book with a shiny mayo glazing, then move elsewhere with a Creole-spiced mustard flavor. A pockmarked plate, dark speckles on off-white, creates a depth-twisting optical illusion of where garnishing peppercorns begin and end — so cool.
If $7.50 craft beers feel like a waterboarding on the wallet, bartender John Dyste's classically inspired, well-researched cocktails at least deliver more punch for $12.50. Well, except for our weak Palisade Peach Julep, which still is a sweet delight. A basil gimlet, recipe-dated 1890 on the menu, floats basil oil in Hendrick's Gin for palatable pointillism. The Lemon Whip gifts a grand lemon-rind nose and frothy egg-white foam to Hangar One Buddha's Hand Citron, with bitters eliciting an element of nutmeg. Bulleit Rye bolsters The Revolver with Leopold Bros. coffee liqueur and orange bitters, spinning an Old Fashioned gracefully.
Kids' "temperance friendly" mocktails again test early sophistication, with huge tart notes in a sparkling raspberry limeade and a crazy honey quota in a fresh sour lemonade.
For $7 desserts, huckleberry-blackberry pie sports lovely fruit flavor and dense dough, but would be better warmed. By contrast, the Key-lime-like Southern lemon icebox pie delights cold, with a shortbread-evoking crust and creamy, condensed-milk-sweetened body, plus strawberry sauce.
Overall, a sweet departure is almost assured, again if your bank allows. Early on, Patterson addressed the concern sympathetically enough by saying, "We want to be price-sensitive and as inclusive as possible, but we won't compromise on our quality and product — we're a Broadmoor property."
Symons says busy days have thus far seen upwards of 300 at lunch and another couple hundred at dinner — a mix of hotel guests and outsiders. That's a gold rush in its own right. But with locals needing a one-day or season pass to access the restaurant, steady immigration will be needed for 1858's high-end wager to pay off.
The falls are indifferent and will continue carving stone either way, hopefully for the public forever.