Union Station Restaurants Announced

Artist's rendering of the renovated, repurposed Union Station. (Union Station Alliance image)
Artist’s rendering of the renovated, repurposed Union Station. (Union Station Alliance image)

As locals know, Denver’s landmark Union Station, once a busy Union Pacific Railroad depot and more recently a barely used Amtrak stop, is being renovated into part of an inter-modal transportation hub, with the neo-classical station itself slated to become a luxury hotel, shopping center and restaurant row. Happily, the Union Station Alliance, which is directing massive makeover, has so far selected local restaurateurs.

Highly regarded Denver and Boulder restaurateurs have committed to take space in the grandiose old station in LoDo: John and Adam Schlagel of Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, the wildly popular Front Range breakfast and brunch place; Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk of Boulder-based The Kitchen [Next Door], which at this location won’t literally be next door to any other Kitchen but a few blocks from The Kitchen [Denver] at 16th and Wazee, and a yet unnamed restaurant from Fruition’s Alex Seidel. They all promise outdoor dining.

What I view as an unfortunate casualty of this wonderful renovation is the demise of Red Star Deli and Studio F in the Ice House, directly beside the disruptive renovation project. Even with the talented James Mazzio at the helm, this daring combination of excellent deli in the front and food-oriented event space (the former Mise en Place Cooking School). Couldn’t prevail . Mazzio is now back in the Aspen area, last  I heard as executive chef at The Edge Restaurant & Bar in Snowmass.

Old World Fare at Old-Time Prices

Simple Glenwood Springs eatery serves affordable Polish food

P1020818Polanka serves authentic, generously portioned Eastern European fare at prices so reasonable they’ll make you blink in disbelief. Located in the heart of Glenwood Springs at the turn from the short stretch between Interstate 70 access and the Grand Avenue Bridge, thousands of people pass it every day including many en route up-valley to Aspen. The lucky ones stop at the frill-free strip mall eatery, and the smart ones keep coming back for what I think is the best, inexpensive food in the Roaring Fork Valley — or at least the gateway to the valley.

Polanka is super-simple and whistle-clean. The food iks ample, inexpensive and good.
Polanka is super-simple and whistle-clean. The food is ample, inexpensive and good.

The walls are so spare that customers can’t miss the two framed 9/11 posters on a short wall beside the front door. I found them to be an unexpected theme in the middle of Colorado, so I asked. Across from the posters is the open galley kitchen where grandmother Irene and grandson Pat, whose last name(s) I don’t know, were working. Pat told me that Irene used to run a Polish restaurant, also called Polanka, in Woodbridge, New Jersey — relatively close to the Twin Towers. She moved to Colorado, became bored and opened a Polanka in Glenwood Springs — and like the original, everything is scratch-made on the spot. Her grandson came out to help. Continue reading Old World Fare at Old-Time Prices

High Expectations Realized for The Pullman

Informal dining & good food at track-side Glenwood Springs restaurant

P1020734I’ve been wanting to eat at The Pullman in Glenwood Springs ever since Roaring Fork Valley chef/restaurateur Mark Fischer opened it a bit over two years ago.  Located across the street and just north of the Amtrak station, the big L-shaped restaurant features polished wood floors, high ceilings, exposed brick, windows on two sides and an open kitchen in the back. Once Fischer opened The Pullman, 7th Street became the right side of the tracks (not that Glenwood actually had a wrong side, but you get my meaning).

Having dined really well at his first two restaurants, Six89 and Phat Thai, both in Carbondale, I was looking forward to The Pullman. I finally made it, and it was what I expected. The vibe was young and energetic but it had an acceptable noise level — something not to be taken for granted. We had been invited to join the Business After Hours reception where we ate some nibbles, so we confined ourselves to light fare. The ingredients, preparation and presentation are contemporary, interesting and have a comfort food quality too — an admirable culinary balancing act.

A basket of crusty, thickly sliced rustic bread comes without butter or olive oil, though I imagine it would have been brought promptly if requested.
A basket of crusty, thickly sliced rustic bread comes without butter or olive oil, though I imagine it would have been brought promptly if requested.
Thick pub-style cheeseburger with thin parmesan-kissed fries and a pickle spear alongside.
Thick pub-style cheeseburger with thin parmesan-kissed fries and a pickle spear alongside.
Crisp greens atop the handmade gnocchi, | asparagus pieces, wild mushrooms, mugreens truffle vin and parmesan.
Crisp greens atop handmade gnocchi, asparagus pieces and wild mushrooms, plus truffle vin and parmesan.

