January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants: Colorado Kitchen

Envisioned as a neighborhood restaurant, Clark's place draws a cross-section of people from all over--the variety of ages, races, and backgrounds is as remarkable as Clark's sweet, salt-topped mini-biscuits.

THE SCENE. Chef and proprietor Gillian Clark has described her design inspiration as "Aunt Jemima's bandanna in 3-D"–an apt phrase for a self-consciously homespun dining room done up in black, white, and red (the napkins are bandannas) and enlivened by all manner of Americana, from a Pillsbury Doughboy to mammy figurines. Envisioned as a neighborhood restaurant, Clark's place draws a cross-section of people from all over–the variety of ages, races, and backgrounds is as remarkable as Clark's sweet, salt-topped mini-biscuits.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. "Comfort food" is too often a convenient cover for a chef's turning out heavy, uninspired food. Not here. Clark works alone, without a battery of assistants (that's her in her floppy white toque), and the best of her dishes–personal, distinctive, rooted –taste like the romanticized version of grandmother's cooking we wish we'd grown up on. A small wine list, newly added, has made dining out a richer experience. Maybe the best way to appreciate the simple pleasures of Clark's cooking is at brunch, which is one of the area's best.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Service remains woefully at odds with the level of cooking; you probably can expect some part of your order to be botched or to wait a long time for your food to arrive. Portions sometimes seem stingy, especially for food that is so otherwise intent on warming the heart.

BEST DISHES. The Lilliputian fried chicken, a Cornish hen dusted with flour and dunked in the fry basket; crispy fried catfish with the creamiest, tangiest tartar sauce around; the hand-ground burger; cheesy grits topped with fat, well-seasoned shrimp; house-made cake doughnuts and doughnut holes; sticky, finger-licking pineapple upside-down cake.

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