Sometimes brunch is just a time of day and not a fancy meal with morning cocktails. The Butcher Block Cafe sits within stumbling distance of my apartment in the shady part of RiNo; it's a "love it or hate it" dive that serves its purpose with cheap, greasy, hearty meals for under $10.
Family owned and operated for over 30 years, two Butcher Block locations are still frying eggs and turning out cinnamon rolls in Denver, with an additional location further afield in Commerce City. Breakfast is available from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and all day from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week.
An eclectic mix of yard sale and an explosion of your grandma's attic, every strange treasure that decks Butcher Block's walls and shelves is for sale. You'll find all kinds of gems, from vintage sports memorabilia to old movie posters and tchotchkes that range from super-weird to ultra-tacky. Superhero lamps? Check. Unicorn figurines? Of course. Enough clocks to drain the city of power? You get the idea. The ambiance combines warm hominess that makes you want to stay with a slight grittiness that says get in, get some grub, and get out. Seating options include the counter, plastic chairs or a simple linoleum booth. The service is fast and friendly -- what you'd expect from a mom and pop establishment.
There's no alcohol here; breakfast options (unless you wake up with Diet Coke) are strictly black coffee or juice from a carton. And it's diner coffee too, so if you want something fancy, just get a water and pay a few bucks somewhere trendy later.
The Butcher Block's breakfast menu lists less than ten items total; they're all the comfort foods you'd expect: omelets, steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and chicken fried steak. No frills, just down-home cooking. The kitchen's claim to fame is its cinnamon roll. I have to admit I was skeptical, since they deviated from the tried-and-true cream-cheese frosting, opting instead for straight whipped butter. All worries aside, they are gooey, delicious and ready in about two minutes flat -- otherwise known as the ultimate hangover cure.
I also had a half-order of the Roundhouse, a scramble with eggs however you want over hash browns with a piece of ham, bacon and sausage tossed in whole for good measure. Nothing pretty or elegant about it, but smothered in green chili, it's hard to go wrong. Breakfast burritos also start at just $2.50, so there's not much to complain about.
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All my neighbors swear by the place, but my big-city bias made me question the quality of the eggs -- no better than what I could make at home (if I wasn't being so lazy) -- on my first visit. After that though, the green chile and cinnamon rolls made it worth the four-block hike. At the Butcher Block, you get what you pay for, so save the high expectations for the high-priced brunches a little further south.