Price check: Snacks, $2.50 (per oyster) to $7; small plates, $8-$10; small salads, $6-$9; large salads, $10-$12; pasta, $9-$14; large plates, $12-$20; sides, $5.

the Pullman on Urbanspoon

Name Change for Sandwich Purveyor

Old logo with old name. Sorry!
Old logo with old name. Sorry! But there’s lots of news from Backcountry Delicatessen.

Backcountry Provisions, known for innovative, award-winning and very filling sandwich combinations, is now Backcountry Delicatessen. Specializing in craft fare since 1999, this business began in downtown Steamboat Springs, now considered the flagship, and later added locations on Town Square in Jackson, Wyoming; in Denver’s eatery row in Lower Downtown and the recently remodeled store in Old Town Fort Collins. The new name means a new logo, new graphics, signage, menu items, packaging, interior decor and a redesigned website complete with online ordering at all four locations. The snappy new website includes a page for franchise information, so there may be more in the future.

Sandwiches remain the core of the delis. offering hot breakfast sandwiches, specialty lunch sandwiches and build-your-own sandwiches, Impingement ovens, which I’d never heard of, have been added to all Backcountry Delicatessen kitchens to make more toasted variations of their signature sandwiches available in a matter of minutes. Additionally, daily specials, soups, salads, fresh-baked cookies and brownies, assorted soft drinks and coffee. Each Backcountry Delicatessen is open seven days a week for dine-in, take-out and delivery, and the LoDo store serves beer and wine.

“Active, on-the-go-lifestyles require wholesome delicious food, whether at the work or hiking a 14er,” commented Peter Boniface, co-founder and co-owner. “There’s no need to compromise on taste or quality just because you’re busy.  Backcountry Delicatessen is dedicated more than ever to connect with customers on a personal level and happily fuel their everyday and epic adventures.”

Co-founders and co-owners Peter Boniface and David Pepin, opened the first Backcountry Provisions in Steamboat Springs in 1999.  High school buddies from Massachusetts, the friends moved to Steamboat Springs in the mid-‘90s to ride single-track and ski bottomless powder. Today, they continue to pursue their outdoor passions alongside their equally athletic spouses and children — and run four terrific sandwich spots..

Backcountry Delicatessen on Urbanspoon


Guest Post: ‘Learning to Love Exotic Foods’

Boulder writer, food historian and literary cookbook author looks back on her first tastes authentic Asian food. And for the record, I’m glad that she did not eat the shark’s fin — whose harvesting is an incredibly appalling fishing practice.

“Fish Stick Girl Meets Rock Fish and Dung of the Sea” by Karen Albright Lin

Fish on the hoof, as it were, at an Asian market. Photo courtesy Karen Albright Lin.
Fish on the hoof, as it were, at an Asian market. Photo courtesy Karen Albright Lin.

I was born in the land of fish sticks, a land-locked meat eater from Kansas City, Missouri. To be sure, they are breaded and over-cooked, mystery pulp-injected hush puppies, fish in name only. But 27 years ago, when I first married my Taiwanese husband, they seemed more appetizing than the Rock Cod he placed before me for the first time.

The aroma of fermented black beans registered MSG on my olfactory meter as Wen placed saucy, feng shui-friendly dishes on the lazy Susan. I marveled at his culinary success until that last platter came, a fully intact fish, the length of my thigh, eyes braised to milky white, smothered in brown sauce. It eyed me resentfully. I thought, what kind of fishmonger was not willing to fillet it? Rocky was so ugly, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

I took a stab at Rocky. After pulling flesh off the bones, I set it on my mound of rice and slid the suspicious skin to one side. More and more ominous bones surfaced. I shuddered.

I knew that even fish sticks weren’t 100% safe eating. When I was an adolescent, I swallowed a bone. It got stuck. Even with tweezers, my mother wasn’t able to extract it.  As we drove off to the hospital, me clutching my neck, I swore off fish.

