Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Corner Office and The 12 Dollar Cuban

If you have ever read this blog before then you might be able to feel the cynicism oozing out of this post's title. You may even have some of it on your fingers if you accessed this post through one of those new-fangled touch-sensitive mobile telephone screens. If that was the case, I apologize. If you have spent any time reading just about anything I've written on food in Denver, you would know that I can't stand fanciness or gimmickry. And while I am decidedly neutral on food pricing, a menu offering a Cuban Sandwich for twelve of your hard-earned dollars is not just over-priced, but chances are something fancy is going on that doesn't need to be.

The Cuban, as I've said at least six times before, is one of the world's best sandwiches. Pork with pork and just the right amount of toppings all pressed together on a crusty white bread. Therefore, there is no need to doctor it up in any way or change even one component of what makes it great. If one were to do that, then I would only ask that he or she call it something other than a Cuban.

But I digress. It has been a while since my wife and I have been out for a meal alone, and this meal at The Corner Office was a hurried dash-of-a-dining-experience prior to making a show at the nearby Boettcher Concert Hall. There were many other appetizing bites on our menu but there it was, the last item on the menu tucked in the corner under my right thumb: "Pressed Cuban". And a little further over, the number "12".

The price didn't surprise me, as the rent at the Corner Office space can't be cheap, so why should I expect its food to be? No, the price seemed about right for eating a sandwich downtown on a Saturday night. I was a little pessimistic, however, that the Corner Office chef might try and fancy it up in some unusual and unnecessary way, given that the first section of the menu was called "Dishin It Out" instead of what it was trying to say: "entrees". Another section of the menu was entitled: "Livin' Light" which sounds even too silly for an Applebee's. But the description of the Cuban sounded about right, except for the Dijon Mustard instead of the good ol' bright yellow kind. I decided to go for it.

The first thing that struck me about my Cuban was the size. It was small, but again, I wasn't dining here because I thought my dining dollar would go far. The next thing that struck me was that my Cuban looked, well, alarmingly like a Cuban. It was quite good, even though the bread was slightly too-soft, fluffy and hot-dog-bun like. The roast pork was delectably soft and the pickle concentration was such that every bite allowed a crunchy contrast to the tasty pork. It was a good Cuban, and although small, enough calories to keep me warm on that frigid night and dancing to the sounds of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (featuring Ozomatli, that is).

This is by no means a ringing endorsement of the Corner Office. The fries were diner-style and definitely not worth the price. My wife's mussels were only so-so due to a under-flavored broth that was supposed to be spicy. Additionally, if you don't have a reservation and eat in the front cocktail area, it helps if you are less than 5 ft tall or have little stumpy legs, as the rolling ottoman seating is barely more than a foot off the ground. Nevertheless, it was a respectable Cuban.

The woman eating next to me ordered a fantastic-looking ramen with an enormous, sexy hunk of fresh chicharron. Given that I was literally 3 inches from her, I could smell the rich broth and was practically drooling into her bowl. That might be enough to get me back into The Corner Office here soon.

Note: Looks like I missed November entirely as far as posting to this blog, and things might continue to be slow for the next little bit. Thanks again for (a) checking in and reading my blog and (b) making it all the way to the end of the post! Happy new year if I don't get back at this before then. 

The Corner Office Restaurant and Martini Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Life's Little Pleasures: Handmade Noodles at Parker's Dancing Noodle

Being the father of two toddlers, my definition of pleasure has changed quite dramatically from my days as a bachelor in Capitol Hill or even my pre-kid married life where I could still stay up late, curse like a sailor and never once have to come in close contact the poop of another human being. As an example of my current pleasure-reference these days, last year on my birthday all I wanted was to be left alone for a few hours so I could read a book and sip a whiskey without disruption. You want more pitiful? Not too long ago I took a work-related trip without my family: I sat in the middle seat on a crammed Southwest flight, and those two hours were among the most relaxing and peaceful times I have had in recent memory.

