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Mark smiled, however, as he sipped the coffee-colored Old Dillon Oatmeal Stout. "My kind of stout," he said. "Thick and creamy, with a strong roasted-barley flavor." Sweet George's Brown was malty and smooth. But our hands-down favorite was the Brew Brothers' Extra Pale Ale, a crisp, clean, Vienna-style brew that Reed and principal brewer John Androsky dry-hop using two kinds of hops.
The Dam owners understand beer, all right, but I was feeling somewhat smug as I dug into the fritters. "What does a Colorado boy know about conch?" I thought. More than you'd guess. Chef McKillop is a former Floridian who enjoys experimenting with the tastes of the Caribbean. For his fritters, he blends diced conch with scallions in a cornbread batter and deep-fries it. The result is a hushpuppy-like dumpling that immediately transported me to the fish camps of my youth. The Dijon sauce further emphasized the flavor of the sea, but the watermelon salsa was a bad match for the subtle conch.
100 Little Dam St.
Dillon, CO 80435
I approached the bread dip, too, with some trepidation; too many restaurants promise dishes made with the trendy Asiago cheese and instead offer some salty substitute. This dip, however, was as advertised, with the nutty flavor of the cheese set off nicely by sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and garlic. If only the "Hungry Mother bread" had been a tad more moist, I could have made a meal of this starter.
But we still had our entrees to go. We'd bypassed pub grub (burgers and buffalo bratwurst in homemade sauerkraut) in favor of more traditional dinner fare. Given McKillop's Caribbean emphasis, though, some of the offerings are far from traditional: jumbo prawns in a tequila-and-Asiago cream sauce over penne pasta, for instance, and rum-and-pepper-painted broiled salmon with mango/habanero sauce. We finally opted for the sesame-crusted, pan-seared yellowfin tuna ($16.95) and a "cowboy steak" served atop a horseradish potato pancake ($18.95).
I appreciate a chef who is willing to experiment, as McKillop does, but some experiments are bound to fail. The spinach-Asiago cheese salad that accompanied my tuna, for example, was served with an unpleasantly mouth-puckering pesto vinaigrette. And the fish itself, while a nice, well-cooked piece, was overwhelmed by its black-and-white-sesame-seed crust.
The most overwhelming thing about the steak was its size: "Sixteen ounces," our waitress reported. "I like to warn people." But the beef was tasty enough that we were happy to take the remainder home, although the potato pancake--which had the consistency of thick mush--would not have survived the trip.
But who needed the spuds, anyway? A growler of extra pale ale was all the company our doggie bag required.
Dillon Dam Brewery, 100 Little Dam Road, Dillon, 1-970-262-7777. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily, with full menu available until 10 p.m.
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