Monday, May 27, 2024 May 27, 2024
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Take a Trip to Al Biernat’s Colorado Vacation Home

Dallas restaurateur Al Biernat and his wife Jeannie take time to live the high life—at 10,600 feet, mind you—at their Colorado vacation home.
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photography by Gus Schmiege

Take a Trip to Al Biernat’s Colorado Vacation Home

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Local Restaurateur Al Biernat plays host to Dallas’ most prominent citizens at his upscale Oak Lawn Avenue steakhouse. Six nights a week, a bespoked Biernat greets all of his guests—whether Troy Aikman or just a regular joe—with a hearty handshake and a friendly greeting. But every couple of months, Al goes from “on the scene” to “off the grid” when he heads up—10,600 feet up—to his vacation home in Colorado.

When Al was 18, he gathered $300 and his skis and headed to Aspen. “I only bought a one-way ticket because I didn’t intend to go anywhere else. I fell in love with the mountains immediately,” he says. After moving to Texas, getting married to wife Jeannie, having three kids, and opening his namesake restaurant, Al made sure to make  yearly pilgrimages to Colorado. But he’d moved on from Aspen. “We rented places in Southwest Colorado for the last 15 years,” Al says. “Lots of Dallas people have homes up there in the South Fork area.”

Then about four and a half years ago, Jeannie was looking at properties online when she stumbled on a 30-acre listing a few miles outside Creede. She grabbed Al for a property visit, and elements that might have scared an Aspenite or a Beaver Creeker were the very things that appealed to them. “We liked the remoteness. We liked the wild, nobody-around aspect of it,” Jeannie explains. “We liked that it was tucked into the trees and nobody could see it. And we loved how high up it was. ”

When it came time to build, Jeannie and Al made the decision to start small. “I had read in magazines that a lot of people build their guest house first,” she says. “We figured that we’d go ahead with the guest house, get to know the land, and then figure out where to site the main house.”

 Despite starting small scale, building at 10,600 feet presented a number of unique challenges. Construction could take place in the summer only—“and summer literally starts at the end of June and ends in September,” Al says with a laugh. Just getting the materials to the building site was difficult. Everything had to be hauled up on the back of a small trailer—trucks couldn’t make the ascent. “The building costs double at an elevation like that,” he says. “And with the seasons so short, it took us two years.” 

Jeannie took on the role of project manager for the 1,000-square-foot cabin. And once it was finally completed, she also headed up the interior design efforts—with the help of her mother (and decorator), Doris Teel. Together, they shopped at market in Dallas, and in Colorado, they shopped at a store called Rare Things. “A girl from Dallas—Jenny Inge—owns it. Her parents come to the restaurant all the time,” Jeannie says.

Home accessories aside, the Biernats live a much simpler life in the mountains. They use solar generators. There’s no cell service. Forget television. All forms of entertainment become about the outdoors—whether that’s snowmobiling and snowboarding in the winter or hiking and rock climbing in the spring.

Nights are spent cooking, enjoying wine that Al has shuttled in from Dallas, and lounging by campfires. “There aren’t a lot of restaurants in the area, and a lot of them close completely in the winter,” Jeannie says. “The kitchen is kind of large for such a small house.”

“And we have really nice appliances,” Al adds. “It’s all off propane—even the refrigerator. But at night, once we shut off the generator, it’s lights out.”