It seems obvious: the prime ingredient for a successful steakhouse ought to be, well, the steaks. Yet, carnivore-connoisseurs visiting even some of the most fabled local steak places will soon learn that assumption doesn’t hold. Rare is the steakhouse that serves consistently great truly artisan steaks.

Since opening in May 2005, Fred Brocklesby, owner-chef at the Tabeguache Steakhouse in Woodland Park, has never wavered in his commitment to what’s most important or in his source of exceptional beef: Ranch Foods Direct. As a result, he’s a favorite with the locals and continues to attract more diners from neighboring Colorado Springs.

“The focus here is on the steaks. I want people to have a good meal, yes, but I want them to have an excellent steak. When you walk into a steakhouse, you would think the focus would be on the steak, but that’s not necessarily the case. Even popular places use sauces to cover up the flavor. When people eat here, they say, ‘That is good steak. What is your seasoning?’ And I say, ‘Salt and pepper.’”

After such a long and happy association with Ranch Foods Direct, it’s not surprising Tabeguache is one of the first restaurants to partner on the store’s new Pay Forward card program. Unveiled late last year, it works like this: when a cardholder shops, a small percentage of what they spend goes to a local charity. Likewise, the same thing occurs when they eat out at participating restaurants.

“If it brings needed attention to a local nonprofit organization, great, I’m there,” Fred says. In particular, he’s a fan of the Fostering Hope Foundation, which helps support foster families and does it with minimal fanfare.

“It’s near and dear to me,” Fred says. “I’ve known several foster parents, and I know how they put themselves out to help raise these children.”

Any cardholder dining at Tabeguache receives a free creme brulee dessert when they order a Callicrate Beef item from the menu. “It’s a nice light dessert that you can’t find just anywhere, because a lot goes into making it,” Fred explains. “I only use eggs from Wisdom Farm that I buy from Ranch Foods Direct.”

In addition to Tabeguache, Jake & Telly’s Greek Taverna in Old Colorado City and McCabe’s Tavern on Tejon have agreed to participate in the Pay Forward program. The cardholder special at Jake & Telly’s is a complimentary stuffed grapeleaf appetizer; at Irish pub McCabe’s, it’s a dish of bread pudding.

Valentine’s Day is the biggest day of the year in the restaurant biz, and Fred plans to offer a special surf-and-turf entree from Friday through Tuesday of Valentine’s week. He’s been taking reservations since last year. “My wife (Gail) and I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day together at our favorite restaurant,” he jokes. (Daughters Shilo and Shea will also help out and are zealous advocates of healthy food.)

Except for a wider selection of upscale wines, not much has changed since Fred opened. The menu is still steakhouse classic; the atmosphere, mountain lodge-casual. And diners can count on a truly worthy steak. “If you want to be successful in business, you can’t look at down-grading. I can’t see taking that step back,” he says.

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