Fresh air

The Riverside Cafe does outdoor dining in style

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Susan France

There might not be a better atmosphere in which to grab brunch in Boulder County than The Riverside Cafe. There are a number of Pearl Street verandas and Dushanbe’s beautiful interior certainly have their claims, but the natural and upscale patio at Food at the Riverside is hard to beat. The whirring of an overflowing creek, speeding from left to right cuts out all the noise from Broadway above, letting only the sounds of an acoustic jazz duo do their thing on a Sunday morning. 

The patio is gardened, or not gardened, to let vines grow on bricks, weeds pop through stones on the ground and paint to chip on benches according to nature’s choreography. It’s a bit different than the interior of the restaurant, which is smartly remodeled in an art deco style, and is a different experience entirely — a giant “FOOD” sign is lit up by individual, oversized bulbs, the bustling kitchen is exposed and you get the sense that if breakfast were a person and a pop country singer, this would be the set she designs for a hit music video.

But back to outside. Our waitress is bubbly and fun, brushing off our gigantic brunch order as something she would do. First to the table is a South African meat pie. The pie is baked into a puffy rectangle, the breading much like shepherd’s pie — crusty but light. Inside is peppery bits of steak with smaller slices of potato. The innards are remarkably moist, and the pie holds its shape throughout, which made it easy to eat. It tasted good and was lighter than you might think. It came beside a lightly dressed spring mix salad.

Next was a pork and green chile scramble. House-made pork shoulder shreds were tossed with bits of green chile, red pepper, onion and egg. It wasn’t spicy, as you might assume, but the flavors were rustic and well-cultivated. There may have been a bit too much sautéed onion, but that only became evident as the scramble started to dwindle. It could also just be a classic case of the black jellybean effect.

There was another scramble on the table, this time with roasted beets, mush rooms, potatoes and eggs. The beets were well prepared and imparted only the best parts of themselves to the dish, which is an earthy crunch. The mushrooms were sliced about a half-centimeter thick and cooked down, providing a savory element to the dish. Three eggs were fried hard, forming the net in which the other ingredients were caught, and if it didn’t come last, we would’ve eaten the whole thing.

A single egg Benedict also made it to the table, and it was delightful. Topped, not smothered, with hollandaise sauce, the egg bubble sat atop a blackened and vibrant piece of ham, which sat on a toasted English muffin bottom. It was a perfect Benedict and was gobbled up in seconds.

The sides were also notable. Hashbrowns were made from paper-thin slices of potato and fried just so that they crunched like giant glass snowflakes. The fruit cup, and I’m not just heeping excessive praise on here, was exceptionally fresh and well curated. The toast was toast.

It was all pretty cheap too, and there was no wait on a Sunday morning. The patio has restricted hours, but the indoor café is open all week, and the restaurant plans to open an evening spot downstairs in the fall. Until then though, the patio is where I’ll be.