I’m not sure if this is more Pavlovian or Proustian, but for many normal folks, hearing a particular song transports them back to a particular time and place. For example, I’ll always associate the first day I set foot in Boulder in 1994 with Seal’s “Prayer for the Dying,” as that was playing on the then-local station. Unlike normal people, I’ll also associate restaurants with certain times in my life. For that mid-Clinton era, I’ll fondly recall long-defunct eateries like the LA Diner and Trios.
One survivor of that time is the Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery. Long before Boulder established its bona fides as a foodie town rife with artisan takes on comfort food, this inviting spot exemplified local dining for me. The funky, slightly counter-culture ambience, the offering of meatless courses alongside tasty burgers, and the then-novelty of being a brewpub made for an egalitarian locals’ experience.
On a recent visit for lunch with friend Cyn, I was happy to see not much has changed, and judging from the size of the crowd, things are currently thriving. The specialty brews are still available, as is my favorite house-brewed root beer. If memory serves me correctly, the menu isn’t all that different from the ’90s, with a selection of soup, salads and sandwiches.
Unlike most visits in the past, service was a touch slow out of the gate and towards the end. But in between, our server was attentive, and once we put in our orders, the food arrived swiftly. For starters, we went for the $5.25 hummus of the day, and on this day the chickpea puree was spiced up with green chile. My main takeaway is that most hummus preparations should have this seasoning in it from now on, as it rendered what could have been a merely pedestrian dip memorable. Plenty of crisp tortilla chips and slices of soft bread accompanied this meatless treat, and these quality accompaniments lived up to the high standard of this starter.
Speaking of chile, Cyn enjoyed her $8.25 Monterey chicken sandwich, although she felt the addition of a red pepper would have taken it to the next level. Hers was a simple preparation of clean and rich-tasting guacamole, namesake jack cheese and chicken breast. She was particularly enamored with the tender texture of the bird, which was demonstrably moist without any evidence of undercooking or use of overpowering marinades.
Burgers have always been a menu staple here, and I went back to that old standby, the $8 basil blue cheeseburger, with fries for a buck more. While some might find the default medium patty too cooked for their taste, the meat’s flavor still had a steak-like quality. A saucy condiment of basil and cheese give this sandwich its name, and a touch of fresh herb contributes a bright, fresh note absent from most other burgers. Hot and hand-cut, the fries came with strips of potato skin still sticking to them, which tasted fine, although more crispness would have helped them achieve perfection.
While Boulder’s culinary landscape is almost unimaginably different from what it was in the ’90s, it’s comforting to know that the Mountain Sun can carry on with few changes. This no-credit-card establishment still follows the beat of its own drum.