Turntable back on track — iconic Minturn restaurant reopens | VailDaily.com

Turntable back on track — iconic Minturn restaurant reopens

John LaConte
jlaconte@vaildaily.com

Elvis has left the building.

The Boo's Burrito, however, and the model train circling the dining room are still there.

The Turntable Restaurant in Minturn reopened this month after being closed for much of 2016 and 2017, following former manager Darla Goodell's death in 2015. The new owners — Mike Dennis, Ryan Thompson and Steve Solomon, of the Westside Cafe in West Vail — inherited not only the building when they took it over last fall, but everything in it. After an extensive remodel, the place is nearly unrecognizable, except for the model train track. Co-owner Thompson said the train was one of the most frequently asked about Turntable artifacts during the remodel.

"I think we'd be excommunicated if we didn't keep that train going around the dining room," Thompson said.

Another question was about the name itself. The Turntable sits on top of an actual turntable, or spinning piece of railroad track used to turn trains around so they could head back in the same direction.

"It's such a unique location and an iconic name, we knew we had to keep it," Thompson said.

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The menu details the namesake and — while it's much shorter now, with bigger text — also contains a few items familiar to the old restaurant, including the Boo's Burrito and it's offspring, the Baby Boo. The new version is every bit as good as the original, with the green pork chili it's smothered in tasting just the same. Co-owner Dennis lived in Minturn for a number of years and got to know the old restaurant well. In recreating the Boos Burrito, Dennis knew what he was doing.

"He's had more than a few Boo Burritos in his day," Thompson said.

COMFORTABLE AND CLEAN

There's a big new sign on the outside of the restaurant, sending a signal to its former patrons that some changes had taken place inside. But nothing can prepare you for how different it is.

When I visited on Sunday, I found myself in a bit of a shock walking through the door with my wife and kids. There had been so much stuff — Elvis, Denver Broncos, James Dean and Betty Boop memorabilia — in the Turntable, it's hard to image it any other way. The new layout is cleaner, much less cluttered and more modern. The wooden tables and booths are simple and elegant, and the windows no longer have anything blocking them, allowing much more natural light into the building. Where the side dining room used to be is now a bar, with skylights above it allowing even more light into the room.

As soon as I noticed there was a full bar with liquor, I thought "Of course, being the Westside Cafe guys' new place, I'm sure they must have a good bloody mary here."

For the first 30 seconds or so, my mind rejected the change. I found myself missing Darla and all of her stuff.

But then I saw the man who hopes to become the new Darla, Brad Dippy. Dippy is a familiar face in the valley, you may recognize him from e|town or the Tavern on the Square. He's got a great smile and a friendly demeanor and made us feel welcome right away.

The model train was not circling the track, but it was obvious great care had been taken in preserving it. Dippy assured me it would be up and running soon.

Seeing the menu made me nostalgic once again — I missed the old courier font and worn pages, with the asides about the Lovato family and others. But there's something about a really clean place that makes you feel comfortable, especially with kids. My son put the corner of the menu in his mouth, later in the meal my daughter would pick up some scrambled eggs off the wooden-booth seat and eat them. Neither seemed to bother my wife, who is usually pretty sensitive about germs and such. The cleanliness of the place had her feeling comfortable, as well.

I ordered a Boo's Burrito and smiled at the fact that the Baby Boo was on the menu, as well. The prices are about the same, with the Baby Boo coming in a few dollars less than its father. A familiar experience for me at the former Turntable was ordering the Boo, not quite finishing it and wishing I would have gotten the Baby Boo instead. As soon as I smelled the tangy chili I knew they had replicated the Boo's sufficiently. Upon tasting it I realized it how similar to the original it was. I couldn't quite put down the whole thing, and once again found myself thinking "should have gotten the Baby Boo."

We order a bloody mary to split, and it was served Wisconsin-style, with a beer chaser, like they do at the Westside Cafe.

There is no children's menu or any crayons or anything like that for our two-year-old to play with, but our server adapted a few sides into kids servings for us and Dippy assured us the next time we came, there would be the standard kids offerings.

"A lot of that stuff is on backorder right now," Dippy said, mentioning how, for Eagle County and the Vail area, this may not have been a busy time of year, but in other parts of the country restaurants are stocking up for a busy summer.

It made me think about the timing on the Turntable reopening — why open in the offseason?

Thompson said the timing was deliberate.

"In 2002, we opened the Westside Cafe on Dec. 24," he said. "We learned a hard lesson there — give yourself some time to settle into your busy season."

BEST OF BOTH PLACES

As guests settle into the new Turntable, I think they will find elements of the old restaurant and the Westside Cafe which will make them happy with the new setting. Indeed, in ordering a Boos Burrito and a bloody mary, we found the best of both places. Thompson was glad to hear it.

"That's exactly what we're going for," he said. "The best of both worlds."

On Sunday, I ran into longtime Edwards resident Beth O'Neill, who was being treated to breakfast by her daughter. They said they were happy to see the place back open.

"I hadn't been here in probably 10 years," O'Neill said.

She ordered a deep fried burrito and said it was delicious.

"I wonder what happened to all the stuff?" she said of the remodel.

It was my first question for Thompson.

"We donated some of it to the town of Minturn, and we held onto a lot of it," he said. "We're going to put some of it back up in the restaurant, in a few different places, and some of it is family keepsakes for people, a lot of people have reached out and said their parents or people they know were in the old photos, so a lot of it will go back to those families."

The Turntable is open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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