Boulder's Pearl Street Mall is always busy, and this past Sunday afternoon, it was humming with activity -- families strolling down the sidewalk with toddlers in tow, couples gazing into each others' eyes and groups of friends gathered on patios to upend a pitcher in preparation for Monday morning. The newest addition to the Kitchen -- the Kitchen [Next Door], 1035 Pearl Street -- was filling up slowly but steadily, its streamlined decor and sanded-but-not-stained wooden tables playing host to a large family with a baby in a high chair and clusters of small groups scattered around the dining room.
The menu isn't large, but the seasonal farm-to-table ethos of the restaurant -- much like its parent facility, only with a less-expensive, fast-casual slant -- offered a handful of vegetarian dishes that were hit-or-miss (at least the ones that we tried).
The beet burger -- served with balsamic onions and arugula (we asked them to hold the feta) -- was the high point of the meal. Served on a flour-dusted bun, it was juicy and fat, and the slight bitterness of the arugula contrasted beautifully with the sweet beet and all-absorbing bread. If you don't like beets, you'll hate this burger -- but if you do like beets, it's a tasty option.
The best part of the spiced chickpeas and hummus dish was undeniably the bread; it was golden-brown and fluffy enough to use for a pillow. For $7.95, though, the hummus and chickpeas should have more flavor. Despite the scattering of paprika on the hummus and the spices in the chickpeas, the dish was pretty bland.
The Greek salad was somewhere in between the hummus and the beet burger. The romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion were clearly garden-fresh; the veggies were crisp, and the tomatoes juicy and a vivid red color. But there wasn't much to set this salad apart from dozens of other Greek salads across the metro area. Fresh and crisp are good, but $8.95 is a tad hefty for a salad this size, with nothing in particular to differentiate it from the salad masses.
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The service at the Kitchen [Next Door] was quick; the food was produced in an amazingly short time, so it's a good option for Pearl Street-walkers who are in a bit of a hurry. And maybe a little maturity will give some of the basic dishes a little more flair. In the meantime, it's probably a good plan to try some of the more unusual dishes -- like the beet burger, mushroom loaf sandwich or roasted veggie salad -- and think carefully whether you really want to drop your dime on the middle-of-the-road menu mainstays.
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