Cafe 225 Coffee Shop and Venue
225 N. Weber St., 884-6225, cafe-225.com
Now two years old, First Pres church's Cafe 225 continues to cater to all — its secular vibe only subverted if you go looking for religious undertones. Prior to the café hosting our joint presentation with Yobel International last week (plus a lunch meeting the day before), I hadn't hit the spot for a mug of fair-trade Barista Espresso since mid-2012.
With the coffee still great, as evidenced by a basic café au lait ($2), and the atmosphere cool and comfortable, the main difference to be found since that time appears to come in the form of new, local food-purveyor relationships. Boonzaaijer's Dutch Bakery does the pastries, while Garden of the Gods Gourmet handles pre-made sandwiches and salads. The curry chicken salad sandwich ($6.75) scores with homemade simplicity on focaccia, while the pear chevre salad ($6.75) sounds a little ritzier than it executes, with dried pears' sweetness bowling over the other ingredients, under a thick pear vinaigrette. — Matthew Schniper
Green Line Grill
230½ Pueblo Ave., 964-1461, greenlinegrill.com
No matter how you dress up a burger off the small menu at Green Line, it looks amazing. And so it is with the randomly rotated-in Taco Burger ($6.75), which is built on top of chef Bobby Couch's onion-burger base. All this means is that the standard blessed mixture of tomatoes, lettuce, fatty pickle slices, cheddar, darkly caramelized onions and beef delivered thrice-weekly from Denver's Anderson Meat Co. gets anointed with singing jalapeños, house picante and secret seasoning. The result is more acidic flavors that better balance the heavenly grease. I guess the bun gets a little soggy, but that's like complaining that there's still milk in the bottom of your cereal bowl.
Couch sold more than 20 of the Taco Burgers one day last week, and overall business is so good that he's looking to expand upward with a rooftop deck. A liquor license might even follow, which is bad news for my home life. — Bryce Crawford
La Baguette French Bistro
4440 N. Chestnut St., 599-0686, labaguettefrenchbistro.com
What's that cheeseball line about, "When a door closes, a window opens"? Anyway, maybe it's true. I return to LBFB for my revered Croque Madame sandwich to find it pulled from the dinner menu, and consequently meet the amazing Les Moules à La Maroccain ($15.95): a pound of Chilean mussels, Pernod-flashed, then bathed in a lovely tomato-basil white wine broth laced with biting garlic, shallots, onions and Harissa (Tunisian hot chili paste). Get 'em over classic linguini, or better, a quinoa tabouli that creates an overall brilliant dish with mild heat, abundant herbaceousness and beautiful depth.
For the OCD sufferers among us, the Salade Nicoise ($12.25) offers its tidy compartmentalization of mostly traditional ingredients — tuna, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olives, potatoes and green beans — all mounded next to a romaine vinaigrette salad. It's clean and fine, but a yawn next to the superlative moules. — Matthew Schniper