Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Restaurant Spotlight: The Mercury Cafe, Part II

The Mercury Cafe
2199 California Street
Denver, Colorado 80205

Information: 303-294-9281
Reservations: 303-294-9258
Dinner, Tues. - Sun., 5:30 - 11:00 p.m.
Brunch, Sat. & Sun., 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Last December, I did a posting on the Mercury Cafe praising their sustainable environmental practices and promising a follow-up on their food. Since then, I have visited the Mercury Cafe a number of times, and every time I go there I like it better.

Walking into the Mercury Cafe is like stepping into the warm, beating heart of the '60s. The red walls, adorned with oversized painted roses; the red and white twinkling lights; the plants; the exotic lamps; the wait staff and clientele -- they all take you back to those heady, optimistic days when we all wanted to change the world.

While other restaurants are trading on current trends toward conspicuous consumption and wanting to see and be seen, the Mercury Cafe has remained true to those "change-the-world" roots.

You're not going to find any Waygu/Kobe beef here.

What you will find is a menu that represents a laundry list of local producers, including Monroe Organic Farm, Rockhill Dairy, Grower's Organic Rainbow, Haystack Cheese, Organic Valley, Federal Devries Chocolate, Colorado Elk and Game, Campbell Hansmire Sheep, Alvarez Chili, Redbird, Alamosa Striped Bass, Cline Trout, Wynkoop Brewery, Jackrabbit Hill Winery, Peak Spirits and others. Their elk and lamb have only been fed their mother's milk, the grass on the mountain and forest forage. Their "Goat" Artisan Vodka is handmade by Rory Donovan in Palisade and their organic gin, brandies and grappas are distilled by Lance and Anna Hanson in the Gunnison North Fork Valley. They serve organic eggs, butter and dairy. And they offer a wide variety of vegetarian options.

Believe me, it's all good!

I have sampled a number of dishes there. Here are some epicurean highlights:

  • They make all of their own breads and pastries using whole grains, natural sweeteners,and cold pressed oils. When you first sit down, they bring you a basket of whole wheat bread that is chewy, dense and nutritious -- just like your grandmother used to make. Add some sweet organic butter, and you're off to a great start.

  • Their breakfast sausage, made by local producer Roy'L, is especially spicy and good.

  • Their grilled elk is mighty tasty, offering a healthy alternative to conventional meats.

  • Their Durango Poached Eggs are served on a bed of steamed greens and creamy melted Haystack cheese -- and believe me -- these are to die for!

They also offer a full schedule of events in the upstairs ballroom/theater -- from belly dancing to swing dancing lessons, from music performances to theater productions, and from documentary films to open-mike poetry readings. You can access the events calendar here.

As a side note, you're probably not going to find customers talking about their latest botox or detox. Whenever I've visited in the past few months, people have been meeting there to tackle big issues, such as world hunger, political campaigns, food justice, Darfur -- you name it.

Good food -- for the brain and the body.

Now that's nourishment!

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