I dine out rather frequently but haven’t found the time to write up much lately, so I’m not sure how many of these to include in one post. There always seem to be people looking for metro-area recommendations, and I’m happy we have so many solid independent restaurants. I’ll try to throw together some Boulder/Northern ‘burbs ideas in another post too (or you can beat me to the punch and start one). Please add to this so I’ll have some new ideas too.
El Taco de Mexico: Do yourself a favor and drop by the counter here on Santa Fe for a cabeza (beef cheeks) burrito or an order of chilaquiles or frankly anything that happens to land in front of you. You won’t need lots of it, but bring cash since they don’t accept anything else. We took bets on whether a gregarious friend from SF could make the methodical señoras smile, and he got all of them but one. Don’t expect to be so lucky, but do expect to eat very well for precious little green.
D Bar: Not just about desserts, as even I’m surprised how much I like their savory items. Flatbread pizza with tomatoes/goat cheese/pepperoni, crunchy panko-topped mac and cheese with a simple side salad, tiny Kobe sliders with baby fries, and luscious Medjool dates with the suggested Late Harvest Syrah pour (2 oz is plenty). It is a bit annoying how you can’t get most of the “fancy” desserts until 6:00, even on the weekends. Their classic cake and shake with Manjari frosting (after the chocolate and not the Eurovision singer) is always available and their pastry case is usually enough to boggle the mind.
Olivea: Huge improvement over Aix, both in how they’ve opened up and brightened up the space and in how they serve food you actually want to eat. Outstanding items were the chocolate caramel tart with sea salt (I doubt you could go wrong with any of Yasmin’s desserts) and a salad of sorts of Valencia oranges with purple onions, fennel, and olives. I sadly didn’t think their prosciutto platter or their duck mousse were the best in show, and I would probably run over my own sibling (and yours too) for amazing versions of those.
Osteria Marco: Speaking of cured meats like prosciutto, it’s hard to beat the ones here. I picked up a to-go order for my wine group of bresaola, ciccioli, coppa, prosciutto, capra ricotta, the god-like burrata, roasted red peppers, and ciabatta bread and they threw themselves on it like a pack of wild dogs. It literally survived less than 5 minutes and I swear every adult in the room would’ve picked up the cardboard containers and licked them if no-one else had been looking. I had an unbelievable happy hour deal there of meatball sliders, cheese & truffle oil Panini, and lemongrass-flavored cocktail for 15 bucks.
LoHi Steakbar: I was here on their second day of biz and thought it was a nice space with friendly servers that was clicking fairly well. If I get a craving for a big hunk of meat (burger, steak frites) but don’t want to put a second mortgage on my house, I can’t imagine a better place to land. Martinis with a spoon of caviar? Yes, please!
Sketch: Just snacks and hooch, kids, assuming foie gras au torchon is your kind of picnic treat. Go get the boozy Amarena cherries and chocolate with their recommended glass of Rutherglen red (assuming they still have that vino). Then go nuts and pick up some locally-crafted ice cream at nearby Sweet Action!
Park Burger: This summer a friend and I happened to walk in on the day they added sliders to the menu and they said we were the first to order them. We had already started with juicy burgers of our own and a shared order of sweet potato fries, but come on--we had to try the sliders too! I must express a preference for the mouth-feel of the sliders, as everything’s cut to fit on a tiny bun so you don’t have one gigantic tomato slice and piece of lettuce moving about. The chocolate peanut butter shake didn’t win me over, but you need room for those sliders anyway.
Rioja: They are tough to beat, especially at brunch. My better half’s beloved breakfast burrito isn’t on the current menu, but he didn’t seem too disappointed with his lovely platter of steak, polenta, and eggs (which I managed to sneak only one taste of between bites of ethereal Dungeness crab cake crepes). The dinner classics are, of course, the artichoke tortelloni and the pork belly appetizer. I’m of the opinion their veggie lunch chips should always be on the menu—they’re that good. I wonder if they always source them from Panzano. I thought I saw a bread baker there stirring pumpkin one morning but when I walked by realized it must have been sweet potato for the chips, as there was a bowl of them in front of her.
Panzano: Check out their happy hour specials and order a mushroom crepe all to yourself. Don’t let anyone else even put an evil eye on it. Guard that baby for five seconds until it’s gone. Then order another one. They still have one of the best breakfasts in town, including a $15 “power breakfast” option where you get a belly-busting amount of food with coffee and juice. You cannot help but smile when Champagne hollandaise is on your plate, can you?
Fisher-Clark Urban Deli: People rave about the Spanish sandwich, but the hot pastrami is undoubtedly my fave. Last time I was in I had a custom turkey packed with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and chipotle mayo on focaccia.
Bones: Have had many amazing noodle bowls here (pork udon with poached egg, kai shiru with clams/corn/sausage/coconut broth/bok choy, chilled soba with shrimp on one occasion and crab on another, ramen with lobster/edamame/miso broth). If you have a loved one feeling under the weather, bring them back one of these piping hot bowls of aromatic noodles and you will be their undisputed champion. I have found that their salads have an excellent “goodies-to-greens” ratio, meaning you’re not left with half a plate of plain arugula after all the accompaniments are gobbled up and can therefore enjoy every bite. I would expect to get maybe two candied Marcona almonds at most places, but between a good number more of those and the goat cheese, pickled onions, and Asian pear slices on their bibb lettuce salad, I didn’t run out of any treats.
Man, I haven’t even yet mentioned Izakaya Den or TAG or Fruition or Lola or Sherpa House or Sushi Sasa or Vesta or…