It shouldn't surprise you then when I tell you that as a person who likes to eat food then write about it on the internet, one of my greatest pleasures of all comes from stumbling across a restaurant in some out-of-the-way location that I have never heard of--much less seen-- before. It happened a little while back, when my family and I, trying to avoid I-25 traffic coming back to Denver from Colorado Springs, stumbled our way upon the Dancing Noodle in Parker, CO.

The fact that I haven't heard of a new restaurant is nothing shocking, as I have always seemed to repel anything cool, trendy or hip.  Given that, I suppose that me and Parker, CO have a lot in common-- but Dancing Noodle on the other hand has been written up multiple times by Denver's own Westword, including a Best Thai Food award a few years back.

Dancing Noodle's Parker strip mall location, however, is the definition of out-of-the-way and suburban. I'd be surprised if the many of the Westword readers even know where to find Parker on a map (you can reference mine above), much less made the journey out to this suburban oasis.

However sterile and suburban it looks from the outside, inside Dancing Noodle is a refreshing hodgepodge of casual dining mixed with a genuine family feel. We were there on the early side of weekend dining--even for the extreme suburbs-- and walked in to an empty restaurant where we were greeted by a friendly man working on his laptop in the back of the restaurant. He was speaking fluent Thai to a woman whom I took to be his wife, and turned around to speak fluent English to their daughter who was working on her homework.

Our waiter was also incredibly friendly and attentive. He could have come straight out of the Leave it To Beaver Show, with a mop of blond hair and a big cheery smile, but he was able to answer all of our food-related questions quite well, showing a good working knowledge of the menu and cuisine. After I fumbled through our order using my best Thai pronunciation, he very politely repeated it back to me in a way that sounded much, much better. 

The first thing we ordered was this fried tofu. It was delicate and super soft, with a wonderful thin crispy layer all around each piece. The flavor was subtle but the dipping sauce packed a ton of flavor. I forget how much I really love good tofu. Good, plain and simple tofu: fried and delicious. 

My plate of Phat Se-Ew with its incredibly lovely handmade noodles would have been a great pleasure even back when my pleasure-threshold was much higher. The noodles were thick, wide and cooked to perfection. The sweet marinade balanced well with the beautiful char on each piece of broccoli and shrimp. It might just have been the best single plate of Thai food that I have ever had in this town. My only complaint is that I asked for it at the spiciest level and while it did indeed pack substantial heat, this was definitely a US suburban heat. Still, it was probably for the best as all the simple flavors really popped and those noodles... what I wouldn't do for a bowl of those noodles every night.  

My wife got a lovely filet in a rich red curry sauce. Though deep fried, the fish was delicate-- and though I forget what the fish was, it probably doesn't matter because according to this story, most restaurants and chefs don't know either. What does matter is that the fish tasted fresh and the curry was incredible. My wife ordered a level down from the spiciest, but hers seemed to pack more heat than mine, so maybe they got the two confused. I taunted her (lovingly) as she sweated through the last bites, her inner Mexican pride not letting her back down from this spice-challenge. Plus, it was really that good. 

We took dessert to go and shared it across the highway in what appeared to be downtown Parker. This ball of coconut ice cream was not enough for a family of four, especially because it was so delectably creamy and smooth; with a refreshing not-too-strong flavor of pure coconut. Like the rest of the meal, it was absolutely amazing. 

The only plates that were not outstanding were our kid's fried rice (it was fine, but how good can fried rice be compared handmade noodles and that coconut ice cream?) and our other dessert of mango sticky rice, which suffered from a not-that-sweet mango.

I really can't say enough good things about Dancing Noodle; and while my pleasure-threshold is certainly as low as it's ever been in my entire adult life, I'd like to think I still get out to eat enough so as to have some good perspective on food. Parker, CO might not be your first choice for dining out (or your second, or third, or fourth for that matter) -- no you might have never, ever in a million years thought that driving to Parker, CO to eat dinner would be worth your while. Well, in my first Parker experience, it most definitely was.

