Burritos to Go

I’d heard good things about this little burrito shop, and decided to try it out tonight. It’s in a little cluster of shops just off Sheridan north of Midway that I never knew even existed! Most of their menu is burritos, as you might expect, though they also offer tamales and tacos. As you can tell from the name, they don’t have any tables; it’s solely for takeout.

I chose a burrito with beans and pork, and then had it upgraded to the “Ultimate Plate” which includes potatoes, sour cream, guacamole, green chile, lettuce, tomatoes, and probably a few other things in there. I tell you – I’m stuffed! The ultimate plate is huge, taking up an entire full size styrofoam takeout container. I couldn’t eat it all.

Their pork is very good, and they include a large portion of it. Their green chile is pretty good, too, but apparently only comes in one level of hotness. I probably should’ve stopped there. The half of the plate not taken up by the smothered burrito was filled with potatoes covered in a bunch of stuff, and the potatoes were soft (not crispy) and bland. Plus, once they piled the sour cream and guacamole onto the burrito it was just too much. The flavor of the burrito itself, which was delicious as far as I could tell, was watered down a bit and the burrito was too “wet”.

As I’d read, the prices are good, which is probably why Burritos to Go caters so much to high school students. Next time I go, I think I’ll just get a pork burrito smothered in chile and grated cheese, and pass on all the extras.

1050 E 10th Ave
Broomfield, CO 80020
(303) 466-2164

Unrelated to the food, I found there is a YouTube videos marginally about Burritos to Go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJsvzFfJ9Iw

Pho Galore

A couple years ago, when the three pho restaurants opened all within a block of each other, I thought, “What were these people thinking? This can’t last. Broomfield’s never even had one Vietnamese restaurant, and suddenly we have three! I’m sure one will win out over the others and the other two will be out of business in six months.” Well, those six months ended well over a year ago, and all three seem to still be going strong.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, it’s the three Vietnamese restaurants along 120th just east of Main. Pho 120 is on the north side of the street, right behind Good Times. Pho Duy and Pho 79 are both on the south side of the street, near the Pacific Ocean Market and The Armadillo. Pho, for those not already acquainted, is Vietnamese beef noodle soup. All three restaurants specialize in it, and they all make it and serve it generally the same way. You pick the size of bowl you want – small, medium, or large. And you pick what you meats you want in the soup. All the soup bowls come with beef broth, rice noodles, and onions, and you always get a dish on the side with lots of fresh basil, some herb kinda like cilantro, bean sprouts, cut limes, and jalapenos. It’s up to the individual patron to decide which of these veggies to put in the bowl, along with hoisin sauce, fish sauce, and/or hot sauce.

The main differentiating factor between the three pho restaurants is probably the broth. Personally, I like the broth at Pho Duy the best. But I also regularly visit Pho 120 because the atmosphere is a bit quieter and more mellow most days. Pho 79 has the biggest menu, with more non-soup dishes than the others. Pho 120 has a liquor license, though I’ve never felt like ordering any beer or wine with my noodle soup. And Pho Duy has boba smoothies, which are frozen drinks that come in a variety of flavors, with tapioca balls (boba) mixed in.

Eating pho always makes me feel good. It’s a healthy feeling meal – relatively lean meat, tasty broth, and lots of fresh veggies. Plus, you can get a filling meal for about $6 to $8, including a drink. All three restaurants area open every day of the week from 9 AM to 9 PM. I guess some folks eat pho for breakfast, but I never have. It’s a nice lunch and an especially good deal for supper.

Pho Duy
6600 W 120th Ave
Broomfield, CO 80020
(303) 438-7197

Pho 79
6650 W 120th Ave
Broomfield, CO
(303) 439-0028

Pho 120
6765 W 120th Ave
Broomfield, CO
(303) 466-6346

3 Margaritas

Even though I really like eating at tiny “hole-in-the-wall” type Mexican restaurants, I think my favorite Mexican joint in Broomfield is 3 Margaritas. I’ve been there twice in the past couple weeks, and probably eight or ten times before that.

On the last visit, I went with my wife and my mother. They both ordered full size entrees, and so I decided to just get a bowl of soup and help my guests with their meals. I’ve learned from other trips that the portions at 3 Margaritas are just huge, and I figured neither Mom nor Beth could finish their meals. Well, not having tried it before, I ordered the caldo de pollo. I assumed it would be a reasonably sized bowl of chicken soup, but it was a huge bowl big enough to serve several people. I think we got three servings out of that one – I ate as much as I could the night we went there, and then Beth and I both had leftovers from it a couple days later. But it was very tasty. I don’t know exactly what caldo de pollo means, but when I saw the bowl they brought it in, I figured it must mean “cauldron of chicken”. It’s got yummy chicken broth; pieces of what must add up to about half a chicken; big chunks of potato, carrots, and other veggies; and a whole plate of extra goodies you can throw in, including cilantro, rice, and avocado.

