Leadville’s Golden Burro Cafe & Lounge officially changed hands earlier this month. The new owners, Marcee and Dan Lundeen, are looking to the future while aiming to honor the past as they reinvent the historic diner which first opened in 1938.

The Lundeens closed on the property on April 14; renovations on the building started soon after with a demolition crew tearing out carpet the very next day. The renovations will take the form of a historic restoration project.

The Lundeens are currently working with the Colorado State Historical Register, the National Historical Register and Colorado Main Street Program to take the Golden Burro back in time to 1958, the designated “period of significance” for the building. The Golden Burro saw its last major renovation in 1958, and a clear color photo of the exterior from that year serves as a guide. Coincidentally, the existing bar was installed that same year.

Larry Lucas, an architect with Colorado Main Street, is assisting with the project as historical preservation consultant. “The Golden Burro has a fantastic marquee with neon lights and beautiful blue glass that had been painted over. [This renovation] is not modernizing. It’s blending the old with the new, paying respect to the old facade and how it was in 1958. It’s something to be proud of,” Lucas said. “This will be a good part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown Leadville.”

Not only will the exterior and interior decor change, major alterations are also coming to the restaurant’s menu. The Golden Burro’s new fare will be entirely plant-based, due to the Lundeens’ commitment to a menu free of animal products, with one possible exception.

“When our chef arrives we will get the menu set,” said Marcee Lundeen. “We are trying to decide on eggs or no eggs, not ready to say yet. We have an alternative, though, even if we decide on no eggs. We’re just not ready to say one way or the other.”

The couple is committed to a plant-based menu for both health and ethical reasons. Marcee Lundeen, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, experienced dramatic improvement in her own health when she changed to a plant-based diet. Dan Lundeen is passionate about the environmental sustainability of plant-based foods.

Marcee Lundeen said that the feedback from the Leadville community has mostly been positive with some negativity. “That’s okay,” she said. “I plan to win those people over with good food, service and value.”

To those who are hesitant, Marcee Lundeen offered this message: “If it tastes good, then people will enjoy eating here. Give it a try. It won’t kill you.”

The Lundeens’ focus for the restaurant will be centered around a good breakfast menu. The Golden Burro will still have a liquor license to serve cocktails from the bar. In the future, the Lundeens also plan to offer catering services and pastries.

Originally from Houston, Texas, both Lundeens are practicing attorneys who became full-time residents of Leadville last summer. Neither has any previous experience in the restaurant business.

When asked how they think the restaurant will do in a town like Leadville, Marcee Lundeen answered, “We’ve heard lots of people say that Leadville needs a real breakfast diner. We’re not trying to compete with any established businesses. There’s room for more. I don’t want to copy anyone.”

When skeptics question if a plant-based restaurant can survive in Lake County, Lundeen said her response is very straightforward. “Won’t know until we try,” she said.

The Lundeens hope to organize a soft opening at the end of May, with a possible public grand opening in the beginning of June. The hours of operation will be from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.  

The Golden Burro Cafe & Lounge is located at 710 Harrison Ave., Leadville. The restaurant will launch a new website and a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Visit the new Golden Burro Facebook page at https://facebook.com/goldenburropb/.

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