Dancing Noodle Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Pied Piper of Piccolo's: the Ticorito and More

When you think of American food what comes to mind? Or maybe the better question is, what is American food? And I'm not talking about the larger America that would technically include our neighbors to the north and south, but rather the United States of America, of the Americas. 

Italian and Mexican cuisines are two cuisines deeply integrated into our American persona. Italian-American food is such a part of our "American culture" that we forget that Italian immigrants were once marginalized and hated just like newer immigrant groups are marginalized and hated now. And even though Mexicans were living in parts of the US long before those parts were even US territories, Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans are still going through the same struggles other immigrant groups have gone through over the centuries here in the US-- and around the world, for that matter. But Mexican food? I could wax for pages and pages about how integral Mexican influence is on food in our society but other people have done a much better job than I could have ever hoped, so you are safe from my arguments, however full of common sense they might be. Suffice to say: everyone loves Mexican food. 

Nowhere is this more clear than in a restaurant like Piccolo's, a bit of a unknown Denver institution that prides itself on not only featuring Italian and Mexican-American food--which is nothing unique--but blending the two together in one-and-only ways. 

Walking into Piccolo's understated corner stripmall storefront is like walking into a slice of middle America. A 9/11 "Never Forget" poster hangs besides family photos. On this Saturday night the dining room is mostly full of families and older couples while at the small bar a few locals watch the CSU football game. It is busy but easy to get a seat. The servers are mostly teenagers. Almost instantly a thin man with gray hair, a skinny tie, and a youthful ear-to-ear grin sidles up to our table to greet us. It's Vincent Canino, one of the three brothers who own and operate Piccolo's. His father, he explains, owned a restaurant in Denver in the 1950's called Tico Taco, so featuring Mexican-like food on the menu was a no brainer.

The menu at Piccolo's is largely typical Italian-American and Mexican-American, or better, Mexican-Colorado food. For the most part the Shrimp Scampi and Eggplant Parmigiano stay on one page and the burritos and enchiladas on another. Still there other some unique cultural clashes that stand out like the Jalapeno ravioli and garnachas with Italian dressing. Sounds gimmicky, I know, but keep reading and see if you don't want to eat what I did that night. 


The Mex-Italian-American evening started off innocently enough with a bowl of dinner rolls resting on top of a bed of freshly fried tortilla chips. The salsa was unfortunately so tomato heavy and under-spiced that it might have actually just been a watery marinara sauce-- in either case it wasn't really worth putting on the nicely fried tortilla chips. But my toddler's loved it, so that's worth something to me.

As I perused the extensive menu, my eyes stopped on the first item in the "Mexican" section where I found a dish I couldn't resist: the Mexican Canoli. The Mexican Canoli is something few restaurants would dare to put on a menu even if they were insane enough to dream it up. It is comprised of a pair of jalapeno cheddar bratwurst freshly baked into a tubular bread dough, or "canoli".

The green chile was actually a quite good, part gravy-style and part stew-like, with large chunks of pork and a modest kick. Also inside was a strip of roasted jalapeno (below) which ran the length of the brat and provided another little kick along with a wonderful smoky flavor. All in all it was a great sandwich, or canoli, or bread burrito, or whatever the hell you want to call it. 

My wife ordered a Ticorito (not to be confused with the Tacorito, RIP), a shout to Vincent's father's long past days in the Denver taco business. The Ticorito is the pride and joy of Piccolo's, or at least it should be. It made my two full-sized sausage sandwiches look like a pair of those little appetizer hot dogs. I whimpered when I saw it placed in front of my petite wife, the sheer weight of the plate seemed to tip the whole table just slightly towards her. Over a pound of ground beef mixed with rice, beans and onions-- all smothered with chile of your choosing (red or green) and yellow cheese. It was behemoth, but my never-say-never wife, who at the time was training for a marathon or some other form of grueling test of physical endurance (opposites attract) attacked it with ferocity.

