Category Archives: Restaurant & multiple restaurants

Daily Meal Picks Columbine for Affordable Steaks

Federal Boulevard classic gets national nod.

The Daily Meal’s selection of “The Best Inexpensive Steakhouses in Denver” features a Federal Boulevard standby that is not on everyone’s radar screen when it comes to Denver steaks. Anyone looking for less spendy places than Elway’s, The Capitol Grill, Ruth’s Chris, Guard & Grace and Shanahan’s, can go casual way south on Federal Boulevard (#300) for a super-affordable steak dinner with Texas toast. Here’s what the site posted:

Columbine Steak House & Lounge, Denver

This low-slung, no-frills Denver legend has been going strong since 1961, and its main claim to fame is how amazingly inexpensive it is. Fried chicken costs $8.75, a steak sandwich costs $7.95, pork chops $11.25. And most impressively of all, there are six steaks on the menu, and the most expensive one of the bunch, an absolutely massive porterhouse, costs just $20.75. As for the rest: the large fillet is $18.25, a T-bone is $16.25, sirloin and New York strip are $13.95, and a small fillet is $12.75. Tax is already included in the price, and all steaks also come with salad, potato, and toast.

Not a steakhouse but a old-style New Mexican restaurant that is also a Federal Boulevard classic is going away. Jack-n-Grill at #2524 is closing.

Kudos for The Kitchen

Boulder Restaurant cited by Food and Wine.

A Food and Wine magazine feature listed “The Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State.” For Colorado, The Kitchen in Boulder was honored. Here’s what the magazine thinks:

Colorado: The Kitchen

“Over the past five years in Boulder and Denver, I’ve noticed a big shift towards a vibrant restaurant scene with a palpable verve around sustainability,” said Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore. “Restaurants like Black Cat, Potager, and Fruition have really stepped up to the plate to deliver inspired seasonal cuisine.” Paving the farm-to-table way in Colorado is The Kitchen, which has establishments in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and applies its strong eco-friendly philosophy—that includes everything from the locally sourced ingredients to wind power to composting—in each location. Founders Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Husk have also created a nonprofit that’s built over 200 Learning Gardens in schools in Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis for 120,000 students to discover the benefits of growing and eating fresh healthy food.

Longmont’s Beguiling Bin 46

Guest post by my friend Melanie Mulhall.

When those of us who live on the Front Range of Colorado think wine bar on a Friday evening, we are usually also thinking Denver or Boulder, not Longmont. But Longmont is exactly where wine bar lovers will find the chic and very worthy wine bar, Bin 46. This is a comfortable, modern, hip place without pretense. Inside, the walls are covered with art, and there is abundant seating outside for those who want to enjoy their wine and eats en plein air. 

Over three trips, my friends and I have worked our way through many items on the happy hour menu including the PEI mussels, charcuterie, wild trout spread, Spanish anchovies, crab cake, diablo eggs, roasted Brussels sprouts, and brisket mac and cheese. We have also savored an Italian beef slider and fresh figs. Everything we had was several steps up from the usual happy hour fare. 

Bin 45’s smoked trout spread with accoutrements (cucumbers, celery, fresh dill and naan bread).

The smoked trout spread was made with Ducktrap (as in Ducktrap River in Maine) trout. Pleasantly singing with dill, it was served with cucumbers, celery, and naan. Gluten free crackers for the gluten free diner (me) were added cheerily and without fuss by the server.  

Roasted Brussels sprouts in with ale,  Applewood-smoked bacon and Balsamic vinegar.

The roasted Brussels sprouts seem to be a favorite, so if you go, try to snag an order before they’re gone. Made with Bootstrap Brewing Insane Rush Pale Ale and Applewood smoked bacon, they are great as a nosh or to accompany dinner. 

Swoon-worthy, but only available when fresh figs can be had, the figs were spread with goat cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and finished with a pistachio and honey drizzle. For those of us who love figs, this would have been heaven on a plate even without the drizzle, but the pistachio and honey drizzle took it to at least the seventh level of nirvana. The figs are an example of the thought and creativity that goes into the offerings, so even if you don’t manage to find them on the menu, know that you will probably find something equally imaginative and delicious.

