Gather ’round at Vesta.

People often ask us for our “Best of Denver” restaurant choices, which is hard to answer. There are so many good places, and it varies greatly by price, cuisine, service, etc. Some of our absolutely fave places are inexpensive mom ‘n pop spots scattered in less swank neighborhoods:  Saigon Bowl, Queen of Sheba, Little India’s Lunch Buffet to name a few. But we now have at least one swank place to share: Vesta.

Vesta is no newcomer to the Denver dining scene – it opened in 1997 when LoDo was still mostly rough and tumble and when its owner, Josh Wolkon was just 25-years-old. Wolkon also owns Ace Eat Serve and Steubens. Known then, and for years since, as “Vesta Dipping Grill” they wowed the local dining scene with grilled meats and a wide selection of accompanying dipping sauces. After 20 years, the space and the menu has undergone a simplifying renovation. The sauces are still available, but on the side upon request. Now known simply as Vesta, Wolkon and new, Colorado native Executive Chef Nicholas Kayser want the food prep and ingredients to shine on their own. Some of those who came to count on the food/sauce pairings were a bit put off while others discovered the delicious flavors that really hadn’t needed to be augmented. On a recent visit, we were blown away by their American gourmet cuisine. Only rarely do we find every single thing we try to be outstanding. Some things may be great, or good or just passable but Vesta was a wonderful exception.

Here’s what we enjoyed…

Bread Plate ($5): Three kinds of craft breads – two in-house (Ale Pumpernickel, Duck Fat Brioche) and one Sourdough from Grateful Bread; accompanied by four spreads: meaty-rich whipped lardo (seasoned pork back fat), herbed butter, honeycomb and buttery warm garlic cloves in olive oil. We devoured this plate, almost filling up before the Entrée Plates arrived!
Char Siu Pork Belly ($3): a mouth-watering, tender porky tidbit, not to miss.
Colorado Mixed Beets ($10): a beautiful array of beets, micro greens, hazelnuts, ricotta dollops… Stunningly delicious.
Lobster Cioppino ($34): Perfectly prepared seafood (mussels, clams, lobster, shrimp) encircled by a rich saffron broth. A chunk of hearty bread grilled and dipped in a clinging saffron rouille traditionally served with seafood, was perfect for mopping.
Colorado Rack of Lamb ($35): Served with a lavender and herb spaetzle atop a bed of fennel, mint and
black mission fig gastrique, the grilled lamb was succulent, properly and simply spiced with a side of tzatziki sauce.
Dessert:  While you can order the desserts individually or in a group of three, go for the platter of all five! The artful extravaganza of smaller portions of a tropical fruit and coconut mini-tart, a chocolate boat filled with housemade dippin’ dots, warm Sweet Potato Beignets, a semi-freddo garnished with chocolate, Nitro Chilled Kettle Caramel Popcorn are a fun and flavorful way to end your meal.
White Sangria ($10): One of the most pristine cocktails we’ve seen, it contained Tariquet Classic, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Colorado’s own Leopold Bros. orange liqueur and seasonal fruit.

Beer choice: A modest but adequate array of local crafts and seasonal brews; we enjoyed the “Collaboration not Litigation” seasonal ale blend crafted in harmony between Avery Brewing and a California brewery. All nicely priced at $6.

Wine Choice: A Bordeaux was offered to accompany both the Lamb and Cioppino; a nice choice for a red. The Euro-centric wine list is impressive, with a few New World options tossed in and only one (1!) Colorado option. Sigh.

Note: They offer multiple Barrel-aged Cocktails made with Colorado Distilled Spirits from the likes of Leopold Bros., Woody Creek and Peach Street.

Unique menu offerings we passed this time:

  • Housemade charcuterie
  • Charred baby octopus
  • 38 oz Steak, with side veggies, is enough to feed a table of four! $90

Atmosphere: Upscale Casual; patrons arrive in jeans or suits. Servers are dressed in jeans and nice shirts. Low lighting and simple original red brick walls provide a warm backdrop for the food and the company you keep at the table.

Service: We have never experienced a level of service like we did at Vesta. Layers of staff attend to every need including the person who brings/refills water, the expediter who brings you your food and explains each dish but also your wait person who acts as your main contact person. Because of the others, your wait person is able to spend more time at each table, answering questions, offering information and suggestions. And they are able to get around to more tables – smart! While to some, the number of people you are dealing with may feel hovering, it was all handled so beautifully, subtly and politely that we merely felt pampered and well-attended.

Vesta is located at 1822 Blake Street in Downtown Denver. 

Parking can be tricky in this part of downtown. Avoid that mess and get yourself a Lyft  – Use our exclusive code, IGTD2016 with the Lyft App for a $50 credit toward your first rides. For new users only. 

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