Living the low-key high life

Wren Wertin

Fashioned in the image of an Irish pub, complete with roaring fire, the restaurant is divided into accomodating nooks. In fact, the interior, including the stained glass, the front door and most of the woodwork, was created in Ireland and shipped to the States. The Irish influence extends to the shiny bar, which has several beers on tap. Nobody is rushed in and out; it’s a place to kick back and relax.

“The menu is part Irish pub, part Colorado cuisine and part me,” said Sous Chef O.J. Moore.

A Kansas kid, he’s worked in a few smokehouses in his time. In the style of the Midwest, portions are generous with lots of big flavors.

I began my meal with a Bass ale. The almost bitter brew provided a nice counterpoint to the smoked chicken and wild rice soup ($4). The broth is thick and creamy, and goes beautifully with the sweet wheat bread served with butter.

Moore may be a barbeque king at heart, but he knows his salads. The House Grouse Salad ($4.95) includes mixed greens in a balsamic vinaigrette, topped with diced tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and the secret ingredient, candied walnuts. For those looking to stick with the Irish theme, the Irish lettuce salad ($4.95) is greens every so slightly wilted with a warm bacon vinaigrette. Topped with bacon, crisp-tender boiled potatoes, hardboiled eggs and red onions, it’s a meal in and of itself.

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“We’re hidden up here,” said Moore. “I think the gate scares some people away. That’s why we work so hard to make it comfortable.”

In addition to a cozy atmosphere, the food is comfortable, too. Moore’s smoked salmon cakes ($9.95) aren’t exactly what mom used to serve – they’re topped with lemon dill creme fraiche and chipotle aioli, but they’re still as soothing.

One of Moore’s favorite dishes is the roasted cornish game hen ($17.95), crowning a pile of wild rice and and creamed spinach. Forget visions of overly heavy, overly cooked spinach; this is still bright green with fresh flavor. My favorite part of the dish – many of the dishes – are the oven-roasted grape tomatoes. The little bursts of flavor they provide are both light and sweet.

My favorite entree was the pan-seared flat iron steak ($20.95), served over an herbed potato pancake with mushroom demi-glace. A relatively “new” cut of meat, it comes from the shoulder and is extremely lean. It’s important not to overcook it, as it will get chalky; Moore’s medium rare was perfect, and a good foil for the earthy mushroom sauce.

Chef Moore wouldn’t feel right about things if he didn’t have St. Louis-style ribs ($16.95), basted with his own caramelized apple and onion barbecue sauce. The pub is also known for its halibut tacos ($13.95) with corn-and-black-bean salsa.

On alternating Mondays, Grouse on-the-Green has live music that captures the spirit of the pub: relaxed and ready for a bit of fun.

Try the bananas foster for dessert, which Moore makes with a bit of Grand Marnier and brandy, in addition to the standard ingredients. Or, if your sweet tooth isn’t calling, just dive into another cold brew.

Grouse on-the-Green accepts reservations for parties of six or more. They are open Thursday through Tuesday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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