Food, some sports and some music too. Yes, there are pieces of number 7’s sports memorabilia on display and, yes, there are television sets turned to sports, but Elway’s in Cherry Creek takes the football phenomenon’s celebrity to new places way beyond the tailgate party. Offering lunch, dinner and bruntch entrees with familiar sounding names, Elway’s on First Avenue propels these dishes to new and unexplored territory. Take the Rhode Island Calamari, for example. Tossed with stuffed olives, baby corn, pepperoncini and pepper cherries, the calamari is a veritable explosion of flavors. Though intending to share the appetizer with my dining friend, I couldn’t keep my fork out of the dish. When he said, “Oh, you take the last olive,” I dived for it with abandon. Whatever happened to good manners? As dinner progressed, my willingness to be a sharing friend continued to decline. My proprietary attitude came into play again as the Elway’s Salmon proved to be a wonderful entrée that I truly didn’t want to give up. Oh, maybe one bite could be shared. “But keep your hands off the rest of it,” I thought to myself as my friend eyed the salmon.

One of the items on the fresh fin fish list, this salmon is complemented with crab. The colorful stack of fresh fish was a magazine-spread-perfect presentation, though I didn’t order it for that reason only. It sounded good and came fully loaded with all the nutrients that salmon brings, which is why I ordered it. Selecting a side dish of sautéed cremini mushrooms was an excellent choice, as the earthiness of the mushrooms contrasting with the sweetness of the salmon both surprised me and reminded me that Mother Earth is a bountiful provider. She is also one who gives us an array of flavors. Elway’s chefs have taken these natural gifts and improved upon them by mixing and mingling tastes. My friend ordered Alaskan halibut, and it paled (no pun intended!) in comparison to my salmon. Halibut is naturally a lovely white and rich fresh fish, but I didn’t think it measured up to the Elway’s Salmon for creativity. However, my friend enjoyed it completely and was quite willing to let me sample it from time to time. Are we the kind of people who eat from each other’s plate? Apparently so, but in as discreet a manner as possible.

His vegetable of choice was garlic-wilted organic spinach, and it was quite an appropriate choice with the halibut.

dining3Let me dispel any fears that Elway’s is strictly fishy. This elegantly casual restaurant presents hand-cut steaks of all varieties. New York steak is your favorite? They’ve got it. Bone-in rib eye? No problem. Porterhouse steak? Consider it done. And then there are the Elway’s favorites, including roasted chicken, rosemary rack of lamb, short rib “off the bone,” smashburger, prime beef enchiladas and double-cut pork chops. Sides run the gamut from au gratin potatoes to unusual items such as roasted cauliflower, broccolini with Saba syrup, Brussels sprout hash and roasted butternut squash with Tasso ham. Starters, too, are tantalizing. Though I’ll never forget the Rhode Island Calamari, I’ll have to sample the lamb chop fondue, the tuna tartare, the lobster cocktail or the grilled artichoke. Or perhaps I’ll try the fresh oysters, the cold shellfish tower or the hot appetizer tower. I’d also love to sample the black bean soup, the roasted corn and chicken chowder, the steak chili or the truffle beet with fresh mozzarella salad. If eating John’s Salad would give me a bit more athletic prowess, I’m available to try it. At the very least, I think it’s something I should invest in eating, just to see if it would be helpful. Known as a place to connect with friends or encounter strangers who might become friends, Elway’s enhances its summer hospitality by scheduling a series of backyard music events. Billed as the Fifth Annual Summer Music Series, events began June 17 and will run through Aug. 19, with music playing from 6:30 to 9 p.m. What is better than Colorado outdoors in the summer? Not much, especially when you can enjoy music, food and drinks. Hospitality is a key attraction at Elway’s, from the valet service at the entrance to host and wait staff who are appropriately friendly. This watering hole on First Avenue is accessible and open.

Mixing music and food is definitely a noteworthy combination in my book, but I like music that allows for conversation. The vocalist with the piano and guitar accompaniment is that — worth listening to if you happen to be alone but nice background for the table with conversation. If you’re into multitasking, you can actually listen to the live music, keep your eye on the baseball game on television and share romantic give and take with your dining companion. There is something for everyone. Elway’s opened in 2007 in the Ritz Carlton on Curtis Street downtown. In addition to brunch, lunch and dinner, the downtown Elway’s also serves breakfast. I have to say that after reading the menu for both breakfast and brunch, it makes me want to land there on a weekend morning. It might be a good place to take in game day this fall.

Photography by KIMBERLY DAWN