Tibet Kitchen

by Hayley Hudson on February 16, 2011

On Sunday night a friend and I rolled up to Tibet Kitchen in my car that hasn’t been washed since before it started snowing this winter. I hadn’t been washed in a while myself because on Sundays I barely move in order to build up energy stores for the coming week. We chose an “athletic” look for our night out.

Our T-shirts from 2004 printed with our high school mascot turned out to be appropriate for Tibet Kitchen’s very casual atmosphere. Entering the place from a parking lot that fits about four (dirty) cars, we practically bumped into the counter and cash register the moment we opened the door. The bar provides some seating and a cramped back room with fluorescent lights takes care of the rest.

Our vegetable egg rolls came out first and were subsequently devoured.

Looking at this picture and remembering these almost brings a tear to my eye. I can honestly label them the best egg rolls I’ve ever had. Perfectly fried, they had crunch and flavor, and the dipping sauce was unlike anything I’ve seen served with egg rolls: spicy, not sweet. Its spice factor might cause someone of weak tolerance to label it “too spicy” (these people often simply lack proper training), but my friend and I used all of it and wanted 20 more bowls.

My tofu and bok choy couldn’t compete. The dish tasted like an ordinary vegetable stir-fry, and the curry sauce lacked the depth of flavor of the egg roll sauce. It was still good–I happen to love ordinary vegetable stir-fries– but I wouldn’t call it amazing.

I enjoyed the dinner conversation, and the tables so close together in that back room ensured that I could also enjoy five or six other dinner conversations that weren’t my own. I eavesdrop on a regular basis and make no apologies for it, but here it was almost too easy. I imagine that if I were to ever stop in to an actual kitchen in Tibet after, say, climbing around on the Himalayas some weekend, it would have the same sort of feel. Don’t you always meet interesting people on journeys around the world?

Casual and cozy Tibet Kitchen hasn’t seen the last of me. I’ll be back someday to order lots of egg rolls and try a different entrée. I just can’t guarantee that I’ll shower first.

Look at the Menu and visit Tibet Kitchen at 2359 Arapahoe.

South Side Walnut Cafe

by Andrew Woodman on February 15, 2011

673 South Broadway Street
Boulder, CO 80302
(720) 304-8118

The South Side Walnut Cafe doesn’t only have its older sister, downtown Boulder’s “Walnut Cafe,” and its brother, the “Walnut a-gogo” food truck, but it is also considered family by what seems to be the entire population of South Boulder.  What this means is that on weekends this place can be—and usually is—packed…but don’t worry, the wait isn’t very long.

In addition to being a regular neighborhood place I go, this is my go to breakfast/brunch/lunch time spot where I take any out-of-towners to guarantee a good Boulder experience.With a modern diner feel that welcomes everyone from families to hipsters, the South Side Walnut Cafe has a unique vibe that everyone can easily relate to.  When I eat here it makes me feel happy for two reasons: the pop art smiley theme that decorates their menu, and a menu that inspires eating breakfast all day (well, at least until they close at 3:30PM).

Another thing about the South Side Walnut Cafe that I like is the openness of the kitchen.  This and their personable (predominantly female) waitstaff make for the perfect finishing touch to the restaurant’s relaxed attitude and enjoyable environment.

Although this place does serve great lunch food, I usually always order breakfast here.  I’ve had nearly every breakfast item and have never been disappointed.  My favorite part about South Side is their chalkboard that quirkily displays their specials. These creative specials keep me coming back for more, and pretty much guarantee satisfaction.

For my drink I copied my friend Zack just because I couldn’t decide fast enough.  His involuntary recommendation for me to order the Hazelnut Mocha Latte was nearly life changing. This latte immediately turned into my “regular” drink upon it touching my lips.  The barista’s chocolate syrup designs on top of the lattes’ frothy milk provides for a simple excitement factor that can make an adult feel like a kid again.

Hazelnut Mocha Lattes [$3.45]

For my main meal, I ordered the breakfast special from the pictured chalkboard: Breakfast of Champions.  Although I went on a hike after eating it and no one told me I was hiking like a champion, I definitely ate this linner (between lunch and dinner) time breakfast dish like one.  The following description of this dish will showcase the genius behind the breakfast connoisseurs who create specials like this every week.  The Breakfast of Champions is a piece of grilled rosemary toast, topped with scrambled eggs, hash browns, melted mozzarella, salsa and diced avocado with lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream on the side.  Oh and I almost forgot, a side of fruit to nearly finish off the food pyramid.  I can definitely say that this is the best breakfast dish I’ve had that is an open-faced sandwich.

