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Alys' Fireside Cafe (Closed)
606 Main St.
Walsenburg, CO

Cost: $$$ 26 Fine Dining & Steaks Smoking: No Smoking Mushroom Stroganoff:
26-Jul-03 1
When I spent the night in Walsenburg I did not expect to find much to eat, but little did I suspect there would be one of the best restaurants I have ever experienced. Such was the case with the Fireside Cafe. Being a Saturday night we were advised that reservations would be needed, and likely impossible to obtain, but by going late we were able to secure a place. The restaurant was not huge, but it was large enough to accommodate both large parties and a good number of smaller tables. The restaurant was modern and very comfortable, and had a casual atmosphere but fine dining decor and service. Tables were not cramped and the entire restaurant was non-smoking.

This restaurant, named after the owner/chef Alys (not "Aly," as some web sites indicate) is located in one of the storefronts in historic downtown Walsenburg, a city that seems dedicated to preserving its original character rather than allowing "suburbia" to take control. I would estimate there were about 30 tables inside, and all of them jam packed with people on this particular night. I think there was a good reason Alys' Fireside Cafe was so busy, since this type of food would be popular no matter where it was served.

The menu is somewhat limited--there were about eight items listed on a chalk board and that's it! If you dine late they will probably start running out of things. There was one vegetarian item was offered on the night I went. Nobody in my party ordered steak but this seems to be the specialty of the restaurant. I believe this is a good choice, since the local cattle in Colorado are raised on the best grass, water, and air in the U.S. My past experiences in Denver, anyway, would make me think the beef in Colorado could compete with anything that Texas or Oklahoma has to offer.

The one vegetarian item offered was Mushroom Stroganoff, and this is what I ordered. I cannot remember if this was the actual name of the item but I know it had a sauce that was of such high quality it was not only better than at any other restaurant I can remember (such as Mother's in Austin, Texas), but it was as good as any of my vague recollections of high end restaurants in Chicago and other cities.

Colorado is almost the perfect place for high end dining with beautiful scenery to enhance the occasion, and sometimes I think the atmosphere may cause the food to seem better than it actually is. In the case of Alys' Fireside Cafe, though, the food certainly stood on its own as some of the best I have ever eaten. Although I did not take specific notes of the appetizers and side dishes, they were of equal quality as the main dish.

The cost of the restaurant might be a problem for some people. I think it is a much better bargain than most upscale restaurants, and the prices are much lower than would be found in large cities. Alys came out and talked to us, as I assume she does to most or all of the patrons. You just can't get food and service like this in most restaurants at any cost.

I know when you're traveling on I-25 you'll be tempted to stop at such tourist meccas as Raton, Trinidad, or Pueblo, but I highly advise stopping in Walsenburg if at all possible to eat at Alys' Fireside Cafe. As far as I know Alys' does not require changing out of any tourist or travel attire you may have at the time. It does necessitate, though, taking enough time to really enjoy the food and allowing the chef to prepare it properly. At times a reservation will also be necessary. To me it was well worth it.

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