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Woodland Park's Country Lodge juxtaposes humble and highbrow




It would be like a Rodeway Inn having its own golf course, or a Motel 6 with a luxurious day spa: The Woodland Country Lodge's new rear patio bar just doesn't add up in that way. It's too ... swank.

I first viewed the "hidden gem" on a July 28 post on Woodland Park LOCAL's Facebook page, with comments attached like, "Absolutely beautiful!" and "I am stunned."

That's actually a great word for the build-out, which comprises part of the quarter-million dollars that new owner, and former Michigan-based printer, Mark Rabaut has tossed toward improvements.

To construct the expansive stone wrap-around — with a chest-high wall outlining the forested panorama of lower Ute Pass stretching to Pikes Peak — Rabaut had more than 1,000 yards of fill dirt dropped. Beyond a covered gazebo (with live music three nights a week) and seven-seat bar, decorative wrought-iron, high-top tables intermix with tall, elegant gas heaters, flames dancing dramatically skyward through long glass tubes. On Tuesday nights, lodge guests and locals circle around a large firepit area for sing-alongs with local musician Kim E. Cox.

The whole array is sexy and quaint at once: Woody P all dolled up, but still essentially itself. With plans for adding 40 more rooms and an indoor pub, Rabaut says he wants to be the "Broadmoor of Woodland Park."

But though there are plenty of stars to be seen from this spectacular setting, none will be those coveted five anytime soon, as the small menu is more backyard barbecue than bistro brilliance.

A grill-man works off two steel beasts next to the bar, while limited cooking also occurs at a tiny indoor kitchen area — except when it doesn't. Like when our Lodge Gourmet Vegetarian pizza ($15), a fibrous mix with creamy garlic sauce, arrives as virtually raw dough, so gummy that when held at its crust the remainder of the slice sagged flaccidly downward, like a dowsing rod that'd just found the mother lode. A requested re-cook still yielded underdone gooeyness incapable of being held.

The skill of minimalist cooking did come in handy with a pink-as-requested, six-ounce sirloin ($13.50), served with snappy grilled asparagus and a slightly al dente wild rice and mushroom pilaf — surprisingly good and herbaceous having come out of a pre-made bag from Sysco. The same source provided a serviceable but forgettable caramel- and chocolate-drizzled cheesecake ($5), the sole dessert option.

Grilled wings with a basic hot sauce dip ($6) are slightly mushy, as if steamed; basically bar food anywhere. The honey and lemon-pepper salmon ($12.50, with sides of more asparagus and decent rosemary-garlic potato cubes) tastes pretty fishy, like generic farm-raised whatnot with a sweet glaze. Again serviceable, not special. Better is the pretty unfuckupable kielbasa and vegetable skewers ($7), peppery and actually char-marked next to a grilled corn husk, paired with a malty BierWerks Helles pint ($4).

Rabaut's daughter Laura, a wonderful host to both man and dog (she got mine a treat and water), says Paradox and Ute Pass Brewing beers should follow at some point, making the beautiful back bar an even worthier destination for supporting local craft. Go easy on your food expectations, but the view and atmosphere are guaranteed to please, if not stupefy.

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