‘Resurrection’ of the Minturn Saloon brings new life to historic watering hole
Historic restaurant and bar reopens after remodel and is welcoming folks with margs and memorabilia
The historic Minturn Saloon opened to the public on Thursday with a fresh look but also a taste of its colorful past. Local restaurateurs Anthony and Connie Mazza purchased the Minturn landmark in December 2021 and have been remodeling and refining the building constructed in 1901 which is one of the oldest structures in town.
“We got a phone call at the end of November 2021 from some friends, family and investors who said, ‘Let’s make a run at the Saloon’ and I told them, ‘No, absolutely not,’ Anthony said, knowing that taking over the place and to do it right would take a lot of time and a lot of money.
The Mazza’s took the reins and operated the historic watering hole during the winter of the 2021-2022 ski season to see the inner workings of the establishment so they would have some intel going into the remodel. It’s been a passion project ever since.
“I know it’s a remodel, but I call it a resurrection,” Anthony said. “Honestly, the universe intended for us to be here. Connie and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner here, she’s been coming here since she was a child and one of her brothers is one of our investors. The history of this place isn’t only felt by us, but by the community — and we felt obligated to save it.”
Though the railroad and mining town of Minturn dates back to the 1880s, this building was part of a recovery effort after a fire in downtown Minturn. The building has always housed a restaurant and a bar, but it also served as a pool and boxing hall and a gambling joint. On the back of the menu, make sure to take time to read about its interesting history.
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“We’ve been told it’s been seven different restaurants and we are the fifth ownership group,” Anthony said.
The first owners called it the McKinney and Reeves Saloon before it was changed to The Mint. The next owner was Jeff Taylor, sparring partner of world champion boxer and Colorado native Jack Dempsey. He bought the restaurant in 1938 and called it Jeff’s. During the years when Vail was being built, everyone came here after work to grab a cold beer.
In 1976, Bob Cherry purchased the restaurant. He had been a professional baseball player and that is where a lot of the baseball memorabilia stems from. He also knew John Wayne, hence the autographed pictures of The Duke that grace the walls. Andy Kaufman, Steve Campbell and Bobby Pelz bought it in 1986 and kept the Tex-Mex cuisine, and promoted it as the place to be for après ski for margaritas.
“We bought 90% of the memorabilia with the building and business and we’ve tried to pay homage to the old Saloon. We have Steve and Andy’s picture hanging in one of the booths back there, obviously The Duke photos remain, we have the Duke Margarita and we wanted to honor the ski town and ski industry and the mining industry here,” Anthony said.
The couple also paid attention to the Victorian style of the original building and has kept that look and feel. More windows were added or enlarged to bring more light to the space, but there are plenty of reminders of the old Saloon. The menu still has the same flavor, too, just elevated.
“You have to have chips, guac, salsa and margs at the Saloon. But in addition to that, we’re braising short ribs, we’re braising pork cheek, we’re roasting tomatoes and veggies for our salsa and we’re trying to do a lot of things like you would find 150 years ago, the way it was made back then,” Anthony said.
Come in and try the birria tacos with short rib and consome, the blue corn enchiladas with bison and butternut squash. The fajitas are still a staple on the menu. The margaritas are already famous, and they have an extensive tequila selection in case you want to sip the spirit instead.
Even though the highly anticipated reopening of the Minturn Saloon happened this week, the staff has been hosting events this past month. One event that was special to Anthony was for Daniel and Nathalie Joly, the owners and operators of Mirabelle. Their son had his wedding rehearsal dinner there.
“I worked at Mirabelle three different times since I moved here 25 years ago, so to host a family that I know so well and for so long, it really meant a lot to me. And that’s what this place is all about. Gathering and creating those connections,” Anthony said. “Come here for a party, come for après ski, come and do the shot ski! We’re excited for it all.”
To learn more, follow the Minturn Saloon on its Instagram page.