On a recent trip to Vail Colorado I had the opportunity for a condensed ‘meet and greet’ with several of the shining stars in Vail’s current dining landscape. Our culinary speed dating weekend left me with many impressions, all good, as well as some particular surprises and ‘ah ha’ moments. One of those was with Elway’s, a steakhouse bearing the attention-grabbing name of beloved former Denver Broncos quarterback and owner John Elway.
I realize steakhouses have come a long way since the moody, masculine, slab-of-beef–and-a-loaded-baked-potato chophouse of yesteryear but I was caught off guard, pleasantly, by the fresh and local approach that is the core of Elway’s’ focus.
Having opened less than a year ago in November 2011, this third Elway’s restaurant is well on the road to making its own mark servicing the prestigious ski town all year with Colorado-style hospitality and inspired cuisine.
Elway’s Executive Chef Shawn Cubberley
Chef Shawn examining the Olathe Sweet Corn to ensure top kernels are plump and not dehydrated.
We wandered through the pulsing Farmer’s Market crowd chatting with Chef Shawn as he scanned the landscape for produce that appealed. Shawn began his journey as a mere teen in New York. He’s wound his way through Chicago then Denver working with local culinary luminaries before beginning his ascent within Elway’s from Sous Chef to Executive Chef of their Vail venture.
His enthusiasm was palpable during my chat with him about Elway’s role in being a player with other local notables to put stellar cuisine on Vail’s roster of top reasons to visit. He’s a down to earth, cool guy who is not satisfied to merely have Elway’s be a good restaurant in a ski town.
Elway’s seeks to deliver a uniquely Colorado experience from the locally-focused, seasonal cuisine to easy hospitality all set in a comfortable, relaxed, chic environ. Based on my time with their staff they are well on their way to deliver.
Fresh Olathe sweet corn, green heirloom tomatoes, Colorado Palisades peaches, heirloom kale as well as freshly baked artisan bread were all items making their way into Chef Shawn’s bags. Elway’s regular restaurant supplier also focuses on local sourcing enabling a seasonally current aspect to the restaurant’s menu.
I sensed Chef Shawn embraces the challenge of building a seasonal menu by letting the ingredients take the lead and approaches the Farmer’s Market not with a list but an explorer’s eye toward uncovering the gems he knows await him.
When returning to the restaurant Sous Chef Justin La Capria perused the bag contents, wheels undoubtedly turning to transform our market expedition into a cohesive lunch.
Elway’s Executive Chef Shawn Cubberley and Sous Chef Justin LaCapria
It struck me as we dined that Elway’s has crafted a perfect melding of fresh, local, seasonal food with the best aspects of a traditional steakhouse we love. It is current, dynamic and certainly fun. Whether one visits the restaurant to bask on the tree-lined patio with one of the 7 $7 happy hour specials (can you guess John Elway’s jersey number?!), to enjoy one of Jim Lay’s fanciful cocktails or superior wine selections, or to hunker down for dinner, I feel sure they will find more than what they came for. Vail is no longer just for winter and Elway’s is far beyond ‘a good restaurant in a ski town’.
Elway’s: 174 East Gore Creek Drive. Vail CO. 81657. 970-754-7818 (click here for website/directions)