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Two Denver transplants are breathing new life into the sleepy South Fork social landscape. The southern Colorado hamlet—population 335-ish—welcomed the Gaslamp Tavern on Halloween 2020. The pub pulsates from a restored log cabin, previously a fly-fishing shop, along Highway 160 and is swiftly carving a name with its welcome-one-and-all community vibe, Colorado-born beer taps, and far-reaching wine lists.
Migrating from the city for gentler-paced mountain living, Catherine Olah and partner Tyler Wilburn are Denver hospitality vets—she a former bartender at Kevin Taylor Restaurant and a BookBar wine buyer, he a brewer for Flying Dog and Breckenridge Brewery. The couple landed on South Fork for its easy access to rafting and skiing. Gaslamp Tavern sits along a busy artery for travelers on their way to Wolf Creek Ski Area, Pagosa’s famed hot springs, and charming silver boomtown Creede.
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It’s easy to miss the modest tavern, as it appears to be part of neighboring Lazy Bear Cabins at first glance. Ease into the gravel parking lot and mosey up the pine porch past the signature glowing gas lamps—paying homage to Rio Grande County’s rich mining roots. Belly up to the polished wood bar for a Black Cherry Gose ($5) from Durango’s Ska Brewing Company or settle into the rocking chair with a glass of pinot from the South of France ($9).
Get to know the friendly regulars, catch the game on the largest TV in South Fork (yes, really), play Jenga and hum along to the Grateful Dead, or just stare out at the solitude that comes with nearly two million acres of San Juan and Rio Grande national forest. Olah and Wilburn are adamant about supporting small Colorado businesses and have put together simple meat and cheese boards ($12) and appetizers of marinated olives ($4) and truffle-rosemary roasted nuts ($4), pulling from purveyors that include Creede Olive Oil Co., Haystack Mountain Creamery, the Truffle Cheese Shop, and others. Olah also showcases a new Colorado wine each month.
Big summer plans are in the works with weekend food trucks and live music, an outside bar flanked by fire pits, and a wine club.
If you go: The Gaslamp Tavern is open Wednesday–Sunday, 3–11 p.m.; 1 Browns Dr., South Fork, 719-657-7419