One other meal of note is the pollo con crema. It comes on a huge plate and is big enough to serve probably 2 to 4 normal people. It’s tasty chunks of chicken cooked with a mildly spicy cream sauce. I’m sure it’s thousands of calories, but very tasty. Beth ordered that one a couple visits ago, and after she ate all she could, I had two more meals of leftovers from it.

Two things I highly recommend from the lunch menu are the mushroom burrito and the salads. They have a separate salad menu now with four different meal-sized salads. I had the one with fish one time and really like it. I’ve never had great green salads in Mexico, but the one I had from 3 Margaritas was good. And another time I had the mushroom (champinion) burrito. If you want a vegetarian option for lunch, this is a great choice. It’s a burrito filled with big chunks of well flavored mushrooms and vegetables.

So I guess my opinion of 3 Margaritas in Broomfield is that they have good food and large portions. Everything I’ve ordered has been above average to great, and it’s my top choice for Mexican food in town.

3 Margaritas
6896 W 120th Ave
Broomfield, CO 80020
(303) 410-8705

Buenos Tiempos

My wife and I live very close to this restaurant, which is why I wish I liked it more. Buenos Tiempos is an old time Broomfield tradition, a Mexican restaurant that existed long before we moved here and therefore longer than any other Mexican restaurant I know. Their menu is a mix of “Mexican” food and American food. They’ve got the usual Mexican restaurant combos with burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and so on. And they also have hamburgers and french fries, and stuff like that. The joint seems to be about 50/50 bar and restaurant. Sometimes when I go in the bar is very busy and the restaurant is quiet, and other times it’s just the opposite. I think the prices are good, but the food is only so-so most of the time.

If you’re willing to go with one of the combination platters, you can get 2 or 3 items, plus beans, rice, chips, salsa, and a salad all for $8 to $10. But most of the fare is uninspired. I have had two dishes that were surprisingly good. The first is on the menu all the time, and it’s the tilapia. When I had it about a month ago, I had low expectations but I was really in the mood for fish. It was really good – way different than the usual cheese smothered combo plates. I’d definitely have it again, and it is also surprisingly inexpensive. Also, Buenos Tiempos occasionally has really good dinner specials. I had carnitas there one time that I really liked a lot.

The wait staff is always friendly, though sometimes I wonder if the restaurant is a training ground for other restaurants or something. I hardly ever see the same waitress there twice, so I’m guessing they have moderate turnover.

I do have to say I really like their salsa, which they serve with a warm basket of chips before each meal. It’s very flavorful. Not sure if it’s made there or not, but I like it. Also, they have a variety of margaritas covering all price ranges. The house marg is OK and very inexpensive, while they also have some fancier ones made with top shelf ingredients in the $8 or $9 range.

Buenos Tiempos
1000 Depot Hill Rd # I
Broomfield, CO
(303) 466-6386

Bloom

Bloom gets my vote for the best restaurant in Broomfield. They’ve got a very extensive wine list, and top notch food. When Bloom first opened a few years ago, they had stellar service – the kind of delightfully attentive staff that were always there when you wanted or needed them. I’m not talking just about someone to come by and refill your water regularly, but a staff that really knows their wines, refolds your napkin for you when you go to the restroom, etc. But since then, the service level has dropped a bit to what I’d just call “good”.

Early on, I had what I think were the best scallops I’ve ever had at Bloom, though they changed the recipe of their scallops dish since then and I don’t like it quite as much. Beth loves their pate plate, and we both like their baked brie appetizer plate. The bread ranges from OK to great. And in addition to a good wine selection, they also have good mixed drinks; I occasionally get a mojito or martini there and have never been disappointed.

The cuisine is what I call “new American.” It’s a blend of traditional favorites with an upscale twist, along with American/Asian fusion dishes. They always have at least one delightful pasta dish, too, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad meal there. And I like their salads, too – way better than the usual green salad or even the slightly more modern but now-tired spinach and strawberry salad with raspberry vinaigrette (I am so sick of raspberry vinaigrette!).

