Sometimes we’re in the mood for a fancy dinner. Or we simple go searching for some classic comfort food. Other times a basic fried snack fills us up. Basically, we love to eat out, which got us thinking we should begin an annual list of dishes available in the North Metro area that keep us full and beaming throughout the year:
1. Veggie Gnocchi
Picking our super-duper, number-one, favorite dish in the North Metro area is sort of like judging a beauty pageant: At this level, they’re all pretty good, but how do you determine which is the best? While to some degree arbitrary, our choice came down to a perfect storm of crucial criteria. The Vegetable Gnocchi combines the ideals of freshness and locality (a cornerstone of Colterra’s approach to food) with dazzling flavor, good value and approachability for omnivores and vegetarians alike. Quite simply, this is not just a nod to menu adaptability; this vegetarian dish stands against anything else on Colterra’s menu, and that is saying something. Of course, its seasonal quality means the vegetables mixed with the gnocchi change frequently (currently oyster mushrooms, carrots, squash and spinach), but we have little doubt Chef Bradford Heap keeps this shining whether winter, spring, summer or fall.
2. Shrimp and Crab Cake
Like nearly everything else at Flatz, what we like about the Shrimp and Crab Cake is its audaciousness in terms of size. Ample and luxuriously sweet and smoky shellfish is shredded and mixed before finding its home atop a giant portobello mushroom cap topped with roasted red peppers. Although many other dishes on the menu are also delicious, we think you can make a night out of sharing this and heading straight to dessert.
3. Guinness Lamb
Village Bistro, Westminster
New head chef Shiloh Sager has tweaked the menu some since his fall arrival at the Bistro, but luckily, the signature dish, Guinness Lamb, remains at the posh Westminster bistro. We would have been devastated if the changeover resulted in this treat being dropped from the menu. Featuring a succulent cut of lamb seasoned in the Best Beer in the World, it comes served with a potato rosetti and caramelized onions. We always upgrade to Lobster Mashed Potatoes, featuring large, fresh chunks of the crustacean, as a side.
4. New Style Sushi
Sushi Yoshi, Superior
Sushi spots in suburban strip malls are at best even money when it comes to betting on quality. Visit Sushi Yoshi, tucked away in a Superior shopping center, without fear. It is superb, and features a fresh menu of the typical favorites despite having a location dwarfed by nearby Big Box retailers such as Costco. The New Style Sushi is the true highlight of the menu, featuring seven slices of the freshest fish that are seared by torch and served with a drizzle of thick, sweet sauce. It’s a culinary exploration that makes Yoshi worthy of a dining destination moniker. There’s a wide variety on the plate (tuna, mackerel, salmon) giving a good sampling of great sashimi.
5. Tofu Vegetable Hot Pot
Spice China, Louisville
What a find Spice China is, and what a treat it is to sample its authentic menu! Our favorite of the many examples is the Tofu Vegetable Hot Pot. Arriving at the table piping hot, the pot combines large bricks of fried tofu with fleshy oyster mushrooms, crunchy radishes, resplendent bok choy, zucchini, onion and carrot in a subtly sweet brown gravy. Flavor, aroma and presentation have seldom been so fruitfully wedded.
6. Haus Special Praha
There may not be a Front Range dining room more sumptuous and old school than Praha’s. We find the best way to indulge in the classic Eastern bloc-style is the Haus Special Praha. Featuring a decadent roast duck along side the classic Wienerschnitzel and Rahmschnitzel and rich potatoes Lyonnaise, this dish will leave you feeling very satisfied.
7. Angus Filet
With a name like Sugarbeet, you might expect our favorite dish from this hip Longmont eatery to be something involving roots and berries, but Chef Seth Witherspoon’s Angus Filet is good enough to eclipse his many other excellent creations. Served with a delicious green peppercorn sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes and seasonal grilled vegetables, this is as satisfying a cut as you will find anywhere in the North Metro area (including many places devoted to the cultivation of fine steaks).
8. Bananas Foster
Hunters Restaurant & Pub, Longmont
If you’ve never had the indulgent experience of Bananas Foster made tableside, get on over to Hunter’s immediately and have a seat in its surprisingly sensuous dining room. Fresh sliced bananas are caramelized with brown sugar, flambéed with Bacardi 151 rum and then served hot over vanilla ice cream. This is a classic steakhouse tradition aptly undertaken, and why not get your potassium with a little potency and panache?
