Walking down Main Street in Longmont on a hot summer night in the late 1800s, you might have noticed a cavalcade of revelers gathered at the corner of Main and Third, enjoying music and drink, their laughter and conversation spilling out into the street.
Then the Dickens Opera House, built by William Henry Dickens (a distant relative of the inimitable Charles Dickens), was a center of culture and entertainment in the small farming community, and while the building has since been a revolving door for other businesses, it seems to have finally come home with the opening of The Dickens Tavern.
Step inside, and you feel like you might be stepping back in time a bit. The current owners, Sean and Lynne Owens, removed some overzealous “improvements” that were added over time to reveal much of the original woodwork of the building and original tile floors. They then added other period details including a marble-top bar and etched glass. The effect is one of historic elegance that manages to still feel modern and comfortable.
The bar is a big draw, with locals filling the interior and spilling out onto the long patio to take advantage of happy hour deals. Beer flows freely into gigantic 21-ounce schooners that require two-handed drinking, and the menu compliments with dozens of pub-style comfort food favorites. Fried pickles and fried cheese cozy up on the appetizer menu next to seared ahi tuna and warm mushroom duxelle. Pot roast and meat loaf seem quite at home next to fried polenta and prime rib.
After sampling the fried pickles, my dining companions and I set ourselves to the difficult task of ordering a main course. What, exactly, possessed me to order chicken pot pie on a 90-degree evening I’ll never know; perhaps the ghosts of the tavern’s past were whispering to me that it was the right choice, despite the heat. In such cases, one should always follow one’s instinct. The pot pie arrived, not in a pie plate, but in an actual cast-iron pot with only a sheet of pastry on top to give it any resemblance to pie. Chunks of flavorful roast chicken and aromatic vegetables swam in a beautiful white cream gravy that was impressive without being overwhelming.
Despite the sweat prickling my brow, I was in heaven. My husband opted for the Loco Moco—beef patties served on mashed potatoes, topped with two fried eggs and smothered in mushroom gravy. Not for the faint of heart; but not purely diner fare. The mushroom gravy in particular was surprisingly complex and gave the meal a gourmet quality. Our friend made a more weather-appropriate choice with the avocado ceasar salad, which was large and lovely.
Not to be outdone, the desserts were both elegant and homespun at once. Real strawberry shortcake (with biscuits, not cake) shined under ripe berries and fresh whipped cream. And, again despite the heat, I succumbed to the siren song of the banana bread pudding with rum sauce, which wooed me with every bite.
The delectable pub food and welcoming atmosphere mean I’ll definitely be looking forward to cooler weather when I can revisit these stick-to-your-ribs meals.
The Dickens Tavern
Bottom Line: Comfort food in a comforting place; your new neighborhood pub—whether you live in Longmont or not.