My whirlwind weekend trip was even more fun as my beloved Atlanta Braves happened to be at Coors Field. Not only did my team win a nailbiter, but I got a foul ball as well (almost caught it). I did break down and have a ballpark hot dog after walking amongst the upper level concession stands. I went with a Tucson Dog, with a Texas-style red chili, cheese and sour cream. It was pretty good, with a really quality bun, one of the best I can recall at a ballgame. Now on to the more chow-worthy stops, in chronological order:
CHARCO BROILER: A regular haunt during my 7 years traveling the area on business. Totally retro vibe with totally bodacious beef. This trip was a stop for breakfast, and as much as I wanted steak and eggs, I opted for an omelet given my eating and drinking plans for the rest of the day. The omelet to have at CB is the steak and mushroom job... bits of steak, fresh mushrooms sauteed up in a yummy brown gravy. Potatoes are good, even if their spicy version is not spicy at all.
NEW BELGIUM BREWING COMPANY: No food, unless you consider beer to be a food group as I do. If you be likin' the suds you need to visit here. What a cool company! Fat Tire shares a top spot on my list of favorites because a) it kicks butt and b) it pairs so well with so many different foods. Their other beers do not disappoint. They offer a free tasting of any 4 varietals of your choice. I went with their Elysian IPA (fabulous) a Dandelion beer (in a very hoppy direction but with a curve to the left) a triple Belgian and their Adam's Ale (they have a blind taste-off and the winner gets their own special brew featured). The overall vibe of the company is ultra-green and semi-hippie, and the tour is way fun. These people love beer and love making beer and love sharing beer and it shows. Really cool and often whimsical art abounds, and the prices for swag are way reasonable. I will make a point of visiting each and every time I am in the area.
SMASHBURGER: Went to the Ft. Collins location on Harmony after the brewery tour. WOW. One of the best first bites of a hamburger I can recall in my half-century of eating red meat. Hot, juicy, crusty beefy fabulousness. I went with a 1/3-pound with cheddar, grilled onions, mayo and their smash sauce. Shoestring fries were flavorful and crisp, but could have been hotter. A quality fast food concept, and I was impressed with the level of service.
JACK N GRILL: Another regular hang from my business trip visits. I've always forgiven the sometimes not-on-it service because the food is good and the place is always hoppin'. I started with my usual corn-in-a-cup. Yeah, it's frozen Niblets, but it's the best damned treatment of frozen Niblets on the face of the planet. Cooked up with lemon juice, hot sauce and parmesan cheese, it's just too damned good for a corn slut like me. Was thinking yet another burger, but decided to opt for the New Mexican enchiladas (stacked cheese enchiladas with a couple of fried eggs). I went with their green chile which I really like... good flavor and a nice, creeping heat. Their red chile salsa goes great with their greasy, salty fresh fried chips. Pretty danged good as always. Just wish my corn had been served hotter.
LARKBURGER: Stopped for lunch in Edwards on the start of my drive back. Another wow, but maybe not quite as big as the one Smashburger got. I went with the truffle burger and of course the truffle parmesan fries. I was the 2nd person in the front door, and was surprised the fries were lukewarm. They must have started a batch prior to opening up. Flavor was out of this world, but I would've liked them even more if they had been crisp and hot instead of not-that-crisp and warm. The burger was really good... the truffle aioli kills, and the patty tasted great. Really nice beefy flavor, and it was cooked an absolutely perfect medium rare.
As for the burger battle winner, I'm going to give a slight nod to Smashburger, mainly because they delivered in terms of temperature and texture. Take away the truffle aioli and the Larkburger is a good one, but not a great one.
OUTLAW CAFE: In Wellington, UT at the National 9 Inn. I decided to hole up for the night and finish my work in Price and the drive home the next day. I'd driven past this place numerous times but never checked it out. I was tired and hungry so I gave it a shot, and I am glad I did. Yet another burger, this time a patty melt, and they nailed it. Nicely grilled marble rye, juicy patty, nice and gooey with cheese and sauteed onions. They got my fries crisp as ordered, and that always earns extra points. I was impressed enough that I popped back in for breakfast. Went with their Western omelet (sans the nasty green bell pepper) and I got another winner. They included fresh sauteed mushrooms in their version, and the day cook is not afraid to let some crust form on the chunks of ham. Hot and tasty. If my hash browns had been crisper (as ordered) I'd give straight A's. The drive on US6 is a pain, but it's nice to know there's a decent oasis smack dab in the middle.