Breakfast of Champions [$7.95]

The South Side Walnut Cafe is the kind of place I wish I could go weekly, if not daily.  The only thing I would change about this wonderful establishment is its limited hours: 7AM-3:30PM daily.  Maybe their success with breakfast doesn’t transfer to dinner like it does lunch.  Or maybe this is a perfect venue for one of those new pop-up dinner restaurants (Pop-up dinner in Boulder).  Until then, this is the perfect spot for meals between breakfast and linner time.

Dish Gourmet

by Hayley Hudson on February 14, 2011

On Saturday afternoon, I tried out Dish Gourmet, which I’ve been curious about for a while. They mostly do catering but recently opened their small deli.

They do a lot of to-go orders, but there are six or seven small tables set up inside for people who don’t want to wait before digging into one of the sandwiches, soups, salads, or breakfast items from the menu.  I was immediately drawn to the deli case itself, which had salads, vegetable dishes, and entrees on display. Delis can sometimes be creepy, but this one isn’t at all. Just look at the bright light illuminating the case. They have nothing to hide!

Dish Gourmet updates their website daily, listing what will be served up in the magical glass case on that particular day. On Saturday, some of the offerings were squash and goat cheese polenta, garlic-roasted green beans, and stuffed chicken breasts. I chose the zucchini potato salad and a reuben from the sandwich menu.

I thought that since the sandwiches averaged $8-$10 each, they would be huge, so I ordered a half sandwich. It was small, but the situation here was definitely one of quality over quantity. The coleslaw was crisp, the bread was toasty, and I thoroughly enjoyed every teeny tiny bite of my little sandwich, even though my efforts at pacing were in vain because it was still gone in three seconds. My potato salad was also great, which I realize is a lofty description for a dish that is so often nothing more than a bowl of mayonnaise. I was relieved when actual potato shapes were visually discernable in my bowl, and including zucchini and other vegetables in the mix was a nice touch.

Using their ingredients in creative ways makes Dish Gourmet stand far above your typical deli. It’s definitely a place for–excuse me for throwing out a term I find a little bit disgusting–“foodies.” Everything they make is sourced from organic farms nearby, and they have sauces, oils, and other kitchen staples from local Boulder companies for sale, giving you the sense that they belong to a food community.

As I was leaving, I heard a kid who couldn’t have been older than seven go on and on and on about the wasabi sauce on his sandwich. I had to give him props for being seven years old and not only knowing what wasabi is, but spouting off adjectives to describe it without a second of hesitation. He had full command of food vocabulary and wasn’t afraid to use it. The incident further emphasized Dish Gourmet’s commitment to quality food. They’re serious about it, and so are the customers—all of them.

Dish Gourmet

1918 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
(720) 565-5933

Efrain's Mexican Food Restaurant

by Andrew Woodman on February 13, 2011

1630 63rd Street #10
Boulder, Colorado 80301
(303) 440-4045

A name change to “Efrain’s Tex-Mex Food Restaurant” is pretty necessary. Even so, my experience at the Tex-Mex style Efrain’s was definitely more Tex than Mex. If you don’t let anyone convince you that this is the most authentic Mexican food in Boulder, this place is very enjoyable…so let me just clear it up.

The restaurant is part of a large building that looks like an out of business motel colonized by Efrain’s and a couple property management lease signs. Regardless of these rather deterring circumstances, the crowd at this hustling and bustling restaurant made for a warm welcome.

This crowd was good and bad: I knew I was getting myself into something good, but I had to pay the price of waiting (which I hate doing). Nearly everyone waiting was buying margaritas, so that and my lack of anything better to do basically forced me to get The House margarita. I nursed that large, smooth margarita from its mason jar and browsed the menu while we counted down our wait. The menu listed many classic Mexican dishes, and of course the fried, American influenced—yet delicious—Chimichanga.

The House Margarita [$5.75]

We sat down to a table and were given fresh tortilla chips. I knew they were fresh, not only because of their perfect crunch and taste, but they were dispensed to our table’s chip bowl from an incredibly large bucket that was constantly being replenished with new batches of chips. The chips were naturally accompanied by puréed salsa that was mild enough to keep all of our water cups full.

Fresh tortilla chips and salsa [FREE!]

Speaking of spiciness, Efrain’s has a wonderful system to prevent customers from ordering food beyond their personal spice threshold. It’s a simple, genius idea that puts all other spice indicators to shame. Here it is: each menu item has a spiciness scale from 1 to 10 next to it. Menu innovation at its finest.

