Front Range Scene

The Pioneer

Josh Wolkon reflects on 15 years of Vesta Dipping Grill.

July 2012

Fifteen years ago this month, you chose to open Vesta downtown. Now it looks like a brilliant move, but back then there couldn’t have been much going on.

The only places—aside from Wazee Supper Club and McCormick’s Fish House & Bar—were Sports Column, Jackson’s, and the Wynkoop. Jax Fish House was on its way. There was talk of the Pepsi Center. The kicker was Stadium Walk [a failed Denver Pavilions–type project owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger] with Planet Hollywood, a movie theater, and shops, that was supposed to go in right across the street [from the Vesta space]. If I had known what I was doing, I would have bought a building.

Did you have any idea Vesta would be so successful?

Absolutely not. I was 26 years old, and I was young and dumb. The original concept was skewers and sauces. I thought I could pull that off without a chef—with more of a kitchen manager. Two months in, I promoted Matty [Selby] from sous chef to executive chef. He was 23.

How has the restaurant changed?

The concept has evolved from skewers to fork-and-knife entrées. We’re still making a lot of changes. We won’t get rid of all the sauces—we can’t—but we don’t need to have 35.

Do you consider yourself a LoDo pioneer?

No. When you’re looking for real estate it makes sense to look in areas that aren’t the hottest places in town. I like finding neighborhoods and buildings that exist already and seeing them come back to life.

After Ace, your eatery/ping-pong hall, opens later this summer, what’s next?

One restaurant at a time. But things present themselves all the time and we look at them. I still think Denver needs a good Jewish deli. 

Vesta Dipping Grill, 1822 Blake St., 303-296-1970, vestagrill.com