In the spirit of local, seasonal Eagle Rock, we set out to sample the fall offerings of that stretch of Colorado Boulevard bounded by Eagle Vista to the east and Eagle Rock Boulevard to the west. In the last decade, many a restaurant has popped up there, anchored by Fatty’s at one end and Camillo’s on the other, on blocks that for three decades only hosted Casa Bianca, Pete’s Blue Chip Burgers and Columbo’s. Not that those would be bad choices—it’s just that now there are so many more choices. Here are four reasonable, interesting and atmospheric places for dining along Colorado Boulevard (travelling west to east).
For fall, the spare and spanking bright Four Café has switched out its cold-case offerings to include kale in peanut sauce, a comforting, not too heavy or sweet take on the powerhouse veggie so beloved of whole foodies, and a complex quinoa salad with maple ginger dressing. The red curry kabocha squash soup is divine, and the bacon-wrapped meatloaf just screams “home for the holidays.” My beloved lavender shortbread has morphed into an upside down apple cake, so it’s all sweet on the sweet end, too. Don’t forget to bring your own wine over from the Colorado Wine Company.
The welcoming staff at Lemongrass seats you as far from the door as possible on a blustery night—their warmth nearly makes up for the icy blasts of air. This Vietnamese restaurant, the most basic and straightforward of this quartet, serves up varieties of banh mi on perfect French bread (one wonders if it comes from the kitchen of the wonderful Petit Beaujolais across the street), a salty fried calamari that is a fine complement to a Hue beer, and spring rolls with a crackle of fried vermicelli among the fresh carrot and bean sprouts. The pho has a heady hit of star anise. This place is packed for lunch, thanks to its policy of pricing everything at $6.95. The night we were there, we got a gratis dessert of wonton-wrapped warm banana in coconut cream, elevating the reasonably priced, simple fare to an indulgent night out with a single bite.
Inventive, eclectic and authentic, CaCao Mexicatessen has changed out its spring and summer venison tacos for rabbit: shredded redolence in a homemade tortilla. The standard menu at this mercado of Mexican is huge, and the specials often sell out by early evening. You can’t go wrong here, especially with anything mole; everybody behind the counter is passionate about their food, so listen up and order perhaps the spicy filet mignon tacos, topped (surprise! It works!) with gorgonzola. The chiles rellenos, not fried but split, charred and absolutely overflowing with imported cheese, are dense and delicious. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan specials, including exotic huitlacoche and nopales. The coffees, hot chocolates and endless variations of the two are delicious departures from pumpkin lattes this time of year, and the standard coffee is a spicy, fragrant café de olla. All go great with the damn good blue corn/blueberry/Mexican cinnamon pancakes for breakfast. You’ll notice that CaCao’s sugar has a cocoa bean in it, the better to please your palate, and you can’t but be impressed that the happy hour menu (weekdays) from 3 to 5:30 features Mexican squash-blossom taco-truck-style tacos, for god’s sake. If you can’t find any prepared food you like, check out the imported chocolate and cheese and the “Hecho in Eagle Rock” t-shirts. Yo quiero.
Larkin’s accommodates Eagle Rock’s changeable fall weather with a little outdoor patio, overgrown with vines and set with picnic tables that would easily seat six diners, or eight really good friends. On a hot day you can have a beer or a glass of Larkin’s punch (and if you’ve brought a flask of rum, I would recommend adding that to the sweet mix of juices with a touch of cinnamon) to go with your heirloom tomato and fried okra salad. When I was a little girl in Atlanta and the summer humidity was making us wilt, old Southerners always prescribed something spicy to make you sweat; the hot links, jambalaya and hot collard sides would do the trick here. If it’s cool and you’re retreating into the cozy, mismatched, art-filled Craftsman bungalow that is the main restaurant, perhaps you’d prefer a slab of not-too-sweet, nearly varnished, falling-off-the-bone baby-back ribs. Either way, save room for the tangy mac and cheese, which comes in a bubbling pot with a chewy crust, perfect for two or three to share as a small side, or for one to enjoy as medicinal Southern comfort food. Take as necessary—it’s going to be a long winter, sugar.
2122 1/2 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323.550.1988, fourcafe.net
1576 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323.478.2791, cacaodeli.com
Lemongrass Vietnamese Restaurant
1952 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock. 323.258.8050, lemongrassvietnameserestaurant.com
1496 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 323.254.0934, larkinsjoint.com