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5/13/2004

25 in Allenspark

By Candice Ferrette
The Daily Times-Call

ALLENSPARK — After dinner at the Fawn Brook Inn, diners usually leave feeling as if they’ve just attended a dinner party at a private home.

In a sense, they did.

Mieke and Hermann Groicher, owners of the upscale European restaurant, actually live upstairs.

This year, they mark their 25th year as owners of this Allenspark gem. With only 11 tables, the restaurant’s three intimate dining rooms are furnished with antiques; its tables are topped with crisp white linens.

“You see people come in and you know exactly what they are going to have for dinner,” Mieke said. “They always say they’ll try something different, but in the end, they wind up having their favorite dish anyway.”

The Groichers raised their two grown children, neither of whom is in the restaurant business, in the 2,500-square foot apartment above their thriving mountain business.

They have helped shape the Allenspark business community with decadent food and a warm atmosphere.

“Through their wonderful restaurant they have become an asset to the community,” said Beck Osmun co-owner of Crystal Spring cabins in Allenspark. “All these years, they’ve been here with their friendship, their faces and their wonderful business.”

Built in 1927, the green, two-story structure was originally a general store. Since, the structure has been a bathhouse, a hunting lodge and several restaurants.

When the Groichers bought the place in 1979 with their friends, Jim and Lucile Morehouse, who have since sold their interest, the Fawn Brook Inn was a family restaurant serving all-American fare like hamburgers and hot dogs.

While the Groichers kept the old restaurant’s name, they had different taste when it came to food. Having both been raised in Europe — Hermann from Austria and Mieke from Holland — fine gourmet cuisine was their passion.

Today, the fare is “classic French continental” cuisine, featuring entrees such as roasted duckling, rack of lamb and shrimp provencale.

Hermann, the chef, went to cooking school in the French part of Switzerland, though he worked as a chef in various kitchens from the United Kingdom to Texas.

Before buying the Fawn Brook, Hermann was a chef at the Greenbriar restaurant in Boulder for 11 years while Mieke worked as a registered nurse.

The Groicher’s European upbringing has influenced the pace that they serve their customers — slow and with care. A table for two typically winds up staying for two hours.

“People drive a long time to get here.” Mieke said. “We do things slower, and that’s the way we want it.”

For their loyal customers, some who have been visiting the restaurant since the day it opened, the way the Groichers run their restaurants doesn’t seem to be a problem.

The Siegel family has frequented the restaurant for 25 years. Each summer they make a trip to Colorado from their home in Des Moines, Iowa, staying in and around the Estes Park area.

“If we are there a week, then we eat there (at the Fawn Brook) for a week,” said Sam Siegel, 84. “We are very touched by those people,” Siegel added. He brings his children and grandchildren there.

Reservations are highly recommended, particularly during the summer when the restaurant is busiest.

“The hardest thing for me to do is to turn people away,” Mieke said.