This must be the place

Stumbling upon Gold Hill’s odd, cool General Store/Café/Pub

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Susan France

Wanted: Young, energetic food, beverage and music entrepreneurs to revive a one-of-a-kind, historic Boulder County venue. The location virtually oozes rustic, mountain town charm and gorgeous scenery year-round. This cool fixer-upper has tremendous potential as a destination experience for locals and visitors alike. How many opportunities like this are available locally?

Truth is, there’s no rush. The “For Sale” sign in front of the Gold Hill Store and Pub has been hanging there for several years. According to Hugh Moore who has owned the Store for the past 22 years, many folks have inquired, but the perfect person has yet to present themselves.

It had been at least 10 years since I stopped in, but I had heard they served a decent slice of pie. The address is 531 Main St., but it’s not hard to find since there are only two or three unpaved streets in Gold Hill. 

Walk into the weather-beaten historic site and the floorboards creak like well-timed sound effects. This small, one-room space is many things: a pastry-filled kitchen counter, a bar, a gift shop with odds and ends for sale and mismatched chairs and tables.

The Store has long been a rest stop for hikers and bikers after visiting Bald Mountain, Brainard Lake or the Switzerland Trail. Tourists are fascinated by this lost-in-time, one-room-schoolhouse village of about 200 souls, while scared by the guardrail-free ascent to Gold Hill and shocked at the nonexistent cell phone service.

All things considered, the brunch-lunch menu is impressive, with everything from sausage gravy and biscuits, quiche and chicken pot pie to breakfast burritos topped with chicken green chile. Most of the homey desserts, including pies and cookies, are locally baked and served with Silver Canyon Coffee and organic Bhakti Chai.

The “bar” includes one bottle of each kind of spirit with a cooler full of canned beers including Avery IPA, Upslope Craft Lager, Dale’s Pale Ale and PBR. You can sit on the front porch using their WiFi while sipping a Glenlivet on the rocks and feeling every drop of it at Gold Hill’s 8,300-foot elevation. On occasion, the store is open in the evening to host folk and other acoustic musicians. It is the only place except the nearby Gold Hill Inn for many, many miles to grab any food and drink.

For transparency’s sake, you should know there may be a few challenges in becoming the proprietor of such a place. Built in the 1890s and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it is badly in need of restoration and renovation and perhaps some insulation. It is heated in the winter only by an old wood-fired stove. Speaking of winter, steep Sunshine Canyon can be harrowing when it is snow-packed, impeding locals, tourists and delivery trucks alike.

Gold Hill doesn’t have city water. Most homes in Gold Hill are supplied by wells. The Store gets its City of Boulder water delivered every month, but at a price. Water is necessarily restricted for normal things like bathrooms, kitchens and dish-washing.

One more catch: At the moment, at least, food and drinks are warmed in one microwave, one item at a time.

If you can still imagine a place that features Colorado fare and drinks with entertainment, educational and co-working uses, check in about the price with the owner at the Gold Hill Store and Pub.

PSL epidemic spreads

While I’ll pass on most pumpkin spice-flavored foods (except maybe Dairy Queen’s Pumpkin Pie Blizzard with chunks of actual pumpkin pie in it), there are some seasonal local treats worth checking out like super-creamy Noosa’s caramel and apple yogurt and Helliemae’s Harvest Apple Cider Caramels (cooked-up in Wheat Ridge). According to a recent NDP Checkout analysis, 60 percent of frequent purchasers of (pumpkin-free) pumpkin spice lattes have a household income of $75,000 and above and do not have children under 18 in the house. Unfortunately. Starbucks has added to the PSL epidemic with its Teavana Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte, a trendy conglomeration that manages to insult tea, chai and lattes simultaneously.

Local food news

Chef Kelly Whitaker of Boulder’s Basta has opened The Wolf’s Tailor, a tiny café in Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood with an eclectic menu featuring house-made pasta, house-milled grains, wood-oven cooking and savory desserts such as black sesame semifreddo. … Tandoori Kitchen is open at 199 W. South Boulder Road in Lafayette serving Indian and Nepali fare. … First there were beer tasting rooms, then rooms for tasting wine, mead, cider and whiskey. Now, Colorado Sake Company has opened the state’s first sake tasting room at 3559 Larimer St. in Denver. The first rice wine brewery in Colorado was the now-closed Hakushika Sake in Golden. Colorado’s other current sake maker is Denver’s Gaijin 24886.

Preserving the season

Arcana hosts a cool canning class Sept. 14 on preserving Colorado fruit for the winter that includes a tasting of Arcana dishes featuring preserved fruit with cider and canned goodies to take home. Reservations: 303-444-3885. … St. Vrain Cidery host a Cidermaking 101 Class Sept. 8 at Longmont’s Brewmented. Reservations: brewmented.com. … Among the preservable locally grown produce available this week at various farm stands and at the Boulder County Farmers Markets are local apples, fennel, garlic, plums, potatoes, shishito peppers, sweet corn and turnips. … Do you love local produce? Low-moving hail storms on June 20 and Aug. 14 devastated many local growers including Kilt Farms, Oxford Farms and Full Circle Farms. Consider donating to a fund set up by chef Bradford Heap to aid the farmers: damage.gofundme.com/full-circle-farm-hail-devasation

Taste of the week

I read about the pie at the Gold Hill Store and Pub in 2003 in the roadtrip/memoir American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America’s Back Roads (Harper) by Pascale Le Draoulec. When I finally got there, I went with a pie that’s hard to get right: strawberry rhubarb pie. It’s often too tart, too sweet or too strawberry. This strawberry rhubarb pie was Goldilocks-right with a reasonably flaky bottom crust, a toasted crumb topping and a fruit-packed filling that didn’t hide the rhubarb.

Words to chew on

“What’s extremely hurtful is the way ethnicity, ethnocentrism and sexism plays out in those spaces. You don’t have to look very closely at any of it to see that it’s an old white boys’ club.” —Andrew Zimmern, on the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list.

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU. Listen to podcasts at:                 news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles.