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Thursday, April 11,2013

Getting lucky in north Boulder

By Clay Fong
Photo by Susan France

Sometimes hunger can sneak up on you like a pouncing cat or a stealthy ninja, and this is precisely the dilemma colleague Carin found herself in one fair weekday morning. Given that it was a tad late for breakfast, and a touch early for lunch, we figured that North Boulder’s Lucky’s Cafe might help us split the difference in our efforts to fill ourselves up.

Located a stone’s throw from its namesake grocery store, Lucky’s Cafe is a cozy breakfast and lunch hangout. Both the decor, featuring boomerang-patterned formica tabletops, and menu, complete with daily blue plate specials, pay homage to the mid-century modern diner.

Fortunately, the retro touches aren’t so pronounced as to push things into kitschy faux nostalgia. A time traveler from the past would likely recognize menu items like BLTs, Benedicts, Greek salads, burgers and a grilled cheese special. But the emphasis on quality local ingredients might be lost on them, and they might not fully appreciate, for example, that organic Conscious Coffee is the $2 house brew.

Carin had a tough time making up her mind as she contemplated breakfast options ranging from the huevos to chilaquiles, the mix of tortillas, red sauce, chicken and egg.

My friend ultimately decided on the $9 Boulder omelet sided with gluten-free toast. Carin was struck by the pleasant sweetness underscoring the blend of Haystack goat cheese enveloped by three cage-free eggs. Perhaps the roasted red peppers, red onion, sweet potatoes and Anaheim chiles added a hint of caramelization. The only minor quibble was related to the accompanying home fries, which could have used a bit more cooking time to soften up the center and crisp up the exterior.

As it was a Tuesday, I selected the day’s blue plate special, the $9 Freddie’s meatloaf. Now, I have no idea who Freddie is, but if I were ever to meet him, I would shake his hand or buy him a drink in gratitude. The loaf itself consisted of a thick slab of natural Frontiere beef, adorned with luscious brown mushroom gravy. While meatloaf typically contains grain-based fillers as bread, it was hard to detect what these might have been. The beef was undeniably moist and flavorful, and I appreciated that it wasn’t as sweet as the typical tomato-laced preparation.

Small spud chunks in the mashed potato indicated this was the real handmade McCoy, reminding one of just how good this buttery side can be. A fried onion topping with a tempura-like batter and a red pepper and braised greens side elevated this platter above mere diner fare. This dish resembled something one might enjoy at the home of an accomplished farmer/chef showcasing one’s own farm harvest.

We ended by splitting a $4.50 slice of organic apple pie, topped with whipped cream. The filling was neither too sweet nor tart, making for a pleasing balance that complemented the flaky lattice crust. Like everything else, this dessert had a comforting, homemade quality.

While the menu here confidently pays tribute to the old-school diner, Lucky’s Cafe goes well beyond its inspiration. The emphasis on local ingredients gives it a farm-to-table vibe far removed from roadside eateries of decades past. Yet things here remain endearingly unfussy, mixing the best of farm and diner.

Lucky's Cafe is located at 3980 Broadway in Boulder. Call 303-444-5007.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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