Okay, so Polish food is excellent, as I discuss in this week's review of Cracovia. Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes and pork. But you know what's even better, in a weird way? Eastern European-Colorado fusion. That's what I had at Hospoda, the place that first-time restaurateurs Vlad and Irene Lesner opened last year in the former home of the Wynkoop Grill. For the record, Hospoda isn't trying to do fusion. Technically, it's serving Irene's straight-up Czech and American food. But when your table holds both fantastic potato pancakes (giant, fat ones, pan-fried to a meltingly perfect golden brown and dripping with butter) and a giant bowl of great Colorado green chile, who isn't going to get the bright idea of using the potato pancakes like tortillas to scoop up dripping chunks of pork and scraps of tomato and chile and then shove the whole thing into his snack-hole?
Jesus, it was good. In fact, I can think of only one bar food in the world better than green chile and bramboraky, and that's fried cheese. But Hospoda has fried cheese, too! Big wedges of some nameless cheese, alleged to be paired with ham (though mine wasn't), then breaded and fried and served all gooey-delicious with French fries and a couple of cherry tomatoes for color.
All this goodness comes out of a long, narrow kitchen on the side of a one-room restaurant/bar in the middle of a dirt parking lot facing a ConAgra facility and a Butcher Block. There's lots of blond wood, a couple of tables scattered around the floor, and a nice stretch of long oak with brass lion heads holding up the rail and cow-print upholstery. Everything looks like it's carefully scrubbed down every night, and the lunch regulars seem to appreciate all the care that the staff takes. This is the kind of place where you become a regular after a single meal, after a single breath of the potato-scented air. (And not for nothing, but I've never been called "honey" and "sweetheart" so many times in an hour.)
3763 Wynkoop Street
I wasn't crazy about Irene's meatloaf (it had the texture of a poached galantine or a quenelle, and was made with what I swear was ground bacon), but fell hard for the schnitzel — breaded, thick-cut pork cutlets touched with a thin gravy, a splash of lemon juice and lots of butter — and wanted more even after having eaten a whole cutlet, a good amount of freshly mashed potatoes and maybe half the handmade sauerkraut. As much as I'd loved the Polish Cracovia mielony up in Westminster, I loved this Czech rizek even more.
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Hospoda doesn't look like much from the outside. But inside, there's so much heart and such aching, homespun talent that I was immediately won over.