All this good stuff doesn’t come cheap, though. Prices for entrees are mostly in the $15 to $20 range, but once you add in a couple glasses of wine or a mixed drink, plus a salad or other appetizer, plus a dessert to share, then you’re in the ballpark of $80 per couple. Beth and I once had a craving for Bloom when I was taking the day off from work, so we went there for lunch. We thought we could get by with a relatively inexpensive meal since it was lunch. Well, it was still $50 for the two of us. So we reserve Bloom for special occasions or times we really want something above the ordinary. Unfortunately, we can’t go every week, though I wish we could!

Bloom
1 Flatiron Cir
Broomfield, CO 80021
(303) 887-2800

Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli

This rapidly growing chain of sandwich shops opened a store at Highway 287 and Miramonte a couple years ago. I was pretty excited, thinking we’d have a real New York style delicatessan so close by. But after visiting a couple times, I can tell you that Heidi’s is neither from Brooklyn nor a deli. I was really hoping to get stuff like Nathan’s hot dogs, chicken matzo ball soup, and omelets for breakfast. But I had their hot dog and it was a disaster – microwaved and then manhandled so badly the bun was nearly falling apart by the time it got to me. The soups look and taste like something from a Campbell’s can. And they don’t have anything really good or unique for breakfast.

Since they don’t have an actual stove or grill in the place, everything is microwaved. For a hot dog as good as a Sabrett’s or Nathan’s, microwaving is a sacrelige. And the lack of a grill means they make things like Reuben sandwiches by microwaving, and – optionally – sending it through one of those little toaster ovens with a conveyor belt. Yuck.

In all fairness, they do make decent sandwiches, on freshly sliced (but not freshly baked) bread. They’ve got a wide variety, and they make them with abundant meat and other ingredients. And they always have a small handful of sandwiches on a rotating “specials” menu. But in my view, the sandwiches are only a half step up from Subway, and not even as good as Quizno’s was in their heyday.

After the Broomfield restaurant opened up, it took me a few months to realize that this Heidi’s was in the same chain of restaurants as the Heidi’s in Highlands in Denver. I remember going to that restaurant several years ago and had a good meal, including some very tasty pie. But it looks to me like Heidi’s has given up what made them unique from all the other sandwich shops. I fear Heidi’s is on the same path as Boston Chicken – overexpand, start skimping on quality, and then implode into something far worse than the original concept.

Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli
1170 Hwy 287 Suite D 100A
Broomfield, CO 80020
(303) 404-2000

I’m back

Well, I’m back in the US now. At the moment, it’s 6:11 AM on Sunday morning. Obviously, I’m not over jet lag yet, since I woke up about 4 AM this morning and couldn’t fall back asleep. So I’m using the quiet time in the dark to catch up on stuff on my laptop.

My work week ended on Wednesday, because the whole office was having Thursday off for a surprise activity of some kind. So I used Thursday to do some sightseeing. I visited the old town of Akko, then drive to the Sea of Galilee, wandered around an ancient ruined Jewish town that’s now a national park, drove around the “sea” (which we’d probably call a “lake”), and had lunch at a cafe on the east shore at a place called “Cafe -200” because it’s at -200m elevation. After that, I drove to a baptismal site on the River Jordan, then north to Tiberias (namesake of James T. Kirk, I think – the “T” stands for Tiberias), and then visited the historic (and pre-historic) site of Megiddo.  Megiddo was pretty cool, and is the location of Armageddon (which is a corruption of “Har Megiddo”).  After that I drive to the airport and started my long and arduous plane trip home.

I eventually got to Denver Friday morning, about 24 hours after I left Tel Aviv.  Since then I’ve been watching a lot of TV, getting over jet lag, and catching up on bills, mail, etc.

It’s good to be back.

Another Day, Another Shouarma

OK, in all seriousness, I’m not yet sick of shouarma and falafel sandwiches. But I just got back from dinner, and decided I wanted something smaller than the feasts I’ve been getting wherever I go out for meals here in Israel. I found one of the million or so little shouwarma and falafel shacks around here and settled in for a sandwich, a bottle of flavored water, and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

The woman behind the counter asked, “How spice? Strong, medium, or mild?” I had to reply, “Strong!” And so she selected the hottest hot sauce. I was afraid it was going to be wimpy, but it was actually “strong.” Strong enough that some folks I know (like my boss) would’ve have been able to stand it. I also had hummus (spelled “hoummus” around here), tahini (which they call “techina”), “salad” which is tomatoes and cucumbers, and sauerkraut. Yum!

