The Exchange Tavern in Westminster is Irish where it counts: in the heart and soul of its owners. For 10 years now, Teddi and Gary Davis have been assembling the pieces, large and small, of their dream pub; a place where friends are made and celebrated; a place that serves good beer and great food; a place that is authentic because its patrons made it that way.
Take the flags hanging from the ceiling in the bar. The Irish flag was put up as decoration, but was soon joined by others from around the globe that patrons brought in of their own accord because they felt that their corner of the world wasn’t properly represented.
“Over the years, we really have become part of the community,” Teddi Davis said. “Our customers have earned degrees studying here at the bar; one fellow who met his girlfriend here ended up proposing to her here, too. We even have a plaque in the bar about it.”
The Exchange is located at the heart of Bradburn Village, a new urbanist development similar to Prospect in Longmont. It’s got shops and offices mixed in with apartments, lofts and condos and surrounded by spacious homes with postage stamp front yards and detached garages on an alley in the back. It tries super hard to be your Main Street USA kind of place and, in fact, The Exchange Tavern is located on Bradburn Boulevard and Main Street.
And while the neighborhood may seem contrived, its centerpiece watering hole is not. Davis has seen to it that The Exchange treads that fine line between pricy white tablecloth dining and knock-off chain restaurant formula food. She sources most of the food locally, including the beef, pork belly, ham and bacon.
“We’re trying for balance here,” Davis said. “We want to get the best quality, but we’re not going to have chateaubriand. We want to make good food accessible.” And in that effort, she succeeds on every level, thanks to the efforts of Executive Chef Paul Stockhausen, who brings classical training and experience to this Main Street enterprise.
The stereotypical Irish dishes are spot on, like the fish and chips with hand-fileted Alaskan cod that is Harp Lager beer battered to order so it doesn’t get slimy waiting for its swim in the fryer. The crispy coating and flaky fish isn’t greasy and jumps to life with a splash of malt vinegar.
But it’s where the Exchange Tavern breaks off the well-beaten Irish path that Chef Paul shows his depth. The pork green chili will stand up to any Mexican blue-collar scrutiny. Plentiful chunks of tender pork in a chili sauce that has just enough heat making it great eaten alone or drizzled over any number of items, not least of which are the hand-cut fries (Irish nachos). And the country-fried chicken with sausage gravy on a blueberry waffle will make your tummy dance a jig. The gravy is rich and not overly salty and the blueberry waffle ads a deliciously surprising fruity tang that sets this dish apart.
The one thing that the Exchange Tavern is not is Irish for a day. Yes, the place will be packed on March 17th, making it tight for the Queen City Pipe Band to make its 4 p.m. appearance. Yes, they will parcel out, in pints, at least eight kegs of Guinness Stout. Yes, there is a refrigerator truck parked out back because they will go through about 1,500 pounds of corned beef that week.
So yes, The Exchange Tavern does up St. Paddy’s Day right with all manner of music and step dancers and pipe bands (check exchangetavern.com for details). But one day does not an Irish pub make. That’s why you’ll find corned beef and cabbage on the menu all 366 days this year along with bangers and mash — made with real, imported sausages (bangers) that are savory spiced and mixed with grain, definitely not the salty breakfast variety.
Over on the bar side, there are the obligatory name brands of carbonated water on tap and in bottles, but the majority of taps and bottles are devoted to locally brewed offerings not found everywhere, like the rich, hoppy and fruity Belgian Double IPA from Liquid Mechanics. But best of all, Davis has teamed up with Four Noses Brewery in Broomfield to create a beer exclusively for, and available only at, the Exchange Tavern. The Red Beard ale is a full-bodied, deep red, malt forward beer that is balanced with hop flavor and aroma, but not overpowering. It is eminently sessionable and goes perfectly with the rich, beefy Irish stew.
The Exchange Tavern has been around for a decade now and given the philosophy of food and never-ending improvement that the Davis’ bring to the place, North Metro Denver has an Irish Pub that is worth calling home.