The twisting, 10-mile drive from Boulder toward the sleepy town of Gold Hill takes you bit-by-bit away from the hustle of Google construction and cafés full of laptops to a simpler time. Pull into Gold Hill and you’re back in the Wild West.
Most days, these quiet dirt streets, where trucks still sit where they were abandoned decades ago, feels like a ghost town. Gold Hill was built in 1859, during the largest gold rush in Colorado history in an area then known as Mountain District 1 that was part of Nebraska Territory. Period mining shacks still stand here at 8,300 feet alongside long-time residents’ homes and a few businesses.
Once or twice a week, from spring to autumn, the town comes alive when the Gold Hill Inn offers live music by incredible bluegrass, country and other bands. Acts include Bonnie & The Clydes, The Railsplitters and The Delta Sonics. Shows run Fridays and Sundays from 9:00 p.m. to midnight May through December. There are also special events on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Local musician with national cred Gregory Alan Isakov—voted Best Singer/Songwriter 2007 by Westword—has played here on December 23 for the past seven years. There’s also a raucous New Year’s Eve party.
The restaurant opens for dinner and drinks Wednesday through Sunday, and on weekends only from the end of October until Christmas. It’s well worth the drive up Sunshine Canyon to feast on either the three ($29) or six-course gourmet meals ($37). Rarely have I tasted such rich, delicious food, and never for such a low price (only downside: It’s the same menu all the time). And the setting is relaxed, laid back. The air smells of aging wood. It feels like you’re sharing a meal with an extended family.
Brian Finn and his brother Chris took over the family business from their parents about 30 years ago. When I ask Brain, “What’s better, the food or the music?” he breaks out in a huge laugh, cranes his head toward me and looks me in the eye. “The food. But that’s because you’re asking me,” he says.
“This is mountain gourmet comfort food. The menu is from Mom’s recipes. The Joy of Cooking was like the Bible in our house,” he says. “But she did it her way. We use only good ingredients, made with thought and care.”
Dinners include appetizers such as homemade bread and jam, hot or cold soup and salads. Entrees include smoked trout and bacon-wrapped steak—your knife cuts through it like warm butter. This decadence is followed by more veggies, served platter style, a rich dessert (I recommend the chocolate torte), and finally a cheese and fruit tray.
To make for a better show, Brian even offers the musicians who play here dinner before they hit the stage.
“Seeing shows here, with the giant fire going and everything, feels like you’re in your living room,” he says.
—Chris Van Leuven
To book a dinner reservation at the Gold Hill Inn, call 303-443-6461. For a schedule of upcoming shows, visit goldhillinn.com.