9. Pepper Roasted Turkey Club
O’s Restaurant, Westminster
The classic turkey club makes for an excellent lunch selection assuming you can fight back the tryptophan effects and get back to work in the afternoon. It’s always a little better when you order it from a fine-dining establishment, such as the trendy O’s in the Westminster Westin. So when you visit for your Friday “power lunch,” order its take on the classic. Piled high with fresh deli pepper roasted turkey, and topped with delectable Gruyere cheese and crisp bacon, O’s club gives you everything you’d expect in a fine sandwich, plus a fried egg just because it tastes really freakin’ good.
10. Mushroom and Gorgonzola Farrott
Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante, Niwot
Under “comfort” in the proverbial dictionary rests an image of the familial finery of Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante, and under “comfort food” is another displaying its Mushroom and Gorgonzola Farrotto. With a dazzling texture that will keep your mouth busy while the rest of your body indulges in the rich flavors, this dish is a real winner. Good any time of year, this ample appetizer is the perfect complement to any number of full-bodied, earthy red wines.
11. Grilled Artichoke
Like a sturdy lighthouse on an eroding beach, Bloom remains a stalwart with Village Tavern in the once chic outdoor Village section at FlatIron Crossing. One of the reasons for Bloom’s continued success, and our favorite reason for returning, is the Grilled Artichoke. It sounds simple against a lavish menu, but charred with fresh herbs, olive oil and sea salt, and served with a divine mustard aioli, this baby makes for tasty, tactile snacking. We like it with a nice glass of bubbly.
12. Potato Burger
Waterloo Icehouse, Louisville
When we say “Potato Burger,” don’t be scared. But be advised, this cornerstone of the Waterloo Icehouse’s pub menu is no mere latke sandwich. No, in fact it is a half-pound of Coleman beef mixed with bits of shredded potato, the water content of which makes for tasty, juicy grilling no matter what your temperature preference. The best part is that once you order the burger, you get as many toppings as you like for no extra cost. It’s the hamburger’s answer to an all-inclusive vacation.
13. Tacos al Carbon
El Sabor Jerezano, Thornton
These aren’t your Tex-Mex, Chipotle-style tacos. Large chunks of beef, marinated in a delectably tasty chili-based salsa, are served with sautéed onions, small pieces of jalapeño and tomato bits that makes it all melt in your mouth. Since the whole combo is a tad on the spicy side, the fresh avocado that sits atop the plate serves as more than just a burst of flavor; it’s a fire extinguisher if you have a Gringo’s palate.
14. Daily Ceviche Shooters
Nine 75, Westminster
We are truly enamored with Nine 75’s website blaring the august key tones of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” It’s a wonderful introduction. It turns out Nine 75 is enamored with the beginning of everything. We start our visit with the daily Ceviche Shooters. Influenced by both Asian and Latin cuisine, and with rotating ingredients from the standard (tuna) to the surprising (strawberries), these aperitifs are just the thing to get those gustatory gears oiled up.
15. Halibut Barbados
One of the surprising culinary discoveries in Barbados is that the locals love to fry the fish they catch fresh from the seas surrounding their tropical paradise. Fried food and blistering equator temperatures seem like a tough combination, but the flavors are immense. Thankfully, Tortugas has taken that Caribbean influence to a much colder climate by creating a vibrant halibut dish that keeps true to its Bajan influence. Stuffed with herbs, garlic and habanero chilies before being pan-seared, the halibut is topped with tomato, avocado salsa and Key lime aioli, this is a highlight at the area’s best seafood house.
16. Vegetable Somosas
Flavor of India, Longmont
The way to start a great Indian meal is with an order of Vegetable Somosas. At Flavor, they come piping hot, crispy and with a wonderful garlic chutney accompaniment. The only problem is the Somosas have an awful habit of filling you up prior to your main course. On the bright side, that means you’ll have leftovers to bring home.
17. Big Kahuna
Garden Gate Café, Niwot
Hawaiians have peculiar palates, with fondness for Spam and eggs served atop, and seemingly out of place, on certain sandwiches. But if Garden Gate’s French toast entrée is any indication, those from the islands know breakfast. The Big Kahuna, a.k.a. Hawaiian French toast, comes with eight sourdough slices, cooked to perfection and served with a macadamia nut encrusted confection. Be happy that it comes piled in sizable nuts, coconut flakes, syrup and pineapple, and not Spam.
