Most of us are familiar with the Hard Rock Café rock n roll themed restaurants, but did you know the original Hard Rock Café actually has real rock and heavy metal history? The original Hard Rock Café, located in the historic mining Town of Empire along U.S. Highway 40 just north of I-70, began serving hearty meals to hardrock miners back in 1934. The Hard Rock Cafe’s new proprietor, Jim Tibor from Keystone Resorts, continues the tradition of serving hearty meals to active customers. Although, miners have now been replaced with outdoor enthusiasts who make the restaurant their regular place to fuel up before/after their backcountry adventures or on their way to Winter Park and beyond. Their menu offer’s quality healthy breakfast and lunch favorites. Specialties include a delicious eggs Benedict served on homemade ciabatta, fluffy pancakes, and omelets (of course Coolsville Colorado locals favor the Western/Denver omelet).
The restaurant occupies a century-old building on the National Historic Register and the Hard Rock’s sun deck overlooks the beautiful valley and the small Town of Empire (population approximately 350). Even though, it may be difficult to imagine the Colorado Silver Boom days when the valley was packed with miners trying to make their fortunes before the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the collapse of silver prices, sitting in the restaurant one can feel the history and can appreciate the town’s preservation efforts.
The only shared connection between the original Hard Rock Café in Empire and the other Hard Rock Café that serves mediocre food and sells tourist t-shirts is the famous trade name infringement lawsuit. We’re all glad the Hard Rock International, Inc. lost their battle to muscle out our beloved original Hard Rock Café in Empire that predates them by decades. They ended up settling with the Town of Empire, who owns the restaurant and the building, by agreeing they could not advertise outside the state of Colorado.
So the next time you head up for a day in the backcountry on Jones Pass, Berthoud Pass, Butler Gulch, or just cruising through Empire on your way to Winter Park, make sure to plan a stop at the original Hard Rock Café for a fantastic breakfast or lunch.
Hard Rock Café
39° 45′ 37.15″ N, 105° 40′ 58.78″ W
18 East Park Avenue,
Empire, CO 80438
Hours: Daily 7am – 4pm
Interesting Mining Fact: The Henderson Mill specializes in copper and still remains in Empire. The mill is connected to their mine fifteen miles away by the world’s longest conveyor belt that passes underneath the Continental Divide through an old train tunnel.