Trapper's Rendezvous is built on a masculine ideal of simple luxury that any Don Draper wannabe would be proud to own up to. It's an experience, that is certain.
For starters, with its nod to historic mountain-man gatherings, Trapper's has a nice rustic thing going for it. The textured concrete path and the bronze bear statue out front could inspire envy from any zoo or nature center in the country. Inside, the bar runs for ages, with careful woodwork along every inch and a free shot of Axe & The Oak whiskey (a local treasure that gets better with every batch) for anyone who orders there. The smoking porch and its fireplace beg for cigars — available for sale on-site — and a full moon or a sunset.
But Trapper's is a sports bar and breastaurant too, endowing it with a motley mix of three imposing Ts: taxidermy, TVs and ta-tas.
The scores of high-quality, high-definition televisions drown out the hunting-lodge charm in the dining room. Though the stuffed turkey in the barbershop area (more on that later) visibly bears a searing hatred for the hunter who killed him, most of the taxidermy is well done and apparently bloodlust-free. Each server wears jean short-shorts and a Southwestern-themed halter top of hide and turquoise, a skosh classier than Hooters but no less likely to out the creeps in your lunch bunch.
Overheard: two lecherous old men asking our waitress' age. (The average appears to be 18 or 19.)
Speaking generally, the clientele boasts few surprises. I saw four female patrons over the course of two visits, and the hundred or so male patrons included white-collar office workers, construction contractors, soldiers, bikers, hunters, cowboys and the El Paso County SWAT team.
The menu rates good overall, about a half-step up from typical sports-bar fare, with meals served in theme-appropriate tin pans. Big portions justify the prices (sandwiches in the $12 range and cocktails around $6), with some items downright generous.
Take the Manitou Stack, a mountain of no-nonsense, beer-battered steak fries loaded with cheese, jalapeños, sour cream and huge cubes of juicy pork, cooked with either earthy green or smoky red chilies. The platter begs for a friend to share it with and a pitcher of, say, house beer 1825, a solid amber ale exclusively contract-brewed by Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Company.
Moving to the main course, the burgers feature half-pound patties and house-pickled red onions and pickles, both with just a whisper of tequila flavor elevating them from good to damn good. The Captain Ashley features a balanced green chili barbecue sauce, mushrooms and sweet bacon jam, served "pink or no pink."
The Camp Fire Reuben offers something a little different. It's a nearly-inch-thick slab of pork belly served with just enough cheese, sauerkraut and bun to keep your fingers clean. Though the pork belly comes cooked beautifully, it overwhelms the modest portion of sauerkraut. To add a much-needed counterpoint, apply the green chili mustard served as a dipping sauce for the steak fries or acceptable sweet potato wedge-fries.
Chicken chicharrones come in a sandwich or on the Continental Divide, an entrée you can also order with fried shrimp or a mix of chicken and shrimp. But rather than a thigh with crispy-fried skin, these pretenders to the usually-porky throne are merely skinless thigh nuggets. Still, they're tasty, with a nice smoke and restrained spice from cayenne pepper.
Whatever your protein, the dish comes with charred green peppers my server couldn't identify — Shoshito, according to mononymous assistant general manager Cruz — with fries and seasonal veggies, which I swapped for grilled street corn served with cayenne, lime aioli and cotija cheese crumbles. The individual parts range from good to great, but it feels more like a sampler than a coherent dish.
Cayenne also spikes one house cocktail, the Retox, which features Cyrus Noble Kentucky bourbon, citrus and honey for a summery sip with lingering smoke and spice on the end. The Pikes Peak Lemonade features Kentucky's Bird Dog peach whiskey, and reminds my Alabama-native dining companion of peach tea somewhere in the background; it goes down almost too easily.
Trapper's has a few highlights that demand attention, though. The craft whiskey list is big and varied. Ignoring how cool it is for a place to even have a tequila and mezcal list, Trapper's has a variety of blancos, reposados and añejos, ranging from good to $35 premium pours. In the back, there's the humidor with those cigars and cigarillos.
But if there is one reason to visit Trapper's, it's the barbershop — no reservations required, men's hair only. At $20 for a cut, $20 for a shave, or $5 for a clean-up, the price is good, and each cut or shave comes with a shot of Axe & The Oak, a $6 value. My barber, Chelsea, was a crack-up and gave me a handsome cut, even setting the cheek-line on my beard with fresh lather and a deft straight razor. She deployed a steamer full of water and eucalyptus oil on my dining companion's face while shaving him, a treatment she compared to a constant hot towel.
Yes, this is luxurious atavism alongside a franchise-ready sports bar. It's a little disjointed, maybe even disorienting. But I'll say it again: It's an experience.