Situated in the middle of one of the original 19th Century cattle runs from the Texas prairie to the Transcontinental Railroad, Denver has been a prime place for steak for over a century. John Elway played for the Denver Broncos from 1983 to 1998 and is currently the team’s General Manager, and is almost synonymous with the Mile High City. In 2008, Elway partnered with longtime friend Tim Schmidt and opened a steakhouse at the Ritz-Carlton Denver. zoomdune.com recently visited Elways’s for a weekday lunch, and the experience was fondly memorable.
After negotiating the circus of one way streets, bus, and bicycle lanes that mark the city center, the well-directed porte cochere at the Ritz-Carlton and complimentary valet parking for Elway’s patrons seems like an inviting oasis in a sea of chaos. Perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, but that’s certainly the feeling. The restaurant space is located just off the lobby and is recently remodeled in masculine, but not overbearing tones. There’s a comfortable lounge and generous seating in the bar with polished woods, plush leather, power outlets, and, of course, a live sports feed.
Arriving at 11:30, there wasn’t much activity, but the dining room was full within the next hour. Of course, dining at the Ritz-Carlton on a weekday afternoon one might expect a cadre of local business barons and industry heavy hitters, but they seemed interspersed with a number of holiday shoppers and other down-to-earth looking proletariats looking for a sumptuous midday meal. Everybody appeared comfortable and satisfied; plates coming out of the kitchen seemed to pleasantly delight even those who appeared to be veteran Elway’s diners.
There’s plenty on the lunch menu to appeal to the expense account crowd. Seafood lovers can open with a cocktail of shrimp, crab, or lobster, which comes out of the kitchen dramatically presented over steaming dry ice. The rest of the menu is steakhouse-predictable with lunch cuts of steaks and seafood with a sprinkling of other premium proteins served solo, in sandwiches, or atop salads. Standouts include the green chile grilled cheese and lobster club sandwiches, and gyros. Standout sides include crab fried rice and green chile potato salad. Leaner bison can be substituted in any of the burgers. The chef also creates three specials each week. The week of zoomdune.com’s visit the features were a patty melt with a bison patty, a poached pair salad with arugula and pomegranate, and a braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes, pearl onions, and gremolata.
The 8 oz New York Strip was nothing less than memorable. The rub used on the meat is proprietary, and comes to the restaurant prepackaged both for use in plates and for retail sale (it’s $5 for a 5 oz. tin). For those who love a well-seasoned steak (the New York Strip had the rub applied liberally, but not quite to the point of earning the descriptor “encrusted”), this is not to be missed. Elway’s has a professional butcher on staff, which allows the restaurant to provide cuts of beef that aren’t typically found, such as the bone in filet, bone in New York, and John Elway’s favorite cut, the bone in ribeye.
The dessert menu is high on whimsy and low on fuss. The snack cake classic Ding Dong is reimagined here alongside other satisfyingly simple favorites like banana pudding, cheese cake, chocolate cake, and a warm chocolate chip cookie. The Ding Dong is faithful to the original, from the exterior frosting to the moist cake and cream filling, served with a stylized tinfoil “wrapper”.
Elway’s Downtown at the Ritz-Carlton Denver is open 365 days a year for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast Monday – Friday 6:30 – 10; Lunch Monday – Friday 11 – 2; Dinner Monday – Saturday 5 – 10; Dinner Sunday 5 – 9. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 7 – 2. The Bar is open Sunday – Wednesday 9 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. Happy Hour Daily from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Reservations suggested via OpenTable or by calling 303-312-3107. Our warmest thanks offered to the Ritz-Carlton Denver for providing some meals in preparation for this article.