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|August 28-September 3, 2008
• Eat, drink and be real Italian
In defense of food and civility, a home cook spreads the gospel of cucina
by Karen Klages
• Food Bites
Food happenings around town
Boulder’s Parkway Café provides down-home comfort chow
by Clay Fong
It’s doesn’t feel like Boulder,” said Keith, my consigliere, describing Boulder’s Parkway Café. “It’s more like something you’d find in Norman, Oklahoma.” Intrigued, I ventured out to this humble eatery located north of Pearl Street off of the frontage road east of the Foothills Parkway. Hidden in a warren of collision and auto repair shops, the Parkway isn’t the place for haute cuisine featuring trendy ingredients from artisan producers. Instead, it’s an unpretentious and friendly venue serving simple but satisfying American comfort fare. The menu transcends time and place, featuring such old chestnuts as Denver omelets, cheeseburgers and chicken fried steak. It’s the kind of place where you can still order a glass of grape juice.
Today’s meal at the Parkway is more or less identical to one served 50 years ago in a small Midwest town, although it might cost a few bucks more. Norman Rockwell prints hang on the wall. Those little pegboard puzzles where you leapfrog golf tees over one another are available at each table, completing the hometown diner ambience. Unsurprisingly, when colleague Carin and I arrived here for a late lunch, the clientele appeared to consist less of neighborhood workers than it did of loyal regulars hovering around retirement age.
Both of us toyed with ordering an afternoon breakfast, and the options ranged from a spartan one egg and toast for $2.50 to a $7.75 large Boulder omelet, consisting of spinach, mushrooms, tomato and cheese, topped with Hollandaise. You can also compose a breakfast consisting of several sides, which include two eggs, cottage cheese, hash browns and green chile.
But more time-appropriate selections beckoned, and Carin and I equivocated between the “South of the Border Plates” and traditional choices such as hot roast beef and tuna melt sandwiches. Carin decided to try the $6.75 special, consisting of guacamole, rice, a tamale and a chile relleno. The tamale was amply proportioned and, although the masa had a slightly pasty consistency, it had the correct balance of spice and meaty flavor. While the breading on the relleno was on the thick side, it was still pleasingly crisp. The chile itself was an outsized example, easily double the size of a typical specimen. However, the most notable aspect of this Tex-Mex delight was the heat generated by the pepper, which was much hotter than the usual mild chile common to this dish. Both Carin and I agreed that the spice level elevated this platter from the mundane to the compelling.
Splitting the difference between the archetypical diner and the Southwest, I enjoyed a $7.25 burger smothered in green chile, and kicked in a 50-cent upcharge for onion rings. Like the relleno, the breading was a bit thick, but these perfectly crisp rings arrived piping hot from the fryer. The burger’s moist and flavorful beef was of better-than-expected quality, providing a fine complement to the chile’s deep flavor. This sandwich wouldn’t be out of place at one of my New Mexico favorites, Albuquerque’s Frontier Restaurant.
No one would ever label the Parkway as a fancy or adventurous place, although one guesses that’s how the customers prefer it. If your pleasure is straight-down-the-middle diner chow at reasonable prices, the Parkway has your number. And for a moment, you might think you’re not in Boulder, but in Norman, Oklahoma.
4700 Pearl St.,
Clay’s obscurity corner
The Frontier Restaurant
Located across the street from the University of New Mexico, the Frontier Restaurant is a popular Albuquerque institution. A setting in Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, the Frontier is famous for its sweet rolls and spicy combo plates. One of the more compelling items on the menu is the Fiesta Burger, a cheeseburger doused in the restaurant’s signature green chile. This eatery’s slogan is “The Home of the Latest in Broiled Food.” Since noticing that statement, I’ve wondered if there’s a secret division at Los Alamos working to ensure the Frontier’s menu stays one step ahead of everyone else’s.
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