El Rancho restaurant is reopening.
Denver restaurateurs Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno, who own 10 restaurants in the Denver area, will operate the historic restaurant that closed abruptly last summer. The couple, who own Bonanno Concepts, are excited to open as soon as they can hire a staff, Frank Bonanno said on Nov. 15, hopefully in the next few weeks.
“I’m confident we can bring new life to El Rancho while preserving the nostalgia,” he said. “We’ve been in there, and there’s so much potential to recapture the spirit of a place that’s been part of so many memories and stories over the years.”
Bonanno intends Colorado-style fare on the menu, happy hours, brunch and the return of live music. He is leaning toward serving meals such as burritos, tacos, smoked brisket and smoked pork plus a salad bar. He wants to hire a brewmaster, so the site will return to brewing beer in a few months.
Bonanno said the first priority was to focus on the food and the service for the main-floor restaurant, “letting people see who we are.”
Bonanno Concepts charges a 22% service fee on checks rather than customers tipping, so workers throughout the restaurant make a living wage, according to the Bonanno Concepts website. The company also has a full-time psychologist on staff because employees’ mental wellness is important, Bonanno said.
They have put restaurants in other historic buildings, saying they love Colorado history and preserving it.
The Bonannos also operate restaurants down the hill: Mizuna, Luca, Osteria Marco, Green Russell, Russell’s Smokehouse, Salt & Grinder, Vesper Lounge, French 75, Lou’s Food Bar and Denver Milk Market. Learn more about the company at www.bonannoconcepts.com.
“We look forward to doing what we do and bringing it up (to Evergreen),” he said. “We hope folks will like it.”
The El Rancho restaurant opened in a log cabin in 1947. In 1953, a banquet room and gift shop were added, plus it became designated as a post office. When Interstate 70 was being built in the mid-1960s, the owners convinced the Colorado highway department to name the exit “El Rancho.”
According to Golden History Park and Museum, El Rancho is said to have the most photographed view of the Continental Divide in America.
El Rancho has had several owners over the last few decades, and the owners who bought the property in 2015 abruptly closed the restaurant this past summer after a nasty battle over the restaurant’s management.
Last week, Jack and Sherry Buchanan of Evergreen with Northstar Ventures and Travis McAfoos bought the El Rancho property for $2.7 million, and they signed a lease and operating agreement with Bonanno Concepts.
Northstar Ventures will not be involved in the restaurant’s operation. Instead, it will focus on working to develop the parcel across the street from El Rancho.