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The Pioneer

Josh Wolkon reflects on 15 years of Vesta Dipping Grill.

Josh Wolkon. Photo courtesy of Richard Spahr

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,

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2012.
Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.

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The Pioneer

The greatest coach you've never heard of comes to Denver.

Name: Bill Tierney, 58
Occupation: Head men’s lacrosse coach, University of Denver
On his resumé: Inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2002

With the Avalanche, Broncos, and Rockies each replacing their coaches in the past year, you can be forgiven for overlooking DU’s hiring of Bill Tierney to helm the men’s lacrosse team. But Tierney, who won six national championships while coaching at Princeton University, offers one of the most transformative on-field coaching changes in Colorado athletic history.

Tierney coming to Denver would be akin to Mike Krzyzewski leaving Duke University to coach hoops at Colorado State University. Which is to say: It’s huge. The man’s already in the lacrosse hall of fame, and his arrival at DU promises that the traditionally East Coast sport has a strong future west of the Mississippi. His reputation for recruiting the best high school players nationwide—not to mention his revival of the once-moribund Princeton program—will help put the Pioneers lacrosse program on the map.

The New York native, who has vacationed regularly with his wife in the Rocky Mountains, and whose eldest son played professionally for the Denver Outlaws, says the Mile High City “was always one of those places I figured would be nice to retire.” But instead of spending his afternoons carving turns at Vail, Tierney will build the 10-year-old Division I program into a national brand—one that he says will soon compete with perennial powerhouses like Johns Hopkins University and Princeton for a championship. “I was looking for a reason to say no [to the job], but I couldn’t,” Tierney says. “Lacrosse has given me so much that I wanted to pay it back. I want to help grow this sport.”