A blog about food
Cornerstone Bar and Grill
Ketchum’s new and improved corner hangout
Cornerstone Bar and Grill, located on the corner of Main and 2nd Street in Ketchum, is an oxymoron in the making. Since it first opened its doors in May 2010, it has combined the familiarity of old west Idaho with the cosmopolitan “poshness” of big city life—exhibited not only in the diversity of the cuisine and clientele, but in the very building itself.
While the exterior of the historic building, which was first constructed as a brick grocery store in 1884, is still reminiscent of the dusty downtown Ketchum days of yore (and still, mind you, upheld by the original bricks), the interior is anything but old-fashioned. Walking through the doors, it feels as though you have time-warped into the sophisticated swank of a New York fine-dining scene, with a neon light-up bar, minimalist modern décor and vested world-class bartenders.
Upstairs offers white-tablecloth dining where you can sit at the bar-style “Skybox” and see not only the entire restaurant and open kitchen, but spy on whoever is crossing Main Street to the Casino or Whiskey’s.
Left: Skybox view at Cornerstone. Right: Martini are a staple at the Cornerstone.
Downstairs, the European-style grotto has low-ceilings, stonewalls and flickering hanging candles. Oh, and the Mafia table. It’s a perfect place to scratch your jaw, order some pizza for the family and attempt your best Godfather impression (although owner Meg Vorm is hard to beat). And after your fourth or fifth Southside Pomegranate Fizz, you MUST stumble towards the back to check out the bathrooms. Coolest place you’ll ever pee.
It’s precisely the elements of the creative restoration to the building—bringing an urbanite upscale eatery to a crumbling antique structure—that won it the American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 2010. Because of the care taken during its reincarnation and the respect for its historic integrity, the building remains one of the longest-standing historic sites in Ketchum. And one of the last.
Have I mentioned the Mac and Cheese? At $9 a plate, it is sinfully delicious. Not to overshadow, of course, the Buffalo Strip Loin ($23) served a la carte, complemented beautifully by the Sweet Potato Fries with homemade Cornerstone Ketchup. Then there’s the fresh Sashimi (and when I say “fresh,” I mean flown-in-that-morning-and-never-frozen-fresh) or the Grilled Caesar (yes, grilled. Meaning warm. And sooooo good).
Left: Cornerstone's individual pizzas are a hit. Right: Short ribs are tasty.
Described as “both familiar and eclectic,” the cuisine is the epitome of old meets new. Cornerstone takes what you know of traditional Gem State cooking, with specials like Elk Osso Bucco, Idaho Trout, and local Lamb, and makes it… fancy. And fantastic. All tweaked with a certain haute flair.
The cocktail list is one of the most expansive in town, owing mostly to the sip-stylings of mixologist Jan Hegewald. With over 40 bottles of booze and no shortage of absinthe cocktails (such as LeNell’s Torment: made with Rock & Rye, Le Torment absinthe, lemon juice, and bitters), it’s a great place to come hungry and leave drunk. And, after your second or third LeNell’s, you may begin to wonder if it’s your imagination, the absinthe, or of the colors really are changing on the bar. Or if, like me, you’re into wine, you will find their selection very approachable, with wide-sweeping price ranges from $33 to $465 per bottle. If you want to bring in your own wine, the corkage fee is $75 BUT all proceeds go to the Advocates. So you can feel good about yourself while getting liquored-up. It’s brilliant.
Owners Meg and Erik Vorm have perfected the art of combining business with pleasure, throwing Toga-toga-toga parties, Pirate night with marrrrtinis, and Abba vs. Beegees to name a few festivities. Philanthropists as much as they are business and party-people, the Vorm’s have dedicated Wednesday nights to Guest Bartenders, where local icons and/or organizations get to pretend bartend for the evening and, at the end, donate all of their proceeds to the charity of their choice. Keep an eye open in the paper and on the weekly Editor’s Picks at Sun Valley Mag.com for the next big shindig.
Left: Owners Erik and Meg Vorm. Right: Erik chooses a bottle of wine.
The “old meets new” theme has been said to refer not only to the cuisine and building, but to the Friday night crowd as well. The diamond-studded and D-cupped female frequenters of a “certain” age, sporting mini-skirts and big lips, have awarded the restaurant the nickname “Cougarstone.” But boys, don’t be intimidated should you catch the eye of one, staring at you cross-legged from over the rim of a cocktail—just remember, though probably hungry, they don’t bite (too hard).
And ladies, there is also no shortage of frost-haired men rolling up the sleeve on a Rolex if you find yourself in need of a sugar-daddy this slack. And then, of course, there is everything in between. Family-friendly to a T, inviting for children and grandparents, and home to plenty of Carhart-clad Pabst-drinkers ($8 for a 40-ouncer), there is room for a little bit of everyone.
And have I mentioned the Mac and Cheese…?