Suddenly there are signs of life at El Rancho, the restaurant/conference center with its own exit off I-70. For the last few weeks, crews have been working inside, and a sign in one window of the 500-seat space promises "Fall 2015."
El Rancho got its start in 1947, when the Jahnke family built a log-cabin style restaurant in the foothills west of Denver. In 1953, it was purchased by Ray and Mildred Zipprich, who added a banquet business, gift shop and station for the U.S. Post Office. Their daughter Donna and son-in-law, Paul McEnroe, took over in 1958 — and really put El Rancho on the map. "When Interstate 70 was being built in the mid-1960s, McEnroe convinced the highway department to name the exit to Evergreen 'El Rancho," according to Jefferson County's planning and zoning site. "El Rancho is said to have the most photographed view of the Continental Divide in America. It was selected by many national and international magazines as one of 'America's Favorite' restaurants. The McEnroes offered free meeting space for local community organizations and served on many county boards and commissions. They established a Southwestern gift shop in the restaurant in 1972, a Visitor Information Center in 1975, and an RTD parking area next to the restaurant in 1987." The two sold the restaurant the next year; by the time Paul McEnroe passed away in 2003 — then-Representative Scott McInnis remembered him on the floor of Congress — El Rancho had passed through several hands, and it continued to go through some bumpy times over the past decade, before closing altogether.
But now it's bouncing back, as a brewpub. The Vincent family — three brothers and their spouses — bought the property this month for $1.2 million, and will reopen it this fall after a major renovation that will include adding brewing equipment. According to Laurie Vincent, the partners have hired Tim Trapp, who has designed hundreds of brewpubs, including Boulder's Walnut Brewery along with Rock Bottom and Gordon Biersch restaurants and breweries, to do the renovation.
Tom Vincent, who's been in the restaurant/food services industry for over thirty years, will move to Evergreen from California with his family to take over as chef. A master butcher, he'll provide specialty cut meats on site, as well as El Rancho sausages and beer brats. The head brewer, Bard Nielsen, will bring five years of commercial brewing experience to El Rancho, where he'll make offer traditional craft beers as well as barrel-aged beers.
Watch for updates on El Rancho Colorado's Facebook page.