One of the best things about taking a vacation is going to new restaurants and checking out the local fare. On our recent road trip to the Southwest, I enjoyed some of my all time favorite foods. If you are a foodie and like to read about food adventures, grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax as I take you on a Culinary Adventure Road Trip!
1. Green River, Utah
I wanted to go to a family style diner, somewhere I could relax and stretch out a bit after a very long drive, and a nice server would wait on me. When we pulled off the highway and arrived at the halfway point between Las Vegas, Nevada and Boulder, Colorado we were literally in the middle of nowhere. Green River is a small town in Utah and for some reason it seemed very desolate. I had looked up restaurants in the area online ahead of time and there seemed to be quite a few. It’s the only populated area around and I expected there to be restaurants dotted along the main road. Not so much. Maybe we got off an exit too soon, or too late but we certainly didn’t see any signs of life around.
It was mid day and even though we had an early breakfast and snacks on the road, we had built up an appetite. As we drove down the main street looking for signs of life that hopefully lead us to a full service restaurant, one of the boys spotted a burger joint. A box style, family run, three table, stick in the mud. It was awesome! We had Green Chile Cheese Burgers and Fried Tater Tots. It was the first time we saw green chile burgers on a menu on this trip and the boys and I had been looking forward to having one. I don’t think they used New Mexico Green Chiles, but they were big, juicy and had the tasty tang and spicy heat that we were hoping for. After lunch, the chocolate soft serve ice cream hit the spot! We were ready to take on the long road ahead of us once again.
When we finally arrived at our destination after a grueling day of driving which included an incredible excursion over the Rocky Mountains, we didn’t care where we ate – we just wanted food. The boys went to Denny’s and brought me back a pancake sandwich that I devoured in my hotel room. In the morning, we had just enough time to grab coffee and a continental breakfast provided by the hotel. It was pretty good. We stayed at the Best Western Kiva Inn near Fort Collins, Colorado. It was one of the nicest Best Westerns I had ever stayed at. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it.
2. Fort Collins, CO
For lunch that day we had specific instructions from a friend to try Lark Burger. We were told they had awesome burgers. For some reason, I didn’t expect to find a high-end gourmet eatery in Fort Collins. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection and the quality of the food I tried. It was totally yummy and the prices were good for what you got. It turns out that Lark Burger is a chain, so if you have a chance to try it let me know. I had a Larkburger with Swiss Cheese and Truffle & Parmesan Fries. I loved every bite!
From Fort Collins, we drove to Boulder, Colorado. The first thing we did after checking in at the hotel was go on a factory tour of Celestial Seasonings. Even though we planned on being in town all weekend, it was a holiday so this was our only chance. The kids weren’t too interested and we had just experienced quite a bit of “togetherness” over the last 48 hours, so my hubby and I decided to go it alone. We had a blast! We have both always loved Celestial Seasonings teas. On the way there we reminisced of the past thirty or so years that we have enjoyed the herbal tea, the encouraging words on the packages, the unique artwork and our favorite, the Sleepy Time Bear. Besides the fact that we have both loved the product since childhood, we both love taking factory tours.
3. Boulder, Co
I am sorry to say that we did not get to eat at the Celestial Cafe because it closed early for the holiday. But we did enjoy the Tea Room very much and it deserves a stop on the Culinary Adventures Road Trip! When we arrived we were given our “pass” to the factory tour (it was a small package of blueberry herbal tea) and to unlimited hot and cold herbal tea tasting. There is a snack bar and a gift shop where you can buy anything and everything tea related and Celestial Seasonings trademarked. The tour itself was quite impressive. Our favorite was the Mint Room where all the mint is stored exclusively from the rest of the herbs and teas. Everything smelled remarkable and refreshing! We learned a lot about tea and herbs from around the world.
That night, we met my cousin for dinner. She has lived in Boulder for a number of years and qualifies as a local. We discussed in advance where we should eat and since it is a local favorite, this fit the bill. Turley’s serves buffalo meat as part of their very extensive organic and “clean” menu, which was something the boys wanted to try. I had a hard time deciding what to have since I was still full from the burgers over the past few days and all the tea I drank! I ended up having the Chicken Pot Pie. It was a little dry with a pizza dough kind of crust rather than a flaky pie crust. It was pretty good. I never saw the food on the boy’s plates. It vanished before I could take a picture. It must have been good!
