My pet peeve is being the only table in a restaurant.
When I peered inside 13th Street Saloon and saw no customers – just two employees watching football at the bar – my gut reaction was to book it across town. But I had a friend expecting my presence, so this wasn’t an option.
As my friend Cole and I stood in the cavernous dining room surveying our (many) choices of places to sit, aspects of the restaurant immediately won me over.
The mechanical bull, though powered off, seemed to smile at us. The television’s football game, peppered with commercials for Taco Bell and Geico Insurance, blared overhead as if it were trying its best to populate the place. The bar was welcoming in itself, with rustic wood décor and signs advertising Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
My stomach growled at the menu’s wide selection. Onion rings, chicken wings and cheese dip are among the appetizer choices, while pork or chicken chili and hefty saloon salads embody the soup and salad section. There is also a unique collection of sandwiches; the Cajun-spiced Black-N-Blue burger ($8.99) is topped with roasted peppers, onions and blue cheese, while the Devil’s Thumb burger ($8.99) (CQ) adds heat to the menu with a chile-crusted burger patty topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapenos and avocado.
There is a whole wing of the menu dedicated to steaks ($14-20), (CQ) which are available in several different cuts and which come with any one of five distinct sauces. Finally, an entrée section ($11-13) (CQ) includes hearty feasts like pan-fried trout, BBQ chicken and battered shrimp.
Despite my first impressions of the saloon as a steak pit, vegetarians will not feel neglected. The Woodsman Vegetarian ($8.99) (CQ) is a Portobello sandwich with onions, lettuce, tomato and Swiss cheese. Many of the salads can be prepared sans meat as well, and almost all of the appetizers are meatless. I suppose even a steak pit won’t last in Boulder without some vegetarian fare.
Given the incredible spread of choices, it was intimidating to select just one. Yet the place had me reminiscing about my week spent in Tennessee over the summer on a barbeque tour. I had to have the Sitting Bull burger ($9.99), (CQ) which featured 13th Street’s very own house-made barbeque sauce.
When I was handed my dinner, I first took a bite of one of the big, powerful-looking fries that were served alongside. Thick and delicious, I wondered how I’d ever go back to measly little pomme frittes.
The burger that sat next to them was coated in cheddar cheese and had crispy jalapeno peppers scattered on top. My excitement for the homemade barbeque sauce dwindled when I saw that there were only a few drips of it on my meal, so I promptly requested more.
The first bite of my burger made me realize that I was never given the chance to specify how I’d like it cooked. The meat was undeniably overdone, and only somewhat revived after doused with the extra sauce.
Across the table from me, Cole was having the Wild Bull ($8.99). (CQ) This sandwich contains a grilled chicken breast topped with grilled Portobello mushroom, roasted red peppers, onions, tomato, avocado and pepper jack cheese. The sandwich was tasty but it didn’t quite live up to its description, which had me expecting decadence and bounty.
What 13th Street Saloon lacks in food quality, it makes up for in service and atmosphere. Our waiter was prompt and friendly, and was knowledgeable with the menu. He was able to tell me the ingredients of each sandwich and provide recommendations; clearly he had tasted every dish.
Throughout our meal, a handful of other people wandered in to sit at the bar. No one else dined at a table, though, and the mechanical bull remained in its tilted, neglected position.
Granted we were there on a Monday evening at 7:30, which evidently is not their most bustling hour. Based on friendly service and that twinkle-eyed mechanical bull, I suspect that a Friday-night visit to the down-home saloon would prove to be a rousing good time. Perhaps just stick with appetizers and drinks.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Duncan at Lauren.Duncan@colorado.edu.