A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling with my sweet mum to her hometown of Buena Vista, Colorado. I had never been there before and it was such a delight to see it with the historical perspective that she could provide. Mom was a small girl during the Great Depression, she remembers the troop trains passing through the middle of town during World War II. Remembers when the locomotives passing through town transitioned from steam to diesel. There are so many more stories that get told in the place where they happened. This trip is one I will always cherish. Mom left in 1952 to move to the big city of Denver. Although Buena Vista has grown from a “sleepy little town” to an outdoor recreation destination it is still very quaint. East Main Street is still the heart of town and the vast majority of buildings date back to the late 1800’s.
“Buenie” as she calls it, is located on the headwaters of the Arkansas river. Nestled in the valley bordered on the west by the towering Collegiate Peaks. The area sports some of the best river rafting in the nation. From class I to IV rapids. Multiple companies offer trips down different stretches of the river and include guided 1/2 day, 1 day or multiple day trips. There are outfitters that give lessons and professional training in kayaking, rafting and stand up paddle boarding. Rafting season runs from mid-May though early September.
This area also offers loads of hiking, biking and ATV trails. In the fall it is a hunting destination for elk, deer and big horn sheep. There are several fish hatcheries near by so the fishing is quite good in the area lakes and streams. In the winter, there is snowmobiling and Alpine skiing nearby.
We were so fortunate when we went. The Colorado fall colors were at their peak. The aspens were brilliant yellow contrasted by the small patches of deep copper and reds that I believe were oaks. We saw loads of big mule deer. A lot of them right in the middle of town. It is not unheard of to have bears mosey through but we did not see any.
Now of course for me, the food was as important as the scenery and history. We had a wonderful meal at Simple Eatery. I was absolutely charmed by the innovative menu and delightful staff. Housed in the old Highway Department building on East Main Street, where my mom remembered the giant snow plow trucks being housed. The high ceilings, large front windows and original brick interior walls make the atmosphere both airy and yet cozy.
They bake their own bread and pretzels daily and sell it by the loaf. The same bread is used in their diverse menu ranging from their Chicken and Brie Panini on sour dough to the Elk Burger served on a pretzel bread bun to pasta dishes. They also serve a signature Rainbow Trout which I must try next time.
Mom had the Elk Burger. Cooked to perfection, tender and juicy. I have had a lot of elk that was rather dry. This was not. Just a bit stronger taste than beef. And the bun – so good. Crisp, crunchy crust and then a soft yet toothsome center. For the side, rather than fries mom chose the combo option of Heirloom Tomato Bisque. Very sweet but substantial tomato taste. Just enough cream to give it a velvety mouth feel.
I had the Bison Ravioli. The ravioli was very al dente. The robust flavor of the meat was balanced by a subtly sweet cream-sage sauce made with a whisper of orange and even less lemon. The plate is dotted with a bit of peppery arugula and a few sweet heirloom tomatoes, giving the whole dish a really nice juxtaposition of flavors.
Of course I got to talking food with the staff and they were kind enough to bring me several soup samples, all of which were amazing. Especially so for the carrot coconut soup. I have to try to make that one! Sweet carrots, vegetable broth a hint of warm ginger and creamy coconut milk.
During peak season this place is hopping, but you can order online and specify a time for pickup. Don’t make a trip to or through Buena Vista without giving this place a try.