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Frank Bonanno to reopen El Rancho restaurant in Evergreen soon

New year, new concept – that’s the expectation at El Rancho Colorado, which plans to make its re-debut soon in Evergreen.

Exactly how soon is yet to be determined as the business awaits its liquor license from Jefferson County. But everything aside from that official piece of paperwork is ready to go, said Jacqueline Bonanno, creative director of Denver-based Bonanno Concepts, which now operates the space.

El Rancho’s reopening is among the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of 2023, given it’s been a fixture of the Evergreen community since 1948. The property shuttered last August when creditors foreclosed on the business amid an ownership dispute.

In November, new owners purchased the iconic locale, which has its own exit off of I-70, and enlisted Chef Frank Bonanno to reimagine the menu. Bonanno has created some of Denver’s best-known restaurants over the past 20-plus years, including Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco and Denver Milk Market.

During dinner, El Rancho will serve sandwiches such as a Rueben and French dip alongside hearty entrees like chicken fried steak, braised bison short rib with polenta and fried catfish. Smoked meats, including brisket, pork and chicken, will be available by the pound as well as in dishes like The Old Henry Burrito and an appetizer nacho plate. Other starters include elk chili and Asian-inspired shishito peppers.

The restaurant expects to roll out breakfast and lunch in the coming weeks, when it will offer a variety of pancakes, eggs Benedict dishes, French toasts, sandwiches and specialties like biscuits and gravy.

And once officially licensed to sell booze, El Rancho’s bar will serve local wine, beer and spirits, as well as four cocktails on tap – an Old Fashion, a Manhattan, a margarita and a Huckleberry Cosmo – that are $7 each during “tappy hour.”

Jacqueline Bonanno said she hired Adam Gurtshaw, formerly of Denver Beer Co., to lead brewery operations and expects house-made beers to be on tap in the six weeks.

El Rancho’s reopening marks a new chapter in its storied history, which most recently was marred by a very public and contentious ownership battle. Commercial real estate developers Jack and Sherry Buchanan of Northstar Ventures and Travis McAfoos of Piedra Peak Properties partnered to purchase the famous destination in the fall, citing its legacy on the Front Range.

When it opened in the 1940s, El Rancho was a cafe and trading post, and because of its prominent location on U.S. 40, it became a popular gift shop and post office. In the 1970s, once I-70 was built, the cabin-inspired building functioned as a lodge and conference center.

“It’s been part of a number of people’s lives as they venture into the mountains,” McAfoos previously told The Denver Post. “Keeping that as part of the fabric of community was important.”

In addition to food and drink, the Bonannos plan to bring live music back to El Rancho. A pianist will provide the soundtrack to dinner three nights a week, Jacqueline said, and the Aspen Room downstairs will host music every Friday and Saturday night starting Jan. 27.

El Rancho Colorado anticipates opening Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant will be closed Monday and Tuesday.

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