 This is also a place worth visiting for dinner. The prices are reasonable and the choices range from beef stroganoff and Bolognese to Cubano sliders and spicy chorizo mussels.

 There are 150 wines in stock at Bin 46 served by the bottle, pour, and taste.  I loved the fact that they have a very nice Malbec as a happy hour house red. There’s also a well-curated list of craft beers. 

Owner Candy Campbell’s house rules are these: Love people, love wine, love food. Her execution strategy? Be kind. Be different. Be unpretentious. I think that she and Chefs Eric Dwyer and Marc Hernandez deliver on those promises.

[Here’s a very personal note from Malanie] It was great to see Candy A Campbell, and I had the pleasure of seeing her son, too . . . now pretty much grown up and not the little boy I remembered. But it was also glorious to know that she, the chef, and all the staff have made a place I want to return to again and again.

The Bin 46 rules are these: Love people. Love wine. Love food. And the execution strategy is this: Be kind. Be different. Be unpretentious. I think they deliver.

Price check: At happy hour, $3 for a street taco to $14 for a sizable portion of PEI mussels.

600 Longs Peak Avenue,  Longmont,  720-438-7410 .  

Exotic New Restuarant in Iceland

Top Nordic chef’s dramatic cuisine switch to North Africa & the Middle East. 

Sumac Grill + Drinks is a new restaurant in Reykjavik specializing in Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine. That’s kind of a gee-whiz piece of news, but what makes it really remarkable is that it is the brainchild of Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon, one of Iceland’s star chefs. He is former head chef of the highly regarded Lava Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon restaurant and coach of the national Icelandic cooking team.

Chef Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon in front of the steaming waters of the Blue Lagoon.

This is quite a departure for Vigfússon, who is known as a pioneer of New Nordic cuisine with really sterling creds — Iceland Chef of the Year (2007); One World Culinary Chef Competition, gold medal (2008); Nordic Chef of the Year, silver medal (2009); World Culinary Cup, two gold medals (2014). He and culinary partner and head chef Hafsteinn Ólafsson, Þráinn curated a savory menu that brings together Icelandic traditions and the exotic flare from the coastline of North Africa and the Middle East. What an interesting mix — and I report it here because I am very fond of Iceland.

Sumac Grill + Drinks brings a new flavor to the Reykjavik restaurant scene.  Related Lebanese and Moroccan cuisine are characterized by fried foods with exotic spices, yogurt sauce, marinated eggs, eggplant, hummus, pomegranates and more.

The name of the restaurant comes from the berry, Sumac, which when left out in the sun to dry, can be used as a fragrant spice that adds a “clean astringency and citrus tang to the dish.” Sumac’s bar also includes an extensive wine and cocktail list, naturally including drinks featuring Reyka Vodka, Iceland’s award-winning vodka brand. Click  here for the menu.

The restaurant is located at Laugavegur 28 in downtown Reykjavik.

SOL Tweaks Its Menu

Mexican food with style in Cherry Creek.

A few days after Denver’s spacious and attractive SOL Mexican Cocina celebrated its first birthday, the Baja-inspired restaurant rolled out new happy hour items and  resized lunch offerings (smaller  renditions of its generous dinner portions). I had the fortunate opportunity to join a couple of hours of sampling many dishes emanating from the glassed-in kitchen presided over by Cortland Collins, elevated from sous-chef to executive chef not long ago. And then, there were the restaurant’s award-winning margs.

Just about everything is made in house, save for the tortillas, which are made to SOL’s specifications by the esteemed La Tolteca Foods in Pueblo. At Cherry Creek rents, it would be foolish to have an in-house production set-up for the quantity they need.

Summery watermelon margarita, judges’ No. 1 choice cocktail at the recent Top Taco event.
Huge tortilla chips with two salsas — tomatillo-chipotle and black bear — made fresh every day.
Tortilla with a floating island of thin avocado slices.
Watermelon copita with cubes of sweet melon, salt, ground chile and lime wedges.
Mexx Chopp Salad (yes, that’s how SOL spells it) — this version with beef.

