February 10, 2004
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Exclamation Point restaurant hovers a quarter mile above Glenwood Springs, and from up there the views arc from Mount Sopris to the southeast, Red Mountain directly south, then west to South Canyon and Storm King Mountain. Farther out, the tan-colored Roan Plateau squares the scene 30 miles to the west.
Way down below Exclamation Point, and about two miles south, the Glenwood Springs High School football field looks like a tiny, green, oval throw rug, carefully placed not far from the Roaring Fork River.
Closer in, downtown Glenwood Springs is a microscopic checkerboard of anonymous rooftops, except for a few big buildings like the new Garfield County Jail, which stand above the rest.
“I think this will give a neat perspective for a lot of people,” said Exclamation Point restaurant manager Tom Regan as he scanned the 180-degree view. “For locals and tourists alike, it will show what a beautiful town we have, and it puts into perspective that we truly are a small town.”
Exclamation Point restaurant is perched at the top of the 4,300-foot Iron Mountain Tramway, which is scheduled to scoot visitors to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park starting in late April.
The restaurant is located in the Caverns’ new two-story, split-level, 9,400-square-foot welcome center on top of Iron Mountain. The only access to Exclamation Point will be via the tramway.
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“We just don’t have any parking up here,” Regan said, as he began a restaurant tour last week.
Regan dodged between busy construction workers who were painting, sanding, pounding and laying cultured stones for a two-sided fireplace.
The restaurant’s interior features a cultured rock wainscot, topped by walls of light tan stucco. The ceilings are 10 feet high, with black ceiling tiles and pop-in lights.
“All the tables are wood, and are custom made,” Regan said.
The floors are a dark, stamped concrete. “They are going to polish up real well,” Regan said.
Entering the main dining area, Regan pointed through a wall of south-facing windows and said, “I’ve dubbed this the Red Mountain Room. There’s Red Mountain.”
Exclamation Point has 3,000 square feet of dining in at least four areas, a 600-square-foot kitchen, a basement, and a 1,500-square-foot observation deck.
The Red Mountain Room seats about 40 people. As diners enter the room through the restaurant’s main door, the fireplace is straight ahead, with seating to the right and center, and a bar to the left. The southwest corner table has views from Mount Sopris to the Roan Cliffs, and is a prime spot.
“I’ve been trying to find a bad seat, and there isn’t one,” Regan said as he walked through the Red Mountain Room into the adjoining Winter Garden. Plopping down in a seat in the Winter Garden’s northeast corner, Regan said he thought this might be the worst seat. “But by golly, I think some people are going to like sitting here, looking at Sopris.”
The Winter Garden runs north and south along the restaurant’s east end, and seats 80. Garage-style doors will be lowered in the winter, and raised into the ceiling in the summer. “It’ll be warm and cozy in the winter, or cool and shady in the summer,” Regan said. “This is a great room to have an event.”
Doors in the Winter Garden open to a 3,000-square-foot deck that wraps around the restaurant’s east and south sides. There will be patio seating for cocktails and appetizers. “But we’ll serve meals here. We’re very user-friendly. We don’t believe in saying no to people,” Regan said.
The menu itself will include American dishes, seafood, pasta, salads and a lot of specials.
“I wanted us to be fairly eclectic, with some South American and island flavors,” said Regan.
He was kitchen manager at the 19th Street Diner for 10 years, and worked at other local restaurants for the past 25 years. “We’ll have lots of dinner specials. People can expect a little something new every time they come up here.”
The Winter Garden deck is also accessible at ground level, through a plaza on the welcome center’s north side.
“It’s really neat here to watch the weather patterns come through here. Sometimes the clouds are low and it’s like you’re in an airplane looking down on them,” Regan said.
Upstairs, the banquet room seats 80 to 100, and includes a room with a vanity mirror for brides who hold their weddings at Exclamation Point.
“One woman postponed her wedding from June to August to be married up here,” said assistant restaurant manager Dee Gwin. “We have already booked eight or 10 Christmas parties here.”
The L-shaped observation deck wraps around the restaurant’s second floor and is accessed through the banquet room. Mount Sopris serves as a backdrop at the deck’s southeast corner, where the two legs meet.
“People can get married right here,” Regan said. “Look at that view behind them. Talk about a photo opportunity.”
Regan stepped over electric extension cords and made his way back downstairs to the restaurant’s first floor, and the kitchen.
“After more than 20 years in the business, I’d never gotten to design my own kitchen,” Regan said as he entered the mostly empty room. This time, the design was all his.
“We installed the hood yesterday,” he said, pointing at the stainless steel exhaust system. The cooking line will be 13 feet long, large enough for four cooks. Wait staff will enter and exit through doors at each end of the kitchen.
“We’ll have a nice flow of traffic, and everything is centrally located. It’s medium sized, not so large you feel like you are running across a football field to get anything accomplished,” he said.
At this point, Regan is anticipating just one humorous challenge in managing the newest attraction in Glenwood Springs.
“People are asking, “How are you going to get people to ever leave?’ We’ll have people camped out on that deck who don’t want to leave.”