Until I was forced to eat it with Wen. As we turned Rocky over to pick at him again, I silently recited the procedure for the Heimlich maneuver. Continue reading Guest Post: ‘Learning to Love Exotic Foods’

‘Culinary Colorado’ a Top Colorado Cooking Blog

IndulgeAwardI was surprised and honored to learn that Culinary Colorado has been named one of ‘Colorado’s Top 20 Cooking Blogs’ by Indulge Bakery, a Lafayette bakery that itself has been the recipient of several “best of” honors and seems to want to pay it forward by honoring other food-related entities. Indulge Bakery is best known for its exquisite cakes, but it also makesexcellent pies, tarts, cookies, scones, muffins, cupcakes, quiches and more.

I have been writing a broad-stroke that blog ranges widely across the food scene — Colorado-focused but not Colorado exclusive.That evidently was what appealed to folks at Indulge. Recipes are a small part of what I post on Culinary Colorado. Here’s how Indulge described my blog: “Claire Walter’s website covers Colorado’s food scene and keeps us up to date on local delights that we would otherwise have possibly missed. This is the website we go to for great ideas on where to find something new, unique and tasty. Keep up the great work Claire!”

I’m planning to, so thanks, Indulge, for the encouraging honor that I share with some of the other local food blogs that I most admire.

From Barbecue to Burgers

Snarfburgers’ debut in the old Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que location

P1020708What I  most liked most about Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que, the funky, immutable BBQ shack at 20th and Arapahoe in Boulder, was owner  Bruce “Daddy Bruce” Randolph’s generosity. His little barbecue shack was a hangout for ths area’s small population of elderly African-Americans who passed the time of day there. Because Daddy Bruce donated Thanksgiving baskets to the less fortunate for decades, Denver named a large street in his honor

After his death, his son, Bruce Randolph, Jr., continued kept the joint open and continued the tradition of giving. Daddy Bruce, Jr. finally sold the landmark barbecue shack in 2012. Both Daddies Bruce were well on in years as they kept the place going, and by the time the Daddy Bruce era ended, the place was in sad shape. In truth, much as I admired Daddy Bruce’s humanitarian spirit. I never cared for his vinegary Carolina-style sauce or the squooshy white bread that traditionally comes with it.

Jim Seidel,  impresario of the Snarf's empire.
Jim Seidel, impresario of the Snarf’s empire.

Jim Seidel, who created Snarf’s Subshops, took on the daunting stem-to-stern renovation task to make way for Snarfburger, a simple and clean new burger place. The little corner eatery had always been simple, but in its waning years, “clean” was not an adjective that came to mind. At this offshoot of the popular Snarf’s Sub Shops ,the menu is small and directed at the students who comprise a large part of their base. From Snarfburgers, Naropa University is just to the east, Boulder High School to the west and the enormous University ot Colorado campus is up on the hill to the south/southwest.

Order here..Chairs are pulled up to couters under  the windows and along the walls to provide limited seating. I did hear Seidel say
Order here and listen for your name to be called, and pick up your order. Chairs are pulled up to couters under the windows and along the walls to provide limited indoor seating. I did hear Seidel say “picnic table,” so maybe outdoor eating will be an option too.

The sub shop formula is in effect here too: order at the counter, listen for your name to be called and either eat in (space is limited) and stools are or take out. The signature items are burgers — single or double, served on big, squishy buns. These are so far, on untoasted buns. but since the sub shops toast the bread items, this could change. Customers who don’t opt out of certain condiments automaitcally get shredded lettuce. tomato, onion, pickle slices, mustard mayo — and maybe something else I’ve forgotten. The burgers are presented in brown paper bags. From the fryer, either potatoes or onion rings are offered. Other items are hot dogs and grilled bologna sandwiches (aimed that the student market again). Shakes, soft ice cream and sodas from a self-serve dispenser, and that’s it. I didn’t take a picture of the brown paper bag or the burger. You can imagine what they look like.

This is the first Snarfburger, but I expect there will be more locations down the road. Colorado alone has 15 Snarf Sub Shops, and there are a few in Chicago and St. Louis too.
Snarfburger on Urbanspoon

Claire Walter's Colorado-oriented but not Colorado-exclusive blog about restaurants, food and wine events, recipes and related news. For address of any restaurant, click on the Zomato icon at the end of the post.