Recently, I took off with the car loaded to the gills for camping.
I was headed up to a high altitude lake at the top of Poudre Canyon.
One of my sales guys from work, had implored me to stop and eat or at minimum, have a beer at a place called Mishawaka as I was to drive right on by it. This is the guy to give me a hug when I need it and shares in a love of rocks and outdoors.
Mishawaka is a concert venue and restaurant that was on my way, so I mentioned it to my pals also heading up camping.
I was ahead of the other two vehicles also coming up to camp, so as I made the turn off up into the canyon where cell service is not attainable, I let them know that I was 13 miles from my pit stop.
I realized as I parked on the side of the road, that it likely had never occurred to me to stop here prior as the outside looks like it could be the log cabin of just a small country store or bait shop. Once inside, the bar area that I had stepped into, was rustic, eclectic and still not veering far from my original thoughts of a hole in the wall. As I stood taking in my surroundings, I noticed they had a makeshift hostess stand, and I was asked if I had a reservation? I almost giggled – or maybe I did and didn’t catch myself doing it. I said that no, I didn’t have a reservation and I might have people joining me.
I was seated in the “sun room” indoors instead of out on the deck outside because I did not have a reservation and I had no real idea if and when my friends might be there to meet me.
The bartender came over to take my order of a beer while I waited or at least just parked myself for a bit to really get the feel of this place that was nearly demanded that I go to.
The sunroom was a small four table area built out slightly over the water with plexiglass windows enclosing it in. From there, I could see a larger patio area built further out over the River that held many more tables.
There were signed pictures of bands and entertainers who had played here on every wall space that wasn’t a window.
I decided to take a pic of myself in the sunroom to show the sales guy that I had made it, but found that there was no service for which to send it.
I asked my server/bartender Brian (I has asked his name and introduced myself so that we could address each other by name and not by a ‘hey’) if there was WiFi there that I could tap into. “Nope, you’re not going to Snapchat from here”, he said unapologetically. I laughed and said that I don’t have Snapchat, but ok.
A few minutes later, he came over and sat down and asked if I was wanted to order something from the menu I had been reading. I asked what was good and what did he like? He said the Reuben was good, the fish was popular, he liked the French dip and the fish taco wrap was actually really good as he had recently had it by chance. I think I was making some faces of ‘yeah maybe’, ‘not today’, ‘not sure’, and scrunched my nose and said that I wasn’t really a French dip kinda gal. He looked me square in the face and called me on my statement. “Well Sally, you didn’t ask me what you like, you asked me what I liked”. I laughed loudly and knew that I now had a new favorite bartender. You see, I love a person who can be honest and throw back at you the little bits of ludicrous that we all try to absorb without offending. And by no means had he offended or been disrespectful in his tone. It’s like the people who won’t tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. I am thankful for the people who take the moment to point out that I’m making myself look ridiculous.
So, I ordered the fish taco wrap and said I was going to now explore the place. I really didn’t know if my co-campers would stop by or not as they had said that they would eat in Ft. Collins before heading up the canyon.
The room away from the bar area had a rustic wooden stage that looked like something the Blues Brothers may have performed on. The room also had a fairly wide open area for dancing and six or so tables off to the other end that had lunch patrons starting to fill. I wouldn’t consider the space a concert venue though as it only would hold maybe 50 to 75 patrons.
I then walked past the small bar that was meant to help serve that room and out onto the highly desired eating deck. Twelve or so round tables with happy orange big umbrellas sat atop the rushing River below. Off to one side there were fly fishermen casting into the aerated waters caused by big and little rapids, and occasionally you’d see white water rafters and kayakers navigating the creek and yelling their greetings to the folks on the deck.
Walking out further, I found the concert space. Here also along the river, hidden from the road by a wooden fence, was a larger stage, much bigger open area to hold the masses and bars along each edge to keep everyone from having to go into the restaurant for refreshments during events. This was no Red Rocks, but I could see a couple hundred of my closest friends happily jamming out to a concert in this hidden gem.
To one side of the stage was the equipment tent that by chance – or not- was decorated with the paintings of an artist that I had just met the year prior in his shop in Boulder as I was scoping out his paintings. And as threads go, the friends that were to meet with me have one of his prints in their home. I was feeling more and more at home in this place.
To the other side of the stage was a metal sculpture of a woman with wings. Her arms and one leg up reminded me a bit of the crane kick pose in the Karate Kid.
After taking it all in, I went back to my table. Brian came over and asked if I’d like another beer. I said I had been admiring how the bloody Mary’s were going out as it had enough garnishments to qualify as a salad. Yeah, he said as he walked back to the bar, but you need to try this beer and poured me a sampler. He gave it to me and said that it would go good with what I ordered for lunch. I tasted it and it was delicious albeit several degrees lighter than my first beer. I mentioned this to Brian and speculated that I probably should have started with the lighter beer and then moved to a hoppier variety as a second choice, not the other way around. He started pouring the beer and said that in three swigs the change will be complete and I’ll love it. He admitted that it was his new favorite beer as he sat the tumbler on the table. (No glass to be broken over these beautiful waters).
Well, Brian was right again and in three swigs, I no longer had a taste for the first delightful beer at all.
My food came and it too was better than I had thought it might be.
My friends showed up just a few bites in and tried my wrap and beer and soon we were all eating and drinking in triplicate.
I relayed the stories of Brian thus far and they too were giggling at this big dude in shorts, long socks, hiking boots and the required Mishawaka T shirt. After they had eaten, I asked if they thought that I could get Brian to pose for a picture with me. He was just finishing up with the table behind me and so I jumped up with my phone before they could even reply.
I said something like, “Hey Brian, would you mind taking a photo with me?” I held out my phone in the ‘selfie’ pose and went to put my arm around him. He said sure, put me in a choke hold like a brother would do and that was our one pic. It actually felt perfect.
My friends and I joked that if the weather was too crazy bad while camping, we could just come down and spend time at our new favorite hangout.
We didn’t of coarse, as while it did rain and was colder than anticipated, the beauty of our spot was too much to give up until we had to leave.
Once packed up and heading home though, we did stop back at the new hangout, sat out on the outdoor deck under the sun and once again enjoyed the ambiance of the place, service and food. No, Brian was not there that day.
I hope you are getting out and meeting some of the great restaurant people who have been hobbled by Covid and are now getting back to a regular scene.