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Thursday, August 11,2011

The food next door

By Clay Fong

Three things distinguish The Kitchen [Next Door] from its namesake neighbor, namely a focus on swift service for time-constrained diners, menu offerings all less than $9, and a family-friendly emphasis.

Open since June, this eatery succeeds on all these counts, although one suspects the current customer base consists more of hip foodies than literal small fry.

At least that’s the impression I had after lunch with colleagues Margot and Carin, who brought along her two young children, Maddie and Sam. During our visit, this cleanly designed venue was packed with customers, few children among them, who had the option of dining al fresco, or inside at a table or the bar. Nevertheless, an appealing aspect of the menu is a selection of $5.95 kids’ meals, and two dollars of the proceeds from each one go towards planting school gardens. The rest of the menu features shared starters, sandwiches, soups and salads, with sides or soup available with a sandwich for a reasonable $1.95.

We started with a $6.95 platter of addictive kale chips. Carin dubbed these “a Boulder mom’s dream,” as they had appealing crunchiness and enticing flavor comparable to potato chips, but in a much healthier package. She explained that kids “go to town on chips,” which is exactly what we did with this leafy green treat resembling toasted nori seasoned with garlic and olive oil. My enthusiasm was so great for these nibbles that I had to ask Carin if I had any on my face. She replied, “A little.”

Maddie seemed particularly enamored with the Long Farm ham in her kid’s plate lunch box. Other elements included carrot and celery sticks and organic cheddar. Sam displayed budding gourmet tendencies by sampling a scaled-down portion of the Kitchen’s pulled pork sandwich, noteworthy for its tenderness and depth of flavor. A side of cumin-scented carrots, marked by a caramelized sweetness, was a sophisticated addition to this child’s plate.

Carin’s $6.95 mushroom loaf sandwich, bound with egg and sided with roasted beets, was a touch  messy, but had a nice balance of earthiness and lively spicing. This flavor vibrancy wasn’t as apparent in Margot’s $6.95 beet burger. Yet this selection, also held together with egg, carried a surprisingly hefty texture. While we had expected Margot’s garlic smashers side would be a mashed potato variant, we were pleasantly surprised to discover these were aromatic flattened spuds fried in plenty of garlic.

This was the fourth time I’ve had the $8.95 lamb sandwich, which features remarkably tender pulled meat. On prior occasions this choice tended towards dryness, but this wasn’t a problem today. More of the mint sauce condiment would help in rounding out the flavor. However, there’s no disputing the meat’s quality or the bread’s fine rustic qualities. The quinoa side was more chewy than airy, although cinnamon-like tones added a bright note. I decided to reward my virtue in choosing this healthy grain with a predictably satisfying $3.95 dessert of vanilla gelato sandwiched between chocolate chip cookies.

Meals here are nicely prepared and healthful (with the possible exception of the ice cream sandwich), although some may expect more with respect to complex flavors and selection. But that may be beside the point, as the goal of the Kitchen [Next Door] appears to be providing an accessible and affordable community restaurant, which is exactly what it is.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

The Kitchen
(Next Door)
1035 Pearl St., Boulder 720-542-8159

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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