The great Parkway Cafe now dishes dinner in East Boulder

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Susan France

EaBou is not your $100 steak kind of neighborhood. Located east of Foothills Parkway, north of Arapahoe, south of Valmont and west of 63rd, EaBou is Boulder’s forgotten zone. The dusty area is packed with construction yards, car repair, supply warehouses, car dealerships, food production, mobile home parks and the gritty industrial infrastructure every city needs.

Maybe its isolation at 4700 Pearl St. is the reason why one of Boulder’s longest-lasting eateries is a well-kept secret. The Parkway Cafe started serving breakfast, lunch and Mexican fare more than 30 years ago.   

Pearl Street between First and Folsom is cute and popular. Pearl Street between 47th and 55th is a down-to-earth working-person’s place and a ghost town after dark, at least until recent years. Now the neighborhood is home to Boulder’s bumper crop of tasting rooms. The Parkway Cafe is now located within about a mile of J & L Distilling, Stein Brewing, Twisted Pine Brewing, Sanitas Brewing, Vapor Distillery, Wild Woods Brewery, BRU, Fate, Deviant Spirits Distillery, Boulder Beer and Redstone Meadery. There are more than a dozen more brewpubs and tasting rooms in a 5-mile radius and most don’t serve food, although many have visiting food trucks.

Susan France

What EaBou needed was a night diner, an affordable place where you can get dinner after happy hour or breakfast before a night of sipping local whiskies.

Boulder is just not a 3 a.m. nighthawks-at-the-diner, clean, well-lighted kind of town. The town’s ill-fated night diner history has included the New York Deli (where Mork from Ork worked), the LA Diner (with roller skating waiters), Eddie Lubin’s Magic Diner and chain diners like the now-closed Denny’s near CU. Today, real breakfast is only served at night at IHOP and the all-night, downtown Yellow Deli, part of a group of religious-based eateries.

But now, the family-owned Parkway is open at night for the first time, Monday to Friday until 7 p.m. I’ve visited many times in the morning for the blueberry pancakes, omelets, biscuits and gravy, benedicts and “Hi Hon” service. I appreciate a kitchen that takes breakfast seriously and makes their own hash browns, home fries and corned beef hash.

The Mexican selections range beyond huevos rancheros to migas, chilaquiles, tamale omelets and nopales with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions and green chile.

The night I visited, I overlooked breakfast for the lunch — and now dinner — menu. Diners are famous for serving crowd-pleasers and the Parkway delivers classic patty melts on marble rye, BLTs, steaks, salads and Philly steak sandwiches. Homestyle nightly specials have ranged from chicken schnitzel and meatloaf with mashers to mac-n-cheese with shrimp and bacon.

The evening Mexican choices include veggie enchiladas, street tacos (chicken, steak, al pastor or carnitas) and chile rellenos. Everything is available Christmas-style: smothered in red and green chile sauces.

While diving into the menu, we happily crunched freshly fried chicharrón — puffed pig skin — coated in chile-lime salt. They popped like Rice Krispies when dipped in a brick-red chile sauce. At this stage our palates were reminded that the Parkway Cafe doesn’t serve beer, but that GrubHub delivers to all those nearby tasting rooms.

What grabbed our attention were the unexpectedly adventurous Latin American specials that change every night. One appetizer was a cool bistro combo: smoked provolone cheese with roasted peppers and chile-infused honey. The other was the compelling recado negro, or black onions. These are what Outback’s Bloomin’ Onions want to be when they grow up: petals of red onion fried in tempura batter mixed with heavily charred chilies. The chipotle aioli on top only pumps up the smoky appeal.

I liked the arepas — soft corn relatives of pupusas and tamales — stuffed with tri-tip steak slices, queso fresco and guacamole salsa because they were served over warm sauteed cabbage. The side dish was a crave-able Mexican “risotto,” spicy cheese-y rice laced with corn and roasted poblano chilies and topped with avocado.

The other special, fideo seco, is rarely seen on local menus. The thin Mexican noodles were served over a velvety black bean sauce that was nothing like refried beans. On top was achiote-grilled chicken breast, radishes and greens.

I’m still thinking about heading to a brewery tasting room, one evening soon, and settling in for a platter of the Parkway’s blueberry pancakes, crisp bacon and eggs over easy with a mug of coffee stout.

Local Food News

Farmstand Co-Op is open at 1201 Arapahoe Ave. in a former gas station stocked with winter keeper vegetables and local foods from Golden Hoof Farms, McCauley Farms, Corner Post Meats, Aspen Moon and Scallywag Farms. … Blooming Beets Kitchen has closed after five years of serving gluten-free and Keto-friendly fare. Keizo Sushi will open at 3303 30th St. this spring. … Fast casual Simple Greek has opened an eatery at 520 W. South Boulder Road in Lafayette. … Boulder’s Flatirons Food Film Festival is seeking submissions of short food-focused films. These include 10-minute (or less) documentaries, narratives, live-action films or animation from filmmakers of all ages. Winning student films will be shown at the Festival. flatironsfoodfilmfest.org. … Master Gardeners and Community Food Share host a class for beginning gardeners March 2 at Boulder Recycling Center. Learn to start your own vegetable seeds and grow the plants indoors until ready to go in the garden. Register: bit.ly/2WWqi97 … Save this Date: The wine-pairing banquet to benefit Farms for Orphans May 12 at the Welsh Rabbit Cheese Bistro in Fort Collins features: smoked egg yolk with spicy mealworms; shredded greens with silk worms; crickets with chimichurri egg white omelets and polenta cakes with roasted tomatoes; and scorpions with three sauces. … Only 37 days until the Boulder County Farmers Market opens for the season.

Words to Chew On

“Eggs and sausage and a side of toast/ Coffee and a roll, hash browns over easy/ Chili in a bowl with burgers and fries, what kind of pie?” — From “Eggs and Sausage (in a Cadillac with Susan Michelson)” by Tom Waits

John Lehndorff hosts a live hour-long edition of Radio Nibbles at 8:30 a.m. March 7 during the spring membership drive on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, streaming at kgnu.org.)