18. Mac and Cheese Wedges
The Rib House, Longmont
For a number of years, it seemed that improving upon the staple macaroni and cheese was impossible. Perhaps making it from scratch would give it a kick over a box of Kraft, but that’s about it. Then The Rib House had to go and one up generations by breading mac and cheese and deep frying it. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds and serves as further proof that deep frying improves just about anything.
19. Sheperd’s Pie
Mike O’Shays, Longmont
Nothing says comfort food like a good ol’ fashioned shepherd’s pie, and this Irish tavern on Main Street Longmont has the freshest, tastiest version around to go along with its inviting pub atmosphere that has made the ale house a staple since the early ’80s. Ground lamb and beef are simmered in a sweet, rich gravy and served with just the right amount of peas and carrots. Then, more than half the dish’s surface is then topped with a perfectly creamy serving of mashers. When a friendly staff member offers a blueberry cobbler dessert, you’ll be tempted but too full to indulge.
20. Cinnamon Rolls
Johnson’s Corner Café, Loveland
Next time you want to treat someone special to an exquisite meal, take him or her way up north on I-25 to a truck stop. Seriously. While the menu is all-around surprisingly tasty for a greasy spoon highway turnoff, the Cinnamon Rolls are a must. Each 12-ounce roll is a perfectly flakey delight with an intensely sweet frosting melted atop. After plowing through one for breakfast, we generally take a mid-morning nap. If you are still struggling to accept our lauding of truck stop food, check Johnson’s accolades—named one of Travel & Leisure Magazine’s “Best Breakfasts in the World” in 1998; called one of the top five truck stops in the U.S. by the Food Network.
21. Pickle Spears
Colorado Coal Company, Erie
A dill served on the side of a Rueben is expected. The crisp, fresh taste of a pickle seems to accent virtually every sandwich to perfection. But until the Colorado Coal Company began deep frying pickles, they never really stood on their own. The Erie steakhouse lightly batters, then fries its spears, so plan on ordering a basket, and filling up. Of course, the pickles come served with a side of ranch for dipping, because adding ranch is like deep frying—it just makes everything taste better.
22. Wednesday’s Blue Plate Special
Two Dog Diner, Prospect, Longmont
Finding fresh swordfish isn’t generally a good expectation to hold when walking through the door of the corner diner. But not much makes sense in Longmont’s posh Prospect neighborhood, which is why you should hold no reservations ordering the Grilled Swordfish served with braised spinach and lentils and dripped in a walnut pesto sauce. Accompanied by a tasty cup of soup (hopefully the split pea with andouille sausage), Wednesday’s Blue Plate special serves as a great dinner or lunch choice. If you must truly feel like you’re at a greasy spoon diner, add a fresh biscuit to your order.
23. Athens Panini
Zupa Euroamerican Café, Erie
Over the years, paninis have become the popular sandwich choice by offering infinite possibilities of ingredients and being served nice and warm on tasty bread after being toasted for five or so minutes. Zupa has mastered the simple art with its Athens Panini, combining locally pastured creamy Haystack goat cheese, fresh avocado and roasted red peppers before toasting the ciabatta to a perfect golden brown. The soup de jour goes well as the side. Head over there soon, however, as the business is up for sale and there are no guarantees it’ll stay a café in the future.
24. O.G. Pizza
While not an official menu item, we’ve been eating at Z’s long enough to coin a few monikers for the pizzas that come out of the wood-fired stone oven. Ask for the O.G. and you’ll likely get a funny look since we haven’t exactly clued the staff in on our naming of it. (We really don’t know what it means, either). Instead, just bring this magazine as your crib sheet and ask for a pie with spinach, goat cheese and shrimp (substitute fresh tomato if you’re not feeling the seafood). If there’s enough clambering over our creation, we’ll lean on Z’s for an official menu spot with a notation of the source of the inspiration, your beloved Yellow Scene staff.
25. The Med
Martini’s Bistro, Longmont
It’s not easy to create a salad both filling and tasty enough to serve as a main course. The Med pulls this feat off by offering a heaping serving of sashimi-grade tuna steak ever-so-slightly seared served atop a bed of greens, beans, artichoke hearts and an assortment of other salad goodies. The basil vinaigrette offers a nice, light touch to the dish that will leave you full, but not weighed down. Order the drink of the day to wash it down.
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