Best “we are not in Colorado anymore” experience: Frasca
Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson and Bobby Stuckey take us some place else. Unparalleled service transports diners to New York or Napa. The food—the rustic, simple dishes of Friuli—takes you to Northern Italy. Then dessert, always with bright flavors and heavenly textures, sends you to the moon.
Best foodie fantasy shop: Cured
I’ve dreamed of opening a little gourmet food shop where people pop in to pick up artisan bread, farm-fresh eggs and maybe a wedge of cheese and salumi. Will and Coral beat me to it. Cured is exactly what I want in a gourmet food emporium: a comfortable, well-curated selection of exquisite products, both local and national, deliberately chosen wines—and a coffee bar serving up some of the best java in town. If they’d let me live upstairs, it would be perfect.
Best comeback: Oak at Fourteenth
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Oak at Fourteenth came back from a devastating fire that gutted the place months after it opened. Now the space is gorgeous, the menu innovative, and the beverage program award-winning. Is it possible the new Oak could be better than the original? Really, it doesn’t matter as long as this one is here to stay.
Best Food-Truck-Turned-Restaurant: Comida
When asked for his favorite restaurant in Colorado by Travel +Leisure, chef Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson of Frasca picked the luridly pink Comida food truck. Now Comida can live up to MacKinnon-Patterson’s declaration with its brick-and-mortar location in Prospect. No need to sign in to Twitter to find your taco fix.
Best Way to Throw a Party: Bradford Heap Catering
Let’s pretend you’re throwing the party of the century. You’ve coaxed one of the best chefs in the area to cater. No need to dream any more; chef Bradford Heap of Colterra and Salt has opened Bradford Heap Catering, bringing his killer cooking to you. Your friends will be awed and your party will be epic.
Best New Couple: Hosea Rosenberg and James Lee
Not to start any salacious rumors or anything, but we were just tickled pink to find out that Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg and mixologist extraordinaire James Lee were pairing up with a catering company, a farm and—hopefully sometime soon—a restaurant concept. All we can say is please hurry, guys.
Best New Foodie Creation: Glacier Ice Cream and Kim and Jake’s Cakes
Cake and ice cream is a pairing as classic as peanut butter and jelly, but cake in ice cream? Brilliance on a spoon. That’s what happens when the ice cream creators at Glacier Ice Cream take, say, an entire red velvet cake with icing from Kim and Jake’s Cakes and dump it into the ice cream mixer. The result is a creamy, dreamy velvety scoop of awesome.
Best New Trend: Chef-Owned Distilleries/Breweries
We are all for this new trend: Chefs are stepping out of the kitchen and into the distillery and brewery. Chef Bradford Heap and his Salt beverage director Evan Faber announced they are teaming up to start a distillery, and chef Ian Clark of Centro recently announced he is starting a nano-brewery. Talk about a beer and food pairing.
Best New Facebook Page: Boulder Food News
Started by blogger and social media guru Grace Boyle of GraceFullPlate.com, the Boulder Food News Facebook page is a central place to find out what’s going on with the Boulder restaurant scene. Like them on Facebook and get the scoop on special dinners, events, menu updates and tons more from your favorite Boulder restaurants.
Best CSA: Isabelle Farm
Sure, you can find different types of CSAs, or community supported agriculture. But we prefer the CSAs that offer the most stuff. Isabelle Farm in Lafayette allows members dibs on local produce as well as Western Slope fruit, grass-fed beef and coffee. We give them two cobs up!
Best way to spend a Thursday afternoon: Local Table Tours Cocktail Tour
You made it to Thursday afternoon; you’ve earned a break, don’t you think? Sign up for Local Table Tours’ Thursday afternoon cocktail tours and learn everything you ever wanted to know about cocktail styles, all while tasting at some of Boulder’s finest bars.
Best Dessert on Wheels: Tasterie Truck
Nathan Miller of chocolate fame and Shannon Aten started this mobile patisserie, offering ridiculously tasty cakes, cookies, whoopee pies, bars, cupcakes and more, along with lunch specials and goodies like bacon- and gouda-filled croissants. The pair Tweets the truck’s whereabouts: When you’re a mobile pastry shop, “If you bake it, they will come.”
Best place to wait in line for breakfast: Snooze
Head to Snooze on a Sunday morning, and you’ll be in for a wait. Thankfully, they’ve got a carafe of free, hot coffee to wake you up while you watch plates of specialty pancakes Benedicts, and eggs bustle by. No matter. Take a sip and rest assured: Breakfast will be worth the wait.
Best spot to get sushi at a Chinese restaurant: Spice China
In 2010, Spice China opened up a sushi bar within its airy Louisville restaurant, and ever since, they’ve been turning out plate after beautiful plate of unique sushi rolls (You’ll love the Caribbean dream roll with arugula, shrimp and garlic butter) and sashimi. It’s the best kind of fusion.
Best Southwestern Find: Richard’s on Third
Now that spring is here, we will start craving Southwestern fare and margaritas. Richard serves up just that at his funky little Longmont restaurant. Try the mango chicken enchiladas and hit the patio.
Best bang for your Buck: La Botana
La Botana is an unassuming Mexican restaurant in the heart of Thornton. But once you sit down in a cushy booth and check out the menu, you’ll realize you’ve stumbled onto something special: large portions of delicious, authentic Mexican food for less than $10 a meal. We love the ceviche, but you’ll find a favorite.