After all was said and done, I decided I needed something icy to cool the palate, so I stopped at a gelato place. The girl was very helpful and explained to me all the flavors in broken English. I chose vanilla with Oreo, and told her I wanted just a very small portion. She asked if I wanted it in a cup or a “waffer”. Yes, she pronounced it exactly like the French waiter in that scene from the Monty Python movie – remember “a waffer thin mint?” So, I told her that yes I would prefer my ice cream in a “waffer”. Yum. I had gelato once last week, too, in Tel Aviv, or more precisely a nearby town called something like Herzliyya.

I’m never quite sure of my spelling for anything here in Israel. And it’s not just because I’m ignorant. I’m a great speller in English, but they transliterate things from Hebrew into English using a variety of (often bent) rules. For example, Petah Tiqwa is one spelling of the same town that I call Petach Tikva. That’s where I worked last week. This week I’m working in a town called, alternatively, Yokneam and Yoqne’am. The town of Acre is also Akko, and Ceasarea is also something like Qisariyya. It gets really weird when you’re driving and trying to find someplace you’ve never been, when not only do the streets change names every half mile, but the spellings of those names change. The map may say one thing, the street signs on that street in one town may say another, and the street signs may switch to a third when you enter another municipality.

But I tell you, it’s tiring to my eyes and brain trying to make sense of signs here in Israel. Most foreign countries I’ve traveled – even ones where I don’t know any of the language – at least use the same alphabet as English and so I can sound out words and make some sense of them. Knowing English pretty well, plus a little German and a little Spanish and a little French, I’ll bet I could get by in Italy or Portugal without huge problems. In fact, last night at dinner I overheard a conversation from two Italian gentlemen at the table next to mine, and I could tell they were talking about the bread on my table. Since pan, pane, and pain are all basically the same word, it’s not hard at all. But when it’s written in letters that look like something you’d see on the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it just looks like gobblegook. And I can’t seem to stop my mind from looking at Hebrew words, scanning them from left to right (which is backwards), and trying to make some sense of them. It’s like those little images of letters that you see on some websites when you go to log in. The letters are malformed just enough that an optical character recognition program can’t figure them out, but the brain of an English speaker can. My brain keeps trying to make English words out of Hebrew words in the same way. I wonder how long it would take me to re-train my mind to read from right to left.

Speaking of which, here’s a funny little story from last week. I was talking to one of my fellow QA people about a requirements document she wrote. She wanted me to review it, which I did. But then rather than reading my comments, she wanted to explain them all to her. Fine, I thought, given the language difference, I’ll do whatever she wants. So we’re talking about various stuff and she’s writing notes on this printed document. And then she stops and says, “I hope you don’t mind I’m taking notes in Hebrew.” I just thought that was the weirdest thing. They were her notes, on her document, for her benefit. I don’t give a damn if they’re written in Klingon as long as she can read them and get some benefit from them! But what was actually the weirdest thing was when I realized how she would write sentences that contained both Hebrew and English. She’d be writing along from right to left in Hebrew, and then she’d stop, skip over to the left an inch or two, and then fill in an English word from left to right that didn’t translate well. Then she’d go back to writing from right to left in Hebrew again. We who only write in one direction don’t have to really think about the physical length of a written word as we’re jotting it down, but her mind – trained since a young age to work in Hebrew and English mixed – automatically calculates the length of the English word and then leaves a blank just that long in the Hebrew sentence. I wish I had a video to show how she did it, because most of you have probably never seen anything like it.

Finally, on the topic of Hebrew and English, my coworkers in Petach Tikva last week were really surprised to the point of being almost impressed that I knew so many Hebrew words. “Shalom” everyone should know, but then when I started mentioning food words like “falafel”, “pita”, and “hummus” they seemed to think, “Wow, how does this American know about our secret Hebrew home cooking?” Then I told them my wife sometimes practices Krav Maga and they were floored. “How do you know this word – krav maga? Do you speak Hebrew?” they asked me. I laughed.

crap!

I just wrote a very good, fairly long blog article about my sightseeing trip to Jerusalem today, and my impressions of how much more Judaism permeates life in Israel than I expected.  I think I spent probably 45 minutes writing it.  But then when I went to save it, the wifi connection in my hotel room crapped out on me and the blog article was lost!

So you’re going to have to live with just these photos I uploaded to Flickr.  Sorry.  If you want to hear the essay I wrote and lost, you’ll just have to ask me in person over a “black beer” (a drink I discovered at lunch today, when I also had kubbeh soup for the first time, which  apparently means I had Iraqi food for the first time).

Here’s what the soup looked like: