Note: Writing this made the author extremely hungry and on pace for an 11:45 lunch break. Readers who brought Lean Cuisine to work should read with caution.
I entertained an out-of-town guest this weekend. And because said out-of-town guest was my girlfriend, she was smart enough not to let me anywhere near the kitchen during her stay. So we ate our way through Denver, plotting our days around brunches and dinners. Five meals in total, and I think we went five for five. Disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments.
Our first meal was dinner on Friday, and it was my job to pick it, a job for which I am wholly unqualified. I went with Hamburger Mary's (700 East 17th Avenue), because it has hamburger in the title, and I love burgers so much my heart is actually a half pound of top sirloin. (Jason Sheehan also reviewed it favorably not too long ago, so I thought it was safe.) The place was packed -- elbow to elbow, a twenty-minute wait for a table. And while the abundance of drag queens and other assorted gayness raised some questions for the girlfriend, the food didn't disappoint: I took down a Barbra-Q-Bacon Cheeseburger – a gigantic, perfectly cooked patty topped with a zesty barbecue sauce, crisp bacon, a blend of jack and cheddar cheeses, and an onion ring you could hula with. She did the Big-O burger (jack and cheddar, plus guac), and it disappeared from her plate in the time it took to play a Janet Jackson video (not very long). The sides (fries and onion rings) were so-so, but I was too stuffed to eat them, anyway.
Saturday was the first of two consecutive two-meal days -– making the meal choices that much more important. We started with a late brunch at The Kitchen (1039 Pearl, Boulder), a sleek and proudly green spot on Pearl Street in Boulder. It's like the Prius of restaurants, small and clean and in-your-face about its environmental friendliness. Nothing small or friendly about my brunch, however: Continuing my manly-meals streak, I took down the Full English, a spot-on rendition of that American staple: two fried eggs, strips of perfectly crisped bacon, hashbrowns, and toast. Just to make sure my arteries were fully clogged, they'd fried the bread – amazing – and thrown an enormous sausage link on the plate for good measure. My dining partner, feeling all healthy and spry after our morning hike, went with the smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and chive cream cheese, which, if you ask me, was unsuccessful because it did not lead her to fall asleep at the table, the measure of any good brunch. But she seemed to love it.
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SHOW ME HOW
After awaking from my five-hour nap, we continued our Denver Eating Tour with a late dinner at Larimer Square's Bistro Vendome (1420 Larimer). (As you've likely noticed, I stopped picking the restaurants after Friday night). Since my main concern for Saturday-night dining typically centers on the number of TVs showing college football, this place scared me, with its valet service and numberless menu. But the vibe was low-key enough, the service was prompt and friendly, and the food – light salads, muscles, frites -- was perfect pre-drinking fare. And I didn't have to apply for loan to pay for it. That's always nice.
Cut to Sunday, brunch: We skirted what appeared to be a colossal wait at Steuben's (523 East 17th) by opting to sit outside; the blinding sun made it just warm enough to brave the enclosed patio. Back in coma-inducing mode, I opted for the biscuits-and-gravy, a heavy load of doughy biscuits drenched in thick gravy and plated alongside finely shredded hashbrowns that, loaded with onions and some spices, carried a nice kick. As my pillow and remote control would later attest, they did the trick. Her: A tomato-and-avocado eggs Benedict, the most popular morning dish, according to our server. It didn't disappoint.
Finally, Sunday-night dinner. Our options were more limited for this, our final meal of the weekend, as we were scheduled to meet a friend in the south suburbs. We opted for Bara Sushi and Grill (8000 East Belleview avenue, Greenwood Village), near I-25. It was predictably empty, but we kept the kitchen busy. Our table of five ordered enough food to feed a pit crew – rolls of Monkey Brains, shrimp tempura rolls, spicy this and that, grilled salmon, salad, and my main: hibachi chicken over rice, simple but worthy, with tender strips of grilled chicken mixed with a selection of veggies and brown rice.
Like most of the weekend, it all went down with nary a word, just occasional moans of appreciation and gentle pats of the belly, silent nods to the beauty of the two-meal day. I can't wait for my next houseguest. -- Joe Tone