Restaurant review: Outlook Hotel's Blues & Greens puts a healthy spin on pub grub

By Meg Tilton
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cook Rene Zarate holds a polenta dish and a plate of Greek salad at Blues & Greens Restaurant at the Boulder Outlook Hotel:

Photo by Paul Aiken

Food 2.5 stars
Service 3 stars
Ambience 2.5 stars

800 28th St., Boulder 720-974-7775. Roadhouse fare with vegan and vegetarian dishes. Live music on many nights; see www.bouldershomeoftheblues.com.

Hours 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Reservations accepted. Kid friendly (no formal kids' menu, but will prepare half portions of most dishes). All major credit cards. Wheelchair accessible. Vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Noise level Loud during live music performances, quiet-medium otherwise.

Recommended dishes Mushrooms and cheese appetizer, spinach salad, vegetarian Philly "steak" sandwich.

Boulder was one of the forerunners of the local and organic foods movement, with restaurants like the Kitchen and Sunflower putting the city on the culinary map. So when a National Restaurant Association survey declared local and organic foods a "hot trend" for restaurants in 2009, Boulderites might be forgiven for raising their eyebrows. Eating local and organic is great idea, sure. But cutting edge?

Now, Boulder restaurants may once again be ahead of the pack. In the past two years, a new breed of restaurant has sprung up in town, as the local and organic movement has spread to burger lovers and the non-foodie proletariat. Forget that grass-fed filet mignon with truffled mashed potatoes. These places serve pub grub. First on the scene was V.G. Burgers, which serves six different kinds of vegan, organic burgers and chicken-free chicken sandwiches. Then came the Scotch Corner Pub, which offers vegetarian haggis and vegan bangers and mash. And now there's Blues & Greens, a new restaurant in Boulder's Outlook Hotel that offers roadhouse fare with many vegan dishes and locally grown ingredients.

The restaurant's name reflects both the "green" cuisine and the live blues acts that frequently perform at the place. (The "blues" also brings to mind the nearby hotel pool, which occasionally wafts chlorinated air into the restaurant, but let's skip that.) The restaurant's combination of beer, live music and creatively healthy food makes an endearing if somewhat odd mix. Meat-lovers can dine on all-natural barbecued ribs, while vegetarians can sink their teeth into a Philly "steak" made with wheat gluten. And thanks to the blues-joint ambience, the place has character. Paintings of musicians decorate the wall, and the blues-loving patrons aren't your normal hotel restaurant crowd.

Whether or not you're vegetarian, the mushroom and cheese appetizer ($6.75) makes a good way to start your meal. The dish features several varieties of mushrooms from Hazel Dell, a Fort Collins-based farm, which are sautéed to perfect juiciness and then topped by melted, pungent Parmesan.

Salads are a main feature of the Blues & Greens menu, and you can order the spinach salad ($7.50) with real bacon or a meat-free substitute. The fake stuff doesn't infuse the salad with flavor the way real bacon would, but the other ingredients -- fresh spinach, red onions, red peppers and egg -- are tasty. And in any case, it's nice the restaurant offers alternatives for meat-eaters and vegetarians.

As for the veggie chef's salad ($6.50), I'd recommend this variety only for those who like their greens accompanied by clumps of sprouts and big florets of raw broccoli and cauliflower. With blue-cheese dressing or the restaurant's yummy agave-mustard mix, the salad becomes more palatable, but it's difficult not to yearn for some walnuts or pears.

The restaurant's vegetarian sandwiches are better. The portabella mushroom sandwich is a standard but juicy affair of mushroom, veggie garnishes and a Rudi's whole wheat bun. The aforementioned Philly "steak" ($6.95) is more adventurous and equally rewarding. It features seitan (wheat gluten), which the restaurant makes itself. Truth be told, the seitan does not taste like beef, and it's springier and more uniform in texture than meat. But its slightly smoky, mushroom-like flavor goes well with the rest of the sandwich, which has melted cheese and sautéed onions and peppers. I'd order this one again for both taste and price.

Blues & Greens offers many specials, such as a recent one featuring all-natural pork spare ribs ($10.95) from local farmer John Long. The meat, seasoned with a dry rub and accompanied by hickory barbecue sauce, was tender and flavorful. The dish's cornbread and rice and beans, however, were disappointments. The lackluster cornbread needed more salt and a pat of butter, while the rice and beans were mixed together in a gelatinous scoop. Fortunately, the coleslaw was crunchy and fresh. And the entree as whole was still worth ordering, thanks to the generous serving of ribs.

The restaurant's staff work hard to satisfy their customers. On my first visit, our server comped a round of our drinks after two different kegs failed to tap properly. On our second visit, a different server offered to take back an extra salad we'd ordered because we hadn't realized our entrée included one.

All in all, Blues & Greens makes a fine addition to the list of Boulder restaurants serving healthy pub fare. The place is affordable, appealing and quirky. So if you like vegetarian food or blues music, make your way to the Outlook Hotel. Who knows? You may be getting in on the hot restaurant trend of 2012.

Contact Camera Dining Critic Meg Tilton at boulderdining@gmail.com.

Original Article at: Daily Camera

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