After 23 years of operation the Elkhorn Cafe has closed its doors, as of Feb. 25, leaving another vacant spot on Boulder’s Main Street. This news comes just seven months after The River Pizza & Subs ended its 11-year operation.
What comes next at 204 N. Main Street – the former location of Ammen’s Drugstore – is undetermined. For now, there is sadness.
“I’m really unhappy it closed,” said Heritage Center Director Ellen Rae Thiel, who would eat at the cafe nearly every day, sharing a table with her fellow Heritage Center workers and volunteers. It’s the end of an era, she said, and particularly troubling considering how few places there are to eat in town. Mountain Good remains open, but hours are limited. Dave’s 32 oz. and The Windsor serve food, but the Elkhorn, Thiel said, had more of a family atmosphere. Through the years the Elkhorn was host to card games, fundraisers and holiday parties.
“I think what I will miss is the friendly, relaxed atmosphere,” Thiel said. “No matter who was cooking or waiting, they seemed to have time to stop and visit. Even when I was finished eating I felt comfortable just sitting and visiting for as long as I wanted. The Mountain Good and the two bars do not have that same kind of feeling.”
The Elkhorn officially opened in 2000 and was owned and managed by Kim and Rusty Guilio. Kim managed the restaurant until 2021. Since then there’s been two different managers, Jennifer Chapman and Misty Swenson. Chapman, who moved back to Bigfork in August of 2022, said she valued her time with her regulars.
“The community knew they could always count on the Elkhorn for events, which was so much fun,” Chapman told the Monitor recently. “It was a sweet little community of love and laughter. I will miss the women of the Heritage Center in particular. They stole my heart.”
Larrey Lattin, an Elkhorn regular, said he already misses the camaraderie of his coffee klatch. He and some of his closest friends have been meeting there for more than 20 years.
“We used to sit down each morning and solve all the world’s problems,” Lattin said. “We’d meet there about every morning, usually around 7 a.m. Now we don’t have a meeting place. We might have to drive to Basin.”
Lattin said what he will miss the most about the Elkhorn Cafe is the down-home atmosphere, and the quality of the food.
He has many fond memories of the Elkhorn Cafe, but one of the things he appreciates the most about the place was Kim, the original owner.
“We all loved her,” he said. “She was the best. Absolutely top-notch. She always knew what we wanted and how we liked it cooked. It was always exactly the way we wanted it.”
Lattin said Kim also was always fun to spar with. They’d always tease each other. This was especially the case with the late Bruce Gilmer.
“He always had his collar sticking up when he’d put his coat back on, and Kim would always fix it, and when she would, we’d always joke about how she was mothering us,” Lattin said. “We all had a lot of fun together.”
Lattin said it’s sad to see another restaurant close on Main Street, and he hopes to see the space revived in the near future. If it does reopen as a new restaurant, Lattin said he and his coffee klatch will gladly return.
“I have no doubt in my mind we’d be back there,” he said. “I’ve got nothing against the Mountain Good. It just doesn’t lend itself to group discussions.”
Rusty Giulio declined to comment on the closing of the Elkhorn and any future uses of the building.
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