After golf at The Broadmoor, you may pay for high-quality food befitting a five-star property. At the humble, city-owned Patty Jewett Golf Course, your 19th hole is a bar and grill with simple, affordable fare, albeit procured by the folks behind the high-end Famous steakhouse.
Golf at Woodland Park's Shining Mountain Golf Club, and the dishes you'll enjoy afterward will fall somewhere on the wide spectrum in between. Alongside a $6 barbecue sandwich and $8 burger, you'll find $13 crab cakes and an $18 steak frites plate. A respectable drink list manages an everyman price of $3.75 for good craft beer from the likes of Bristol and Phantom Canyon breweries.
The menu gives the place a shot at standing as a destination unto itself, more than a high-altitude snack bar. It was with that promise that management lured chef Scott Coulter away from McGinty's Wood Oven Pub in Divide, and that Coulter embarked on an overhaul of the dining facility before reopening March 6.
I've been stunned by the chef's work at McGinty's ("Divide and conquer," Appetite, Oct. 27, 2011), and also gave him praise during his head chef years at Phantom Canyon. Turns out Coulter's brew-pub aesthetic transfers well to this equally relaxed setting, where mountain-mandatory exposed wood beams and expansive views loom over Astroturf-reminiscent carpeting.
Most of what I sampled could easily hit a table at Phantom without causing a ripple. And no question, that remains a good thing.
The similarities are perhaps nowhere more obvious than in a dish like the Gringo Chicken ($10.95), a hot, wet mess of mild green chili and tequila-lime black beans under polenta and a poultry wedge lacquered in melted cheddar. The chicken's grill-char shows up pleasantly and prominently in the Southwestern mix, while the grits and chili also play nice.
Another clear Coulter-ism is some form of a berry salad, in this case the Links Style ($9.50), which sports much-appreciated organic greens, generous chunks of soft goat cheese, blueberries, blackberries, orange slivers and julienned dried apricots, plus candied almond slivers for crunch. The keystone: a lovely blueberry-Champagne dressing.
The Shining Mountain salad ($11.50, same organic greens) also walks a sweet (if starchier) edge with a chunky pineapple-jalapeño salsa, spicy noodles and a delicious chili-peanut dressing. Giant wonton crisps are a fun garnish but our serving of the main protein, a "quick seared" ahi tuna portion, was nothing of the sort. Sadly, it was cooked through.
Personally, I'd have taken a side of that peanut dressing and used it as a dip on the beautifully presented Bangkok Spring Rolls appetizer ($7.50), which comes with a dark and plummy sherry-soy-hoisin-based ginger-chili sauce. It's a fine sauce for what it is, but I'd argue that spring rolls this good deserve a great peanut dip. A crisp freshness pervades within the delicate rice paper wraps, thanks to the crunch of carrot and cucumber slivers, with mint, cilantro, daikon sprouts and jalapeño slivers delivering well-rounded herb and peppery components.
A great chicken green chili ($4.75/bowl) takes that heat up several notches but includes a delightful queso fresco, while even the Texas toast-thick Not Your Kids Grilled Cheese ($6.95) includes an awesome fire-roasted green chili cream cheese and chipotle salsa that elevates the oft-tame and -lazy comfort item. That same salsa, plus chilies and jalapeños, shows up on Coulter's basic quesadilla ($5.95), and that cream cheese joins an again noticeably fresh veggie mix on the That's a Wrap "sandwedge" ($6.50).
Hell, even those meaty but pricey Crab Cakes Colorado feature a jalapeño aioli. Which is all fine by my fire-loving sensibilities, but perhaps overkill due to such repetition on a smallish, two-page menu. Then again, who's to say a chef can't angle a subtle theme throughout?
The generously portioned Bloody Mary Beer Mussels ($10.75), my overall favorite dish, sports a peppery house Bloody Mary-and-Coors broth beautifully finished with ample minced garlic bits in butter. While the menu-topping Steak & Fries finally leaves heat behind, it again hits enjoyably heavy on the garlic, which joins wonderfully seasoned button mushrooms and a mildly sweet and vinegary, Heinz 57-esque, ketchup-based house steak "slather," on the rare-as-requested top sirloin. The steak fries are pleasantly crisp for their girth.
Lastly, out of two desserts, (neither of which were available on our Saturday night visit, disappointingly) we sampled a hefty and somewhat cake-y brownie sundae ($4.50), absolutely drowned in a heavy, thick chocolate sauce with somewhat of a pudding flavor. Scoop of vanilla, caramel drizzle — done. And perfectly fine for the setting.
That sentiment sums up Coulter's latest posting. If you're looking for someone to stabilize a mid-range joint with respectable fare and some clever touches, seems like he's your guy.