Talk about a restaurant intimately tied to its community. When McCabe's frontman Greg Howard showed up at the Black Forest Fire last Thursday with 950 meals that he and other local restaurant folks like Bite Me Gourmet Sausage's Bill Layton had assembled, firefighters and first responders greeted him by saying, "We're so glad you're here again."
Yes, they remembered the crew from its contributions to the Waldo Canyon Fire effort last year. This time around, donations included 20 gallons of Bolognese and buckets of pasta courtesy of Paravicini's Italian Bistro; 25 gallons of prime rib chili assembled from McCabe's stock and product from chef Scarlett Farney at MoZaic; and 14 dozen eggs from Venetucci Farm, hard-boiled for safe pocketing. Others, like Edelweiss and Coquette's Bistro and Bakery contributed, as did regular guys off the street like Jason Hann, one of Howard's many Facebook friends who answered the call for assistance.
Since Howard opened McCabe's seven years ago, coming off 81/2 years at Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., he and his wife Ari have established one of the community gathering spots. It hosts lively pub quiz nights, Colorado College's hockey-coach radio show and international soccer match coverage, and also serves as UpaDowna's Joy Ride hub.
Then there's the not-to-be-forsaken Stimulate Your Local Economy Night, from 7 to 10 Mondays, with $2 off Colorado craft beers and spirits and $2 off the array of Ranch Foods Direct burgers. (Howard says that when he switched to RFD with his latest menu update a little over a year ago, his burger sales tripled.) Grabbing the kick-ass Black & Bleu burger, notably crusted in coarse-crushed peppercorns, for only $7.95 feels like quite a win, as does nabbing New Belgium Brewing specialties on tap like the superb Rolle Bolle for only $2.75, or one of the land's most superlative brews, Myrcenary Double IPA, for $4.25.
Satisfaction is also easily found with anytime orders of Laughing Lab-cheddar soup ($2.75/cup), which Howard bravely admits gains its texture through a Velveeta addition. Oatmeal-crusted, ground breakfast sausage-wrapped Scotch eggs ($7.25) with a thick gravy dip are the essence of quality bar food, like McCabe's great french fries ($6.95), which come with a stupid-good curry dip.
Sandwiches like the Chicken Cordon Bleu ($9.95), with grill-charred bird under ham and hot Swiss on a soft, salty Wimberger's Old World Bakery pretzel roll, also rate better-than. The same can be said of Alaskan cod cakes ($11.95) with a zesty citrus aioli and crisp slaw and haricots verts.
It's not that McCabe's is above stumbling, as with its clear under-cooking of the coconut-crusted tofu plate ($8.95) we ordered. Even a fun apple-jalapeño salsa couldn't save it, which was a shame since I'd heard so many good reports on the dish. And our maple bacon corn cob appetizer ($7.95), a should-be shoo-in with the sweet-meat garnish, was scorched chewy as if reheated, a floss-inspiring flub.
I'd already made my two customary visits for this review before the fire started last week — hence the awkwardness here of critically dissecting food when we collectively have the loss of lives and homes to lament. Life's less important concerns fall by the wayside when situations demand. And it must be said that few people know and demonstrate that truism better than Howard and the larger McCabe's family, who are always ready to feed, but more-so ready to serve.