Continue reading SOL Tweaks Its Menu

A Corner of N’Awlins Now in Boulder

French Quarter Brasserie now open on Pearl Street Mall. 

After months of renovations to turn the former Paradise then Panera bakery space into a restaurant, the French Quarter Brasserie opened last Friday in Boulder. We went this evening, and considering that this is the third location (Washington, D.C., and Fairfax, Virginia being the first two), this restaurant just didn’t seem ready for prime time.

The décor is simple with barely adorned brick walls and low lights. The recorded jazz is LOUD. But then again, almost every eatery in Boulder these days is LOUD — some worse than others. The restaurant is just one door away from Broadway, so  traffic noise and busker noise (the one outside today was blowing a trumpet and tap dancing) compete with the music.

Ringside table for the passing parade on the Mall — this being one little moment when no one was walking by.

The awning says “French Quarter Brasserie and Oyster Bar.” I don’t know where they hid the oyster bar, but I sure didn’t see one. A few minutes after 6, there were a handful of happy hour lingerers on the patio,  only one party in the large restaurant area and no one at the bar. Still, service was pitifully slow. There was a hostess, a bartender and (I think) three waiters, but I wonder whether there was anyone in the kitchen. One supposed-to-be hot entrée and one salad took a very long time to come out. And even then, cold  rice was not  most promising  foundation for the classic red beans, andouille sausage (veggie version) and rice dish.

Also discouraging was that none of the staff who had very little to do bothered picking up the two cardboard coasters that had blown onto the patio floor. Did no one see them? (I was tempted to post a picture, but ultimately decided not to. Wrong decision.)

Fried foods dominate, so the still-gleaming kitchen has a six-basket Fryolator.

I don’t know what the East Coast locations are like, or whether this one will survive or thrive, but I’m disinclined to return — except perhaps for $1 oysters at happy hour. I wonder what happy hour wine pricing might be, because my very modest pour of rosé was $10 at dinner.

Red beans, andouille sausage and rice was supposed to come with corn bread but it didn’t. We didn’t notice — and neither did our waiter.
A salad of “blackened” mahi-mahi atop spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers served with an indiscernible amount of Parmesan, croutons and blood orange vinaigrette.
A shareable trio of beignets — chocolate, classic and honey — with an appropriately generous amount of powdered sugar.

Price check: At dinner, starters, $10-$25; entrées, $18-$35; entrée accoutrements (i.e., sides), $6-$12. No desserts are priced on the dinner menu. At lunch, they are $5-$8.

1207 Pearl Street, Boulder. No local phone number yet on the website. And nothing yet on Zomato.com.

Two Colorado Chefs to Cook in Colombia

Tom Coohill and Daniel Asher at gastronomic fest.

Tom Coohill, chef and co-owner of the Denver restaurant that bears his name, and Daniel Asher of Boulder’s River & Woods  recently made their second trip this year to Washington, D.C., to work with Plate of the Union, a food advocacy organization that is working to address hunger issues through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Soon they are heading to South America for the 10th annual El Sabor Barranquilla Gastronomic Festival in Barranquilla, Colombia, August 25-27. They will demonstrate cooking techniques and participate in culinary forums using his recipes and the Colombian region’s ingredients.

El Sabor Barranquilla is a three-day event focusing on the foods of the Caribbean, with cooking demonstrations and contests, forums exploring biodiversity, sustainability, culinary techniques and advances, and a variety of dishes cooked by chefs from around the world.

 “A crew came out from SaborUSA TV last year to film at the restaurant, and things went so well that they reached out for this event,” says Chef Tom, who will be accompanied by his wife and Coohills co-owner Diane Coohill. “They’re flying me and Daniel down there, and as we proved in D.C. recently, Daniel and I work well together. So, I think this is a great opportunity to have a really cool cultural exchange through food.”