True to its name, the Boulderado’s landmark Corner Bar has a menu featuring tavern staples such as chicken wings, nachos and burgers. Many of these are available as happy hour specials, but the bill of fare also reveals more ambitious choices on the fine-dining end of the spectrum. These options feature small plates and full-bore entrees, and include an artisanal cheese plate, grilled red trout and blackened flatiron steak.
Taking advantage of a spot of warm weather, friend Tertia and I opted for a sidewalk al fresco lunch in lieu of dining in the comfortably lived-in bar. Our pleasant server appeared to have been the only one on duty for the first part of our meal. Unfortunately this led to a few service delays, although she gamely tried her best. Later, a few management-looking types picked up the slack, although our starters arrived after the entrees. However, there are likely far more pressing issues in the world to worry about.
Service notwithstanding, I did enjoy my $6 bowl of New England clam chowder. There’s a lot that can go wrong with this seafood soup, ranging from off-tasting crustaceans to too much thickener. This version, happily, was an exercise in correct balance, with fresh-tasting clams, a pleasing, creamy base, and a consistency that was not too viscous. If you enjoy white chowders, you’ll find little to fault here, and the addition of a substantial dill biscuit is a winning alternative to a handful of oyster crackers.
Tertia’s interest was piqued by a $9 starter of sweet piquillo, “little beak,” peppers, stuffed with olives and house-made North African-style merguez sausage drizzled with harissa chile sauce. While I appreciated the quality of each ingredient, and the presentation was undoubtedly pleasing to the eye, the individually appealing components didn’t quite meld as I would have liked. Subtleties of the sausage were lost amongst the spice as well as the brininess of the olives.
A similar issue arose with my $10 grilled salmon sandwich, garnished with red onion marmalade and horseradish aioli. The fish itself was tasty and amply sized, although the condiments seemed more to mask than enhance the salmon’s flavor. If you had removed the bread, put the marmalade and aioli off to the side, and presented the fish as a centerpiece filet, this would have been a much more appealing preparation. However, the side of hot greens would require no adjustment, as it was crisp and tender.
Much more successful balance was apparent in Tertia’s $10 gold potato gnocchi, garnished with sun-dried tomato, Brussels sprouts, sage and other flavors. As it should be, the spud-based pasta captured the spotlight with a mellow, earthy taste and wonderful, darn-near-fluffy texture. The well-executed vegetable adornments, to borrow a cliche, added a farm-to-table flourish on this Italian comfort dish. Frankly, I would happily pay more than a 10-spot for this preparation.
At its best, the Corner Bar can hold its own among Boulder eateries. Ingredient quality is uniformly high, and the bulk of my concerns related to balancing each edible element with one another. It’s not hard to understand this eatery’s longevity due to the casual yet quietly sophisticated atmosphere, and it’s inarguably a fine spot to enjoy happy hour.
The Corner Bar is located at 2115 13th St., Boulder. Call 303-442-4880.