It hurts to face the fact that the restaurant is not named Doug's Breakfast Lunch.
The sign on the building near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard says Doug's Breakfast Lunch, and the URL is dougsbreakfastlunch.com, and "Doug's Breakfast Lunch" rolls off the tongue like a greased marble — and all my dreams were of rolling out of bed to break my fast at a temple of taste named Doug's Breakfast Lunch. But dreams aren't real, and the restaurant is just Doug's, and it serves breakfast and lunch.
This from 53-year-old owner Doug Weckerly, who has such a culinary footprint that it takes only two seconds to find an impressive pile of news stories about him from Washington, Colorado and New Mexico. Besides efforts in Spokane, he owned three Weck's Restaurants in Albuquerque before selling them in 2004 and moving north. Now he's done with Loveland and Fort Collins, and has decided to run one restaurant in one location, here.
The 3-month-old restaurant is immaculately clean, with a gleaming open kitchen to the left. The dining room feels simple and uncluttered, with a red stripe and some nature photos tying the place together. The real energy here comes from the patrons, a diverse bunch who packed the place each time we were in, hungry for some homemade, which Weckerly says describes "virtually everything."
"We make our hash browns from scratch," the chef and owner says. "We make our sausages and dressings. Some of the breads we don't make, I get them special from around the country. [We make] the biscuits; we make our own carne adovada ... the carne asada we charbroil and put a little crust on the tri-tip and then cut it and slow-cook it in green chile."
The list also includes homemade jams, and sausage gravy, and some really kickass beans and, like Weckerly said, virtually everything. It's a big, fun menu where you can order an oblong burger cooked beautifully and topped with peanut butter, blackberry jam, green chilies and sharp cheddar (called Black Betty); or a breakfast sandwich like the Sassy, which turns wheatberry bread into vanilla-orange French toast and adds Parmesan, strawberry jam, crumbled chorizo, more cheddar and scrambled eggs. The sausage is pretty muted, and the mild burger is of an edible structure for all of three bites, but worth it still.
Portions are large, except when it comes to the burritos, when they're huge. I took to calling them Burritos of Unusual Size, and my glutted appetite assures you they exist. The N.M. comes with either asada or adovada; order the latter to experience a spicy warmth spreading through your head as you eat melting cubes of pork with those beans (slow-cooked for hours in red chilies and chicken stock).
You can make your house-cut fries "messy" for an extra three bucks — which adds up, considering almost everything costs between $10 and $12 — and if you love a gorgeous green chile, fruity and hot, I recommend you do so. "The green chile, the red chile, the carne adovada and the beans have been prepared the same way for over 30 years," says Weckerly. "I've been doing this since the mid- to late-'70s."
Of course, if you ask Weckerly what he's doing — Showing off the Land of Enchantment? Cooking his childhood? Making Breakfast Lunch? — the answer is simple: "I just do what I do," he says. "And if it's from New Mexico or it's from Timbuktu, oh well — I just do what I do."
He does little things — like turbinado sugar on the table, coffee from Barista Espresso, slushy crushed ice like they serve at Sonic — and he does big things, like a breakfast burrito full of carne asada so tender it's more like an 18-hour brisket. He does dense, plate-sized pancakes you can smell from 10 feet away. He does an inventive omelet called the Drizzle, which jams a thick, fluffy shell with blue cheese, tomatoes, spinach, toasted almond slivers and a line of balsamic vinegar.
And he does it all for you.
"This is my final project, and this is where I chose to be," Weckerly says. "Business is good. Business is very good. My business model is very simple: Genuinely nice, smiling people serving great food. That's what we do."