Jimmy Buffet wrote a song about a cheeseburger in paradise, but he never tasted the flavor of the beef from cows raised in an unincorporated ranching community in northwest Colorado, at least that anyone here knows of.
Sand Mountain Cattle Company is raising a growing herd of Red Angus cattle on 7,000 acres including the rich Elk River Valley bottom land. Owners Doug and Adele Carlson and their two sons Danny and Kelly and their families produce a range of beef products for Steamboat Springs area restaurants, including the centerpiece of the sought-after Sand Mountain Cattle hamburger.
Their premium cattle are lovingly raised the all-natural way in vast pastoral fields along County Road 129 here in Clark. They are “grass fed and finished” on native Colorado grasses and forages without any chemicals or animal by-products, the way it should be.
All of their cattle are ‘age and source verified’ (i.e., well bred) and Danny, Kelly and Doug take turns getting up every 4 hours during calving season to head out to the barn to make sure “everything is in order”. They are expecting almost 300 calves to arrive this spring which tells you something about the virility of their stock.
Clark, Colorado itself is worthy of mention as a proud outpost town, midway between Steamboat Springs and the Wyoming line. This alpine community thrives along the western slope of the continental divide way up in the Rockies at an elevation of 7,000 feet. These conditions provide a heavenly destination for tourists, and a home for SMCC’s well-loved, grass-fed cows.
The town’s only store, aptly the Clark Store, is an old-fashioned general store that serves as the nerve center and the community’s cultural heart. Here is one place where Sand Mountain Cattle’s heavenly hamburgers are served in a true paradise, from the grill at the back of the store. The ‘American Burger’ is only one of the options on the menu, but it is clearly the best one.
Incidentally, the Clark Store makes world class buns, baked from scratch with special flour. Really! Heck, the cows are raised right outside the window, and that’s picturesque Sand Mountain in the distance behind them, usually snow-covered into July.
Get the picture? Sort of an ideal farm-to-table deal with tables at the edge of the farm. The future beef cows themselves are part of the view from the Clark Store making them easy to inspect while you wait for your hamburger to be prepared by Jim the chef / manager of the store or his sidekick, Diego.
The Clark Store is also where locals come for mail, alcoholic beverages, coffee, news and gossip. If the store doesn’t carry it, it’s a 20-mile drive one way into town. People from out of town think it’s quaint. Norman Rockwell would surely see the potential here.
Until you taste a Sand Mountain Cattle Company / Clark Store hamburger, you just haven’t lived. With all of this fresh Colorado air and wholesomeness cooked right in, there isn’t a better one anywhere. Sure, you can take a motorboat to Cabbage Key in Florida (supposed home of ‘cheeseburger in paradise’) or get off I-95 in New Haven, Connecticut to dine at Louis’ Lunch for their vertically cooked hamburgers—but I can tell you from personal experience that none of these burgers compare in taste to what Sand Mountain Cattle Company produces.
To enjoy one of their hamburgers at The Clark Store is reason enough to make the trip to Clark, Colorado out on the road less traveled. There is also some dramatic scenery, a Relais & Chateaux affiliated guest ranch, Orvis-endorsed fly fishing, awesome skiing in wintertime–and some fascinating characters who all call Clark their home. Bon Apetit!
© Copyright 2017 Brooks Bradbury / BrooksLooks