Best cultural experience in a mall: Wine and Cheese
Sitting at the bar with three sparkling glasses of bubbly sitting in front of me and a heaping plate of artisan cheese, olives and nuts, I can pretty much forget that I am at a shopping center in Westminster. It’s not Paris, but it tastes like it.
Best take on a traditional steakhouse: Hideaway Steakhouse
Sometimes you don’t want Asian fusion or contemporary American. You just want a steak. Just a steak, and maybe some potatoes. When the meat craving calls, head to Hideaway Steakhouse in Westminster, where you can reacquaint yourself with a classic steak.
Best place to embrace your inner Johnny Cash: Waterloo
“God bless Johnny Cash” is the motto of Louisville’s Waterloo, and that reflects the cool restaurant’s atmosphere (except, of course, there’s no cocaine). Come for a beer or whiskey but stay for a burger, live music and maybe more whiskey.
Best surprise: 503 International Café
I heard rumors around Lafayette about 503 International Café from the day it opened: I heard it was good. Like, really good. At the time, nothing decorated the walls and the space looked empty. But my chicken marsala and my date’s pork chops with parmesan risotto were amazing. We’ve been back many times, for lunch and breakfast, and each dish is a new and wonderful surprise.
Best take-out: Georgia Boys
No need to cook every night of the week, especially in Longmont, where a couple of Georgia Boys are changing the local barbecue scene one pig at a time. Try it family style for a feast of Southern proportions.
Best expansion of an Empire: Pizzeria da Lupo
Not many chefs would be able to jump from cooking burgers, crispy calamari salads and steaks to serving wood-fired pizzas. But Jim Cohen makes it look easy. Last year, Cohen opened Pizzeria da Lupo in Boulder after years of success at Louisville’s Empire. We feel it’s one of the most successful additions in recent history.
Best exhibition of simplicity: Pizzeria Locale
I was once told that the definition of elegance is the combination of simplicity and beauty. If that’s true, then the pizzas coming out of Pizzeria Locale are pure elegance. Here, atop a chewy bed of dough, toppings are olive oil, garlic and oregano, or maybe tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil. Less-is-more at its greatest.
Best use of beans: Paul’s Coffee and Tea
At Paul’s, they take their coffee seriously. They should—as coffee-drinkers, we take our coffee very seriously. All their beans are Fair Trade, organic, fresh and micro-roasted in house. Serious, indeed.
Best longtime gem: Carelli’s
Restaurants come and go, but Carelli’s in Boulder is a never fail—like your favorite pair of jeans. Whether it’s the garlic bread or chicken parm or just the warm glow of the fire, it always seems to be the perfect fit.
Best meaty techniques: Café Aion
On my last trip to Café Aion, I ate pork prepared at least four different ways: cured coppa, fried pork skin (chicharones) and house-cured salumi…and then something I believe was part of the pig’s head. But it don’t matter. It was not only impressive—but these techniques were soooo tasty.
Best healthy, good food: Morning Glory Café
Not long ago, a friend asked, “Where do I go to get a healthy lunch in East County?” There was a pause. Hmmm. It took us a good 15 minutes to think of a spot. That was before Morning Glory opened at 95th and Arapahoe. The café makes healthy, gluten-free, vegetarian dishes that are jaw-dropping good.
Best small town spot for Big city flavors: The Parkway Grille
In Erie, there are only a few options for lunch. So, our staffers are often found on the patio of The Parkway Grille, having lunch and drinking beer (shhhh, don’t tell our boss). A little bit bistro, a little bit sports bar, it’s a much-needed addition to Erie’s eateries.
Best way to make the lactose intolerant jealous: Sweet Cow
The heavenly Sweet Cow in Louisville has something for everyone, even the lactose intolerant (blueberry sorbet?). Still, every time I’m there, I feel like bragging. Just try the Dr. Pepper ice cream.
Best bar for journalists to convene: Pumphouse/Red Zone
Word on the street is that a group of local journalists turn up at Longmont’s Pumphouse once a month for beers and gossip. While a dark, cramped Irish pub would feel more journalistic, the Pumphouse satisfies with ever-flowing beer, good service and a central location.
Best cocktail program: Salt the Bistro
There are cocktail menus, and then there is Salt’s cocktail program. Beverage director Evan Faber has developed a DIY menu to demystify mixology for drinkers. Pick your poison from beginning to end. Bring in your vinyl to play while you hang out in the downstairs lounge to boost the sensory experience.
Best pho destination: 120th and Main in Broomfield
When someone posits the question, “Where do you find good pho?” there is only one answer. Head to the intersection of 120th and Main in Broomfield. There, find at least six different pho places. Try one, try all.
Best menu: Lyons Fork
I recently overheard two foodies discussing the Lyons Fork. Neither one had ever been, but both were gushing over how good the menu looked: grilled NY strip, scallops with an herb popover, roasted brussel sprouts and bearnaise or salmon with mushroom risotto and lemon marmalade. Just wait until they try it.
Best Place to gather: Mateo
Some restaurants just feel like a gatheringplace: whether it’s happy hour over a cheese plate and cocktails or for a birthday with mussels, frites and wine, Mateo is pure celebration.