Hashing it out at the Merc

Veggie hash at Jamestown Mercantile

Western saloons were created to serve certain kinds of customers: fur trappers, cowboys, lumberjacks, soldiers, miners, outlaws… folks who worked hard, even if outside the law. Those swinging doors would creak open and then came the clop, cling, clop, cling, clop, cling of boots and spurs against hardwood floors. Folks laughed and played games of chance, drank beer and liquor, and sometimes piano players would provide some entertainment.

Maybe the Jamestown Mercantile is the closest thing Boulder County’s got to a Western saloon. It is, for the record, the “home of the somewhat feral.” That screen door creaks open and then comes the clop, clop, clop of cycling shoes against hard wood. Everybody’s there: friends sharing a late brunch, motorcyclists having a cold beer, cyclists refueling for the wild ride back down the mountain, farmers selling fresh picked vegetables. There’s music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. It’s the heart of Jamestown, a place where folks come from far and wide to sit a spell and let the magic of this mountain town ease their worries, just for a little bit.

I had no worries this weekend, to be honest. I’d gotten the chance to spend Saturday up in Loveland at the ARISE Festival and it felt like the only cure for a day of cold beer, hot sun, hula hoops and music was a hearty brunch at the Merc.

The day was hot and I prayed for the body and soul of every cyclist we passed who was slowly climbing their way up Lee Hill Drive. You are a dedicated, impressive, insane group of people. I salute you all.

But the day was a bit cooler up in Jamestown, where a local farmer and artist were set up in front of the Merc. I stopped to peruse the ceramics and veggies, but my need for a cup of the Merc’s Allegro coffee pulled me inside before long.

The Merc’s brunch menu is pretty simple, just two pages and about a dozen different offerings ranging from traditional breakfast plates to breakfast tacos to Benedicts to yogurt parfait. I’m a fan of a small menu. Focus on quality instead of quantity.

I won’t lie: what I wanted most was that piping hot cup of black coffee — and now just for the coffee. The Merc has a collection of eclectic mugs from all over, and when the server brought my coffee I saw it marked the centennial of Cando, North Dakota (pronounced like a “can-do” attitude, which is what I later discovered the town was actually named for). It looked like cornflowers painted on the cup, with gold lettering that said “Cando, N.D. 1884-1984.” For some reason, the mug made me ridiculously happy.

I ordered up a plate of vegetable hash. It’s a simple pleasure that reminds me a lot of my childhood in Western North Carolina. Hashbrowns were always a staple breakfast food, and breakfast was always a staple meal at many a friend’s house because… well, to be honest, some of us weren’t all that wealthy. We never thought about it much, though, because who argues with breakfast for dinner?

When our server brought us our food, she poured me a cup of coffee and said, “That cup just makes me so happy.” I laughed and told her I’d just been thinking the same thing.

Fueled by the coffee, I launched into my meal: potatoes hashed to perfection (when you get them just crunchy enough around the edges but still soft in the center), two eggs over easy, two slices of buttered wheat toast and a mix of sautéed spinach, mushrooms and sweet peppers.

Maybe it’s the surroundings — cyclists dropping in for a cool drink, friends laughing over double mimosas, locals selling goods outside, sunshine spilling on everything, hardwood floors — but it felt like I’d never had a more perfect meal on a more perfect Sunday. Hash is a simple, even modest meal, but I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Jamestown Mercantile. 108 Main St., Jamestown, 303-424-5847.

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