The beef in the Ticorito tasted almost like a lasagna filling, and the red chile was a little sweet--but also robust, smoky and somewhat spicy. It was, in short, a very good smothered burrito. And my wife mowed it down.

Many people seemed to come for the pizza, which my kids ate along with a kid's chicken taco the size of a small burrito. The pie? It was decent, though nothing special. 

There may never be a day when we as a collective society will ever learn from our own recent history. There will be a day, and I hope to live to see it, when Mexican-Americans and other, more recently marginalized groups will be as commonly accepted as the Irish, Italians, and the long list of other ethnic groups that have been outcast while they tried to survive in our country. Maybe one day we will live in a society that will even welcome ethnic changes in our country-- or better yet, one day the typical American will be so blended with different ethnicities and backgrounds that we won't even notice. Whatever the case, we can all agree to disagree over a plate of Mexican food. 

Piccolo's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Not-So-Good-Tho-Not-That-Bad and the Funnny: A Modern Day Food Truck Adventure

There's a lot wrong with food trucks these days--not the original loncheras--no, those are doing just fine, but the fancy ones with generators that sound like jet engines and flat screen liquid crystal displays that serve the same purpose as a Xeroxed piece of paper or a scrawled message on a wipe board. Of course as with any trend there are real gems among the boom of the overpriced and over-hyped "street food" "movement", which of course was a "movement" without having to be called one well before it got trendy and expensive--and then there are the rest. 

I came across a sampling of food trucks at this year's Denver County Fair, and the silliness of the food truck boom was plain to see upon walking into the Stock Show Fairgrounds.

In case you can't tell by my photo, that is a solar powered (that means powered by the sun--trust me I Googled it) food truck inside (where the sun's rays do not penetrate--looked that up too, it's solid fact). Although I realize that there are probably ways to store energy from solar panels and use them at a later time (and I have never tried their coffee brewed using the force of the sun so I can't comment on the quality), I thought this simple shot summarized the food truck trend perfectly.

Moving on to the outdoor food trucks, our eyes and stomachs were drawn to the well designed and not-too-flashy Route 40 food truck and its promise of good Argentinean food.

The service was quick and friendly, the menu simple: mostly sandwiches and fries. We got a milanesa and a pair of lamb sliders.

The sliders were good, though they lacked something very important: flavor. The goat cheese provided a nice balance with the lamb, which was not overcooked, but nothing else really stood out or accented either. OK, but could have been great.

The milanesa was flavored even less, and the thick bread, though nicely buttered and lightly grilled, took away any chance of tasting the thin meat strips inside. The main flavor was from the fresh tomato and greens. Not bad, but crunchy veggies is not what I have in mind when I think of steak sandwich.

The fries came with chimichurri, which was a good idea, but the chimichurri was not chopped very fine: the coarsely cut parsley was hard to keep on the fries and the oil separated out to pool on the bottom. While I am not opposed to dipping fries in olive oil, it is a little excessive, even for me.

I've spent what is probably an undue amount of blog space poking fun at Denver's mobile food scene, and I like to think I go into each new food truck experience with a relatively open mind. I really was prepared to like Route 40 for being so relatively simple and unpretentious, and I think the concept is perfect for a food truck. The price was fine too. I hope I was there on an off night, because with a little tweaking they could really be great.

Route 40 Argentinean Grille on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge: Old School Denver

As I get older so does my definition "old school", but the other day I was flipping through radio stations in my car and heard a disc jockey mention something about playing an "old school jam" so I paused, wondering what nostalgic area of my brain would light up. Then on came some whiny Sublime song from the late 90s and I cringed. This wasn't old school. I suppose it is the day and age when people will call the 90's old school, but old school is also a state of being. For example, "Wham", even though they made music in the 80s, is not old school.

