Arriving at Black Hat Cattle Co. feels like cracking a rural Colorado secret. Twist up and out of the city hustle along narrow pine-lined Kerr Gulch or come in from the east via Bear Creek Canyon and land in the foothill hamlet of Kittredge near Evergreen, only about 10 miles from Morrison.

Back roads, cabins, and corralled ranches lead the way to a row of locally owned eateries and shops where longtime resident and restaurateur Dave Rodriguez has cultivated a timeless steakhouse experience.

Named for Rodriguez’s signature look, Black Hat Cattle Co. is cloaked in wild west charm and has collected awards from websites like OpenTable for its polished service since opening in 2004. Unassuming on the outside, the American frontier is alive and well inside with saddles, lassos, chaps, barbed wire, and a shaggy larger-than-life bison head watching over diners. Old-fashioned oil lanterns flicker across the horseshoe bar’s rich dark wood and George Strait croons overhead.

Most days you can find Rodriguez in the back wearing his black cowboy hat, meticulously trimming generous cuts of meat. Before opening Black Hat Cattle Co., he raised black angus beef in his home state of Montana and knows his way around a cow. The in-house butcher shop sources USDA grade choice and higher beef from a nationwide co-op comprised of more than 50 farmers and ranchers.

Black Hat steaks are wet aged onsite for a minimum of 21 days and cooked in an 1,800-degree broiler that produces a thin, charred crust to seal in natural juices. Popular grass-fed grain-finished cuts include a bone-in dry-aged marbled cowboy rib eye (market price), a beyond tender nine-ounce filet mignon ($52) and a classic New York strip ($43), all served with a homecooked side. The creamed corn, loaded baked potato, and JoJos—what Montanans call thick steak fry wedges—are best bets.

Begin your feast with traditional escargot ($14) in herbed butter or the famed blue crab cakes with chipotle sour cream ($21). Move on to the bubbly Gruyere house French onion soup ($11) or the Black Hat house salad ($9) with wild Montana huckleberry vinaigrette.

It’s an unspoken insult to order your steak above medium-rare at this carnivorous paradise. Wielding a serious half-pound steak knife, dig in, cut slow, and savor small rosy bites of clean beef flavor. Add a little surf to the turf with plump four-ounce lobster tails and delight in the sizzle of drawn butter warming over a candle flame.

After dinner, take your expertly shaken martini on a walk and browse the mini western museum scattered about the restaurant. Gander at the painting on the far wall of the owner with Willie Nelson back when the country star lived in town. And don’t miss the collection of local artist Bev Doolittle’s Native American Hidden Faces paintings.

The folk art decor ties the slowed down vibe and warm cowboy hospitality together into a memorable night out. The next time you’re craving a dose of western nostalgia and a hearty steak dinner, dip into Kittredge and tip your hat to Dave and his dedicated crew.

26295 Hill Top Dr., Kittredge, 303-670-0941

Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.