Boulder Weekly last visited the North Boulder Cafe in 2009. And it’s not hard to understand how we forgot about it. Tucked into a nondescript shopping center on the edge of town, the North Boulder Cafe isn’t really on the way to anywhere, and its signage is pretty minimal. It’s about as close to a lonely roadside diner as one is likely to find in city limits.
That all seems fine with the folks you’ll find inside, a collection of perennially under-dressed working stiffs that welcome you in with a total lack of formality and a wonderfully polite indifference.
The best tables in the joint are those in the side room next to the front windows. Between the large picture windows, natural light and the collection of plants, it feels like being seated in a solarium breakfast nook, which is the best kind of nook to breakfast in.
But if you’re there to eat off the previous night’s tour of microbreweries, don’t worry. The booths farther back from the windows are dim as a dive bar, perfectly suited to your hangover.
In the same vein is most of the food. The menu is mostly diner standards, hash browns and home fries with eggs and your choice of fried pig product, as well as a selection of sandwiches.
There are a few extra choices in the Eggs Benedict department, stacking english muffins with tomatoes, spinach, avocado, bacon or crab cakes. The hollandaise dribbled on these edible traitors isn’t the best ever, but unlike your average diner, it doesn’t taste like its preparation involved adding water.
That’s a theme that runs throughout the NBC’s menu. It may be on the edge of Boulder, but it’s still in Boulder, and the diner standards it’s slinging are still a cut above those at certain international pancake dispensaries.
For example: the home fries. All too often, home fries are simply blocky french fries, purchased frozen, prepared en masse and rocking the texture and flavor of, well, rocks. NBC’s are fresh cut red potatoes, rolled in cajun seasoning and properly roasted. That’s how you kill a hangover without creating a stomachache.
Another place you’ll see the diner grub shine is the French toast. Instead of the cheapest available stack of Wonderbread, NBC dips and fries thick slices of bread worthy of a making a meal out of.
But if you’re really looking for the goods, the part of the menu to dig into is the NBC’s Mexican offerings, especially the breakfast selections.
The huevos rancheros are a treat, with two tortilla-topped eggs drowning in green chile, a side of well-spiced black beans and side of the home fries. Zesty, filling and gloriously low-brow.
You’re not going to dig deeper into the menu on return trips to the North Boulder Cafe. Nor will you be able to quiz your server about the latitude and longitude your quinoa was grown in.
The lighting is dim. The linoleum is ancient. The front room feels like the planet Hoth in bad weather. But in a city packed with infused cocktails, and chefs competing to get the farm so close to your table that you might end up dining while seated on a cow, sometimes you just want some bottomless coffee, a Sunday paper and a nice window to stare out at the open road. The North Boulder Cafe is that place.