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Thursday, December 2,2010

Alice's retro diner charm

By Clay Fong

It’s too cold for a fair-weather cyclist to ride, and there’s not enough snow to go skiing. So what to do? In the run-up to the hectic holidays, a leisurely weekend breakfast sounded like just the ticket. So I decided to explore Longmont’s Aunt Alice’s Kitchen (not to be confused with Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” or my actual Aunt Alice, she of the incessant whistling during mah jong and fierce battles over paying the check). This is a diner, and it possesses a pronounced retro charm.

Situated on North Main Street in a sea of strip malls, the menu here is what you’d expect from a reasonably priced yet satisfying diner. Décor highlights include Broncos paraphernalia and military aircraft models, including what appears to be an Apache chopper about to auger in. The endearingly classic menu includes such favorites as patty melts and fried chicken at lunch and dinner, free pie on certain days, and a notation that breakfast is served any time. Of course, I had to bite my tongue while resisting borrowing the line from Swingers about ordering my eggs in the Age of Enlightenment.

Alice’s possesses a loyal following, with a substantial and predominantly older (there are discounted seniors portions available on some meals) Sunday breakfast crowd. Despite many folks waiting in line, tables turn over quickly here, and friend Teresa and I had to wait all of a scant five minutes before being shown to a comfortable, vinyl-upholstered booth.

The instant we sat down, a server took our drink orders, and before you could say “Farmers Brothers Coffee,” my mug of hot java arrived, filled to the brim. You have to appreciate how much the wait staff hustles here to ensure cups of coffee stay topped off and that meals arrive at the table as soon as possible. Morning selections include omelets, pancakes and skillet options.

Teresa ordered the $7.95 Works omelet, likely large enough for two starving people with its payload of four eggs, bacon, sausage, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onions and bell peppers. She noted that many restaurants would load up a similar dish with the less costly vegetables versus pricey protein. In this case, however, no one could fault the amount of meat, although Teresa found it “almost overwhelming.” She nevertheless enjoyed her course, and lauded the hash browns for their lack of greasiness and pleasantly crispy exterior.

Feeling carnivorous, I requested the $6.95 steak-and-egg special, featuring a petite sirloin, two eggs, hash browns and choice of toast or pancakes. Feeling decadent, I went with the flapjacks, which were a duo of good-sized and fluffy buttermilk numbers with a light texture.

While the syrup was imitation maple, whipped butter enhanced the pancakes’ flavor. My expectations are typically low when it comes to the beef in a steak-and-egg special. But in this instance, the sirloin was both tender and flavorful, rendering a steak sauce cover-up unnecessary.

Is this the greatest breakfast ever?

Probably not, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a superior alternative to Aunt Alice’s for a value-priced coffee shop breakfast. If you’re looking for locavore gourmet fare with plenty of frills, don’t bother coming here. If it’s a simple but hearty meal you seek, that’s an altogether different proposition, and you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for in this refreshingly unpretentious setting.


Clay’s Obscurity Corner Alice’s Restaurant

The song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (not massacre) and subsequent film with the abbreviated title Alice’s Restaurant, are based on Arlo Guthrie’s experience getting arrested for illegally dumping trash. Ironically, Guthrie learned that this minor arrest could preclude him from serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Oddly enough, the arresting officer was one William Obanhein, known as Officer Obie, who played himself in the film. But Obanhein had an association with another much more mainstream icon of American popular culture: In his police uniform, Obie was a model for none other than Norman Rockwell, known for his wholesome artwork.


Aunt Alice’s

Kitchen 1805 Main St. Longmont 303-651-0495

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com



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