While out in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, I ran into an industry friend of mine from the Denver area and I told him that I had a three and a half hour layover at Denver International Airport and was thinking of taking a cab into the city to go to my all-time favorite burger joint, Duffy's Cherry Cricket. (Click here and here to read about earlier visits to the Cherry Cricket.) He told me, "Oh, man! You want a good burger, go to Elway's at the airport. They have a killer burger there!" I had noticed there was an Elway's Steakhouse in the United terminal (Terminal B) on my last half-dozen trips through Denver, and I was familiar with the Elway's Steakhouse in downtown Denver. When I got into Denver on a Sunday evening, I went to Elway's to have dinner, specifically a burger.
John Elway is the former quarterback for the Denver Broncos in the National Football League. He is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a two-time winning QB of the Super Bowl. Even before he retired from professional football in 1998, Elway has been somewhat of an entrepreneur investing in automobile dealerships, owning an Arena Football League team, and who is now the Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager for the Broncos. In 2004, he teamed with lawyer-turned-restaurateur Tim Schmidt to form a new restaurant called Elway's Colorado Steakhouse. The first Elway's opened in the Cherry Creek area of Denver in 2004.
Pictured right - Tim Schmidt and John Elway. (Photo courtesy Delish.com)
When Schmidt proposed the partnership to Elway, he told Elway that he wouldn't have to do much of anything other than lend his name and make a few appearances at the restaurant. But Elway didn't want to be an absentee owner. Much like his other businesses and during his playing days with the Broncos, he threw himself into learning about the day-to-day operations of running a restaurant. He helped with every last detail from meeting with people about the design of the floors and ceiling, to making recommendations on what types of food to serve.
A second Elway's Colorado Steakhouse opened in 2007 as part of the-then new Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Denver. A third Elway's opened in Vail in 2011 and the Elway's at Denver International opened in 2013.
It was around 5 p.m. when I flew into Denver. Since I wasn't slated to fly out to Moline until 8:30, I wasn't in any large hurry. And it was probably a good thing because Elway's was packed. There were groups of four, three and three waiting for a table to open up ahead of me to sit in the somewhat elegant dining room. The hostess said that I could eat at the bar if a seat was open. None were open. I waited a couple of minutes and a man seated at a small two-seater table near the railing in the bar area was getting ready to leave. The hostess pointed out that table to me and asked me if I would like to sit there. I said, "Sure!" She had the table cleared and cleaned, and a couple minutes later I was seated at Elway's looking at the menu.
The food served at Elway's is upscale and the prices reflect the quality of the items on the menu. Appetizer's start at just over $10 bucks with their beer-battered onion rings, to $14.50 for a grilled artichoke appetizer, to $21 for a lamb chop fondue.
Salads are big - not only in size, but in popularity - at Elway's. John Elway's signature salad consists of chopped iceberg lettuce mixed with a Green Goddess dressing, cherry tomatoes, yellow and red peppers, cucumbers, red onions, celery, hearts of palm, cheddar cheese and finished with a sherry vinaigrette dressing. They also had specialty salads such as an Ahi Tuna salad, an Asian chicken salad, and the Mediterranean salad that featured aaby arugula with feta cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, sun dried tomatoes, chick peas, Kalamata olives and red onions. Then it's all topped with a Greek yogurt vinaigrette, and finished with grilled chicken breast strips. That's a meal for two!
Steaks and prime rib rule the menu at Elway's, naturally. They also have a rack of lamb entrée, a 1/2 roasted chicken entrée, a slow-braised short rib entrée (with mash potatoes - I almost forgot about getting a burger to get that), and a number of seafood items to choose from. Sides such as au gratin potatoes, sautéed asparagus, mac and cheese, and Elway's own ratatouille were available at an extra cost.
The burgers at Elway's are all 7 ounces of beef. They have a Wagyu beef burger on the menu, as well as a mushroom burger with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese; a Colorado burger with green chili, Asadero cheese, and a fried egg; and their "signature" smash burger served with a yellow cheddar cheese. All the burgers come with a brioche bun.
My server at Elway's that evening was Brittney, a pleasant young woman who made sure that my pint glass of Odell Brewing Co. IPA was sufficiently filled during my visit. I had just finished my second pint when she came over to take my order. I got the bacon/cheddar burger and I asked Brittney if she could have the grill chef put some of the green chili and sautéed mushroom on top. She said that would be no problem. And even though I knew I probably wouldn't eat very many of them, I got a side of French fries, as well.
Now, this was quite the burger at Elway's. The burger was big and thick, covered with a healthy slice of cheddar cheese, then topped with the sautéed mushrooms and the green chili, and finished off with two thick-cut pieces of bacon. The crown of the bun towered over the burger after I finished putting some dill pickles, red onion slices and a tomato slice on top of everything.
The middle of the burger was a mild pink color - medium, just how I ordered it from Brittney. The outer core of the burger had a nice crispy edge and sort of a spicy flavor. And everything went very well with one another - the green chili, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, red onions and the thick cheddar cheese on the burger gave it a wonderful taste. One thing that really stood out was the tomato slice - I couldn't believe how fresh and tasty the tomatoes tasted that deep into winter. About the only thing wrong with the burger was that there was almost too much of the brioche bun. While the bun was light, fluffy and held together nicely, that large bun crown was too big. I was tearing pieces away from the bun to be able to finish the burger.
The fries were also pretty good - crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside. Brittney brought out a small plate with small bowls of mustard, ketchup and mayo. As a nod to my colleagues in Montreal and over in France, I ate some of the fries after dipping them in the mayo. They were tasty, but given the size of the burger, I could hardly eat only half of what I was brought.
Other than the brioche bun being too large for the burger, the only other problem I had - and it was more of an annoyance than anything - was being seated along the railing. People were walking past me not more than a couple feet from my table the whole time I was seated. It was sort of on a curve in the railing where people were using the walkway on the other side to get to and from a set of escalators. Like I said, it was more of an annoyance and probably not that big of one. But having people walking that close to the table - even with a low railing - was a minor bother while I was enjoying my meal.
My friend was spot on how he described the burger at Elway's. It was a great burger all the way around. Juicy, tasty, and the great additions of the green chili, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, the veggies - especially the tomato slices - and even the over-sized brioche bun all made it a very good burger. However, along with the bun being a little too big, and being seated along the rail near a high traffic area, the bill was, well, astronomical. But, then again, you're at an airport where you can go to one of a half-dozen airport bars/restaurants and get a burger that was nowhere near as good as the one I had at Elway's for just 15% less in price. If you've got the time when you're making a connecting flight and you would like a very good meal in DIA's Terminal 2, I'd wholly recommend Elway's.