Next to the local mortuary, Mountain Shadows Restaurant sits in an old house under a sign that reads, “Where the Locals Eat.” Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week, the restaurant is known for its delicious, home cooked, and traditional breakfast dishes. According to Kasie Swain, the current owner, Mountain Shadows has remained open and under the same line of ownership since 1991.
Swain began as a hostess at Mountain Shadows in 1993 and has since worked her way up to the manager position. She has been manager for 20 years now.
“It’s kind of a Cinderella Story,” she said. She talks about every waitress’s dream of one day owning the restaurant they work at. Swain stands as part-owner alongside her son, Ben Zook. The two of them have worked to keep the same recipes as when the restaurant first opened.
The restaurant itself has a classic American diner aesthetic, though it also works with the structure of the old house to create an authentic homey feel. “It’s all family,” Swain said. The design of the restaurant allows it to have the familiarity of a home that could be anybody’s, but is actually everybody’s welcoming aesthetic that is strengthened by the dense number of regulars who sit sipping on hot pot coffee. From the old picture frames and cute quotes hung on the walls, to the antique lights and other trinkets on display, the restaurant remains like a house lived and worked in since its opening in 1991.
Steel tables sit in the outside front patio space, and more wooden tables fill the inside of the house. Upon walking into the restaurant, one is welcomed by a chorus of waiters and waitresses who individually welcome you and wish you a good morning, and already one feels at home.
“You kind of fall in love with the place,” Swain said, “it’s hard to accomplish that.” Sofia Haines, a junior at CC and a regular at the Mountain Shadows Restaurant, said, “Mountain Shadows is hands down my favorite place to go. The food is cheap as heck and really, really good. The coffee is strong, and the waitresses are all incredibly friendly women who are great at what they do. It’s always so comforting to stop by on a weekend. It’s very homey and welcoming.” Patrick Mahoney, a sophomore at CC, added, “The atmosphere is warm, and the front of the house service is always great.”
“[Here] you can have emotions at work, you don’t have to be inhuman,” Swain said as she touched on the way in which the Mountain Shadows Restaurant has strayed as far as possible from the corporate restaurant world. She highlighted the strong presence of the local community at the restaurant, which “tends to hide in the summertime” in response to the influx of tourists. The Mountain Shadow Restaurant welcomes locals from all corners of Colorado Springs—a city home to a wide variety of people—exposing the town’s more authentic side, truer than a hipster breakfast shop experience. “I’ve seen tables of church-going women with their fancy hats on weekends, sitting next to a table of a biker gang,” said Haines.
Swain was born and raised in Colorado Springs, so she serves the locals as one herself.serving the locals as a local herself, which includes a selection of cakes, pies, and their famous cinnamon roll, which made an appearance on the Food Network program, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”
Swain said the most popular and best tasting breakfast dish at Mountain Shadows Restaurant is “hands down” the breakfast burrito. Mahoney confirmed, “The breakfast burrito was advertised as their staple dish and it lived up to its reputation. The green chili topping is delicious and makes it a true rival to Kings Chef!” For lunch, however, Swain recommends the Rocky Mountain Roast Beef Sandwich, a dish that was also featured in the “Diners, Drive -Ins, and Dives” episode.
Although some may at first feel turned off by the daunting nature of the mortuary next door, the welcoming nature and family feel of the Mountain Shadow Restaurant offer a true local breakfast and lunch experience for everyone.