Homestyle is a wide-ranging concept and its meaning changes depending on where you came from. Homestyle in rural America or the deep South is different from homestyle in Mexico, Greece, Italy or France, yet there are foods from all of these regions and countries that fit into the "homestyle" genre. In many ways, homestyle is more about a feeling than about the specifics of the food itself. Homestyle evokes memories of childhood and family members still with us or perhaps now gone, people who fed us and created places of warmth and comfort in their homes and especially in their kitchens. Meals were gatherings filled with conversation and connections, and remembering them brings back a good feeling. That said, homestyle food typically reflect a time when cooks were not focused on trends, calories or health challenges. Recipes were handed down, butter, cheese, frying oil and all, and they were good. You can bring your own memories at places such as CoraFaye's Cafe, where some of the family recipes are more than 100 years old. At Annie's Cafe, American and Mexican homestyle cooking is featured, and Denver Biscuit Company makes its biscuits the way your grandmother probably did, with love and a whole lot of butter. So dig in and enjoy the food and the memories. You can run and count calories tomorrow.
Sam's No. 3
Maybe you grew up near a Greek diner, the kind John Belushi so brilliantly portrayed way back when on Saturday Night Live ("cheeseburger, cheeseburger"). Sam's No. 3 is that diner--with a whole lot of green-chile smothered Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes thrown in. This is Colorado, after all! The multiple-page menu is huge, but all you really need to know is that Sam's No. 3 has been collecting awards for years--especially for its Kickin' Green Chili, its burgers and its breakfasts. Even Guy Fieri of Food Network fame stopped in to get the scoop for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Just like your mother's house, Sam's is not the place for dieting, though there are vegetarian and gluten- and dairy-free options and fruit plates. Sam's shines with its not-diet dishes, however. (303-534-1927)
White Fence Farm
Its most ardent fans say White Fence Farm makes the best fried chicken around. It also serves up aged T-bones, fried shrimp, broiled pork chops, roasted turkey breast and fish. The best part is that whatever you order comes with hot corn fritters. Fresh-baked pies and cobblers and hot fudge sundaes are among the dessert choices. White Fence Farm isn't just a restaurant; it's a full-on food-farm-and-entertainment venue. It's a little hokey in some ways and that's just the way everyone has liked it for decades. The farm has animals and a petting area, and if you want to see the whole property you can stroll around or ride in an old-fashioned carriage. (303.935.5945)
Maggiano's Little Italy
Maggiano's Little Italy is the homestyle cooking of someone's Italian grandmother--warm, filling, rich and sauce-laden. You can get many of the items served family style at a big table, making this an ideal choice for a convivial family gathering, checkered tablecloth and all. While the lasagna and other pastas are popular, Maggiano's can put its chopped salad up against that of any steakhouse. The menu includes flatbreads, chicken in all its Italian forms (parmesan, piccata and Marsala), veal, seafood and beef. While the tiramisu is probably the top choice for dessert here, don't overlook one of the restaurant's signature offerings, Vera's lemon cookies, perfect little lemon-iced crescent moons (good for eating and giving as gifts--just ask for some to go before you leave). (303.260.7707)
Lou's Food Bar
The Bonnanos are well known on the Denver restaurant scene, perhaps more in the Italian and upscale trendy food genres. Here, they started with a homestyle restaurant serving French comfort food, which evolved into more of an American roadhouse as time went on. The menu still reflects both, with such dishes as French onion soup and grilled cheese made with herbed chèvre, caramelized onions and roasted peppers. Do you like croque monsieur sandwiches? Try the loaded fries with fried egg, country ham and mornay sauce. Even the potato hash has a French twist when made with duck confit. There are plenty of contemporary salad choices (roasted beet, for example) and hearty sandwiches, along with larger plates, and the wine, beer and cocktail menu is expansive. Bottom line: The tagline, "comfort food & cocktails," sums it up well. (3034580336)
Sassafras American Eatery
