Finding a place at the Boulder breakfast table is often troublesome. Though it’s not necessarily a Boulder-specific problem — the truth is that, proportionately, there aren’t a lot of breakfast joints, and people like eating breakfast out. It’s cheap, it’s delicious and it’s just to easier to order a fried egg than to make one.
So it was with open arms that we welcomed Doug’s Day Diner in Boulder. Just by its existence, the diner is likely to disperse crowds from the greater Boulder County breakfast scene, while also adding its own new spin on breakfast and lunch.
Doug’s is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall at Arapahoe and Folsom. Inside, it has a small seating area in front of the kitchen, and then a larger, wrap-around dining room on the side. There are a couple of TVs displaying muted news or sports, and on the radio overhead is top-40 country music. The tables and chairs are modest and wooden. The service is exceptionally friendly, accommodating and quick. It’s a nice place to spend an early morning; unpretentious and comfortable.
The menu doesn’t quite go full-diner. That is, it doesn’t span a dozen pages, but instead concentrates kitchen offerings to a few categories: huevos rancheros, papas, “Doug’s Grub” or American breakfast platters, burritos and omelets. There is clearly a bent toward Mexican fare, and there’s a message from Doug at the top of the menu proclaiming that just about everything is house-made, and so that’s a nice touch.
On the flip side of the menu are burgers, sand wiches and salads, which hit on a lot of diner classics. I end up with a plate of papas, huevos rancheros, a house vegetable soup and the fiesta salad.
The papas plate features a “mountain” of stripped and cooked potato peels, cheese, choice of meat (here it was adovada, or slow-roasted pork), fried eggs and green chili. It’s an ordeal — in a good way. The potatoes, at first, seem tough yet still oddly hot. They’re thick cut strips, which flop a little and act sort of like egg noodles and sort of like traditional hash browns. The whole plate is a lot like a scramble, and as the warmth and moisture of the chili and eggs seeps down into the potatoes, the dish comes to life. The green chili is slightly spicy but flavorful. The adovado chunks weren’t as tender as one would hope, but the flavor was spot on.
Make no mistake, this was a heavy breakfast, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. The portions on the papas and the huevos rancheros were gigantic, and if you perhaps drank too much the night before, or your plans for the day include serious napping, then you can eat the whole dish.
The huevos rancheros come with a choice of green or red chili, and are structured as is typical with tortillas, black beans, eggs and those giant strips of the potato from the papas plate. It’s a satisfying, huge and sloppy rendition of the classic breakfast dish.
The vegetable soup was some variation of minestrone, with a consortium of leftover pastas, and a mix of base vegetables like carrots, peas, tomatoes and corn. It’s warm and satisfying, though mostly unremarkable.
The fiesta salad was loaded with southwest ingredients like corn, black beans, tortilla strips, bell peppers, almonds, cucumbers and guacamole. You can also throw some cheese and meat on there if you want, but the core of the salad is solid enough. All the ingredients were fresh and flavorful, and the balsamic vinaigrette accompanying it was tangy and amplified the veggies in the salad.
Doug’s Day Diner was always set up to succeed based on the crushing demand for breakfast joints in Boulder County. But with friendly service, a cozy atmosphere, low prices and stomachbloating breakfast plates, they probably didn’t need the help.