During our trip to Colorado this past late summer, we stayed at a Swiss-style villa called the Appenzall Inn. Even though it had a nice little restaurant/lounge, we had told the young lady at the front desk that we were looking more for where the locals go out to eat. We were going to go back up into Rocky Mountain National Park for the day and we wanted to have a good breakfast because we didn't know when we'd eat lunch. One place that she wholeheartedly recommended for breakfast was a place called the Big Horn. She talked so enthusiastically about the place that we didn't even seek any other place out for breakfast.
The Big Horn has been a staple in the Estes Park community for over 40 years serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the late 90's, Estes Park residents Sid and Laura Brown had retired from their local jobs and bought the Big Horn. The Browns added deli sandwiches and Sid eventually brought in a smoker trailer for barbecue favorites.
The Big Horn is located just west of Estes Park's downtown district on West Elkhorn (see map). There's a large parking lot on the west side of the building that they share with a small strip mall. The Estes Park Performance Park is located just behind the Big Horn.
It was around 8:30 a.m. when we pulled up to the Big Horn. We went inside and were greeted by a young lady at the cash register near the salad bar. The main dining room (below left) was already full and she took us into a back room area, sat us at a table and dropped off menus for us.
There are a couple other rooms at the Big Horn that can be used for overflow or for meeting rooms. It looked like the place had been added on to with the labyrinth of hallways and openings off the main dining area. But the place was clean, brightly lit with natural outdoor lighting, and somewhat cozy.
Inside the menu was a sheet that touted Big Horn's deli menu. It said something along the lines of, "Going into the park? Let us make a picnic lunch for you!" It said that while we enjoyed our breakfast, they'd make deli sandwiches for us and pack them in bags for us to take when we went to the park. I said to Cindy, "Hey, maybe we should do this."
She looked at the sheet and said, "Yeah, that's not a bad idea." After being with my wife just over 20 years now, I learned long ago that she needs three square meals a day. I can get by with a big breakfast and then dinner on some days. But she needs something in between.
If we got a sandwich, then I figured I didn't need to go whole hog on a breakfast. I was looking at getting an omelet, but decided against it. Blueberry pancakes were an option, but that probably would have been a lot of food, too. But then I saw that I could get blueberries on French toast. Oooo... I love blueberries on French toast.
Our server, Janea, came over to greet us. By that time, we were ready to order. Cindy ordered up a croissant with scrambled egg whites, American cheese and bacon. Hash browns came with the croissant and she said that I could help her eat them. I ordered the French toast with blueberries, a side of bacon and a large milk. Cindy said, "Don't you want to order a deli sandwich?"
Janae said, "Are you going to take it with you? I can take the order when I bring your breakfast out and we'll make it up while you eat." That sounded fine with us.
When Janae brought our breakfasts, the place had steadily filled up. Our little room was full of people and they were beginning to seat people back in one of the two meeting rooms. We figured we came at the right time.
Cindy's croissant was big with a layer of fluffy egg whites topped with bacon and cheese. Her side of hash browns inundated the plate. In fact, it looked like she ordered hash browns with a croissant breakfast sandwich on the side.
Before we dug in, I ordered a hoagie - that we could share - with ham and turkey, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions with yellow mustard and mayo. Janae said she'd have them cut it in half for us.
My French toast was sort of bland. It was like they needed more sugar or something on it. The blueberries were a bit over-ripe, as well. But they still tasted great with the French toast. It wasn't the best French toast I've had, but it did the trick for me.
Cindy was happy with her breakfast croissant. The croissant was light and flaky, but seemed to hold together well as she ate it. She said the taste of it was "good". "I'm glad I got this," she said.
She told me to take some bites of her hash browns. I was getting pretty full from the French toast, so I declined. But she insisted. "I've got a load of hash browns here," she said. "Help me eat some. I don't want them to go to waste." The hash browns were, quite actually, pretty good. They had a nice crunchy and buttery taste combination along with a firm consistency to the shredded potatoes. I generally don't go for hash browns, but these were good.
When we finished, Janae brought our bill along with our hoagie sandwich, cut in half, wrapped in paper and put into a plastic bag with a bag of potato chips and napkins. Cindy said, "What a great idea! Why didn't we think about this yesterday before we went up into the park?"
(Later in the day, we found a little picnic area along a babbling brook near Sprague Lake. The sandwich was good. It's pretty difficult to screw up a ham, turkey and Swiss hoagie. It probably tasted better because we were soaking in the sunlight at 8200 feet above sea level next to a picturesque creek - which was probably a raging rapids five days later due to the excessive rains they received in the area.)
There's not many bad things that I can point out about our visit to the Big Horn. The breakfast was good - not great - but satisfying. Janae's service was good and it was a nice atmosphere. The place was clean and it had a nice homey feel to the dining area. There may be better breakfasts in the Estes Park area, but the Big Horn is definitely worth a try.