Start with beignets and move on to a trio of Benedicts: deep south, cajun or fried-green tomato. Of course there's biscuits and gravy, and for grits lovers (yes!) you can get yours with roasted veggies, barbecue shrimp and in the uber-rich eggs Sardou. All of the New Orleans standards are on the menu, including etoufee, jambalaya, red beans and rice and fried oysters. There are po' boys and there's mac-and-cheese done four ways, from a breakfast option and classic style to mac with barbecue or with blackened chicken. There's no reason not to considering drinking your breakfast or lunch, and by that we mean indulging in a Butterfinger or salted-chocolate-pretzel milkshake, or, in a nod to today's current bacon trend, the chocolate-dipped bacon shake. The newer Capitol Hill eatery is a nice addition to the original Jefferson Park location in a historic home. (303.433.0080)
The very essence of homestyle, Steuben's menu was originally composed of the opening staff's hometown favorites. The owner is from New England and for him it was a Maine lobster roll. One manager is from New Mexico, so a green chile cheeseburger went on the menu. There are all the other home-kitchen favorites you'd expect, from mac and cheese to meatloaf and fried chicken. The goal was to take customers back to their own memories of favorite foods from their mom's kitchen or even the local diner. What do you remember about the food you ate when growing up? Maybe Steuben's fried chicken will stir up the memories. It's made in a buttermilk brine, dredged with house-seasoned flour and served with mashed potatoes, chicken gravy and a house-made biscuit. The patio is heated so if it's not raining or snowing, you can sit out there. (303.830.1001)
Denver Biscuit Company
The most intriguing thing about Denver Biscuit Company may be that the space is really two restaurants under one roof. Denver Biscuit Company serves breakfast and biscuit sandwiches for lunch, while Fat Sully's opens for lunch and stays open through dinner and late night. Atomic Cowboy bar supports both restaurants morning through late night. But nothing says home cooking like biscuits, which are made from scratch here and appear on the menu in all sorts of ways. Most decadent: The Franklin, a biscuit sandwich with buttermilk-fried chicken topped with melted cheese, bacon and egg, all smothered in sausage or mushroom gravy. FYI, we asked and this was the answer: "The secret to our biscuits is love...and tons and tons of butter." (303.377.7900)
It's not just about the food here, though Grandma Bea's meatloaf, the liver and onions, chicken-fried steak and slow-baked barbecue brisket do the menu proud. Annie's is a longtime neighborhood restaurant that has always made its patrons feel like part of a family. For customers whose family traditions include southwest cooking, there are dishes such as smothered homemade pork tamales, a grilled fajita quesadilla, black-bean tacos and burritos. There are also 10 burger options and nightly specials that range from fried chicken on Wednesdays to a roasted-turkey dinner on Sundays. Personally, we vote for the return of Annie's chicken pot pie. The robust breakfast menu includes adults-only cocktails and spiked milkshakes, but the old-fashioned floats and "virgin" shakes and malts (chocolate peanut butter and dreamsicle, among them) are just fine on their own, too. (303.355.8197)
The restaurant is named for the owner's mom (Cora) and sister (Faye) and it reflects her family's Alabama heritage. "I guess you can say my mom is getting her flowers while she's still with us. She starting frying chicken when she was nine years old because she's didn't want to go into the cotton fields." Fried chicken is definitely a staple on the menu, as are the fried frog's legs, a dish featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. There's also shrimp and catfish, pork chops, barbecue and all those sides--rice and gravy, candied yams, black-eyed peas and more. Some dishes are century-old family recipes; if this isn't the very essence of "homestyle," nothing is. Then there's new homestyle: chicken and red velvet waffles, because "I thought folks eat happier with bright colors." Indeed. (303.333.5551)
About Christine Loomis
Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York, Colorado and California. Today she divides time between the Denver and San Francisco areas.
Christine loves shoe shopping and fishing; walking anywhere; horseback riding (she was on the equestrian team at the University of Oregon); and discovering menus that include small-batch whiskeys, craft beer and lesser-known wines.
She would go anywhere in an RV and believes summer is best when it includes a rafting trip.
Read more about Christine Loomis here.