Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Capital Grille

I was lucky enough to recieve a $25 gift certificate to the Capital Grille recently. I've passed it a million times, while browsing at Z Gallerie, grabbing a latte at The Market or dining at Lime. I have to admit that the big cement lions outside sort of intimidated me. I never really figured I'd eat there. But hey... I'm not one to pass up free food.

After browsing their menu, I decided lunch would be the best option, as the prices are much lower. At dinner, that 25 bucks would have bought me like, a baked potato. So, I dragged my mom away from work and we stopped in early on a Tuesday afternoon. My first impression was not great. Don't get me wrong... the space is gorgeous. Dark woods, leather, giant paintings of horses and hunting dogs. Behind the hostess is a wall of lockers with name plaques beneath them (a veritable who's-who of Denver), containing what I assume to be frequent guests personal liquor bottles. What I didn't appreciate was a) being pushed out of the way by 'businessmen' in suits and b) feeling silly for not having a reservation at 11am on a Tuesday.

Regardless, we were sat in the lounge area near the bar (the only place you don't need a reservation for). The chairs were comfy and the atmosphere was calm. We were certainly the only people in the room not wearing suits, but the server/bartender still treated us very well. I've been to other similar establishments where you can just feel the service sizing you up. I didn't get any of that vibe here.

On to the most important thing, though: the food! Admittedly, we couldn't afford to run the gamut of appetizers, specialty drinks, desserts. Instead, I opted for what I thought would be a simple Ribeye Steak Sandwich. I should have known it wouldn't be your typical shaved-beef slices when our server asked how I'd like it cooked. What I got was an entire, beautiful, juicy ribeye steak on a warm, crusty roll. This gorgeous piece of meat was finished with caramelized onions and havarti cheese. Out of this world! It came with a side of homemade potato chips, which were a touch salty. (The best homemade chips are at Village Tavern, IMO.)

My mother chose the Parmesan Sourdough Club. This sandwich was massive, and differentiated itself from the traditional club with a smattering of prosciutto and a topping of coleslaw. Many of the diners around us were choosing the day's special- a spinach salad topped with hot, steaming steak bites.

I don't think a diner at Capital Grille could go wrong, from what I saw. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked delicious, and they clearly have a heavy amount of return visitors. It is very heavily-geared towards the urban businessman, but we were still made to feel comfortable. Valet parking was complimentary with validation- a huge plus on busy Larimer Square.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

New Stuff Soon!

Don't worry- I'm still alive and I am still planning on doing reviews here. Unfortunately, I've been poor beyond my wildest dreams, so I'm not eating out much. (Why don't people ever use that term in a negative context? Maybe I should say beyond my wildest nightmares?) But, I'm going to lunch at Capital Grille this week (thanks to a nifty gift certificate), so I plan on writing up a little review for ya.

In the meantime, a couple of tidbits:

Rock Bottom Brewery has an awesome beer called Molly's Titanic Brown Ale. Yummers.

Comedy Works has delicious macaroni n' cheese wedges! They also do a mean Roy Rogers. Yep, I drank a non-alcoholic beverage at a comedy club. Everything is over-priced, but it's fun. BTW, Josh Blue is ridiculously funny.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

221B Baker St. Pub

First things first: I'm hoping to integrate more beer info into this site. I'll be perfectly honest... I'm no beer expert (yet). I couldn't tell you too much about different types of hops and such, although I do know there is such a thing. And I know the general process of brewing a beer. But most importantly- I like to drink beer. I don't drink it to get drunk. I truly savor a delicious microbrew (or macrobrew if it's decent). I look forward to the Great American Beer Festival every year, and willingly dole out 40 bucks to be in the presence of greatness. As Ben Franklin said, "God made beer because he loves us, and wants us to be happy."

And now on to the review. I recently ventured out into suburbia to drink and dine at a little place called 221B Baker St. Pub. Located in the new Belmar shopping/dining/living conglomeration at Wadsworth & Alameda in Lakewood, it was actually fairly difficult to find. You can't drive past it on the street, as it overlooks a little outdoor seating area and some construction that is a future pond. We ended up parking on the street (which costs $1... silly, considering there is a ton of parking around there for free) near a directory. Luckily, we were just around the corner. For future reference, it is next door to Chama, which is visible off the street.

The atmosphere is very much like an English pub, but enormous. It's a large space, with lots of tables, nice booths and some little seating areas of comfy leather chairs. It seemed very cozy, and there were lots of people enjoying the outdoor seating (until it rained).

I considered writing solely about the beer here, because... well, I hate to write a bad review. I really do. Especially because I would go back to this place to just sit in the corner with a pint of cold Baker St. Draught (made by Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs). And I would encourage others to do just that. Just that. To start with, the service was surly at best. Not in a good way- because I highly enjoy the good kind of surly. Rather than greet us as we walked in, I felt we were intruding upon the servers, who seemed annoyed at our presence. The feeling continued with our own server, who was nice enough, but certainly didn't go out of her way.

I can forgive poor service if the food is good. I don't know if I was silly to expect good food in a Pub. I have been to my fair share of pubs in England, and the food is never fantastic. It's just food. We began our meal with a simple appetizer- chips with queso and salsa. The chips and queso were fine, but the salsa was very salty and runny. I love a really spicy salsa with lots of fresh cilantro. This wasn't it. For my entree, I opted for a simple burger with bacon, mushrooms, and blue cheese. I expect when blue cheese is offered as an optional topping for my burger that it will be actual blue cheese. What I got instead was some blue cheese dressing in a cup, on the side. Blech. The burger itself, which I ordered medium, was dry and overcooked. I didn't even finish it, or the incredibly overseasoned fries. Which for me, is rare. I like to eat, and I finish my meals. My dining companion ordered the highly-advertised soft tacos. She said they were good, but were unfortunately ruined by the bland salsa. We decided to skip dessert there, and instead headed over to Ben & Jerry's across the street. Mmm. Now that I recommend highly!

