Go west for summer cookout fare

Clay Fong | Boulder Weekly

Given the West End Tavern’s name, I’m never sure if I’m more likely to encounter the Pet Shop Boys or the Sons of Liberty there, given the old-timey connotations of a “tavern.” However, a recent visit made it abundantly clear that encountering either the male equivalent of Bananarama or Revolutionary War plotters is unlikely. What you will find is fare that’s less late-night bar and more the quintessential American cookout. At a rooftop deck lunch, friend Lisa and I enjoyed the not-too-sweet $2.50 strawberry lemonade, spotlighting muddled chunks of berry, which weren’t so large as to clog up our straws. This finely executed hot weather refresher put us in a summery mood as we scanned the menu’s offerings of mac and cheese, fish and chips, entree salads, burgers and sandwiches.

First up was the Tavern’s $6 take on deviled, or as they call them, picnic, eggs, a selection my inner Cool Hand Luke found appealing. The West End’s presentation consisted of a half-dozen jumbo oeuvres, subtly spiced with turmeric, although they also suffered from too much salt. The yolks featured silky smooth texture, and appeared to have been piped through a pastry bag. Whites had a touch of give, and none of the rubberiness associated with overcooking.

Bits of maple-scented bacon and sprightly scallions contributed assertive flavor and visual appeal.

Lisa’s main event was the $11 West End Tavern cheeseburger, a classic preparation if there ever was one, an elegantly simple patty topped with aged cheddar. A while back, the Tavern served up a Kobe beef burger.

Offering this choice was probably more a nod to fashion than anything else, and frankly, the flavor was wanting. In contrast, Lisa’s sandwich focused on the basics done right. Fresh lettuce and tomato complemented a juicy slab of locally sourced meat from Colorado’s Best Beef. The patty had sufficient rareness to bring out the best of the beef ’s flavor, and one would be pleased to produce something similar at a home cookout.

Our server explained that the restaurant’s smoker had originally been used for special events and other offsite offerings. Now it’s also producing slow-cooked meats, such as beef brisket and pulled pork, for the Tavern’s regular menu. My interest piqued, I decided to sample the pricier $17 BBQ pork ribs. Like Lisa’s burger, this selection came with crisp fries and a fresh-tasting slaw with a pronounced fennel note that cut the richness of the pig. The ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender with a pleasant smoky aroma, and none of the over-salting all too common in restaurant ribs. One potential pitfall of this method of preparation is that a chef ’s inattentiveness can lead to a jerky-like dryness, but these ribs were satisfyingly moist.

While one’s initial impression of the West End may be that it’s strictly a place for bar food, that perception fails to account for its considerable skill in providing traditional but simple summertime fare. It’s also worth remembering that the Flatirons vista from the Tavern’s rooftop deck is one of the best views in Boulder, which makes this spot an especially appealing place to bring an out-of-town visitor.

Perhaps a member of the Pet Shop Boys, if Paul Revere is unavailable?

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