The only thing that might beat the views at El Rancho is the history behind it! For far too long, many Interstate 70 travelers have known “El Rancho” as nothing more than the name of an exit in between Denver and Idaho Springs. Most assume it’s a small town or private ranch, but the truth is far more interesting. The exit is actually named after our iconic Colorado restaurant that sits just off of the interstate.
El Rancho was built in 1948 by the Jahnke family as a trading post along the Pony Express with a restaurant downstairs. El Rancho quickly became a favorite of both Coloradans and those just passing through. Story has it that President Dwight D. Eisenhower used to stop by El Rancho for Prime Rib after a day of hunting nearby. After becoming friendly with the owner Ike told him that he would name an exit on the planned Interstate 70 after the restaurant, but there would have to be a government entity on site. In 1956 there was a post office opened at the restaurant and El Rancho became the only exit in the United States named after a restaurant.
In 1953, the Jahnkes sold the building to Mildred and Ray Zipprich, Milwaukee, Wisconsin pie distributors, who operated it with their family until 1988 and made El Rancho one of the Front Range’s mainstays. After they sold El Rancho in 1988, the restaurant was owned by various families and was even boarded up at points until 2015, when the Vincent family renovated the historic restaurant as a brew pub. Today, the owners are restoring El Rancho’s former glory and honoring its rich history by making this a true gathering place for the Colorado community.
When El Rancho opened in 1954, the dining room accommodated a mere 72 guests. Today, El Rancho can serve more than 300 guests on the main floor dining room and bar, 27 in the private dining room and another 135 guests in the banquet rooms.
Families are again sitting by the same fireplace in the main El Rancho dining room where families have been gathering for decades. Instead of dropping off their mail, people now relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air in the outdoor beer garden that sits in the space once occupied by the post office. Perhaps most excitingly, The Aspen Room has been reopened for the first time in over 30 years. This speakeasy style bar sits below the main restaurant and is an ideal setting to sip a classic cocktail or take in a football game.
The updated El Rancho is dedicated to serving the community as a gathering place, preparing tasty meals, producing quality craft beer, and keeping Colorado great.
El Rancho is conveniently located approximately 18 minutes outside of Denver off of I-70 at the Evergreen Parkway exit
(or the El Rancho exit if you’re coming from the west).
We are located just behind the First Bank on the southwest corner just as you exit the highway.
Yes! Dogs are welcome on our patio overlooking the Continental Divide; so feel free to bring your furry friend!