Russell’s, a cornerstone steakhouse in Vail for almost 30 years | VailDaily.com

Russell’s, a cornerstone steakhouse in Vail for almost 30 years

Kim Fuller
EAT Magazine
Ahi tuna sashimi, lightly blackened, with marinated cabbage, ginger and wasabi.
Charles Townsend Bessent | Special to the Weekly
Appetizers and salads $10-$22 Entrées: $28-$83 Ambiance: Warm and welcoming with the comforting veneer of history Signature dish: Surf & Turf with Alaskan King Crab and an 8-ounce filet

In a world in which reinvention and stretching the boundaries are revered, there’s something to be said for dependability, for being a bedrock in a sea of change. In Vail, that cornerstone is Russell’s. For almost 30 years, this steakhouse, located on the southeast side of the Covered Bridge, has been serving up steaks and seafood in an inclusive atmosphere where, even if it’s your first time, you feel as if everybody knows your name.

It’s more than just the convivial staff which puts you at ease almost immediately. Perhaps it’s the “strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet” vibe that is almost palpable.

“It gets loud,” explains Manager Michael Scola. “But we’re Vail’s cozy steakhouse. We play our own music, march to the beat of our own drum.”

It’s a beat that brings people in, again and again.

“We have families come in that come here every year and they’ll dine with us four out of seven nights of their vacation,” says Kent, who has been a waiter at Russell’s for 11 years. “They’ll start with the crab legs and order the ribs. Every single night.”

It’s hard to argue with that level of dedication.

But just because some folks have favorites, that doesn’t mean that you can’t branch out. For those who have trouble with commitment, try the half-and-half salad. Half tomato basil salad, garnished with blue cheese, pine nuts, onions and dressed with a basil vinaigrette, and half classic Caesar salad, it’s the perfect antidote to indecisive ordering.

Or perhaps just put a new spin on an old favorite. There’s no such thing as a bad steak at Russell’s — this is where the experience of the long-tenured kitchen shines through. it’s perfectly cooked to your desired temperature (even going so far as executing a “medium rare +”), has impeccable grill marks and a flavor that makes you want to do a happy little chair dance. It’s a carnivore’s version of nirvana.

It doesn’t really need sauce; adding it is just gilding the lily. However, don’t be afraid of a bit of allegorical gold leaf. Though the 8-ounce filet mignon, Russell’s Steak Diane and 12-ounce New York strip are all served with different sauces (Béarnaise; shallot, mustard and brandy cream; peppercorn, respectively), feel free to ask for a side of each and enjoy playing musical steak with your options.

That’s the beauty of dining at Russell’s. Yes, it’s classic, but there are opportunities to play if you’d like — or simply enjoy the artists at work.

So the next time you want an evening that is both familiar and yet surprising, sit by the window and watch the colorful multitudes go by, secure in the knowledge that though everything changes, Russell’s is a tangible pulse in the heart of Vail.  •

above Alaskan King Crab Legs, steamed and cracked, served with drawn butter and Russell’s Steak Diane, the house specialty, includes a grilled filet served with a mild brandy-cream sauce with shallots and mustard.

left Tuna Sashimi, lightly blackened, with marinated cabbage, ginger and wasabi.