The Boulder Depot is nothing new. In fact, the building dates back to 1890 when it functioned as a train station at 14th and Canyon. But by the mid-1950s, train transportation had taken a back seat to the illustrious automobile, rendering this particular depot increasingly less useful. By 1973, the building was slated for demolition. That’s when one of Boulder’s founding families, the Jaycees, came to the rescue; by orchestrating community fundraising, they were able to purchase the building and move it to the PowWow Rodeo Grounds east of downtown. For decades, it functioned as an event space and concession stand, until the Roadhouse Hospitality Group proprietors, John and Dan Shipp, purchased it, moved it to its current digs at Pearl and 30th, and lovingly renovated the space to reflect both the depot’s history and its new life as a forward-thinking, Boulder-centric eatery.
While relatively small, The Boulder Depot space is impressively dynamic. The main level features nooks and crannies, dotted with local artists’ craftwork—like the iconic caged lights dangling above—and restored elements from the original depot, including sprawling walls of stone and, in a cheeky nod to the past, railroad tie tops on the bar’s beer taps. The small but mighty kitchen, meanwhile, tucks into the far corner, churning out thin-crust flatbreads, salads, apps, and burgers galore.
Downstairs, The Depot offers a bit of a surprise—a private dining space for 60 or so. With its own bar and an alcove for game-watching, its the perfect spot for a range of occasions. They’ve even been known to host anniversary parties for weddings that took place at The Depot in the “PowWow Era.” All along the walls on both levels, guests will see remembrances of the days of yore; from newspaper clippings of the Jaycees renovation in the ’70s to the more recent remodel, these moments in time anchor the history of The Depot that has never been—and never will be—forgotten.
Last—but certainly not least—is the umbrella-studded patio that wraps around the side of the restaurant. Near the entrance, guests can lounge in cozy couches with a cocktail and app, while tables and benches allow serious eaters room to dock their many plates and glasses. And while we love the strung lights that glow softly above the entire patio, one of our favorite features is the game corner. A fan of Jenga? How about cornhole? They’re waiting for you between your first and second pints.
While the Roadhouse Restaurant Group has been operating for almost two decades, this outpost is relatively new. That said, the team is trying to get the word out about their comforting Americana: food that is made with as much local product as possible, without getting in the way of the classics.
To wit, you’ll find a heap of longtime faves for brunch, lunch, and dinner at The Depot. While there is absolutely overlap between the brunch and lunch menus, the AM offerings include griddled and eggy goodness, too: Red Velvet Pancakes tempt alongside a braised short rib Burrito, frittatas, Benedicts, and mimosa-esque Izzy cocktails.
Come lunch, the savory side of the menu leads the way. If you’re aiming for a light midday snack, we’d settle on the Crispy Brussels Sprouts appetizer. Not a fan of the bulbous veggie? No worries. This crispy, crunchy, deep-fried plate of sweet-and-spicy sesame-glazed nuggets topped with goat cheese is irresistible and yet never filling. It’s kind of iconic, too. There are salads to tempt as well, naturally (our nod goes to the Pear Gorgonzola with salmon), and the usual culprits like Asian-Spiced Dry Rub Wings, a half hotel pan (seriously) of potato chip Nachos, and sammies like the Hot Pastrami. Some days, you just gotta have that luscious layered meat-and-Swiss combo with giardiniera on rye.
But let’s get real, folks. The Roadhouse Boulder Depot is nothing without its burgers. This is where the kitchen really shines—from the crispy bacon-lined BMA, to the Roadhouse capped with fork-tender short rib and paired with a peppery au jus, to the Zen Turkey with its tender patty and coterie of melty goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and zesty arugula. But there’s more: the Buddha toys with savory and sweet sesame while volleying the crunch of crispy wontons with hearty ‘shrooms, and the Southwest sizzles with a healthy helping of housemade green chile.
Entrées are available for the dinner set, rolling through American-styled BBQ Tacos, rib-eye, and pasta, and sides are as flavorfully inventive as the mains (double-fried Fries are a must, as is the Lemon-Parm Kale). But if you’re spending an inaugural meal at The Depot, save your appetite for a burger. Oh, and for dessert—the Seasonal S’mores Fondue is stupidly delicious, and a trip back to fond childhood days around a campfire.
Nothing pairs better with American fare than beer, and The Roadhouse Boulder Depot has it in spades. More than a dozen draft beers cover the gamut from light and refreshing to malty and serious. There are, of course, seasonal options available and rotating taps take advantage of the best of Colorado brewer one-offs.
Wines abound, too, if you’re more a fan of grapes than hops. And what’s great about their dozen-plus offerings is that each one is available by the glass. Red, white, or bubbly—you’re covered.
Last, but never least, a full bar means a serious cocktail menu. Classics, like the martini and mule, share mixological mastery with more whimsical concoctions; the Triple Espresso-tini is a must-try with its interplay of coconut, amaretto, and espresso vodka. Plus, coffee and booze in the same drink means it’s a catch any time of day.
If you haven’t ambled over to the new Roadhouse Boulder Depot, do yourself a favor and take a trip through history with a burger, a beer, and century-old memories. We’re beyond happy the forward-thinking Shipps have returned this important piece of history to the city—while plying us with delicious food and drink. That’s a treat we rarely enjoy, and are so very grateful for it.
You can find The Roadhouse Boulder Depot at 2366 Junction Place in Boulder, tucked behind the Hyatt on East Pearl (also near the RTD station). Read up on their menu, events, and history at roadhouseboulderdepot.com.
By Jeffrey Steen, Managing Editor