Best of the West: Food and Drink

Published on: April 16th, 2012

Reader’s Picks

Overall Restaurant

East County: Colterra

There are dishes that make the clouds part and the sun shine down. Right then and there, you understand the amazingness of food. For me, that happened at Niwot’s Colterra with a plate of wild boar short ribs served with veggies and crispy polenta. It was a hearty dish with a whirlwind of savory favors, locally influenced and beautifully inspired. It was love on
a plate.

Boulder: The Med

Year after year, The Mediterranean beats out all the hot-shot newcomer restaurants for readers’ votes. And why is that? Because The Med is not a flash-in-the-pan sort of joint. It’s enduring. Heck, The Med could be considered a brick in the foundation on which the Boulder food scene was built. Oh yeah, and you’ll get some killer food and drinks there.

Contemporary

East County: Sugarbeet

The moment you walk into Longmont’s Sugarbeet you know you are in for something special. The food is never contrived or cliché—from short ribs to baskets of yucca chips with house-made salsas to pork saltimbocca with speck and a caper-mustard cream. And while it’s often a surprise to see what they have to offer, it’s
always good.

Boulder: The Kitchen

There are too many things about The Kitchen to note here: the social consciousness, the rapidly expanding brand, the sustainable aforethought to ingredients. But it’s the pure deliciousness of their food that makes us respect and adore their presence in this city. Here’s to delicious food.

Cheap Eats

East County: Martino’s Pizzeria

There is a sense of humor at Martino’s in Lafayette. Heck, they have a bacon cheeseburger pizza that comes with Ketchup, mustard and pickles. But when it comes to the eats, it’s seriously good and seriously affordable. Two slices and a large drink for $5.99? That’s not even funny.

Boulder: Snarf’s

It’s rare that you can stuff yourself silly for under $12 in Boulder. At Snarf’s, the largest sandwiches you can order will keep you full for the rest of the day and they cost less than a trip to Starbucks.

Bakery

East County: Indulge Bakery

We’ve decided the verb “to indulge” should only be used when consuming food from Indulge in Lafayette: croissants, bacon, chive and cheddar scones or chocolate truffle torte. That way, your indulgences are always gratifying and soul-satisfying.

Boulder: Spruce Confections

At Spruce, there are cookies and muffins and croissants, even salads and sandwiches, but it’s the scones that have made these little Boulder bakeries renowned. We suggest the cream cheese and peaches scone.

Bagel

East County: Big Daddy Bagels

In concept, bagels are a fairly simple thing. But when you serve up 15 different kinds of bagels and 17 different kinds of cream cheese as well as sandwiches—and you do it all well, as does Big Daddy and his crew—that’s a feat.

Boulder: Moe’s Broadway Bagel

Moe’s isn’t just about bagels—though they serve mighty fine bagels. It’s a community and a culture unto itself. Regulars are common, and the family grows with each bagel served.

BBQ

East County: Lulu’s BBQ

I’ve pretty much worked my way through Lulu’s menu, and the only thing I can say is: It doesn’t really matter what you order, it will be smoky and juicy and tender and wonderful.

Boulder: Rib House

The ribs served up at the Rib House are heaven sent: fall-off-the-bone delicious, meaty and hickory-smoked. The meat gods shine down on Boulder County.

Burger

East County: Smashburger

You gotta respect a home-grown business that is built to be a national brand. But your respect grows even more when you bite into a bulky, smashed burger or avocado club chicken sandwich and Smash fries.

Boulder: Larkburger

For those folks who don’t like Boulder and who must drive into Boulder to get their Larkburger fix (with truffle, Parmesan fries on the side), there is what we might call “a hint of jealousy.” They might not admit it, but if Larkburger suddenly seceded from the Republic, they’d be cool with it.

Chinese

East County: Lui’s

What the residents of Erie know, they usually like to keep secret. So, it’s only an act of philanthropy that they spread the love that is Lui’s. Try the pork dim sum, gwin jin and the Szechuan, and you’ll have a secret too.

Boulder: China Gourmet

The fans of China Gourmet will wax poetic about this place: the crispiness of the chicken wings, the tang of the tangerine prawns, the deliciousness of the sautéed spicy Chinese eggplant. Poetry on a plate.

Coffeeshop

East County: Brewing Market

Brewing Market becomes a part of your daily life. It’s your routine: shower, dress, brush your teeth, comb your hair, grab your keys, pull into Brewing Market, order Americano and breakfast burrito, consume, work. Plus, the locally owned chain has five locations, so there’s never an excuse.

