Words and Photos by Kim Fuller Published in the Vail Daily
You may think you know The Fitz, but “the bar on the way to Ford Park” is now a full-fledged restaurant, too. After closing the longtime Lord Gore fine-dining establishment and completing an impressive renovation, The Fitz Bar & Restaurant in the Manor Vail Lodge is serving up a mountain-modern menu and atmosphere.
With a new tagline, “comfort food elevated,” and Executive Chef Ken Butler, The Fitz cuisine highlights a rustic, “mountain cabin” style, showcasing local ingredients and modern flare.
“Obviously, we are in the mountains, and we are in Colorado, and what we wanted to do here was go back to what would be like a cabin feel,” Butler said.
The menu does create a unique combination of Butler’s classic-meets-contemporary approach, with food that brings back more traditional methods of dry aging and pickling, with avant-garde plating and ingredient pairings.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
While the aesthetics in the bar area were also refreshed to align with the new concept, it’s the restaurant space that’s embraced the most dramatic changes. It still faces Golden Peak, with large picture windows and arguably one of the best ski mountain views in Vail Village, and there’s still the same stone-frame fireplace that warmed Lord Gore guests for decades.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Manor Vail Lodge, and the new Fitz feels like it’s been there through the years — with wood accents and vintage art that reflect a nice nostalgia of Vail’s past, accented by dashes of stylish decor that caters to the comfort of a range of generations.
Jill Anderson, director of sales and marketing for Manor Vail Lodge, said the intimate restaurant and lively bar serve groups well, too — such as children, their parents and their grandparents who come in all together.
“One of the things we really focused on with this was to make it really comfortable for folks who are here with kids,” Anderson said. “We think the price point is more realistic for people who are traveling in groups, and it’s a fun, casual experience.”
On warmer days, the outdoor patio facing Golden Peak has lounge furniture and fire pits. Snuggle up for an apres ski drink there before moving inside for dinner.
‘COMFORT FOOD ELEVATED’
Butler is a Colorado native, and he said he likes integrating local ingredients into the menu.
“Colorado has a lot of cool ingredients that can be grown in the summertime and carry through the wintertime,” he said, “so we do what we can from Colorado.”
Butler explained how with more and more people becoming “food conscious,” they pay more intention to what they are eating and how it makes them feel.
The Colorado bass dish with quinoa is served over a squash puree, with root vegetables, arugula and avocado. It’s both hearty and healthy — a combination Butler is serving consistently.
“People have information right at their fingertips — of what’s healthy, what’s good for them,” he said. “So we are making a few really nice, light dishes that work for pretty much everyone, and we also have a few really hearty dishes.”
Meat-lovers can rejoice, with options such as The Fitz burger, Colorado lamb with gnocchi and bison green chili. Add chicken or bison to the root vegetable potpie, or leave it meat-free.
A lot of the dishes are meant to be shared, so everyone at the table can have a taste of what The Fitz has to offer. Flatbread renditions such as winter squash, with a poached egg, speck and arugula, or the burrata flatbread with heirloom tomato and basil, are good orders to spread the flavors around.
The menu has an entire “aged and shared” section, with charcuterie and cheese, beer chip nachos with bison green chili and Brussels sprouts with pancetta, shishito peppers and balsamic glaze.
For dessert, pastry chef Kate Hughes puts together sweet and creative bites such as the chocolate sampler, with a s’mores macaroon, milk chocolate stout ice cream on a crunchy pretzel cone, and dark chocolate raspberry custard. Make it complete with French press coffee or a bourbon hot cider.
‘WORTH THE TRIP’
Happy Hour, called Fitz at Four, offers drink specials and is held for two hours every day (4 to 6 p.m.). The bar side of The Fitz is lively during apres hours, with craft cocktails such as the wild and spicy margarita, with jalapeno simple syrup to keep guests warm to the bone, or the adult root beer float, for an end-of-day treat.
“It’s worth the trip,” Anderson said of The Fitz, which is set to the east of the main bustle of Vail Village. “The prices are very reasonable, the location is great, and we do have parking on-site.”
She said the parking lot at the Manor Vail Lodge is free after 3 p.m. to those dining at The Fitz.
For Christmas Eve, on Thursday, The Fitz is hosting a $140 four-course, prix-fix menu ($45 for children 12 and younger). New Year’s Eve has a champagne-inspired amuse, with four courses to follow, for $165 ($45 for children 12 and younger).
For more information and a look at the whole menu, visit www.manorvail.com/dining/vail-colorado-lounges.
IF YOU GO …
What: The Fitz at Manor Vail Lodge.
When: 3 to 10 p.m. daily.
Where: 595 East Vail Valley Drive, Vail.
Cost: Appetizers and shared plates: $11 to $18; entrees: $14 to $29.
Signature item: Bison rib eye with mustard greeds, potatoes and shallot vinaigrette.
Kids menu: Yes, prices from $6 to $19.
Dining options: Dine-in and carry-out.
More information: Visit www.manorvail.com/dining/vail-colorado-lounges.