Welcome to the outlaw
Welcome to The Outlaw Restaurant, the oldest operating dining establishment in Ouray, where Ouray County’s mining and ranching heritage merge with the present.
The building in which you are standing was built between 1908 and 1910 on a lot purchased from the
City of Ouray in 1877 that originally housed a meat market and a dry goods store during Ouray’s rough
and tumble mining boom. The new Cresto & Martin building housed the Free Coinage Saloon until
Prohibition reached Colorado in 1916. During Prohibition, a fine gentlemen’s clothing store and tailor
shop moved in and occupied the space until the proprietor, Jimmie “M.J.” Canavan’s death in 1928.
In 1943, the Cresto & Martin Building was sold to Joe Bonatti, who operated Joe’s Pool Hall in the space
just to the south (or, as we call it, “uphill”) of where The Outlaw currently stands. Joe and his wife
Christina had met in Ouray but were both immigrants from the Tyrolean region of Northern Italy which,
at the time they arrived in Ouray, was still a part of Austro-Hungary. They brought a rich cultural
tradition to the area and became an influential family in Ouray’s history. Joe rented the building to Allen
Hopkins of Naturita and Frank Crane of Montrose, who opened the first cafe in this location. Shortly
thereafter, Dave Stone took over and the restaurant became known as The Gem City Cafe, which was one
of only three cafes serving the population of Ouray at the time. In 1946 a Rio Grande Trailways bus
broke loose and crashed through the front of the building, destroying everything in the restaurant,
including the original bar. After the restaurant was rebuilt in 1947, Joe Bonatti’s youngest son, Rudy
became proprietor of the cafe shortly after Joe’s death in 1949, the space was briefly leased to Homer
Novel who gave the restaurant a new name, The Pick Cafe & Bar. Novel’s management of The Pick was
short lived, but the name continued on, once again under the management of Rudy Bonatti and his brother Francis, for the next twenty years.
In 1969 George and Eleanor Verges became the proprietors of the restaurant. They remodeled the
building, replacing booths with tables and adding shake shingles signed by area miners and cowboys to
the interior walls, and changed the name to The Outlaw. George and Eleanor also displayed a hat
collection, one of which was donated by John Wayne during the filming of True Grit and which hangs above the bar to this day.
In 1972, the business was sold to Paul and Lois Klein. Paul and Lois were known for their hospitality and
for the intricate doll houses, built by Lois, which you can see on display at the Ouray County Historical
Museum just up the hill on 6th Avenue. Paul and Lois were greatly loved in the community and hosted
guests at The Outlaw until their deaths in 1987 and 1988.
Rudy Bonatti had continued to frequent The Outlaw throughout the years and his daughter, Chris, took
over management of the restaurant after the passing of the Kleins. Chris ran The Outlaw for the next two
decades, raising her own daughter in the family business and creating a restaurant with a reputation that is
known throughout the world. Chris valued tradition, keeping the menu as close as possible to the original
menu from 1969. We lost Rudy in September of 2008 but you can see a plaque dedicated to his memory just outside The Outlaw where he liked to sit and greet the passersby.
In 2009 Chris retired, selling The Outlaw Restaurant to Alison Choate. Alison continues to keep the
Outlaw tradition strong, maintaining the restaurant so many people love as it has always been. In 2012
she purchased the building as well, making her only the fourth owner since the City of Ouray sold the lots
to private development in 1877. She and her family work hard to keep the Outlaw Tradition alive!
Thank you for joining us! Don’t miss our collection of historical photos throughout the restaurant. We
hope your dining experience will be a highlight of your visit to Ouray.