KRS-One, on the other hand, is undoubtedly old school. So are the Blackbyrds singing Rock Creek Park. The '85 Bears on Tecmo Bowl. Nolan Ryan in the 80's Astro's uniform. Reading Rainbow? Does it get more old school than Reading Rainbow?

Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge at 2115 Larimer St is old school. Not just because it has been open for over 40 years, but also because as LoDo has gone from run-down to over-run with hipsters and yuppies alike, Mexico City has kept on going pretty much like it always has. Sure maybe the walls are a little brighter than they used to be, and the bar was clearly been renovated at some point; but the low-lit, bare bones interior with fading Bronco memorabilia is not the kind of place that would get built these days in this neighborhood. It is a testament to staying power, to just being what you are. It's older than 95% people that come out to party in its neighborhood every weekend. Clearly, it's old school.

Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge is known for its fried tacos. Fried tacos. Even the name conjures up old school thoughts, and although I don't know when exactly they got added to the menu, this is an example of out-of-this-world Den-Mex, and the kind of dish that will keep a restaurant around when rent keeps going up and trendier, pricier places come and go.

The tortillas are corn, which is a possible homage to Mexico City, as Den-Mex and New Mexican food almost always opt for the flour kind. The tortillas are covered on one side with cheese-- white cheese, another nice shout to the land down south, and then pan fried in oil until the cheese melts out a little but and gets that fabulous brown, crispy, cheese-char to it. It is then folded in half like any taco, and into it are stuffed your meat of choice (avocado for a dollar extra) and the ubiquitous Mex-US toppings of shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes and onions. The salsa, a homemade medium-hot red variety, is served in a ketchup squeeze bottle.

I had the steak with avocado. The meat was fresh enough and tender. The tortilla was still pliable, and shining in oil, but overall the tacos were not too oily. It was a fantastic taco, and I am a little sad that it has taken me so long to try them. The bites that had those bits of crispy, browned cheese were by far the best, and after tearing through three, it was only not wanting to miss any more of the baseball game I was down here to see that kept me from ordering more.

You might see other people eating other things besides fried tacos while inside Mexico City Restaurant and Lounge. You might even see people drinking at the bar and not eating any food. Those people are old school, and you? If it's your first time, or even your second or third, get those fried tacos and pay your respects.   

Denver is a relatively young city but has some notable dining traditions and institutions. What is your favorite old school Denver restaurant or meal? 

Mexico City on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stuffing All of Our Faces at Marco's Coal Fired Pizza

Before having babies, my wife and I used to do a lot of nice things. One of those things was going to eat pizza from Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria. Since having babies, however, we have been shy to return, because while my wife and I might appreciate the subtleties of a well prepared pizza, my twin toddlers have been seen eating fruit that has fallen into the sandbox out of another kid's mouth. Suffice to say, they are not exactly impressed that Marco's is the only pizza joint in town certified by L'Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, and so if they are happy eating 99-cent tacos off of the street, who am I to drag them into a fancy pizzeria? And most of my readers probably already know how good Marco's is, so from a blogging perspective, with all those top of the town and best-of accolades, who cares what I think?

Now usually I pose that as a rhetorical question, because with my mother and wife becoming more and more underwhelmed with my repeated rants and raves about food, the real answer becomes increasingly depressing. On this occasion, however, there was an answer: The Marco's Coal Fired PR team cares what I think. They contacted me not too long ago to say how they actually liked how much I talked about my two kids on my blog. What's more, after such undue praise, they said they wanted me to come down and try Marco's new dessert "s'mores" pizza. They thought my kids would like it.

When I asked my wife if she would want to go to the pizza place of our past lives, her first question was: do we have to bring the kids? I'm not sure if we had to, but as I've reviewed before, leaving them in the car, even with the windows cracked and a can of mace to ward off the creepy people is generally frowned upon.

Once at Marco's we got right to business by ordering a couple of pizzas. The first was the simple Campania. The crust on our Campania-- and on all Marco's pizzas-- is about as close to perfect as it gets in this town, with beautiful blackened edges and burnt bubbles of crust. The rest of the pie was lovely as well, with big sprigs of fresh basil and just the right amount of bufala mozarella. To understand how much we liked this pizza as a family, here is a picture of a two-year-old boy who has stuffed a half slice of pizza in his mouth. (Stuffing too much food in one's mouth is of course, a dominant inheritable trait, and like the burp, is a compliment to any chef)

Our second pizza had prosciutto, arugula, shaved Parmesan and cherry tomatoes--all laid on top of the pizza after being taken out of the oven like they should be. The crust was equally perfect - airy, light, crispy, soft and with just the right amount of black. Classic flavors done well. Can't really ask for more. 

Then it was time for the dessert pizza. Dessert pizza inevitably sounds a little gimmicky, and what came out actually looked more like an interesting combination of pâté and mushrooms than a Nutella ganache topped with shards of graham cracker dusted in powdered sugar. But the taste? It had all the flavors of a s'more plus more of that really great crust, so what wasn't to like? The 1000-plus degree heat of the Marco's pizza oven put a lovely campfire-like char on the marshmallows (which are hard to see in the photo below) and showed a creative use of the super-hot oven. It wasn't nearly as sweet as I thought it would be which I immediately appreciated, but at the same time a little more gooey marshmallow, or even some chunks of un-melted chocolate, would not have disappointed anyone at our table.

Marco's Coal Fired Pizza makes great pizza, but probably you already knew that. My kids loved Marco's too, and even though they eat frozen waffles and raisins they find under the couch, with the amount they ate, and the ferocious speed with which they ate it, I think they too appreciated the fact that they were eating some special pizza. It might be a little more expensive than your everyday pizzeria, and I've never tried their wings, salads, sandwiches, or even their non-Napoletana pies, but for a truly well-made pizza, you can't go wrong at Marco's.

Marco's Coal Fired Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eating Crazy Shrimp at El Camaron Loco

Remember that Mexican beach vacation you went on where you stumbled upon a seaside restaurant and ordered a shrimp cocktail and a cool, refreshing michelada? The one with the obnoxious murals and bright tropical colors, where, in spite of the gaggle of tourists all of who were squawking way too loudly, you had the best food.  Maybe it was the booze, or watching the sun set over the sea (hopefully you have inserted your Pacific-side Mexican beach vacation here), but that simple meal was transcendental. And even if you've never been to Mexico, you have hopefully experienced a great meal on a beach somewhere. If not, and it is within your powers to do so, you might want to stop reading and figure out a way to make that happen

If it isn't going to happen for you anytime soon, or if you are just experiencing some nostalgia for your last beach vacation, there is a place in Denver that has tried very hard to at least bring the gaudy-murals-and-seafood parts of the typical Mexican beachside dive to you-- in fact there are four of El Camarón Locos located all the way from South Federal to Brighton. 

I recently ventured into the Aurora location located on Havana near 6th. I can't think of a place farther from the beauty of a beach than this stretch of Havana, with its empty lots, vacant warehouses, congested strip malls and auto dealers (but then again, I have never been to Brighton). 

With its bright blue roof and striped walls, El Camarón Loco is hard to miss. And the assault of color only gets better (or worse depending on your taste) once inside, where you have a faux-swordfish leaping over one mural, and in another a pack of sharks in floral-print shirts are sharing a round of cold ones. Pirates with eye patches, crabs with forks in their claws, frogs with sunglasses-- any beachside cliche you can think of is very likely on the walls of this small dining room. But don't get too distracted, as you still need to order. 

