Fred Shelton Boulder Legend

Fred Shelton operated several restaurants around the Boulder area including Fred’s Restaurant on the Pearl Street Mall in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Prior to that, Fred ran Fred’s Steakhouse in the main dining room of the Hotel Boulderado during the days prior to the major renovation and facelift that the Boulderado went through several years ago. Back in the 1960’s you could get a sirloin steak dinner from Fred’s steakhouse for $2.15, and Fred’s was famous for this bargain.

Many people who remember Fred also knew him as an entertainer. Whether it was at Fred’s Restaurant on the south side of the Pearl Street mall or later at Bart’s Restaurant in Louisville, CO

(photo courtesy of Silvia Pettem’s Book: “Only in Boulder”)

Back in the days of Fred’s Steakhouse in the Boulderado, the hotel was somewhat of a different place than it it today. Many of the guests were what I suppose we’d call long-term residents, and it certainly wasn’t the swanky place that it started out to be, and has eventually become again.

During those days, Shelton used a cartoon character called “Box Car Freddie” to advertise his restaurant. As the story goes, there was a woman from Texas, a “Mrs. Hanks” , known to wear large hats and being full of opinion she felt compelled to share, would give Fred a hard time about using such an image for his advertising. Apparently Hanks comments to Shelton was “This tramp character is not the sort of person one wishes to have patronizing the dining room”, , according to Ms Pettem’s book.

Given that the Boulderado in the 1960’s was the kind of place where guests were mostly permanent residents, known for sitting around the lobby staring at a solitary television after having dinner at Fred’s Steakhouse, some of which would come in for a free cup of hot water, flavored with ketchup and crackers, I’m guessing Box Car Freddie might have been just the kind of sort you might have actually seen there at the time.

I remember Fred’s restaurant on Pearl when he had a small circle where he would perform for his dining guests. He had a huge wall of hats behind him on your right as you entered the restaurant.

If I’m not mistaken it’s about where the current restaurant called Via Toscana is located now.

Over the years I lost track of Fred, and his restaurant had closed. Then we went to Bart’s Restaurant (now closed) on South Boulder Road with my kids in about 2002 or 2003 roughly, and there was Fred!

He wasn’t running a restaurant at the time, but rather, he was performing.

Here’s a quote from the Boulder Weekly archive written by Amy Taylor many years ago as she reviewed Bart’s Restaurant:

But the very best thing about eating at Bart’s is Fred Shelton.

He has tapes for sale on your way out the door, including a recording of kids songs, and he’s happy to chat about his music, the good old days, or anything else.

He’s truly a local treasure, and I was delighted to make his acquaintance.

Stop by on a Wednesday or Thursday night, order yourself a plate of simple American chow, and come with a song request in mind.


Zachary Epps, GRI, ABR, REALTOR®, Eco-Broker®, full-time RE/MAX professional, and author of

The Boulder Real Estate and Neighborhood Guide 

The Boulder Condo Guide 

The Home Buyer’s Handbook

Call, text, or email me today!… I’d seriously enjoy having the opportunity to talk to you about your plans if you’re moving, or if you know someone who is considering a move, and needs some straight answers.



3 Responses to “Fred Shelton Boulder Legend”

  1. Jan Hedges on December 26th, 2012 10:36 am

    When I was a teenager I worked for Fred at the Boulerado Hotel in his restaurant for the breakfast shift. He was a great boss and after the crowd had left he and his family would eat and invite us “kids” to sit with them. The Boulderado hotel was so different then and not as stuffy…miss those days….

  2. Jim olson on March 9th, 2017 6:31 pm

    I worked at freds, during my high school years. Late 60s early 70s.
    Later I used to play my guitar and sing, and at times back Fred up on bass.
    Good times

  3. Paul Hebron on January 10th, 2018 9:41 am

    I worked for Fred as his day manager at Fred’s Restaurant on the mall for several years in the late ’70’s. I was a kid at the time, with a little experience in the restaurant business and no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Fred helped change all that, helped me find a path in life that was right for me. He was a great boss and mentor, and a genuine friend, and someone I’ll always remember…

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