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(Almost) Like Grandma Used to Make: Homestyle Restaurants in a New Age



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 or Italy, 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 Sassafras American Eatery, The Post Chicken & Beer or 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 at Kitchen Table Cafe, the owner learned to cook from his grandmother, who apparently liked Kansas City-style BBQ. Denver Biscuit Company makes its biscuits the way your own 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. 


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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, smooth them), 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).


9
Downtown


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.




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.


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First opened in Uptown and now also in Arvada, Steuben's original menu was composed of the opening staff's hometown favorites. The owner is from New England and for him it was Maine lobster roll. One manager from New Mexico added a green chile cheeseburger. Today the menu offers all the 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, go for it.


CoraFaye's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Corafayes


Although this beloved cafe moved out of Denver to Aurora, it still belongs here.It's 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.




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."




Fried chicken is front and center here, paired with exactly the right beer crafted 26 miles north at parent company Post Brewing in Lafayette, 1771 IPA, Big Rosie Porter and a farmhouse ale among them. Appropriately located down south, that is south of Evans on South Broadway, this casual eatery is fun and convivial with shady patio seating, too. What the name doesn't tell you is that there's a range of sides beautifully melding homestyle with some of today's elevated culinary trends. One to try: beets and sweets with whipped goat cheese and arugula pesto. Blue-plate specials include fish on Fridays and slow-roasted prime rib on Saturdays. Brunch is an ode to your favorite southern breakfast, with options for vegetarians and chile lovers, and happy hour runs 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9-11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.


3
City Park West


This is Midwestern homestyle cooking as envisioned by an owner who grew up in Kansas City and learned much about cooking from his grandmother. No wonder the name is followed by the words BBQ and Comfort Food. The quick-casual cafe's slogan is "cooked slow, served fast," which is just as it should be in a place that proudly lets customers know the food is cooked from scratch daily and the BBQ is definitely Kansas City-style. There's an expansive list of BBQ plates, BBQ combos and BBQ sandwiches, and classic comfort food includes meatloaf. There's also a Big Kitchen Salad, to which you can add chicken pork or brisket if you like. There are plenty of sides to choose from and daily specials, including Sloppy Joe sandwiches on Tuesdays and fried chicken on Friday and Saturday. You can get your next party catered from here with 48 hours notice.




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, but also a divine breakfast po' boy, housemate sausage and several varieties of mac and cheese, including a breakfast version or a make-your-own with a rich list of ingredients. Some New Orleans standards are on the menu, too, including gumbo, red beans and rice and New Orleans BBQ shrimp. There's no reason not to considering drinking your breakfast or lunch, and by that we mean indulging in a Southern praline crunch or salted-chocolate-pretzel milkshake, or, in a nod to today's ongoing bacon trend, the chocolate-dipped bacon shake. The Capitol Hill eatery on Colfax offers a similarly charming ambience as the original Jefferson Park location in a historic home.




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, and who doesn't love all-day breakfast? 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 fajita quesadilla, fish tacos and burritos. There are also burger options and nightly specials that include fried chicken on Wednesdays and spaghetti and meatballs on Fridays. The robust menu includes a creative espresso bar and there are shakes and malts for those who want to reward themselves while enjoying a fresh salad.


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Meet 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,...  More About Christine

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