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Trip Report--Estes Park, Boulder, Denver

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Rarely do I feel annoyed enough to really pan a restaurant--but please do not go to Nicky's Steakhouse in Estes Park. Really can't say anything good about it--very poor quality meat to start with. We had a $31 NY Strip that was small, tasteless and tough. Prime rib that was half fat and the rest tough and sinewy. The young server didn't know how to respond when she saw that I'd eaten about a third of it and I said the quality wasn't very good. Cold baked potatoes, bad soup and iceberg salad all added up to a lot of money and disappointment on a special occasion. The next night we went to the Tavern at Mary's Lake Lodge and loved it. Would go back in an instant. Did find a bakery in Estes called Aisle 2 Bread and Bakery--homemade granola, organic coffee and great peanut butter cookies. It's in a shopping center near the visitor's center.
In Boulder we loved the "food court" at the Farmer's Market--tamales, pupusas, spring rolls. Went to the Kitchen Next Door for a late light dinner. Not sure what all the fuss is about--it was okay. Pork sandwich had very little pork and a lot of bread. Soups and rolls were good. Wanted to go to Salt, but after letting us read the menu the hostess informed us that it was too late to seat us.
In Denver we were really disappointed that every single restaurant that we were interested in was closed for Labor Day. Maybe it's because we are used to big cities, but it never occurred to us that all 12 or so we were interested in would be closed. We ended up at Tamayo on Larimer Sq., which looked lovely with the overhead strings of lights. Tamayo was okay but overpriced in my opinion. Our waiter was hyped up and inattentive--although it wasn't busy, it took him quite a while to notice we were there and he seemed to have short term memory problems! We loved the Market on the square and found some brands of chocolate that are very hard to find. The next day we attempted to go to Snooze, but too long of a wait with a plane to catch. We were very sad to miss out on some of the great places recommended by Chowhounders, but we will be back! Seems like there are a lot of interesting neighborhood to check out in Denver!

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Tamayo Restaurant
1400 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80202

Mary's Lake Lodge
2625 Marys Lake Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517

Next Door
217 4th St, Castle Rock, CO 80104

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  1. Thanks for the report! Estes seems to be a culinary wasteland, for the most part.

    The "fuss" about the Kitchen Next Door is mostly that one can eat good food, locally sourced, in a casual atmosphere at an affordable price. It's not supposed to be AMAZING, just good. Bummer that the pork sandwich wasn't very porky; I have only eaten there once but had the pork sandwich and it was definitely not light on meat.

    Have to say, I laughed at the "Maybe it's because we are used to big cities" comment.

    1. Your comments on Estes Park are pretty typical; the only places I've had good experiences at there are Mary's Lake Lodge and the Rock Inn Tavern (which doesn't look like it would be good, but in fact is). Sorry you had to learn that lesson!

      Regarding Kitchen Next Door, LurkerDan is right - the "fuss" is because you can get that pork sandwich for $6.95, and it's high-quality locally-sourced pork on an excellent Udi's roll (also local). I've only had it once but had no problems with the amount of pork on it and it was delicious - perhaps they were running low since it was late when you went. Again, sorry you were disappointed. Next time try the ice cream sandwich, it's pretty awesome (if you love fresh ice cream and homemade cookies as much as I do).

      Finally, I absolutely agree with your opinion of Tamayo; there are much better options IMHO on the same block, even - Euclid Hall, Rioja, Osteria Marco, etc. - and I'm kind of shocked none were open on Labor Day. As far as Snooze goes - the line is a given, it's the problem with being widely appreciated and having a small space. Lucille's in Boulder has the same problem, and it's just considered part of the charm at this point; we put our name in and then go down the block to Conor O'Neils and have a bloody mary while we wait.

      Come back again and hopefully you'll get a better taste of Boulder/Denver!

      3 Replies
      1. re: monopod

        I don't know what MIGHT have been open in Highlands (NW Denver) on Labor Day, but that charming neighborhood is becoming another Mecca for local foodies with a number of very good restaurants.Ditto Uptown, Washington Park & a few other pockets. Agree completely w/ Monopod abt Mary's Lake Lodge & Rock Inn as Estes Park's best. We also often go to Ed's Cantina after hiking, snowhoeing or skiing. Not the best Mexican-style food on the planet, but we're fond of it anyway. In summer, they open the big windows in back, and it's really pleasant.

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        Mary's Lake Lodge
        2625 Marys Lake Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517

        Ed's Cantina
        390 W Elkhorn Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517

        The Rock Inn
        1675 State Highway 66, Estes Park, CO 80517

        1. re: monopod

          I am very interested in the local sourcing aspect (athough local did not equal good at Nicky's) and love their partnership with schools and gardens. I would go back there, or the main Kitchen or upstairs. And I would certainly try that ice cream sandwich! Will visit Denver again to visit the various neighborhoods and try some of the local independent restaurants.

          1. re: travelbuff

            I know that "monopod" and "lurkerdan" are local, but I don't know where "travelbuff," who started this thread, is from, but for him/her, here's something to remember: The fresh and local sourcing drops off precipitously after the fall harvest. The peaches, corn & other produce have been exemplary this year. But fall is in the air, and winter isn't far behind. The high peaks (about 10,000 ft) have already been dusted by snow. Fresh veggies will be confined to root veggies, fall/winter squash & greens, mushrooms and hothouse-grown crops. Just a seasonal forewarning.