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Thursday, June 6,2013

Breakfast with a side of country charm

By Clay Fong
Photo by Jefferson Dodge

For me, weekend breakfasts take on a distinctly different tenor than workday morning repasts. All too often, the weekday meal is a hurried affair, consisting of downing a cup of java while rushing out the door after gulping down a bowl of granola of piece of fruit. On the other hand, Saturday or Sunday breakfast is ideally a slow-paced process, allowing for leisurely sipping of coffee and catching up with old friends.

Such was my intent on a recent Saturday breakfast with pals Kathleen and Tertia at Niwot’s Garden Gate Cafe, a hospitable spot with a cozy dining room best described as country cute. This breakfast and lunch cafe’s sunny patio is a popular destination in warm weather, particularly among cyclists. Hint: Don’t order something like the Huevos Rancheros and hammer your way up 79th Street on your bike immediately after — it can be a tad unpleasant — don’t ask how I know that.

The breakfast menu here spotlights classic fare like oatmeal, pancakes, waffles and egg dishes ranging from the basic to more sophisticated preparations such as omelets and Benedicts. There are also skillets combining eggs, potatoes and ingredients like peppers and bacon. Ambitious eaters may opt for chicken fried steak, and this restaurant also dishes out a smattering of Southwestern selections such as Pappas Fritas, hash browns slathered in green chile and topped with eggs.

Along these lines, Tertia opted for the $8.99 tamale and eggs. Slathered with satisfyingly spicy pork green chile, the tamales had a slightly heavy corn meal texture enveloping tender pork. Her hash browns arrived with a textbook crisp and golden crust, the perfect foil to the addictive chile.

Strictly going off the menu’s description, Kathleen’s choice of the $8.99 Daybreak crepe had the potential to be a bit busy with respect to ingredients. It’s heavily loaded with mushrooms, cheese, tomato, ham and bacon, all topped with Hollandaise sauce. Each component played well with the others, with no single one detracting from another. The porcinebased ingredients added weight and a wisp of smokiness, the cheese contributed mellow tang and chew, and the properly lemony Hollandaise tied it all together. Lastly, the crepe itself had a remarkably light texture best described as silky.

A strict culinary taxonomist would likely classify my $8.49 Big Kahuna as more dessert than breakfast. The arrival of this tropical-influenced French toast was heralded by the placement of a ramekin of coconut syrup on the table. Not a condiment for the faint of heart when it comes to sweetness, this adornment arrived packed with island flavor. The toast itself consisted of four generous slabs, enough for two, making my addition of two eggs and sausage patties for an additional $2.99 unnecessary. The toast, made from house-made bread, itself was endearingly eggy without being overly heavy. Pineapple chunks, slivers of macadamia nuts and toasted coconut shreds rounded out this delightful take on a comforting breakfast classic.

When reuniting with old friends, the food sometimes becomes a secondary consideration. Here, the quality and generous portions didn’t take a backseat to anything else at the meal, and the unobtrusive service and charming but subtle country setting only enhanced the experience. If one seeks an unhurried weekend breakfast experience at a reasonable price, the unpretentious Garden Gate Cafe more than delivers the goods.

The Garden Gate Cafe is located at 7960 Niwot Road #B4, Niwot. Call 303-652-8595.

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