How to feel a little bit like a pioneer at The Fort

Outside The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

The Fort is sort of a strange place.

For one thing, it was never really a fort, though it might fool an unsuspecting tourist. It was built by the Arnold family in the early 1960s. Originally meant to be a country home, they decided to open a restaurant when the construction went over budget. The Fort opened for business in 1963 out at 19192 Colo. 8 in Morrison. As you probably know, its been serving high-end pioneer’s cuisine ever since.

Also a bear lived there for a while.

(Read more about her and The Fort here.)

Before I went for the first time, I could not get a clear answer from any Coloradan about whether The Fort is fancy or corny or both. The answer is both.

See for yourself.

(Note: I had to lighten most of these iPhone photos because it’s pretty dimly lit in there.)

Outside The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Outside The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Maybe enjoy the fire?
In the courtyard at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
In the courtyard at The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

It was too cold to even sit by the fire. It was cold enough to want to sit in the fire.

Have a seat, enjoy the fort-y surroundings.
Inside one of the dining rooms at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Inside one of the dining rooms. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Our table was straight back through the front door, just before an enclosed patio and then the outdoor patio. The view out there is pretty incredible, so I’d go back when it’s warm enough to be out there enjoying it.

Also: There are exactly 234 dining rooms in this restaurant. I counted.

Order some old-timey beverages.
The Trade Whiskey and the Prickly Pear Margarita at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
The Trade Whiskey and the Prickly Pear Margarita at The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

The Trade Whiskey is fine bourbon with red pepper, tobacco and black gun powder, served neat. It’s potent.

The Prickly Pear Margarita is made with scarlet prickly pear fruit. It’s not potent, but it’s tasty.

Order the mac ‘n’ cheese and thank me later.

I failed to take a photo of the mac ‘n’ cheese we all shared, but a photo could not have done this side dish justice anyway. I want to write poems to this mac ‘n’ cheese. I want to spend every day for the rest of my life with this mac ‘n’ cheese. I want to make grand romantic gestures for this mac ‘n’ cheese until it forgives me for that time I had salad instead.

I love you, Fort mac ‘n’ cheese.

We also ordered:

Elk chops St. Vrain
Elk chops St. Vrain at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Elk chops St. Vrain at The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Two 4-ounce bone-in elk chops grilled with wild Montana huckleberry preserves. Served with seasonal vegetables and Fort potatoes.

The person who ordered this can eat a lot and wished there was more of it.

Smoke house buffalo barbecue ribs, for when you want to feel like Fred Flintstone
Smoke House buffalo barbecue ribs at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Smoke house buffalo barbecue ribs at The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Four- or six-rib portions of smoked buffalo ribs, slowly braised and smothered in tangy Jack Daniels barbecue sauce. Served with campfire beans and and cheddar garlic mashed potatoes.

The person who ordered this can also eat a lot and the order of four was way too much (not that there’s anything wrong with leftovers). Buffalo ribs, you see, are much larger than pork ribs.

William Bent’s buffalo tenderloin filet mignon
William Bent’s buffalo tenderloin filet mignon at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
William Bent’s buffalo tenderloin filet mignon at The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

A 6-ounce or 8-ounce buffalo filet served with seasonal vegetables and Fort potatoes.

So, so tender. And it’s a good portion (picture is the 6-ounce cut) for someone like me who can’t eat a lot and also already filled up on mac ‘n’ cheese.

Garlic shrimp en globo
Garlic Shrimp En Globo at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Garlic shrimp en globo at The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

Six large shrimp dabbed with herb butter, fresh garlic and lemon, wrapped in a foil pocket that when placed over the grill steams the shrimp and then balloons while cooking. Served “en balloon,” with seasonal vegetables and coconut rice quinoa pilaf.

This photo does not look appetizing but I am assured this pouch of shrimp was good.

Admire the decor and wonder about its life as you wait for the check.
Inside The Fort, 19192 CO-8, Morrison. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)
Inside The Fort. (Ashley Dean/Denverite)

I bet he lived a pretty satisfactory life but never really achieved all the things he dreamed about as a young calf — happy, but deep down knowing he wanted more. He certainly never imagined this legacy for himself.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.