Antlers Café & Bar reopens for the summer season serving up nostalgia for Routt County
May 28, 2017
At the end of Main Street and Moffat Avenue, a historical icon stands within the town of Yampa.
Hikers, anglers, hunters and even skiers may have fond, childhood memories of visiting the restaurant as a source of an authentic western dining experience.
Paying homage to its past, while embracing a new chapter, head chef Spencer Harden and manager Kari Harden officially opened the Antlers Café & Bar this weekend for the summer season.
"We want people to take a ride out here for a different kind of experience," Spencer Harden said, "because we offer something nostalgic here that you can't find in Steamboat."
Built in 1906 and listed on the Routt County Register of Historic Places and the state Register of Historic Places, Antlers Café & Bar has been known as an icon of the valley's western heritage.
Initially, it served as a saloon, pool hall and gambling establishment; it was transitioned into an authentic western restaurant when Charles Hamlin and John deNeufville purchased the building from Mike Benedick in 1997.
With a "middle of nowhere feel" visitors who come in search of Antlers will have more to talk about on the way home than just the location and cuisine.
Inside, antlered trophy animals mounted on the walls include a Colorado mountain catfish, a mountain lion's head and a fish's body, a mule deer and a mule paired with deer antlers, all working together to keep the venue true to its namesake.
"Essentially, it's the same place everyone remembers and has fond childhood memories from," said Kari Harden, a Colorado native who grew up near Yampa. "We wanted to bring our own personalities to it but, more than anything, honor its past and preserve that. This is authentic Old West, and people love this place."
Making a menu that is accessible to both locals and visitors, the Hardens said the Bistro-style menu features rustic cuisine that fits the Yampa Valley. A few of the dinner items include classic steak dishes, a lamb pot pie, grilled Rocky Mountain trout and roasted chicken.
With a New Orleans culinary background, the "graduate school for the culinary world," Spencer Harden got his start working at the esteemed Emeril’s New Orleans restaurant, then moved to a variety of other restaurants during the past 15 years.
He said the menu will also include a different flair for those hoping to try something new, with dishes such as chicken and andouille gumbo, Bourbon and beer French onion soup and coconut shrimp options.
"We are bringing variety to Antlers, with an expansive menu and composed dishes," said Harden. "Before, it was choose your steak, and then you get a choice of potatoes and vegetables. Now, each dish has its own identity."
The restaurant will be open five days per week, Wednesday through Sunday, serving dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. The bar will open at 3 p.m.
On Monday and Tuesday nights, the bar will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Throughout the week, Kari Harden said they will be offering a variety of live music, and on June 3, local musician Dave Moran will perform.
In two weeks, the couple said, they plan to begin opening for brunch, giving diners an opportunity to see more of the New Orleans influence in the food, with dishes such as traditional shrimp and grits. Other items they hope to incorporate in the menu include fresh fish specials, which will also include a New Orleans influence. They also plan to incorporate more locally sourced produce and meats from nearby purveyors.
"My hope is to have people who live in Steamboat venture out here to enjoy it and make this their weekly destination and, also, to have people from out-of-town come here and have a new experience, then remember it and come back years later as a place where they had fond memories of the history and food this place offers," Spencer Harden said.