Written by Elena Tran
In the middle of Olde Town Arvada there sits a quaint, red brick building on the corner of W. 57th Avenue and Olde Wadsworth Boulevard. At first, it may seem like nothing more than a vintage school, but walking up to the building you’ll find the words “Arvada School House Kitchen and Libations” across the glass window. Built in 1882, it was a one-room childhood school for the small town. After the construction of Arvada High School, the building was repurposed into a movie theater through World War II until 2015, when the Spears family transformed it into the Schoolhouse restaurant it is today. I had the pleasure of trying out this unique restaurant with my sister and her husband; together, we entered the warm building seeking shelter from the cold.
As soon as you step in, you can feel and see the age-old, heavy history it carries with it. From top to bottom, old-school items were reused to create the same atmosphere one might imagine in a schoolhouse. To the left, you can see the tables were made from bits of old wood flooring, the booth cushions were recycled school bus seats, the chairs are the plastic ones you would expect to see in an elementary school, and the shades for the lights above are made from map globes. To the right, the small hallway opened to a wide, large bar. An impressive 1,800 (and counting) different whiskeys lined up against the wall, all which were available for purchase. I felt as if I was in a magic story, whisked away and time-traveling to the past; the feeling of being in such an unusual place was so surreal. We were greeted by friendly staff and swiftly seated in the dining room.
From there, we were handed our “Menu Study Guides,” where the different menu items were sorted into “Periods.” Period 1 is appetizers, Period 2 is soup and salads, Period 3 is sandwiches, and so on. Gazing upon the menu, there seemed to be a good variety of food choices and decent pricing. Entrees range from $7 to $17, fairly priced in comparison to other restaurants. Our server, Meghan, greeted us with a kind smile, and we ordered our meals. My brother-in-law ordered the soup of the day ($7), my sister ordered baked meatloaf ($16), and I ordered shrimp and grits ($16). Gluten-free and vegetarian menus are available upon request.
My brother-in-law could not resist buying a $34 whiskey shot of Jack Daniel’s, Sinatra Select Edition, from Tennessee. From their wide selection of whiskeys, it is not surprising to find top-of-the-line drinks, such as a shot of Laphroaig, a 32-year-old 200th anniversary whiskey for the steep price of $200, and a shot of Ladyburn, a 41-year-old whiskey for the price of $250. With such a large selection to choose from, School House is definitely for those who enjoy a finer tasting whiskey. My brother-in-law got his shot in a science beaker. Taking small fine sips to enjoy the flavor, he couldn’t help but grin and hum out, “Oh, that’s smoooooth.”
When our food arrived, my stomach grumbled. The smell of freshly cooked food tickled my nose and I dug in. My plate had warm, grilled shrimp, andouille sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, and cheesy grits. The smell is heavenly to me. I took a bite into my sausage. It was cooked to perfection. The savory flavor blended well with the juices of the meat–the seasoning, just right. My bacon was cut up into smaller pieces, and I gingerly swooped them up with my fork. The bacon is not your standard bacon you buy from the store. No, this bacon, hearty and packed full of flavor, was glazed in maple syrup. I side-eyed my sister’s plate and sneaked some of her housemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes onto my fork. Her meatloaf was also cooked to perfection, seasoned well, and slightly juicy; her potatoes were done in a southern style, not overpowering, nor dry.
Overall, this restaurant is among my favorites. With an ‘A’ rating, I would invite others to enjoy this charming atmosphere for a savory trek through the past. Pay attention now, class is in session!
Arvada School House Kitchen and Libations
Where: 660 Olde Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada, CO 80002
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun 10am-11pm
Information: (720) 639-4213