4. Broomfield, CO
Easter Brunch at the Renaissance Boulder Flatiron Hotel was to die for! It was very pricey, but you would expect that at a fine restaurant located in a four star hotel on a holiday weekend. The buffet menu was extensive combining unique chef prepared dishes with hometown favorites and brunch classics. Everything was displayed beautifully, the service was exceptional and the meal was a dream. Especially the bottomless mimosas!
It was very difficult to pick a restaurant in the Pearl Street area. There were plenty of choices and everything looked amazing. The boys are clued into finding the local fare and skipping the chain restaurants and things we normally eat. So, it was hard to resist an eatery called the Boulder Cafe. It is right in the center of Pearl Street Mall. It has inside and patio dining. The place felt authentically local, with a cafe menu, oyster bar, fondues and “Rocky Mountain” cuisine. It looked like a great place to take a date and there was a young clientele. I assumed everyone there to be college students. At this point, still stuffed from the reckless vacation eating I had been doing, I had an Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap appetizer for my meal. It was such a bountiful helping, I shared it with the boys. They also chose light meals that ended up not being quite enough to fill them. They finished every last bite of my dinner! The best part was just hanging out with my boys. We walked the length of the mall and shopped a little. I got them to go in LUSH with me and they got me to go in Rocket Fizz with them.
In the morning, we rushed to check out of the hotel and get to the college tour at the University of Colorado. We had no time for breakfast, so it was “hotel room” coffee, tea, granola bars and juice on the way. Then we grabbed a bite to eat at the cafeteria at the college before we got back on the road for our next, and final stop on our road trip. Boy, were we famished when we were driving along the dry, dusty road to New Mexico! As we approached each little town, my husband would ask, “Do you want me to stop to find a place to eat here?” We were all thinking the same thing. If we stopped now, we won’t be able to eat when we go through Santa Fe. We would drive the entire distance just to eat real New Mexico chile! So, we held out until 9 PM.
5. Santa Fe, New Mexico
As we rolled into one of my favorite all time places to visit, we started naming restaurants we knew in Santa Fe. We did a Yelp search based on our location and we selected the closest “New Mexican” restaurant we could find. As we walked in to Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, it seemed vaguely familiar. I may have been there before. I wasn’t sure. I know for sure I felt at home. It may have been the smell of tortillas and sopapillas cooking, the smiles on the faces of the servers, the families eating a late Monday night dinner, and the old adobe that appealed to me. It was familiar. It was wholesome cooking, the food that my family makes. We took a quick look at the menu and we all looked at each other, who would ask first? “Red or green?” We all have our favorites and we like both! One of the boys ordered exactly that – both, referred to as “Christmas.” Red and green sauces made with New Mexico chiles.
Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen served it up fast, large portions of all of our favorites, complete with sopapillas and honey. I had my favorite, Stacked Enchiladas with Chile Adovada and Red Chile with a side of sour cream to cut the heat. The heat of New Mexico chile always gets me at first. Luckily, I had the chance to eat it quite a bit during our visit over the next few days and I was able to adjust! It was an amazing meal. It had been far too long!
Everything is a blur after that! We spent a few days with family and ate wonderful food while we enjoyed being together. The boys managed to get out to their favorite local restaurants in New Mexico like Twisters Burritos and Dion’s Pizza. On our way home we stopped at a Cracker Barrell in Flagstaff, Arizona. I don’t have any more food pictures to share from the trip. It turned out to be a fun Culinary Adventure Side Trip that I hope you enjoyed.
Have you been to any of the restaurants listed here? Do you have any suggestions on where to eat in New Mexico, Colorado, or Utah? Let me know! I would love to hear about your foodie adventures!
So, I didn’t mean to leave you hanging! If you are following the entire Six States in Seven Days Road Trip Saga, I left off describing the exciting adventure just as we made it over the Rocky Mountains. Stay tuned for more fun! I would love to share with you what I did to make this trip fun for myself and how our family survived driving the rest of the 1000 miles or so through Boulder, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico and back to our home sweet home in Southern California.