Elway's -- the original Elway's -- spawned this second location, which opened in January. The Ritz management, its F&B people and chef de cuisine Ben Davison all spent time poking around the kitchen and dining room of the Cherry Creek restaurant. In one of those quirks of synchronicity that I have come to see as completely de rigueur in Colorado's scene, Davison and Tyler Wiard (who became chef at the original Elway's two-and-a half years ago, after the departure of Charles Schwerd and who continued along the less-than-serious path that Schwerd cut in the beginning), had worked together at Mel's back in the day. A Colorado native, Davison later went east (doing time at both Le Bec Fin and the Striped Bass in Philly) before being tempted back to the mountains. And the menu that he and his crew cook downtown is a straight lift of Wiard's updated Elway's menu, with just a few minor derivations. Because the Ritz wasn't just after big John's name. It wanted the whole package -- food, folks and fun, to coin a phrase. But somewhere on the trip downtown, like an accident in packing, the fun got lost.
And you know what? Losing the fun at a place like Elway's is tantamount to losing the restaurant's soul.
Sure, the steaks at Elway's Downtown are good. But this is Denver; we've got good steaks all over the place. We've got good steaks and bad steaks and every kind of steak in between. And even when the service at Elway's Downtown is on its game, service alone isn't enough to put a place over the top.
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Consider The Palm. Provided you're rich and important (and sometimes, even when you're not), the service at The Palm is excellent. And I still don't like that place at all. I'd rather go to the Capital Grille, where the service is almost supernaturally talented and the steaks are good, too.
A goofy sense of humor was what set Elway's -- the original Elway's in Cherry Creek -- apart from the rest of the herd, so to speak. It was what made the hundred-dollar tabs tolerable and the crowds less annoying than they might've been under more staid or formal circumstances. And even though this new Elway's tried to make itself fun, it seems to have completely lost the sense of humor that is woven through every facet of the original Elway's experience.
Oh, well. It's not like I have a lot of cause to be hanging out at the Ritz-Carlton, anyhow. At least I can still enjoy the original Elway's.
Or The Corner Office, a great hotel restaurant that I revisit for this week's Second Helping. Check it out, and then check in. -- Jason Sheehan