Vail’s Vintage restaurant offers French brasserie coziness, with brunch and late-night bites
Our (dinner) picks at Vintage
To drink: Christmas in Cabo ($11.50) is a tequila cocktail that treats you to the aroma of cinnamon, a whiff of mint and the tart tastes of cranberry and blood orange juice.
To munch: Frog’s legs ($14.50) are delicately fried and juicy. If you’re squeamish, close your eyes and imagine you’re eating a chicken wing.
To eat: Coq au vin ($26), or roasted chicken in wine sauce, steals the show. Julia Child would be very proud.
VAIL — A meal at Vintage, as the name suggests, inevitably conjures up fond memories of days long past.
Owner Laurence Broderick — or Brodie, as he’s usually known — is reminded of childhood summers spent hanging out in a family friend’s restaurant.
For Executive Chef Craig Yanonne, memories of being raised on crepes and coq au vin come to mind.
“My mom was a French teacher. That was just Thursday night dinner at our house,” he said.
For this writer, it brought back sounds and tastes from my first trip to Paris as a teenager, sitting in a leather booth with my family at a typical neighborhood bistro, eating my first “real” French meal.
That’s the tradition and nostalgia of Vintage, a breakfast spot by day and classic brasserie by night. Nestled into the Gateway building (where Restaurant Kelly Liken used to be), Vintage boasts a handsome bar, open windows, antique decor and 19th century French impressionist paintings that are worth a stroll around the room. The restaurant has been open since the summer, mostly serving brunch, but opened last Friday for dinner and late-night service.
“The name Vintage comes from the idea that we’re focusing on the classics,” Broderick said. “It’s something that never goes out of style. The classic dishes and the classic look — it’s something that appeals to so many people and generations.”
A stroll in Paris
The revival of French comfort food will have Francophiles licking their lips. The decor and location of Vintage could give the impression of snobbery, but the food is not at all. We’re not talking pretentious works of art with long names. We’re talking satisfying, well-executed dishes that you’d be glad to tuck into on a snowy, winter night.
Don’t skip the starters, whether you go fresh with a roasted beet salad and cheese or with the popular duck liver pate. Yanonne presents one of the best renditions of fried frog’s legs we’ve come across. Meaty, and not at all fishy, as some frog’s legs can be, they’re served lollipop style with a delicate fried crust — like some kind of upscale buffalo wing.
The main-entree menu is compact and basic, but for good reason. Broderick said he wanted the kitchen to perfect the classics before branching out. However, later in the season, Yanonne will also offer blackboard specials that put new twists on the old favorites.
They say that if a restaurant can cook its basic chicken dish well, then that’s a good sign. Well, Vintage’s coq au vin is a don’t miss — it’s tender and finger-licking good, served with an earthy potato, bacon and mushroom side and all drenched in a sumptuous cabernet sauce.
The salad nicoise also comes together nicely, with more emphasis on the tuna and meaty parts and less on the lettuce part. Cozy it up with a side of shoestring-style frites, fried extra crispy.
Breakfast and late night
Vintage is partly the vision of Broderick, who has been in the restaurant industry for years, working his way up from a server position. In Vail, he helped open Elway’s a few years ago and jumped at the chance to get his own space in Vail Village.
“The idea was that it’s difficult to be a contemporary restaurant because you constantly have to update. Classic never goes out of style,” he said. “Also, we are offering two things few others here do — late night and breakfast. The reception so far has been great. People say we’re a breath of fresh air.”
Breakfast is a lavish affair, offering baked galette puff pastries, champagne floats and different versions of French toast that include mocha peppermint and American apple pie.
“We hope to do for French toast what Snooze down in Denver did for pancakes,” Broderick said.
Late night roughly goes from 10 p.m. to midnight, offering cheese boards, charcuterie, salads and a few main-sized entrees. Be warned — this is not your typical late-night dive bar fare, with prices to match. However, it is a chance to get a good meal after hours in a town that goes to bed early, and Vintage’s cocktails make a good nightcap.
“We hope that people looking for something to eat late at night around town, or maybe industry people getting off work, will come by and get a bite and a drink for a reasonable price,” Broderick said.