Mmmm… Happy Belly, indeed

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If you’re one of those people who think small town cafes mean frozen beef patty hamburgers and onion rings, Happy Belly Deli in Norwood, Colorado will definitely redefine small town cuisine for you.

The restaurant is also a bakery and coffee house, but forget any vision of pretentious open mike nights and all-vegan bohemian staff. The menu boasts a variety of healthy – and not so healthy, in a good way – dishes that cover any diner or group.

Opening at 6:30 am (5:30 am during hunting season), you can start with breakfast in the colorful dining area, where local artists display their work. They have some fancy mixes of espresso and teas, but for a good ol’ cup of joe, it’s self-served family style by the ordering counter. There’s a daily special, but also a choice of breakfast bowls and sandwiches that make great to-go items.

And that egg, cheese and meat sandwich on a homemade croissant… ooh-la-la, that puts Burger King to shame (not that that’s hard, but you get what I’m saying.) I go pepper jack on the cheese for a little southwestern spicy kick and extra crispy bacon… yeah, it’s not good for you, but it hurts so good, right?

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The dining room is sunny and warm, with shades of green and orange.

The Benny breakfast bowl seems to be a popular favorite, which features the usual eggs and potatoes, but has a hollandaise sauce thrown in the mix. I was going to get that on my last trip, but confess I got sidetracked by the daily special – an omelet with cheese, bacon and carmelized onions.

Likewise, you can grab a single serving quiche fresh from the oven, or a selection of pastries and huge muffins overflowing their wrapper. And they always have a gluten-free option if you need one.

Now, when you move to lunch, things get a little healthier, thank goodness, or this whole town would be dead or on the heart transplant list.

The chicken pesto sandwich is tasty, stuffed with chicken, of course, and cream cheese, pesto, tomatoes and sprouts. There are vegetarian options, if needed, such as the Mediterranean roll: hummus, feta cheese, carrots, pepper rings, olives, cucumbers, lettuce and Greek dressing in a whole wheat wrap.

The food is very good, but even better is the friendly ambience, and the local hang out here. I’ve witnessed conversations from ballroom dancing to the counter gal asking a customer if his house was unlocked so she could go by and take a look at it, as she was thinking of renting it after he moved. And of course, it was.

That is a conversation you’ll only hear in a town of 400 or so.

If you’re passing through Norwood, Colorado, stop by the Happy Belly Deli – before 3pm when they close – and give yourself a happy belly, indeed.

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The egg, bacon and cheese croissant. Take that Burger King.