Leenies Cafe – Lafayette
Leenies might have recently changed location, but the quality of the food has remained top-notch. Good old Southern hospitality pours out of the waitresses from the second you walk through the door, and then the menu offers enough New Orleans-style delights so as to actually be a bit of a problem. We plumped for the Mississippi fried catfish, and it was an inspired decision. The catfish is covered in a thick cornmeal coating but isn’t at all greasy or over-cooked (an easy mistake to make with fish), and the accompanying hush puppies are crispy and tasty, seasoned beautifully. The menu also has Southern standards like shrimp creole, red beans & rice, and assorted po’ boys. Leenies offers a little taste of New Orleans in Lafayette, and ticks all the right boxes.
Lobster Mac & Cheese
4580 – Boulder
Yum. There isn’t much more to say. This dish—which you’ll recognize by the lightly golden-crusted top in a delicate dish—is the best of seafood and mac & cheese rolled into one. Dare to let your spoon break the surface and the bubbly contents hit you first in wafts of cheddar and gruyere. Once the (fresh) Maine lobster meets with your tongue, it, along with the shallots and panko breadcrumbs, go ahead and finish convincing your stomach that it will never know anything more richly delicious. With its lunchtime affordability and all the time availability, there’s no need to make your way northeast for lobster; everything you could ever need is officially here in Boulder County.
La Botana – Thornton
The words “chocolate” and “chicken” don’t seem like they should go together except perhaps around Easter) but a dish called mole will change that perception. Mole is a complicated sauce made of peppers, spices, and cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, and La Botana does mole extremely well. Served over tender chicken with traditional rice and beans, and eaten with warm flour tortillas or fresh homemade corn on Saturdays and Sundays (call for times/dates), La Botana’s mole is a meal that should not be missed.
Breakfast Pupusas Plate
Bistro 503 – Lafayette
Pupusas might not sound like the most obvious choice for a breakfast dish, but Bistro 503 have turned into Salvadorian classic into an early morning (or brunch) delight. Two thick pupusas are stuffed with pecan smoked bacon, ham and Italian sausage, then a healthy portion of pepper jack cheese. The whole thing is topped with two eggs, sliced avocados and salsa. The dish is that perfect combination of firm and gooey, with the egg and salsa basically dripping over everything else. It’s a potent combination. Elsewhere on the menu, the sweet plantain – caramelized and served with beans, eggs and sour cream, are incredible too.
Georgia Boys – Longmont
Georgia Boys is one of those great little secrets that the locals swear by. The Shack (as it is known) is surrounded by industrial buildings, off the Main Street drag. In fact, when our GPS was directing us to it and there was only 450 feet left, we seriously thought that it had made a mistake. But no, the building sits there, patrons enjoying the patio. The service is cafeteria style, but that’s nothing to complain about. We went for the “one meat plate,” and chose pulled pork, with sides of sweet potato casserole and mac & cheese. The meat is delicious; smokey and juicy, and complimented by the sweet original BBQ sauce. The mac & cheese is rich and creamy, and the sweet potato casserole is packed with pecans. Even the Texas toast is thick and hot. The kitchen is open, and you can see the care and attention that the boys lavish on their meat.
The Sink – Boulder
Do you want a foofy burger, delicately sat on a bed of something with delicate hints of something else? Move along. The Sink is a dive bar in the classic sense (graffiti over everything), and the burgers are appropriately big and messy. The Brewers Burger is a heart-threatening, messy gem – a hand-pattied slab of Angus beef decorated with caramelized ale onions, applewood smoked bacon and a gloriously drippy pale ale cheese sauce. Yes, it looks a little like roadkill but, damn, it tastes divine. Order it cooked rare-to-medium – that burst of meat juice and cheese sauce on the first bite will haunt your dreams. Take some Cajun-spiced fries on the side and a cold Prost Pils in-between bites, and you have yourself a serious meal. Incidentally, the pizzas that we saw emerging from the kitchen looked awesome too.
Rincon Argentino – Boulder
While the empanadas seem to be the most popular dish at his canteen-style local favorite (and there is plenty of choice when it comes to that South American classic), a sandwich layered with delicious chorizo (Argentinian sausage), plus lettuce, tomato and a really vibrant and tangy chimichurri sauce seemed like a winner to us, and we were not wrong. Everything about this sandwich, from the crusty bread to the crisp salad, was very right, but it’s all about the meat here. Gamey with just a slight bite, the choripan makes for an ideal lunch.
Grilled Palisade Peach
Sugarbeet – Longmont
Some foods are automatically linked with the grill—burgers, hot dogs, ribs, even eggplant. But peaches? These delicate, juicy spheres of summer deliciousness are one of the last foods that seem likely to be charbroiled, yet at Sugarbeet that is exactly what Chef Witherspoon does in this divine “beginning,” as they’re called (actually appetizers). Tender and succulent, the halved peaches bear faint grill marks beneath lavender ricotta, freshly-picked mint and chili oil that coat and run over the top. Just when you didn’t think a Palisade peach could get better, it does—so much so that you might not move beyond this first course.