TJ Armstrong, owner of Blu’s Restaurant in East Vail, approaches his menu in the same way he approaches a bottle of wine: without pretentiousness, allowing the diner to ultimately determine what tastes good and what has value.
“What’s historically wrong with wine has been this ridiculous sense of what’s good and what’s not so good and that somehow people aren’t qualified to determine that,” he says. “People are disenfranchised by all the hoopla.”
Armstrong said wine is meant to be enjoyed without the fear that you’ve spent too much money and without the concern that you are drinking the “right” wine based on someone else’s estimation.
“I’d like to apply that to the whole restaurant experience,” he says. “You know whether you’ve enjoyed something or not as a consumer.”
Since moving Blu’s to East Vail two years ago, Armstrong has endeavored to create a neighborhood restaurant, a place customers feel comfortable returning. The restaurant aims for quality and value, without any particular thematic goal to the menu, giving diners options that range in price and an ambiance that is welcoming, with unobstructed, rustic views of the valley.
“The intent is and has been historically to be eclectic, to offer choice at a reasonable price,” Armstrong says. “It would be my endgame that when people walked away from Blu’s, what they got for what they paid is perceived as value.”
To this end, chef Pete Millette has created a menu with a mix of signature entrees and new, seasonal treats, including a summer pizza featuring roasted veggies and portobello mushrooms with a balsamic reduction and an appealing ceviche that met with rave reviews at the Vail Farmers Market. Millette has also added a shrimp and crab etouffee, a Cajun-Creole dish that substitutes crab for the traditional crawfish.
The summer menu retains Blu’s award-winning pork green chili, savory meatloaf and gypsy schnitzel with potato gnocchi, as well as the customer-favorite roasted squash, a dish Armstrong said is satisfying both to vegans and meat-eaters.
“It’s vegetarian, gluten free, vegan,” he says. “It’s acorn squash with portobello mushrooms, garlic, basil, quinoa, and we serve it with an arugula salad. It’s been very popular with people who are of that dietary ilk, but surprisingly much broader based than that.”
Armstrong stressed that Blu’s location in East Vail is a departure from the crowds and bustle of Vail’s city center but not so far away as to be a burdensome trek.
“The beauty of where we live, to me, has always been, since I first experienced this, is this kind of Western hospitality, unconcerned with what you bring to the equation as far as pedigree,” he said. “I want a place that’s welcoming and feels like where we live.” •