Buckhorn or The Fort?
I'm not going to spend that much money on two meals. So I need to pick one. I did some searching, but I'm finding the output a little sparse for recent discussion on the pros/cons of each.
I get that it has historical context/cachet (when we were in NYC, we went to Keene's Steak House, which is very historical, etc, and it was decent, fortunately I wasn't paying). I am willing to pay those prices for that sort of an experience that I'm not going to get anywhere else (especially in Vermont, where finding a good steak is simply impossible outside of the chain restaurants). I am very fond of different sorts of game, but my husband only likes beef and pork, really. So either one of these looks like a good option, but can any of you give me clues as to which might be better?
Or are they both an utter waste of money?
We just returned from dinner at The Fort, and I'm really grateful for the recommendations that explained the differences. It was a lovely experience. Our waitress was warm and welcoming, not stuffy or snooty. Our busboy was attentive and kind. The view out the windows was spectacular and the classical music wasn't intrusive. The decor didn't feel overblown or silly (I was a little worried it might do).
I ordered the game platter, buffalo filet, elk chop, and quail (with some asparagus spears and "fort potatoes"). My husband had the chef's special of braised pork belly and campfire beans. For starters we tried the Jalapeños Escabeche Stuffed with Peanut Butter. It was ok, but we'd probably not order them again. It was more pickly than he likes and I'm not greatly fond of peanut butter, but it wasn't BAD. :)
The menu said that the pork belly is "ale, spices and honey, smoked over applewood and glazed with maple syrup" and it was brilliantly yummy. Hands down the best pork and beans I've ever tasted, ever. :) Even he admitted it was wonderful (often when we go to places like this, he's underwhelmed because he really has simple tastes and his sense of smell is not as sharp as mine, so he's just as happy with simpler foods so these places tend to tweak his frugality nose ;). This came with a salad (he had the blue cheese dressing), a small pumpkin muffin, and a dinner roll. He also tried the prickly pear cooler. It was nice, but he didn't want to order a second one (not for $5, anyway).
Mine came with salad and bread as well. The pumpkin muffins were nice, with golden raisins, and a mild sweet spice (mostly cinnamon I'm thinking). I haven't eaten my roll yet, I brought it back to have with my leftovers (I always have leftovers). The meat was cooked exactly to my specifications (I asked for medium rare). I liked the elk the best, but both the elk and the buffalo were great. The elk was just a bit more tender, is all. The quail had a slight char that gave it a great flavor on top of the teriyaki marinade, and there was huckleberry sauce for dipping that I thought went very well with the quail. One quail is not much, but it was still enough to be enjoyable. They'd pulled most of the bones, just the legs and wings had bones. Do people eat those? I ate around them. :)
My husband's meal included a caramel brownie (which is actually blondie, there was no chocolate) that was warm and topped with a scoop of WONDERFUL vanilla ice cream, caramel drizzled and canola seeds over the top. I'd never had canola seeds before and I'd forgotten that the menu mentioned them. They were really interesting. The brow.... I can't make myself call it that, the blondie was tender and rich. We were able to share the dessert though it was pretty huge and I thought we might both be too full to finish it.
We spent a total of $115 (tax and tip included) for the two of us. That's two entrees, a starter, and two non-alcoholic beverages. We haven't spent that much on a meal in.. oh heavens I can't remember the last time. Maybe our anniversary two years ago... In any case, it was worth the hassle of getting there (we were trying to avoid toll roads, but I hadn't made that clear to my husband prior to heading out, so he almost took us on a toll road before I got us off I25), and I do recommend The Fort as a meal experience well worth having.
Glad you had a great experience since I was the one who recommended The Fort. To me, the decor has NEVER seemed silly, because the restaurant holds a museum-quality collection of artifacts from the frontier West. It is as much as destination as a dining destination -- a remarkably respectful recreation of Bent's Fort on the old Santa Fe Trail. The Fort crew will be traveling to New York to cook at the James Beard House on June 22 , and pickled jalapenos stuffed with peanut butter and mango chutney, not quite the appetizer you ordered, will be one of the passed hors d'ouvres.
Like so many other dishes at The Fort, those beans come with a story. At the end of a camping trip when the family had eaten almost everything, sous-chef Juan Zapeta’s father combined leftover bacon, chorizo, onions and garlic, added beans and cooked the mixture in leftover coffee. This spontaneous family recipe now appears on the menu as Mexican Campfire Beans, now with the addition of buffalo demi-glace.
"Better" just for the food or "better" in terms of the entire experience? While the Buckhorn Exchange is conveniently in central Denver (right along lightrail, in fact), IMHO, The Fort presents the better overall experience. It's beautiful and expansive with spectacular views and wonderful Spanish, Native American and Anglo artifacts from the Old West. The Buckhorn Exchange has some too, but their main decorative theme is trophy heads and taxidermed whole animals. Some people find it disquieting to have so many eyes staring at them while they eat. Also, I think The Fort's food is better. The chef was one of the winners at the Taste of Elegance food competition that was part of the 2010 Denver International Wine Festival -- and the competition was pretty tough.
1000 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204
19192 Hwy. 8, Morrison, CO 80465