During a trade show in Denver last fall, I was part of a group of six or seven guys who were invited to dinner at Shanahan's, an upscale steakhouse in the Denver Tech Center area. I'd seen Shanahan's a handful of times on trips to Denver in the past and I really wanted to give it a try. On a Friday night with one of my dealers, a colleague of mine, and a couple of other manufacturers, we went to Shanahan's for dinner.
The Shanahan behind Shanahan's is former Denver Broncos', two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season and the year before he was hired to coach the Washington Redskins he dove into the development of an upscale steakhouse. With restaurant veteran Marc Steron, the former general manager at Del Frisco's Steakhouse (click here to read Road Tips' entry on Del Frisco's in Denver), and local businessman Steve Mooney as partners, Shanahan helped develop the concept of a steakhouse that served only the finest cuts of meat and fresh seafood, offered a great wine list, and had a contemporary, yet classic steakhouse atmosphere.
Pictured right - Mike Shanahan when he was the head coach for the Denver Broncos. Photo courtesy ESPN.
Shanahan's opened on Christmas Eve of 2009, just before Shanahan was named the head coach for the Washington Redskins. They had a soft opening serving meals to family and friends of employees before they opened and it turned out that things were a little rocky once the general public started to come to the place. Within three weeks of opening, they had to revamp their menu; and less than two months after opening, they canned their original chef. Steron, as the managing partner, hired a new chef who righted the ship and steered Shanahan's on the course Shanahan envisioned for his eponymous restaurant which has become one of the top steakhouse and seafood restaurants in Denver. (In October of 2016, Shanahan's hired Chase Wilbanks - a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a former sous chef at Shanahan's- to be their executive chef.)
There were seven of us for dinner that evening with a 7:30 p.m. reservation. We met just inside the front door, next to a glass-enclosed case that showed replicas of the two Super Bowl trophies the Broncos won in 1998 and 1999, as well as two Super Bowl rings. The place was understandably packed and even though we had a reservation we were told it may be a 20 to 30 minute wait. The large circular bar in the center of the restaurant had no places to sit around it and it was just too cramped up front to hang out.
We went outside to the patio area and found some seats around a low table. We ordered up some drinks and waited for our table to open up. It wasn't more than about 20 minutes and we were seated in the dining room near the bar. It was loud in the place and difficult to hear from one end of the table to the other. A pleasant young lady by the name of Aireanne was our server and she took wonderful care of us that evening.
USDA Prime steaks, seafood flown in fresh each day, Colorado Prime lamb chops, free-range chicken dishes, and double-cut Kurobata (sort of the same thing for pork that Kobe and Wagyu is to beef) pork chops are the main items on the menu. Appetizers included Wagyu beef carpaccio, Dungeness crab cocktail, steamed mussels from Prince Edward Island, and a charred Spanish octopus.
After getting a couple orders of very tasty oysters-on-the-half shell (the sauce was made with Atomic Horseradish), I got the wedge salad to start out. It was a quarter of an iceberg wedge topped with what appeared to be a pickled slaw, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, real bacon crumbles. Interestingly, I had my choice of a Danish blue cheese or a Thousand Island dressing on the wedge. I'd never heard of putting Thousand Island on a wedge salad before, but it sounded interesting. Still, I went with the creamy Danish blue cheese dressing. It was an outstanding wedge salad.
We all got steak that evening. I got to pick out the wine from the extensive and impressive wine list Shanahan's offers and I picked out a meaty and hearty Catena Alta reserve malbec from Argentina. The wine was a hit with everyone at the table and I think we went through three bottles.
Shanahan's signature steak is a bone-in filet, but I went with the 12 ounce filet instead. All the beef at Shanahan's is corn-fed and aged for 40 days, then cooked in a 1500 degree (F) broiler to sear in the juices in the meat. I got mine peppered and also got a side of the brandy peppercorn sauce.
My steak was cooked to a perfect rare - the way I like my beef tenderloin filets. It had a crisp char to the outside with small chunks of black pepper on top of the steak. The filet was extremely tender and easy to cut. And the flavor was just exquisite. It had a bit of corn-fed marbling that gave it a wonderful taste and texture. This was a superb steak.
Shanahan's offers a number of sides that can be shared at the table. We got the sautéed mushrooms, au gratin potatoes, and the lobster mac and cheese to share amongst us. I didn't try the au gratin potatoes, but I did have the sautéed mushrooms with my steak and tried the lobster mac and cheese later on. I always seem to be disappointed in lobster mac and cheese and the one at Shanahan's didn't do anything to make me feel any different.
My dealer sat next to me and he got the 22 ounce bone-in ribeye steak. It was a hefty chunk of Prime USDA beef and covered well over half his plate. He said it was very flavorful and very tender.
Across from me, one of the guys who were there from the other manufacturer got the 12 ounce New York strip steak. The juice was running out of it when they brought it to the table and he said his mouth was watering just looking at it. He got his cooked medium with a pink center and he was very happy with that. There wasn't much complaining going on at the table.
We were having a good time and after dinner we eschewed the dessert and went straight to the Scotch. I ordered up a Balvanie 15-year that was a wonderful ending to a great meal.
The other manufacturer and I split the bill and it was definitely an expense-tab meal. Shanahan's acquitted themselves very well that evening in all phases of the dinner. The steaks were all excellent, the service was professional and friendly with our server also being a good sport with a good sense of humor, and while it was sort of loud in the place, it was still comfortable enough where you didn't feel like it was a stodgy, up-tight atmosphere in the restaurant. I'm glad I finally made it to Shanahan's, even if it did light up my credit card. (Photo courtesy Trip Advisor.)