The Silver Dollar Saloon - Interview
Welcome to the Leadville, CO restaurant blog series! Here is my interview with Eric, the manager of The Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon.
Many guests that stay at The Silver Rose of Leadville ask where they should eat when they are in town. Rather than just give a simple recommendation, I thought it would be fun to go a step further and interview local restaurant owners. The restauranteurs would get a chance to convey who they are and what makes their restaurants unique. By providing guests with more background and personal information on Leadville's restaurants, perhaps choosing where to eat can be easier.
How did you end up in Leadville?
The Silver Dollar Saloon has been connected to my family since 1943. At one point, I was asked to come out from Baltimore, where I was living, and take a look at it with the prospect of me taking over the management. Since I was a kid, I had been in the restaurant and hospitality business, so I knew it well. I had put the trip to Leadville off for a long time. My relative Toni, who owned the place at the time, was not doing so well. He was in and out of the ICU at the hospital and just couldn't take care of the place. It went into disarray for several years. During this time, I had become bored and disillusioned in Baltimore and decided what the heck, and I came out to Leadville. I had never been to Leadville before.
I came out, I walked into the door, and I said, Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into? I expected that I would come out and straighten things up and then head back to Baltimore. I have never left Leadville since that first day. It was a hot mess, but honestly, it has been a labor of love getting it to the point where it is today.
How did you enter the restaurant business?
I started as a kid, worked in restaurants, did a lot of catering, and bartending in Baltimore, D.C., and Annapolis. I always had several different jobs. It's funny, my aunt always said live with a job, never marry it, and now here I am, married to the job.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Like I said, I always had several jobs within a variety of different restaurants. Now I have one job, and I have been able to bring together all of my different experiences into one place. I have loved the challenge of what it has taken to see this place come back and be what it is today.
How did you come up with your menu?
I've tried to take flavors from all the styles of restaurants where I have worked and add them to the menu. I did a culinary internship in Italy, so I take some of what I learned there and add it to the menu. I ran a sushi bar and several Asian kitchens, so I sprinkle a little of those flavors in as well. I have a unique fusion based on my experience.
I try to add a lot of Colorado flavors. I work directly with local food producers in sourcing ingredients. I get Yak from a local Yak farmer. I get goat cheese from the Jumping Goat in Buena Vista.
Tell me more about what the saloon and restaurant were like when you showed up?
The food was horrible; typical bar food served in plastic baskets. When I first arrived fresh from Baltimore, I was hungry, so I ordered a tuna sandwich, and it was probably the worst tuna sandwich I have ever had. The place was filthy. That first week after arriving, all I did was scrub the kitchen.
What is your favorite item on the menu, and what is your customer's favorite?
I don't have a favorite. I like everything. We run a lot of specials, so it's fun to try all the new food. This week our special is a fried chicken sandwich with brie, fuji apples, and kimchi, so that is my favorite right now, but tomorrow could be different. Customers love the Reuben sandwich.
What is special about your restaurant?
We do it right here. We brine the brisket for five days and then slow roast it for 13 hours. We make our own thousand island dressing. We do things traditionally. We pickle; we brine; we roast; we bake our bread; we make our pickles; we make our sauce, real homemade cooking. There are no recipes. I want all of my staff to know how to cook from the heart.
If you were going to open up a new restaurant in Leadville, what would it be?
I would expand our catering business. We do a lot already, but with more space, I would do more. And there seems to be a growing need for it. I love catering since every event has its unique requests, which makes it challenging but fun at the same time. It gets me out of the same four walls and out into the community.
As a guest staying at the Silver Rose of Leadville, it is easy to visit the saloon as it is a short three-block walk away. The Silver Dollar Saloon is truly legendary and has been since 1879. A visit to Leadville isn't complete without stopping in to see the 4th oldest bar in Colorado. The history of Leadville is seeped everywhere you look, on every inch of every wall and even the ceiling. You're confronted with that history at the front door when you step on the last remaining historical boardwalk in all of Colorado. A long list of famous outlaws, celebrities, and historical figures frequented The Silver Dollar during its heyday. The fascinating history is printed out for you to read more of when you stop in.
If you come to eat, you won't be disappointed. The menu is delicious and not what you would expect. As Eric states, he has melded many cuisines into the menu, making it a culinary surprise. The menu changes all the time as it consists primarily of specials. One of my favorite items is the Smoked Salmon Cigarillos appetizer with candied ginger, pistachio, cream cheese, and house-made pickles. It is a standard menu item, thank goodness, because it is fantastic and I get it as a starter every time.