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|December 18-124, 2008
• Greater than the sum
There’s great chemistry in holiday cookies
by Marybeth Jacobson
Back in the saddle
The Dark Horse bucks up Boulder tradition
by Clay Fong
Like a latter-day Peabody and Sherman, friend Tertia and I recently set our metaphorical WABAC machines to return to a locale associated with our misspent youths, Boulder’s Dark Horse. For a teenaged Tertia, this was the place where her CU prof dad would take the family for ’80s-era burger dinners. My experience here came in the mid-’90s, as this venerable tavern was a popular grad school hangout for me and my classmates. On an embarrassingly consistent basis, I would down a burger freighted with blue cheese before insufferably puffing on a cigar in the upstairs smoking room. If I really did have access to a WABAC machine, I’d probably go back and slap my smug cheroot-savoring self. Then I’d return to 1991 to tell the younger me to lose the mullet.
While hairstyles may evolve over the years, change doesn’t seem to be part of the Dark Horse ethos. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In existence since the mid-’70s, this eatery has long been renowned for its value-laden menu, warehouse meets frat house décor, and confusing restroom signage. Countless messages and initials carved into the heavy woods of the interior contribute to the restaurant’s low-key charm. Vintage advertisements, big game trophy heads, and bits of wreckage from Amelia Earhart’s Electra aircraft (not really) festoon the walls.
While the offerings here are best summarized as burgers and beer, there are also a few options that are a touch more sophisticated than bar food. These include sub-$10 dinner items such as fish and chips, ribs and steaks. Vegetarians can opt for bean and garden burgers, as well as salads. Those less concerned with health may sample the onion rings, quesadillas and chicken fingers that populate the starters menu. There’s also Burger Madness, which is a sandwich and fries special superior to similarly priced fast food offerings, and not a malady in the DSM-IV.
Our trip down memory lane began with a one-pound $5.99 appetizer of classic Buffalo chicken wings. While the skin had a crisply fried texture, this avian delicacy suffered from a hot sauce that was dominated by vinegar rather than pepper. Additionally, this starter was afflicted by my pet peeves regarding wings — namely that the inedible tips hadn’t been trimmed. Following the peppery poultry theme, Tertia indulged in a $6.29 Atomic Chicken sandwich, a composition of breaded chicken breast doused with hot sauce and ranch dressing. There were no surprises with this choice, although no particular aspect stood out as particularly memorable either.
Fortunately, my $6.29 Blues Burger had much more going for it, and it reminded me of why I had enjoyed the Dark Horse so much over a decade ago. This burger’s a good buy for the money, being only a bit more than a grab-and-go chain restaurant special. At this price, one expects something just a touch better than a soggy chain burger. Happily, garnishes of decent blue cheese and bacon, as well as fresh-tasting lettuce and tomato, make this sandwich resemble something you happily eat at home.
Although not every selection was as good as we remembered, the Dark Horse still serves up comforting bar food at palatable prices. Nowadays, that’s a good thing, and you don’t even need a WABAC machine to take advantage of this long-lived eatery’s offerings.
Clay’s obscurity corner
Peabody and Sherman
Peabody and Sherman were the time-traveling “dog and his boy” featured in the legendary Rocky and Bullwinkle Show which ran from the late ’50s to the mid-’60s. Peabody was a brilliant, bespectacled scientist and Harvard graduate fluent in eight languages, who adopted the earnest and naïve orphan Sherman. However, the true focus of the show was to provide the setup for some of the worse puns ever. For example, the boys once thwarted Pancho Villa by showing him a picture of a woman named Esther. Villa immediately started snoring. Peabody explained to Sherman, “When you see Esther, you fall asleep.”
The Dark Horse
2922 Baseline Rd., Boulder, 303-442-8162
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