A friend recently analogized that Boulder is to Longmont as Manhattan is to Brooklyn. From a dining standpoint, there’s more than a grain of truth in this analogy. Boulder, like Manhattan, has more than its fair share of press-worthy, high-buck eateries whose prices are driven in no small part by premium real estate values. Longmont, like Brooklyn, can better incubate smaller, reasonably priced eateries that differentiate themselves on the basis of offering ethnic fare or solid positioning as a neighborhood establishment.
One such welcoming downtown Longmont spot is the Sun Rose Café, whose rugged brick interior hosts a successful hybrid of hospitable country café and sophisticated bistro. There’s also live music on selected evenings, contributing to a festive atmosphere that takes away nothing from the café’s neighborly appeal. The menu ranges from omelets and basted eggs in the morning to panini and soups during the day, and concludes with such dinnertime entrees as portabella mushroom ravioli and apricot-glazed salmon salad.
Based on the strengths of a fine breakfast I sampled late last year, I decided to try lunch with colleague Susan on a chilly afternoon. A simple but elegant $7.95 appetizer of mushrooms, olives and almonds opened the meal, brought to the table by our informative but unobtrusive server. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of this selection, as the nuts had a low-key, almost vanilla tone, and the olives had their flavor shine through without a sodium surplus. The mushrooms were gently marinated, making for an earthy delicacy with a hint of tartness. A strangely addictive $2.75 lavender lemonade, a compelling balance of sweet, tart and herbal, washed this all down.
Susan went for the $8.95 soup and sandwich special. The sandwich was a satisfying number, stacked high with hot lean turkey, rendered rich by a full-bodied aioli and melted fontina. The poultry was better than what you’d find on most restaurant sandwiches, with a clean, unprocessed taste. The cup of chicken soup, freighted with potato and vegetable and correctly seasoned with a peppery undercurrent, had the robust flavor and texture of a well-crafted homemade version.
Feeling carnivorous, I ordered the $8.95 Tradizionale, a sandwich featuring an array of cold cuts, including salami, capicolla and mortadella. Other fillings included creamy provolone and Roma tomatoes dressed with classic garnishes of vinegar and oil on a hefty and pleasantly chewy roll. While this might not be the equal of something found in a Brooklyn or San Francisco Italian deli, it was nothing to sneeze at. Lesser Italian sandwiches tend to have all the meat flavors run together, and in this example each cold cut had a distinct taste and texture of its own, a surefire indicator of quality. A side salad featuring tender artichoke leafs was intriguing, light and indicative of Sun Rose’s commitment to serving a side dish that’s a cut above.
Continuing the Italian theme, we ended our meal with a $4.95 Della Nonna, or grandmother’s cake, a refreshing confection spotlighting lemon and pine nuts.
Not too heavy, yet unquestionably satisfying, the understated creaminess of this dessert presented a counterpoint to the heartiness of our sandwiches. This selection was definitely better than the price would indicate. Like much of the menu, the Della Nonna combined big city (think Brooklyn) sophistication with reasonable prices and smaller town charm.
Clay’s Obscurity Corner
Penney for your thoughts
Like many downtown Longmont venues, the Sun Rose Café space has gone through many incarnations, including a stint as a J.C. Penney store. Before there was a J.C. Penney, Longmont entrepreneur T.M. Callahan opened the Golden Rule dry goods store after moving here in 1889. Callahan’s business expanded to include several stores scattered around the West. Callahan’s Kemmerer, Wyo., location was run by a young man who had failed at his attempt to run a butcher shop on Longmont’s Main Street. This employee found better luck as a merchandise retailer, and eventually he ran his own stores, under his name, J.C. Penney.
Sun Rose Café 379 Main St., Longmont 303-651-3533