Bar food has to taste good and soak up beer.
I'm pleased to say that the Hatch Cover turns out well-done bar food. While items like french fries and onion rings are pulled from the freezer instead of made from scratch, the kitchen pays attention to the preparation. The atmosphere is nothing fancy: on the dark side and run down along the edges. The friendly service helps, but the service is noticeably faster at lunch than it is after the sun goes down.
Now if you want something to munch on that didn't come out of the freezer, consider the fried mushrooms and zucchini ($7.99). The light, golden batter resembles tempura batter, and while both vegetables are good, the mushrooms are juicy and meaty. You can dip them in ranch dressing or horseradish sauce, and I highly recommend the latter. The thin, crisp zucchini benefited from that pop of flavor.
The chicken wings ($5/10) were good, too. The wings themselves were crispy and not too greasy. The wing sauce had an excellent balance of heat and tang from the vinegar-based hot sauce - and richness from just enough butter. There are nine flavors, ranging from naked to "FIRE!," so there's sure to be a level to accommodate everyone. The medium were hot enough without setting anyone's mouth on fire.
During a lunchtime visit, service was friendly and fast. The fish sandwich ($8.39) was a big, flakey, juicy piece of cod with enough batter to give it some crunch without adding too much heft. The fish, which was big enough to overflow the hoagie bun, was frozen, but didn't taste like it. The tartar sauce had a spicy kick at the end that I enjoyed, but my dining companion did not. The sandwich did come with a freakishly large amount of sliced raw onion, but that was easily removed.
I asked the waiter to help me choose between the Dagwood ($9.39) roast beef sandwich and the steak sandwich ($9.99). He said the steak sandwich was the best on the menu, so I ordered it. And I was extremely happy with the results. The rich, beefy steak was cooked a perfect medium, then sliced and piled on a hoagie bun, which served to soak up all the magnificent juices.
Instead of a fried side, we both opted for the sauteed vegetable of the day for an extra 99 cents. What a pleasant surprise. The zucchini, yellow squash, thinly sliced carrot and onion were deftly handled, retained some crunch, and were served with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.
The dinner time visit was slightly less successful. For one, the service started out great, but after we finished the meal, it took a very long time to flag the waitress for our check, and then to process the credit card. She remained friendly and apologetic, but the wait was still too long.
The food was a mixed bag as well. The Spinner ($9.99) is slightly better in the description than it is in person. The huge, pressed pork loin is larger than the plate. The meat is topped with an order of waffle fries, onion rings, green or red chili and cheddar cheese. The burger bun perches on top like a little derby hat, comically unable to contain any portion of the sandwich. The pork was excellent in the center but dry around the edges. The waffle fries maintained, but the onion rings got soggy, shedding their breading. The green chili was mild and unexciting.
A burger ($8.99), which was dressed with bacon, caramelized onions and cheese, was decent but not outstanding. The thick slices of bacon were generous, and the onions added a soft, rich sweetness. The waitress suggested we order it medium well if we only wanted a little pink in the middle, and it came out exactly that way. The flavor of the burger on its own was average, a little on the dry side.
The half rack of ribs ($13.99) was disappointing. The menu promised smoked ribs and a homemade sauce. I couldn't detect any smoke flavor, although the ribs were well cooked. The meat pulled easily from the bone but wasn't overcooked to falling off the bone. And the sauce was overwhelmingly sweet, tasting like the bottom-shelf brand you could get at any supermarket. The ribs came with a huge pile of fries and a nice, crunchy, slightly sweet coleslaw flecked with celery seed.
If the bar scene isn't your style, definitely consider stopping in for lunch. The atmosphere is just as friendly and not as noisy. And you're guaranteed to walk away full.
Restaurant character: A bar first and a restaurant second, The Hatch Cover offers a good variety of sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and appetizers. Lunch is the time to go for fast service, less noise and good food.
Rating total: 3.16 out of 5 stars
Food: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Address: 252 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd., 80906
Contact: 576-5223, www.hatchcover.biz
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: A few; Boca burgers ($7.19 and up), veggie pizza ($8.99)
What's online as of Jan. 16:
? 75 percent of 52 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
? 3 out of 5 stars based on 21 reviews on Yelp
? Active on Facebook; search "Hatch Cover Bar & Grill"
? No violations were noted during a December inspection by the El Paso County Health Department