June 14, 2011

elephant journal reviews: The Kitchen [Next Door]

What if Slow Food could be Fast, Cheap, & Plant Gardens for School Children?

Boulder, Colorado’s The Kitchen [Next Door]: what if you could have farm-to-table, healthy, local, organic, yummy, fine food & formal service…for less than $9?

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

These photos: Davis Tilly. Photos at bottom via The Kitchen [NEXT DOOR]

“Revolutionary” is a hype-happy term thrown around a lot that means less and less the more we use it and read it. As a word-loving journalist, I hate to brandish it.


The Kitchen [Next Door] could just be revolutionary.

I’ve done a ton of restaurant reviews, now. Typically, as do all reviewers, I focus on atmosphere, quality of the food, presentation, service, price. We also focus on environmentally-responsible and for-benefit/community questions. Let’s get the basics over quickly:

Atmosphere: The Kitchen [Next Door] is beautiful, light, spacious yet cozy, and more stylish than any other restaurant in Boulder, methinks. It’s largely green built—the wood is reclaimed or comes from beetle-kill. It’s relaxed—children can toss vegetable magnets at a big board in the back hallway, there’s a large community table and patio cave table (go, you’ll see why it’ll be known as the cave table)…the seating outside is plentiful and community-ful. If you’re lonely, go—you’ll be warmed by the sun and good food and friends and new friends. If you already know many people, you’ll catch up with half of them, all by accident, as they walk by. The Kitchen [Next Door] is less a restaurant than, immediately, an institution.

A friend yesterday (when I went with Pam, elephant magazine’s designer) for a quick, simple dinner, joked that I was bought off (the Kitchen is a local green sponsor of elephant). So let’s get that out there and do away with it: if I could think of a single negative thing about The Kitchen [Next Door], I’d brandish it by way of proving my objectivity. Admittedly, I’ve only popped by twice and eaten there twice (including the pre-soft-opening) press invitation to Cure Farm. But I have yet to find a fault. Just about every detail is thought out, elegant, eco-responsible, tasteful, confident yet modest. The Community Table, for example, is built out of reclaimed wood, its legs former vintage columns cut in half (props to Founder/Design Director Jen Lewin for conquering a tough, cavernous space that had defeated a few restaurants prior).

Quality of the food: The food is remarkable, creative yet simple, delish-ous, healthy, largely local/organic, vegetarian-friendly (Pam had a bite of my veggie burger, casually declared she was thinking of going vegetarian).

Presentation: It’s all presented elegantly, simply, in a classic way that inspires me to imitate ’em at my home. The children’s place mats offer educational games.

Service: The service, as we’ve come to expect from the original Kitchen and Upstairs at the Kitchen, is warm, casual yet thoughtful, informed. It never, thankfully, crosses the line from friendly to feeling taken for granted, but does cross the line in the opposite direction, from friendly to “extended family.” You know, community.

Eco-Responsible/For-benefit: From the food to supporting local farms to alcohol (from kegs, barrels, saving on packaging/shipping) to oil disposal and composting, The Kitchen is a pioneer, a trail-blazermender. Click here for list of what they do. The mission of Next Door, business-wise, is to help fund school gardens for a young nation in a technology-overload, health and obesity crisis. Crisis.

Price: The prices…two of us ate a ton, appetizers, sodas, two entrees, two desserts…and our bill came to $40—for dinner. Nothing on the menu is more than $9.

Nothing on the menu is $9.

Revolutionary: Nothing on the menu is $9. That blows my mind. It’s like fine dining got knocked upside the head by Chipotle-style slow fast food.

So that’s what I’ll call it:

Slow Fast Food


Fast Fine Dining.

The food does come out quickly. The ingredients are simple, and the preparation of said dishes has been streamlined. The business model is what’s revolutionary, here: expensive food prepared simply, sold affordably, coupled with elegant atmosphere and service, with some percentage of the profits going to support children getting gardens, and real food, in schools. The business model must aim to make up for in volume what it lacks in priceyness. The place, best of all, feels replicable: its mission, given success and our support, could result in Kitchen Next Doors all over the country supporting local farmers and healthy children and grateful citizenry.

I’m no betting man, but if I were I’d be happy to lay all chips on the table that The Kitchen: Next Door will be jam-packed, always.

Click here for hours (open 11 every day), information.

Follow ’em on twitter. Facebook.

PS: If you go and find this here adulatory review over the top, let me know in comments, and I’ll owe you a drink (the wine and beer, btw, to save on price and shipping and packaging/carbon footprint, is all out of kegs and barrels).

“Beer starting at $3.95 and wine starting at $4.95.”

More great photos here.

Follow elephant on Facebook. Voted #1 in US for #green coverage two years running on twitter. Follow just our Boulder twitter news. Subscribe to just our Top 10 Best each week via our free, elegant email newsletter. Want to read a ton of elephant articles, view a ton of videos? Subscribe.

Read 4 Comments and Reply

Read 4 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant Journal  |  Contribution: 1,509,080