Down the Road: Lupita’s is open for summer, plus other Oak Creek gems
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a four-part series exploring the hidden gems when you head down the road in Routt County.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In addition to honoring America’s veterans and active soldiers, Memorial Day weekend in Oak Creek marks a special culinary event.
It is the time when Lawrence Jaconetta and his wife, Paula, fire up the grills and stock the bar at their beloved restaurant, Lupita’s. This opening weekend marks their 10th year in business, and the couple plans to offer weekly entertainment to celebrate.
The place has become a coveted go-to for locals and visitors alike, partly because it is only open for about three months of the year.
The rest of the time Jaconetta and his family retreat to their second home in Los Barriles, Mexico, near a white, sandy beach on the Baja peninsula.
“After 25 ski passes, I’m kind of done with the winters,” Jaconetta said.
The restaurant’s menu is also a crowd pleaser, offering up Mexican street food with an Asian twist. Instead of cheese, Jaconetta devised a sour cream mixed with sambal, a sweet chili sauce from Indonesia.
“We just do things a little differently,” he said,
He has also crafted several salsas customers generously smother over their tacos and burritos: a green tomatillo, a red sweet chili and an orange blend of carrots and habanero peppers. A purple salsa made from beets and chipotle, this reporter’s personal favorite, hasn’t arrived yet.
Jaconetta and his wife named the restaurant after their first daughter, who also turns 10 this year. Over the years, they have gradually renovated the place, adding a bar and lounge areas to what began as a hole-in-the wall shack off Main Street.
This summer, they plan to offer live music every Sunday, plus designer cocktails at the bar — eclectic concoctions like apple mojitos and tamarind margaritas.
The goal of all this, as Jaconetta explained, is to offer a place for people to enjoy the food and the atmosphere — to stick around for a bit before heading to or from the Flat Tops Wilderness Area or the Yampa River, as is the routine for many customers.
Speaking of sticking around, Oak Creek has more to offer than tasty tacos. This reporter took a tour around the town to help you craft the perfect summer trip.
What to eat
If Mexican cuisine isn’t music to the taste buds, other downtown eateries are cooking up a range of options, from barbecue ribs to vegan curry.
For breakfast, Kate’s Café and the Colorado Bar and Café are your two options. Both cook up their dishes from scratch, so you can’t go wrong with either. Kate’s is smaller and more of a coffee shop, with indoor and outdoor seating options. You can sometimes catch the employees baking fresh pastries in the kitchen — staples like cinnamon rolls and scones, plus more creative options like a sweet roll smothered in cherry icing.
The Colorado Bar and Café, as its name suggests, has a breakfast nook in the front and a lounge in the back. Chef Curt Montgomery, a longtime Oak Creek resident, whips up comfort food favorites like chicken and waffles and, later in the day, bacon-wrapped meatloaf.
The lounge area looks like it was personally designed for a man cave, decked with billiard tables, leather couches, and even some punching bags.
“It’s better than having people punch someone else,” Montgomery said.
The place also hosts an eight-ball pool tournament every Wednesday.
Both restaurants stay open through the evenings.
Across the street from the Colorado, Rachel’s Smokin BBQ Sauce is cooking up Southern savories for lunch and dinner. On the south end of town, the Circle R Gastropub — also owned by the Jaconetta family — has options for every dietary restriction with a menu that changes weekly.
The Silver Buckle Saloon won’t open until June as the owners finish up a renovation. It’s a pizza joint with craft beer, wine and cocktails, plus other pub food.
Where to shop
Treat any over-stuffed bellies with some retail therapy at the shops along Main Street.
Bonfiglio Drug sells a remedy for life’s ailments, from essential oil lotions to wine, beer and spirits. Starting Tuesday, customers can also enjoy frozen treats at the bar. Patti Shaffer, who has worked behind the counter for 10 years, looks forward to the summer months at the store.
“It’s fun to see the kids come in and the excitement they get from watching us make sodas from scratch,” she said.
A block away, the Railtown Gallery is a vintage and antique furniture store owned by Charli Hollingsherd. Her mother, Carolyn Hubble, hunts for old treasures estate and garage sales on the Front Range.
“I try to find eclectic things you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” she said.
One such item was a bronze sculpture of a woman curled into what appears to be a magician’s box, waiting to disappear.
Next door is Last Call, a florist, event planning and gift shop. A newly opened garden tent has rows of plants to accentuate any home or yard.
Spiro, a specialty liquor store, has the usual selection of alcoholic drinks, plus new wine offerings.
Where to play
Oak Creek is known as a gateway to the Flat Tops, but recreationists have to wait for snow to melt in the high country before making the trek. Until then, the nearby Stagecoach Reservoir has hiking and biking trails, plus plenty of opportunities for fishing and camping.
Mary Alice Page-Allen, Oak Creek’s town administrator and clerk, recommended some roads for biking. Those include Routt County Road 25, a gravel road stretching south from town.
Many road bikers also cruise the undulating hills of Routt County Road 27, which runs by the Twentymile Mine. For a less trafficked route, Page-Allen recommended taking Routt County Road 33 to 179, which heads toward Steamboat.
Where to indulge
If walking around a town with an elevation of more than 7,400 feet doesn’t get you high enough, a visit to the Blue Heron marijuana dispensary may help.
The small, boutique-style pot shop offers all-organic flower, and the concentrates are locally sourced, according to general manager Lucy Binning.
There you have it — a smorgasbord of Oak Creek activities for a variety of tastes and interests. Happy exploring!
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The founders of Bar-U-Eat, Sam Nelson and Jason Friday, see potential in a small, nondescript building just off U.S. Highway 40 near Hayden.