There are lots of important things to check out when choosing a university. Academic reputation, cost of attendance, and that gut feeling that lets you know “this is the right place.” Those are the kinds of things we’ve batted back and forth on a daily basis the last few months as Son prepares for that next phase of life. But there are other, more personal, characteristics of the university experience that come into play as well. If you’re an athlete, who is the coach and how are the facilities? If you want to travel, do they offer study abroad? And perhaps most importantly, when my dad comes to visit, where will I take him to eat?
When I took Son to Golden, Colorado to check out a school, we were very careful to do a thorough investigation into that last point. By cracky, if I’m going to drive 20 hours to go see him, there’d better be a good meal or three waiting for me when I get there. And ramen on the dorm kitchen stove does not meet the criteria.
We basically had a full day in Golden to test the waters – and by waters, I am not referring to the famous beverage made from pure, Rocky Mountain spring water. Breakfast and lunch were decided more or less before we arrived, and dinner was a wild card. My sights were set on three things: breakfast burritos, burgers, and buffalo. We were in Colorado, after all. Burritos: check. Burgers: check. Yak: check. So much for the buffalo.
I’m a big advocate of food truck dining, when it is available and when it is creative. At Bonfire Burritos we scored on both counts. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed was a contraption on the end of the old camper that looked like a raffle drum. This one had a tray underneath full of ash and little white seeds. This was where they roasted the chili peppers: a touch of authenticity already in sight. I ordered the Chupacabra, which was essentially the “meat-lovers” option: eggs, hash browns, chorizo, sausage, bacon, fuego crema, cheddar cheese and green chile. As far as I know, no actual chupacabras were harmed in the making of this burrito. Son stuck with The Classic: eggs, hash browns, cheddar, chorizo and green chile. We both got the small versions and still considered skipping lunch because we were stuffed. Did we skip it? Of course not. We postponed it a little, but there would be no skipping.
After the departmental meeting, the campus tour and the info session we went just a few blocks from campus to find Bob’s Atomic Burgers. It was a perfect day weather wise, and we were able to sit outside, virtually in the shadow of the Coors beer factory, to enjoy our burgers. At Bob’s, the menu is simple: beef burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and a quinoa burger. You walk in, check the boxes of what you want on a wax paper sleeve that will ultimately hold your sandwich, and present your order to the nice lady. We both got burgers with random toppings (they are legion), then split a milkshake and a “Boat o’ Southwest Tater Tots” (the special side of the day.) Burger joints with milkshakes make me happy. It’s just the right thing to do. Here’s a tip, though: if you are like me and tend to be a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, never believe them when they say, “The tater tots have jalapeños chopped up in them, but they’re not that spicy.” But they were crispy, hot and cheesy – more of a fritter than a tater tot, an interesting diversion from the norm. The other fun thing about Bob’s was the ordering system. You don’t tell them what your name is, they tell you who you’re going to be. While we waited, orders were brought to Captain Caveman, Mick Jagger, Robert Downey, Jr, and Jerry Garcia (who would have fit in nicely there, I think). We were Sigmund Freud, and after gastro-analyzing the burgers, they were diagnosed delicious.
Dinner was actually the meal we almost skipped. After the burgers we took a quick run up to Red Rocks Ampitheater and then to Buffalo Bill’s gravesite, where we split a Duffy’s Rowdy Root Beer Float. (Remember: we split the milkshake earlier, so now we were just evening out our ice cream intake.) Once we got to the bottom of the mountain, we decided to take a walk down the main drag of downtown Golden, thinking we’d walk to the Sherpa House and decide if we were hungry. Yes, the Sherpa House, as in the people in Nepal who do all the hard work when people climb Mount Everest. We only climbed a hill to get there, and naturally, by then we were hungry. And they had yak. Where else am I going to get yak? There were several yak dishes on the menu, and our server recommended the Yak Sizzler, which was marinated in yogurt and herbs, then roasted in a traditional clay oven. We shared that and a plate of pork momos, some steamed, some fried. The yak tasted like beef (not chicken!) – a good dish, but more of a success from having tried something new than being particularly unique in flavor. I had actually tried a steamed momo before, but the fried ones really hit the spot – my favorite dish of the night. I asked the server where the yak came from – I couldn’t imagine it came all the way from Nepal – and he said it was from Wyoming. Wy not?
So now we have a big decision to make, but we certainly can check off the eats box. If you go to Golden, watch for chupacabras, say hello to Captain Caveman, and please – bring us mo momos.