May 1, 1996

Platteville’s Double Tree offers taste of Front Range

PLATTEVILLE – Fantasize for a moment that friends from Portland roll into town expecting you to provide them with an evening of entertainment.

You quickly decide a restaurant will be a lot safer than trying to cook for these Oregon foodies who just described a typical dinner at their house as

steelhead trout pit-roasted on a cedar plank, sauced with a blackberry Marsala and nestled on a morel mushroom pancake.

Hence, you fire off a long list of eateries that cover just about every degree on the culinary compass, from Northern Italian to Middle Eastern to

Southwestern. Heck, you proudly point out that these places not only serve the cuisine of some far-off place but also make you feel, with Disney-like

atmosphere, that you have actually traveled to that destination.

“Hey, we’ve already come a great distance, let’s eat at a place that serves up the local cuisine!” your visitors suggest, smug with their profound idea.

“OK,” you slowly reply, as your memory scrambles for some joint – any joint – that serves É uhhh É bighorn sheep tenderloin on a burning aspen log

with kinnikinnick sauce.

You’re stumped.

You can take these hypothetical friends to anywhere in the worldly world of food, except you can’t find them a steaming plate of hometown Northern

Front Range. Or can you?

I proffer that our region does have its own gastronomic niche. Assuming the basic definition of “local cuisine” is a historical development of recipes

based on the use of regionally available ingredients, one only has to go on a bit of a bucolic binge to find true Always Buy Colorado cooking.

In the likes of agricultural burgs such as Wellington, Severance, Ault, Eaton and Platteville, you’ll usually find a cafe, usually the only one in town,

that serves good-tasting, straight-forward, stick-to-your-ribs chow that is genuine Colorado. Granted, corporate America isn’t having a bidding war to

franchise these places, but talk about authenticity. As you drive away from these cafes, you tend to wince when you spot a still-valid bull and know

what deep-fried fate awaits him.

And heck, chances are not slim that when dining at these locales you could be sitting next to the native who raised the beef or dairy product or

vegetable or grain you are consuming. Your Oregon guests complain about the rib-eye being a little tough in here, and their mini van becomes the

victim of a tractor pull.

My wife, two young girls and I recently (this is reality now), for the first time, had dinner at Platteville’s Double Tree Restaurant and Lounge, and it is

a shining example of my premise.

This is Colorado hospitality at its finest. The meal was wholly satisfying, the service was right on with a healthy side dish of personality, and the

ambiance was, well, nothing a corporate restaurant could ever come close to duplicating.

Don’t let the simple cinder-block exterior and the U.S. Highway 85 frontage fool you. Inside is a small museum of homestead furniture, farming

artifacts, Western taxidermy, mannequins, barbed wire, barn wood, regional memorabilia and other oddities. I’m sure we stood out as first timers as I

struggled to keep my 3-year-old daughter seated; she wanted to explore every crammed nook of this “cool” place. The decorative highlight that we had

been told not to miss is a mounted two-headed calf above the bar. I later found out that this sorta cute Ripley’s Believe It or Not was a stillborn from

the farm owned by the Double Tree owners. Yet, all the rustic, quirky clutter is softened by big, comfortable dining booths dressed in the

quintessence of fine dining: White table cloths. It is a pleasing mix of signals.

Our waitress seemed to know quite a few people in the room, but that didn’t detract at all from the first-rate attentiveness she gave us. Even through

we were new guests with squirrely kids, she immediately put us at ease. You’re family here. Yet, I sensed that if I had become decidedly rude, or

began to whinny, she would have no problem straightening me back out. Just like family.

When I later talked to the owner, Shirlee Davis, she said that most of her employees have worked for her for at least 10 years. When you consider the

employee turnover most restaurants go through, this claim is almost as unique as the two-headed calf. And Davis is the first to give credit to her

tremendous staff as the reason for the Double Tree’s success.

As we progressed through the dinner courses, the quality of food definitely reflected a dedicated kitchen staff. This is not a place with a deep freeze

and a stack of microwaves. Food is prepared here. The steaks and prime rib are purchased only Colorado-fresh, and then cut and aged in-house. The

Rocky Mountain oysters, Colorado’s greatest culinary dare, are also a local acquisition. The dinner rolls, pastries, pies and ice cream are all made

from scratch. Produce is almost always fresh and, when in season, grown in Colorado.

Even through the Double Tree is usually very busy, typically serving about 400 plates of prime rib alone each week, our steaks were a perfect

medium-rare, and the rest of the plates were as nicely assembled as if we were the only guests that night.

With this much labor and love going into the food, service and ambiance, the prices are more than fair. Dinner entrees range from less than $10 up to

$13. This includes a rich soup (that was all the meal our 1-year old could handle), a meander through the salad bar, homemade rolls and a side dish of

mashed potatoes, fries, rice pilaf or linguine.

The not-so-secret formula to the Double Tree’s appeal is the hard work of Colorado native Shirlee Davis, who moved with her family to a Platteville

farm when she was only 2. She opened the Double Tree almost 28 years ago, and has been successful in the venture throughout, and likely will

remain so, because of her – and her staff’s – impassioned dedication.

PLATTEVILLE – Fantasize for a moment that friends from Portland roll into town expecting you to provide them with an evening of entertainment.

You quickly decide a restaurant will be a lot safer than trying to cook for these Oregon foodies who just described a typical dinner at their house as

steelhead trout pit-roasted on a cedar plank, sauced with a blackberry Marsala and nestled on a morel mushroom pancake.

Hence, you fire off a long list of eateries that cover just about every degree on the culinary compass, from Northern Italian to Middle Eastern to

Southwestern. Heck, you proudly point out that…

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