Laughing Ladies Restaurant has long been a haven of playful, fresh cuisine under the skillful and inspired Chefs Margie Sohl and Jeff Schweitzer. I have eaten here many times over the past five or six years, and while many locals will tell you the service is bad here (I did get a bad attitude from the hostess last visit), I have otherwise had nothing but friendly servers serving me fabulous meals.
The menu is rather diverse, but what I always am drawn to is their creative takes on Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. The first dish we tried that night was a chile relleno (pronounced "rah-lane-oh" by our phonetically challenged waitress-- maybe she is from nearby "Bew-na Vis-tah") which was a pan-fried corn-meal-coated poblano pepper stuffed with cheese grits. It was sitting in a creamy cheese sauce and topped with fresh halved cherry tomatoes, pickled onions and sour cream. It was absolutely wonderful.
Next up was a roasted, beautifully blackened, and not too-dry chicken breast and wing. Alongside it was grilled green onions and zucchini. Also a light, fresh cilantro-cabbage slaw and richly flavored pinto beans. This was essentially an upscale version of a dish that one can get at any Mexican-style chicken rosterias for about a fourth of the price, but nevertheless it was fantastic.
My dish was particularly wonderful and inspired. The centerpiece was a perfectly roasted duck breast: wonderfully crisp skin on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside. It was accompanied by the same roasted zucchini that came with the chicken and fresh, chunky guacamole. The real surprise was the tamal that was filled with "duck carnitas" which turned out to essentially be a confit. All of it was bathed in a "mole poblano"-- not the traditional dark mole from Puebla, but an innovative green sauce using green chile poblanos and tomatillos.
Desert was a homemade pound cake, freshly whipped cream, fresh blueberry sauce and a candied orange. It was hearty and incredibly sweet, but at the same time refreshing.
Salida has it all for a relaxing retreat away from Denver, and we try and go back as much as possible. At our bed and breakfast that weekend, my wife and I listened jealously to a Texas couple planning their retirement in the foothills of the Collegiates. Or by the roar of the Arkansas. Or downtown in a beautiful, old historic Victorian. It wouldn't really matter would it? Maybe one day. First I have to figure out a way to retire.