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Saddling up for rich food and Old West history at the Buckhorn Exchange in Denver


The Buckhorn Exchange in Denver, Colorado          Photo Credit: Suzy Guese

Located across from the Rio Grande Railroad yards on 1000 Osage Street, the oldest restaurant in the city of Denver still dishes out the Old West in more ways than one. From rattlesnake to elk, game is the order of the day at the Buckhorn Exchange. However, the wait staff will tell you it is much more than just a place for lunch or dinner. Diners are sitting right in the middle of a museum.

Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz, a member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s scouts, founded the Buckhorn Exchange on November 17, 1893. His restaurant catered to everyone from cattlemen to Indian chiefs. Railroad workers used to come here, exchanging their gold for a free lunch and, of course, a beer.

Most restaurants do not meet the standards of presidents and princesses, but Buckhorn already has a two-century long laundry list of famous diners. President Theodore Roosevelt dined at Buckhorn’s tables in 1905, and even asked Shorty Scout to be his guide and hunting partner. Adding to its presidential diners, Carter, Reagan, Eisenhower, and Franklin Roosevelt all ate at the Buckhorn. Bob Hope, Charleton Heston, England’s Princess Anne and Roy Rogers, just to name a few, graced the Buckhorn for its famed western cuisine.

Animal lovers may not find the ambiance of the Buckhorn Exchange appealing. 575 pieces of taxidermy and a 125-piece gun collection cover Buckhorn’s walls. Upstairs, Buckhorn  houses an 1857 white oak bar brought over from Essen, Germany. The City and County of Denver even declared the building a Historic Landmark in 1972.

Diners do not sit down to a restaurant trying to commericially emulate the old west. The Buckhorn Exchange embodies the old west, with its red and white-checkered tablecloths and newspaper menus. Like all old historic places, a few ghosts are rumored to roam the restaurant. Hokey ghost hunting shows have asked to come check out the space, but Buckhorn has never given the “alright partner”.

Settle in for a nap post lunch or dinner. The plates are heavy as to be expected, but tasty just the same. Lunch prices are low for quality buffalo burgers. Dinner plates are more expensive for beef, buffalo, game or fish. The wait staff is friendly making it easy to see why all types of people feel welcome through Buckhorn’s wooden doors for over a hundred years.

A wooden sign outside notes, “This is the place, ‘cause there’s no place just like this place any where near this place.” Whether a Denver native or just a visitor looking for classic Colorado dining, the Buckhorn Exchange is the place for “howdy’s” and history at supper seven days a week.

 Diners Enjoying the Buckhorn Exchange          Photo Credit: Suzy Guese

For more information, visit the Buckhorn Exchange’s Website