The Kitchen (Upstairs)
1039 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
303-544-5973
www.thekitchencafe.com

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The weather was so cold that I had begun to worry that my steps would permanently freeze to the pavement; apparently, winter was reminding everyone how angry it can be. The walk from car to front door of the restaurant was challenging and brittle. Upon entering, I suddenly felt transported from Manhattan to the Upper West Side where apartments are long and spacious (sometimes) and there appears to be an unspoken dress code: black.

The Kitchen, located at the lower end of Pearl Street is a fairly new restaurant (less than five years old) which creates an ambiance of dim lighting and lounge-like seating. There is a separation between downstairs, where the main restaurant offers full meals and dining and upstairs, where we partook in a happy hour in their beer and wine lounge lasting strangely, one hour.

Every night from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, you may travel up a steep staircase from an entrance you must go outside to enter, and celebrate in this happiest of hours. The moment I reached the top level, I looked around at the grandiose light fixtures hanging from the wall, exposed brick on one side and deep purple on the other. The lighting was perfect for a first date–hiding any unwanted blemishes or forgotten roots dangling from one’s scalp. Everyone looked romantic and well-rested.

The occasion of this happy hour was multi-layered–a belated birthday celebration for my girlfriend, a send off as one goes off on holiday and (my personal favorite) a chance to drink. We sat down on the two-seater leather benches across from each other with long table separating us and began to look at the menu.

“We have to get the garlic fries,” our friend Penny said in her lovely Australian accent. “They are so delicious here. And for your birthday, I’m going to treat you to the flight of wine.” I had no idea what that meant, but was intrigued by the idea of wine with aerodynamic properties.

Their happy hour of liquids included a glass of red or white wine ($5), beer ($2.50), cocktail ($5), and the flight of wine ($9) which consisted of three different three ounce pours of wine. When the waitress brought over our flight, she briefly named each one and once they made a home on our table I immediately forgot which was which, since they all contained the same color: red.

We all stared intently at the small one-sided-special-hour menu, deciding on what goes best with wine and garlic fries. The limited selection of small-plate cuisine allowed for quicker decision making. The average price was $5 a plate, and included macaroni and cheese ($5), The Kitchen tomato soup ($3), pizzeta with sage pesto and chevre ($5), a cheese plate ($12) and wood roasted mussels with chorizo ($6).

Penny ordered the garlic fries and cheese platter which came with cranberry walnut bread. The bread was thick and yeasty, like it just came out of an oven after rising all day. The mix of salty and sweet offered a hearty and rewarding bite. Cheeses were both hard and soft, which I unfortunately did not partake in since I decided to acknowledge my lactose intolerance that night.

My girlfriend ordered the mussels, which were drenched in a creamy butter sauce with thin slices of overly-smoked and a bit too tough chorizo. I also did not partake in the mussels because I have a small aversion toward foods I am not supposed to chew and that come with their own set of rules on how to digest. “Just lick the one side and then grab the mussel with your tongue and guide it down your throat. You don’t have to chew.”

I, being the classy New Yorker, savored the garlic fries that were a first date nightmare, soaked in garlic. Luckily, I was not on a date and thoroughly enjoyed the enhanced flavor of the thickly cut potatoes. They were warm and soft and surprisingly, filling. The portion was larger than I expected and went well with our flight. We also ordered the pizzeta, which was just enough for two people–though I could have easily devoured it myself. It was doughy in the middle and crispy on the sides with a small spreading of goat’s milk cheese and flavorful pesto.

I sat with my back completely erect, to appear more regal and worldly to compete with the aroma of this place. I enjoyed the fact that it seemed far fancier than it actually was. At least for this hour, I felt transported back to my native land where even garlic fries can appear classy when served up next to glasses with stems by waitresses who can differentiate the style and class of wine just by the slightest variation in red.

by Aimee Herman
[Photos: Ray Lind and Jason Schultz]

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