Editor’s note: This story first appeared in EAT magazine summer 2013.
Step into the friendly confines of Tavern on the Gore in Vail Village, and dozens of TVs draw your eyes around the dining room. Booths along the back wall sport individual screens dialed in to an array of sporting events. Coupled with a casual atmosphere, you might be tempted to throw the restaurant into the well-loved genre of sports bar.
But Tavern on the Gore isn’t a sports bar, said general manager John McKenzie.
“We want people to be comfortable,” he said. “But we have good food.”
Fantastically good food, as it turns out, starting with a raw bar with fresh oysters flown in daily and a hearty appetizer menu.
Try the fried green tomato bruschetta, with lightly battered fried green tomatoes; creamy mozzarella; sweet, diced tomatoes; fragrant, fresh basil and a tart balsamic reduction to tie it all together. The mix of warm and cool ingredients and textures is infinitely pleasant to the palate and perfectly paired with a Colorado craft brew from Tavern on the Gore’s extensive beer list.
Even the most well-traveled craft beer connoisseur will find something new on the list, such as the Bristol Beehive Honey Wheat, which complements the blueberry spinach salad for the second course. Sunflower seeds add salt and crunch to the dish, and the bitter bite of arugula is great with the hops in the beer. Julienned, smoked Gouda doles out flavor in small morsels without overpowering the delicate blueberries, and the salad is topped with a house-made balsamic vinaigrette.
Take it outside
Tavern on the Gore’s patio is the best place to spend a sunny summer day under large umbrellas overlooking Gore Creek. One of the restaurant’s guilt-free martinis should make the trip with you outside; at fewer than 110 calories and only $5 apiece, you can have a pair of them without fretting. The tropical martini features frothy light mango passion fruit sorbet, Smirnoff vodka, coconut water and pineapple juice, with the red glow of a maraschino cherry lurking in the bottom of the glass.
The entree list is where executive chef Jason Lahrman really stretches his muscles and distinguishes Tavern on the Gore from its casual contemporaries. The new Jamaican jerk chicken has a subtle spice that grows on the tongue with each bite, tempered with house-made pineapple salsa and citrus creme fraiche. Sidecars of jasmine rice and sauteed vegetables complete the dish.
For a bigger bite, order the bacon barbecue burger. Lahrman makes his own peppery barbecue sauce, which has a slight kick and is spread over lean buffalo meat and topped with shoestring onion rings, bacon and smoked Gouda. The seasoning on the accompanying French fries is addictive, and the plate is best with a spicy IPA from the beer menu.
End your meal with a sweet treat. Granny Smith apples wrapped in a flaky, golden crust and topped with bourbon caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream — big enough to share, but you’ll want to keep it all for yourself.
Lahrman makes his own peppery barbecue sauce, which has a slight kick.