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Thursday, September 13,2012

Back to the basics

Simple staples of burgers, biscuits and gravy deliver at Hygiene’s Crane Hollow

By Clay Fong

Mara had a bee in her bonnet vis a vis biscuits. Solicitous friend that I am, I proposed a weekend morning’s excursion to Hygiene, where we could sample the rustic charms of the Crane Hollow Cafe. Resembling more of a lived-in cottage than a sleek diner, this homey spot had been a stop on one of my many therapeutic bicycle rides as I rehabilitated my torn-up knee.

We arrived after 11 a.m. on a Saturday, sadly too late to sample the full breakfast menu, although on Sundays the morning choices extend until 2 p.m. Happily, our friendly server, replete with bovine-themed fingernails, informed us that biscuits and gravy were still available.

Other breakfast options include omelets, hash, and the Rancher’s Special, consisting of two eggs with home fries, toast, and a choice of bacon, sausage, or vegetarian breakfast patties. Lunch offerings focus on burgers, classic sandwiches like BLTs and a “horseradishy” tuna melt, as well as quiche, soup, and salad. There’s also tamales and green chile stew, and homemade pie and other baked goods are on tap until closing.

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Ordering off the lunch menu, my meal was anchored by the $7.95 Best o’ the West, a traditionalist’s half-pound all-natural beef burger augmented by the addition of cheddar, a 75-cent upgrade. I had requested the burger rare (I figure my cause of death will be either an undercooked burger or a perturbed snapping turtle), and got something closer to medium rare, which is about all you can hope for nowadays. Still, the burger was juicy and flavorful, and it’s nice to get a straightforward burger topped with straightforward cheddar, lettuce and tomato and is free of ingredients whose spelling requires an accent mark.

Side choices with the burger included chips, green salad, soup of the day — in this case, lentil chicken — and a less conventional rice salad. While this dish earns points for sheer ambition, the grains could have benefited from a warmer serving temperature and longer cooking time. However, the seasonings of pineapple and pepper gave it a refreshing, warm weather savor.

Mara found her full order plate of $7.95 biscuits and creamy gravy worth the trip. A smaller portion is available for $4.25, and I enjoyed this on my previous visit with a single egg for an additional $1.30. The sausage-dotted white sauce was free of the heavy processed sodium taste that plague less satisfactory versions. Creamy and smooth, this adornment was the ideal counterpoint to the slightly crispy edged biscuits. Not too heavy or doughy with just the right measure of crumble, Mara proclaimed, “This is a good biscuit.”

We ended with a $6 slice of mixed berry pie a la mode. The lightly textured crust stood out for Mara, and the filling had a fresh, yet rich flavor pro file, where it was easy to pick out the taste of individual berries. The ice cream was nothing fancy, but the simple vanilla was the perfect match for this standby confection.

Sometimes the ideal weekend meal is something that harkens back to an earlier time, and where simple preparations trump the latest foodie trends. A humble cup of diner coffee, white cream gravy and tasty burgers can be part of such a repast, and in this regard, Crane Hollow delivers.

Crane Hollow Cafe is located at 7504 Hygiene Road in Hygiene. Call 303-776-1551.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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