I would have liked to have had a menu in hand, or even--I never say this-- table service. It was difficult to decide what to order reading from the gigantic wall menu while a toddler pulled my arm (it was mine, I checked) and the line literally snaked out the door. Unable to read through all 80-some menu items, I ordered the first 3 things that caught my eye -- and, you guessed it, they all had shrimp.

We started, or at least intended to start (the food all came at the same time), with a shrimp cocktail. This coctel de camaron was bright and refreshing as it should be, and memories of beach vacations past danced in my head with every bite. As far as landlocked cities not it Mexico go, it really doesn't get much better than this faithful version-- not too acidic, not to sweet and topped with three generous slices of avocado. 

Camarones empanizados, or breaded and fried shrimp, were what we ordered with our toddlers in mind. These butterflied, tail-on shrimp were just what you would expect, and rolled up in a corn tortilla with the very good tomatillo salsa that accompanied them, they made a great taco.

Lastly was a sizzling plate of alambre de camaron. Alambres almost always come with other diced meat, and as the Mexican taqueria and torta custom, when you throw multiple meats together, one of them is inevitably a hot dog. So when I saw the pink fleshy cubes on my skillet along with my shrimp, I assumed it was exactly that, but upon tasting them I looked closer to see layers or marbled fat and I am pretty sure it was a least salt pork-- and while I love hot dogs as much as the next man, salt pork is a big step up from a hot dog in an alambre. 

Instead instead of the roar of the waves we had the sound of six lanes of Friday evening traffic. We saw the sun start to set--not over the breaking surf--but behind a self-storage warehouse. We ate a lot of shrimp on the small but pleasant El Camarón Loco patio, which would be appropriate I suppose, given that the name of this restaurant translates to The Crazy Shrimp. Everything we had was very good, but there were many other plates that I want to try on the huge menu. And based on this experience, I will be back.

El Camaron Loco 2 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Pig is a Pig: Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria of Boulder

A few weeks ago my family and I were passing through the homey hamlet of Boulder, CO, when from the back of our car came the all too familiar sound of hungry toddlers, who instead of saying, "I want to comer," like any normal Spanglish-raised kids would, simply say, "um," as in a shortened version of "yum."

Um. Um. Um. Um. Um.

It started somewhere north of town, which gave us enough time to come up with a plan. The "umming" reached a feverish pitch when we hit city limits and just as the crying kicked in, we pulled up to Cuba Cuba's self proclaimed "sandwicheria". We jettisoned through the bright entryway and headed straight for the counter, where before ordering I reflected a minute on how much I like the word "sandwicheria", and added it to my mental list of great restaurant names. 

I got a Cuban of course, one of my favorite meat-bread combos. This version was pretty standard, which was good to see as there is really no use in trying to fancy up a sandwich like this. As the saying goes, it would be a little like trying to put lipstick on a pig-- because as everyone knows, pigs, and their natural evolution into sandwiches, taste just fine without lipstick.

My wife ordered a lechón and we both preferred this pulled pig pressed panini over the original Cuban for its rich flavor and generous size.

Meanwhile my twin toddlers tore through a kid's Cuban, an order of rice and beans (that were not called Moros y Cristianos) and a plate of delightful fried plantain.

This being my second or third post on Boulder, I have very few sarcastic, biting comments left to hurl upon our neighbor to the north who continue to annoyingly excel in just about everything (besides diversity). The latest accolade that they can smugly tout (or at least whisper politely behind our backs) is being Colorado's best bike city. I hope the person responsible for that list out didn't spend too much time crunching numbers to decide Boulder was tops. Calling Boulder the best bike city is a little like calling pigs the best food in the animal food kingdom-- it is just stating the plainly obvious. 

Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria is a worthwhile stop in the vast culinary landscape that is Boulder. Whether you are just passing through, re-fueling after a day of some extreme sporting activity or other, or just stoned out of your mind (as were the two young men sitting across from us that day), this sandwicheria and its simple Cuban fare should hit the spot. 

Cuba Cuba Sandwicheria on Urbanspoon


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