Again, I'm not saying don't go to the Baker St. Pub. The beer was awesome, and they've got a great happy hour. The aforementioned Baker St. Draught was only $2.50. I would totally go back later in the evening and hang out on the patio. I'll just eat before I go next time.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bump 'n' Grind Cafe

First thought upon walking up to the Bump 'n' Grind Cafe at 17th & Pennsylvania: This ain't Denny's. It may have been the brightly painted walls, the disco ball, or the tempting array of baked-goods on display. Or maybe it was the male servers (poorly) dressed as women. Yeah, it could have been that.

Judging by the masses waiting for a table at 10:30 on a Sunday morning (the brunch is served 10-2:30 Saturday and Sunday), I knew this place had to be good. Our hour wait passed painlessly, thanks to beautiful weather and the walk-up coffee bar. Not to mention the entertainment. As we walked to our garden-patio style table, a passing server said nonchalantly to my friend, "You have really big boobs." How can you not love that?

Now, sometimes places with so many gimmicks do it simply to cover up poor food. This is certainly not the case at Bump and Grind. I did have one disappoint food-wise. I was agonizing over whether to order the Kevin Bacon panini or the Mexican Benedict. I finally decided on the panini (including bacon, avocado, scallions and aioli), but they were out of the necessary ingredients! Sacre bleu! So my friend and I both ordered the Mexican Benedict. Holy crap, was it out of this world! Honestly, I could go on for days. I'm not usually a big Benedict fan, because I don't like Hollandaise sauce. Fortunately, this isn't your grandma's Eggs Benedict. Delicious sweet pineapple cornbread is topped with roasted pepper slices and poached eggs, all covered in an amazing spicy chipotle sauce. The combination of sweet and spicy will blow your dang mind.

Most of the meals come with potatoes and fruit. The potatoes also have that amazing sweet and spicy flavor, but different than the Benedict. We spent a large portion of our meal trying to figure out what the flavors were in the potatoes, but to no avail. Some guesses included nutmeg, cinnamon and chile powder. Other guesses included magic fairy dust and love. Nobody knows.

Honestly, if I could eat brunch here every weekend, I would. I would want to hear my waiter tell the table next to me to 'Put your hands up. No seriously. Put your f*ing hands up!'. I would want to watch the birthday lap dance over and over again. And next time I will get my damn panini.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cafe Gondolier

Technically, Cafe Gondolier is in Boulder. And yes, I realize this is the I Ate Denver blog, not the I Ate Boulder blog. Five years from now it's all going to be one city, though, so I'm just trying to give you a head start. You're welcome.

According to Cafe Gondolier's website, they are the oldest family-owned restaurant in Boulder. This alone makes it worth a try, no? I first ran across this restaurant when they were located on Baseline at US-36. I used to see their sign with the big advertisement of 'All-You-Can-Eat Spaghetti!' and shiver inside. I figured they were just another medicore red-sauce joint trying to appeal to the CU kids with limited incomes, so I never gave it a fair try. When I graduated from that hilly mecca for hippies and Mercedes-drivers alike, I didn't think I had ever eaten at Cafe Gondolier.

I was wrong. I was fooled! Bamboozled, if you will. Cafe Gondolier had moved, and my little college brain was unable to process that the lovely Italian cafe where I enjoyed an evening before a formal event was the same 'All-You-Can-Eat' place. So, when I arrived back at the new Cafe Gondolier (17th & Pearl) this weekend, I finally put two-and-two together. Sure, it only took me 3 years, but I get it now.

No longer waving a gaudy red-and-white banner heralding cheap pasta, the cafe now seems a respectable place from the outside. Located right next to Boulder's well-known Frasca, the 'new' location offers a large, romantic patio that smartly faces East (preventing the foothills' famous winds from whisking away your napkin). Inside, cute murals of stereotypical Italian scenes adorn the golden-hued walls, and a piano player adds a bit of ambiance.

In addition to a regular menu, Cafe Gondolier also offers a tapas menu. (Wait... aren't tapas Spanish? Well, regardless...) A couple could easily make a light meal out of a few items off of the affordable list. Add a bottle of wine and call it a night. The night I visited, I had a heartier appetitite. One that could not be tamed by mere tapas! We began with a huge plate of calamari. Lightly breaded, not too chewy. Only complaint was that it came with a simple marinara sauce. I prefer a spicier sauce with calamari since it doesn't have a ton of it's own flavor. It was a large serving though, and with all that food that was to come, I could probably have gone with the tapas size.

For my meal, I surprised even myself. All these years after being a poor college student, and well into my years of making fun of poor college students... I ordered All-You-Can-Eat spaghetti. And guess what? It was freakin' amazing, and arguably the best value in Boulder. $10.95, and just an extra 2 bucks to add some delicious Italian sausage. The value doesn't stop there, folks! This 'spag' also comes with soup or salad and bread. Although I'm not sure if the bread is the same every night, we received some wonderful focaccia, that worked well to soak up the remnants of the chunky Tomato Soup with Basil and Gorgonzola. Mmm...

On my next visit (and there will be a next visit), I plan on trying one of their pizzas. I don't think the table next to us appreciated me drooling on theirs. The sandwiches also look fantastic. And if you're in the area for lunch, they do a quick take-out of spaghetti for ridiculously cheap. I will let this be yet another lesson in judging a book by its cover... or in this case, judging a restaurant by it's tacky banner. Mangia!