When our waiter placed my Pork Tamale Plate in front of me, the rice, beans and tamales looked like one item that was melded together with cheese and smothered in Efrain’s delicious red sauce. I didn’t even have a choice between re-fried pinto beans or black beans, which is always a personal eyebrow raiser. This is when I knew that Efrain’s was beyond Tex-Mex—it purely seemed like an American rendition of Mexican food. Nonetheless, it was a superb rendition, with perfectly prepared tamales (which, by the way, were very accurately rated by the spicy scale). My favorite aspect of the food was the success I had in mixing everything left on my plate to create a medley of Mexican ingredients that I then scooped up with chips. Delicious.

Pork Tamale Plate [$6.75]

So is it the best Mexican food in Boulder? I can’t say yes, because that would entail me having gone to every single Mexican restaurant in Boulder. However, I can say that I will definitely return to Efrain’s to sip more margaritas while waiting for more of this Tex-Mex gem.

Sushi Zanmai

by dan on February 13, 2011


Thursday night I decided to try something new; take a girl on a date. Most people wouldn’t recommend sushi for a first date because how do you even eat a spider roll with out it falling apart on you and your date? But, my love for sushi is just too great to live by that rule. I also am properly trained in the chopstick field, which I thought would give me bonus points with my date. I was wrong. When we walked in, the waitresses simultaneously greeted us in Japanese in a very inviting manner. Other than the restaurant being way too bright for dinner, the atmosphere seemed right.

We sat at the sushi bar because that’s where you sit when you go to a sushi restaurant ☺. The waitress took a long time to bring us water and take our drink orders but that gave us time to catch up. We started off with some hot sake and gyoza (pot stickers)…the only problem was they forgot our gyoza. So our server had an off night, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

The sushi chef had an on night and it was the best sushi I’ve had in Boulder! The fish was so fresh and watching the sushi being made at the bar only made it that much better. The spicy tuna roll and the eel roll were our two favorite rolls; we even got two orders of them. There is nothing better than dipping your sushi in the perfect combination of soy sauce and wasabi. My date couldn’t appreciate that extra spice so I stole her wasabi and made it my own. Again, I can’t emphasize how fresh the fish was; they must have just gotten a fresh batch of fish in within hours. I was in sushi heaven! When the gyoza finally arrived, that too was delicious. I guess it was worth the wait. Watching my date try and use chopsticks was a whole different story but that’s not important right now.

Fun fact of the day: In chopstick-using cultures, they measure your status based on how high you hold your chopsticks. The higher you hold them the cooler you are.

My date used her hands. Next time, I’ll take her out for pizza.

Overall I’d give this restaurant 5 stars for their food, 3 stars for their service, and 6 stars for my date. You will completely forget your eating sushi in the middle of the country when you dine at Sushi Zanmai; Its that good.  My date made me forget about the mediocre service with her sassy personality which gives her a 6 (plus she might stumble across this). This was just my experience; I’m sure the service is usually better but like I said it was an off night. Take your friends or your mom to this restaurant, not a date. It didn’t quite have that vibe like some of the other sushi restaurants in town especially because it was so bright. That’s all for my first post, see you next Sunday!

Black Pepper Pho

by Hayley Hudson on February 12, 2011

Boulder is graced with an abundance of fantastic restaurants, and many of them are local. Pearl Street in particular never fails to feed me and feed me well, and I’m lucky enough to live in the neighborhood (don’t all start stalking me at once). So, on Thursday night, I sauntered out my door and into Black Pepper Pho.

It’s tucked away in a strip mall and might be easy to miss, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the bowl of broth and noodle gold that is Pho, a Vietnamese soup pronounced “Fuh” (…ck, this is good).

The menu was straightforward and even included pictures of the herbs and spices they use to season the pho. This was reassuring; sometimes there’s no telling what’s in the food I’m served. The fish tacos I once ate from a beachside stand in Lake Tahoe, when I was young and reckless and overlooked the fact that it was way too hot for anyone to be handing out fish without a mechanism for refrigeration, stand out as an example.

Despite my flashback, I was somehow still in the mood for seafood, so I ordered the Seafood Pho.

I added some sriracha and soy sauce and it suited my needs exactly. I wanted someone to taste the perfect ratio of salt and spice and broth and then hire me as head chef on the spot, but it didn’t happen. (Black Pepper Pho, consider this my application.)

I rounded out my meal with a cup of the hot mint tea. I was expecting tea from a tea bag, but this cup was stuffed with mint leaves and hot water, making for a pretty appearance and strong taste. It was minty! Not for the faint of heart.

I especially liked that Black Pepper Pho feels like  a “real” restaurant in spite of its location in the strip mall. Next time I stop in for coffee from the Starbucks next door before running off to class or work, I might just sit down and let a full waitstaff serve me some really delicious soup instead.