Elway's ready to fly at DIA today

Denver International Airport
Elway's at DIA starts serving this morning.
"I swore I'd never get in the restaurant business," John Elway told the crowd gathered for a private party last Thursday at the Elway's at DIA. Today, of course, the Hall of Famer has four restaurants: the original Elway's, which he opened with partner Tim Schmidt in Cherry Creek in 2004; Elway's at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver; an Elway's in Vail and now an almost 4,000-square-foot Elway's at the airport, which officially opens at the heart of Concourse B this morning -- right about the same time the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will take off on United's first direct flight from Denver to Tokyo, with a load of this state's movers-and-shakers. See also: - John Elway and Michael Hancock showering together and other tales from Elway's - Elway's, Udi's and Cru proposals for DIA approved - Best Steakhouse 2011: Elway's Cherry Creek But there's no more recognizable figure in Colorado than John Elway, and when DIA decided to give increased emphasis to Colorado-based concessions, his restaurant was a natural fit. "John Elway is synonymous with Denver, so Elway's DIA will give travelers a unique opportunity to experience the best Denver has to offer," says David Mosteller, the licensee (along with Dennis Deslongchamp) for the restaurant; Elway's Cherry Creek veterans Steve Kingsbury and Humberto Marquina are general manager and executive chef, respectively.

Construction on the Elway's at DIA -- which included a "no-corners-cut" build-out, says Elway, complete with luggage compartments under the booths and a massive kitchen to handle the 147-seat restaurant -- certainly took off more smoothly than tests of the Dreamliner: The inaugural flight to Japan was originally supposed to leave DIA at the end of March. But then, as Elway demonstrated when he was the Broncos quarterback, he's always had good timing.

Another example? This spring, the Transportation Security Administration determined that airport restaurants can start using real silverware, so long as the knives pass muster. Elway's showed five possibilities to the TSA, which approved one with a rounded tip. That means you'll be able to use a real knife to cut into a big, juicy, hand-cut, USDA prime steak at this Elway's, rather than resort to a dinky, much less dignified plastic model that would have cost the restaurant more than a buck a throw.

What else will you be able to eat at the Elway's at DIA? After today, when it will open in time for lunch, the new restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can have a long, leisurely meal -- giving the Colorado Rack of Lamb the time it deserves, for example -- or grab an Elway's Smash Burger to go. (And if you want to sleep on the plane, you can't go wrong with a Chicken-Fried Steak Burrito for breakfast; it's guaranteed to put you out for at least four hours, promises Elway's culinary director Tyler Wiard.)

There's a full bar, with 33 wines by the glass and 59 by the bottle, right by a display of Elway memorabilia -- and if you forgot to buy a present for the folks back home, you can always grab a $40 Elway's golf shirt or $20 hat.

In early 2012, when Denver approved the first of the new restaurants at the airport -- Udi's and Cru have already opened, with Root Down and Steve's Snappin' Dogs yet to come -- aviation manager Kim Day pointed out that "these new concessions, many of them local to Colorado, will give passengers a taste of Denver without leaving the airport." And maybe even a sighting of Elway himself, a silhouette as iconic in these parts as the Rocky Mountains.

"Elway's will be almost as universal as the Golden Arches," Mayor Michael Hancock promised at last week's party celebrating the restaurant.

But fair warning: While you won't need season tickets to get near this Elway's, you will need a boarding pass. Fortunately for the restaurateurs, 23 million travelers pass through Concourse B alone each year.

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