SuperNova's a simple place offering simple pleasures, and it feels like my experience there should be described in that same spirit. So, here: I like it. It's fun and relaxed and pretty cheap, and brings something uniquely compelling to the post-sunset scene.
Start by walking in through the East Boulder Street entrance, past the blue neon sign glowing from the brick wall of a downtown building shared with Louie's Pizza. In years past, that back room never seemed to hold its own — recent occupants never provided a feeling of place in the space. But Joe Campana, who also owns downtown's Rabbit Hole restaurant, has done a good job putting a there there.
And there's all kinds of things to find in those corners: a life-size Yoda clutching a PBR, a trio of high-schoolers out on their lunch break and huddled around a game machine. Comfortable, wooden lime-green booths where you can eat good, vinegary chicken wings ($8.50) split the room in half. On one side sits a bar laced with Colorado beers and liquors, and on the other, dual rows of old arcade games, spilling out along the walls.
There's Tekken 2, and Tron, and Centipede, and Donkey Kong, and Street Fighter II and the best game from the best series: Lethal Weapon 3 pinball. Logos from a certain kind of childhood flash around you: Namco, Capcom, Atari, Midway Games. And wouldn't you know it, the brown change machines haven't aged a day.
If you like a scene, go at night. It's not sexy, but there's a communal, basement air and an understanding that 1) taking a picture next to your initialed high score is the right thing to do; and 2) IPAs, waffle fries and coin-slots comprise a fine way to kill a Tuesday night (and some of the morning, considering the 1:30 a.m. closing time). It's like a pool hall for dexterous lovers of the Ferris Bueller's Day Off era, or a lower-key version of Tony's, with the Packers gear swapped for images of Pac-Man's lady.
Eighties fans gotta eat too, though, and they'll do fine here.
Everything falls within a solid spectrum of not bad to pretty good, with a few items — like an outstanding trio of house-roasted carnitas tacos ($5) on small, double-layered tortillas barely slick with grease — standing out. Cooked by a dude recognizable through the kitchen window only by his yellow SpongeBob SquarePants shirt, those little squares of charred pork, prepared twice a week at 6 in the morning, are made for the lime, cream sauce and onions they come with. The burger sliders ($7) are beautiful, too, cooked to a juicy medium on soft, palm-sized buns, and slathered with a mellow nacho cheese, chopped grilled onions and bacon bits.
The SuperNova Burger ($9.50) gets points for size, structure and creativity, with its fried egg, bacon and fried jalapeños, but there are too many mellow flavors, and our beef and eggs were overcooked. A honey-mustard crispy-chicken sub ($8), with lettuce and tomato, was pretty standard, while the turkey Reuben ($7.50) mostly mystified when it came out with a sulfur aftertaste.
The fried Frogger Legs ($8.50) were just great, though: more chicken-tasting than the animal itself, and with a nice little pale-orange Cajun sauce that reminded me of Cherry Coke — which, yes, first saw life in 1985.