Boulder: Ozo’s

No matter when you visit Ozo Coffee, it’s packed. Either the place is great or no one works in this town. We’ll vote for the former: The employees here see their job as a craft and passion. Try the Ozo blend…at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Gluten Free

East County: Martino’s

Rare is a restaurant that can make every dish on the menu gluten free. But at Martino’s Pizzeria, every pizza and every sandwich can be made with gluten free crust or bread. And don’t forget the gluten-free cookie for dessert.

Boulder: Turley’s

Tired of ordering salads? Turley’s has an entire menu dedicated to its gluten-free dishes—with everything from burgers with rice buns to pancakes.

Breakfast

East County: The Huckleberry

Breakfast is a sacred meal—often claimed to be the best meal. So, it’s a big deal to win this category. But The Huckleberry does have it going on: with a country-cool style that carries from the menu to the decor. Try the mixed berry crepe, and you’ll see why.

Boulder: Lucille’s

It all comes back to the biscuit. There are so many good things about Lucille’s breakfasts. The chicory coffee, hearty dishes like the eggs Jennifer or the Carlin County, or maybe even a spiked orange juice. And then, the biscuit just becomes this fluffy, luscious cherry on top.

Breakfast Burrito

East County and Boulder: Santiago’s

I once purchased 10 Santiago’s burritos to bring to the office during a rough deadline. It was as though I had brought each and every staff member a special little gift. There was gasping, moments of silence followed by low moans of happiness. You are welcome.

Brunch

East County: The Huckleberry

If you’re eating brunch, it pretty much means you can’t get up in time for breakfast (that’s just a theory), but you still want to have the option of eating breakfast. So, at The Huckleberry, you’ll be pleased to know that the wild blueberry flapjacks, potato latkes and the chicken fried steak are served until 3 p.m.

Boulder: Greenbriar

It’s almost noon, and we’ve eaten our weight in Caesar salad, prime rib, eggs Benedict, bacon, baked chicken and so many other dishes I can no longer remember. Our server is still filling my Champagne glass, but I can never say no to Champagne. And I slowly realize that this is the best Sunday ever.

Dessert

East County: Eats and Sweets

With a name like this, Eats and Sweets can’t be denied this title. Serving Boulder Ice Cream along side homemade brownies, cookies, cupcakes and pies, it’s more than a name.

Boulder: Piece, Love and Chocolate

Truffles may just be the most perfect bite of food possible, and at Piece, Love and Chocolate, the truffle is done with skill, love and a limitless creative freedom (porcini cream, anyone?)

Chain

Chipotle

When Chipotle founder Steve Ells appeared on America’s Next Great Restaurant, he did Colorado proud. This is a state where dreams come true…and burritos are yummy.

Green Chili

East County: Santiago’s

The green chili served at Santiago’s can be ingested in all sorts of ways. We love it as a condiment…the world’s best condiment. Put it on your burritos, your carne asada or even your shoe. It’s thick and spicy (order it as you like it), full of chunks of pork and perfect to decorate any dish.

Boulder: Efrain’s

Efrain’s green chili is not a side dish or, god forbid, a dip. It’s a main course, like a soup, served with tortillas. But before you dive in, beware, it’s spicy. Like, tears-in-your-napkin-sweat-on-your-brow-lips-bloated-and-red spicy…and yet delectable.

Indian

East County: Flavor of India

Longmont, thank your lucky stars that you have Flavor of India. This downtown restaurant is a local favorite, serving up sensational Indian dishes, like chicken tikka or lamb curry.

Boulder: Tandoori Grill

The naan says a lot of about an Indian restaurant, and here, it’s freshly baked, slightly chewy and full of yeasty goodness. At Tandoori Grill, you’ll also find delicious curries, crispy fennel flat bread and saag.

Italian

East County: Pinocchio’s

There is a timeless, classic feel to Pinocchio’s in Lafayette: Casual, comfortable and all red sauce and red wine. Try the spinach salad and the radiatorre.

Boulder: Laudisio

We love a commitment to using local products, but even more, we love when local restaurants make delicious food out of local products. Laudisio does just that—with an Italian twist. Order the Long Farm pork loin scaloppini to see for yourself.

Mexican

Boulder and East County: Efrain’s

Efrain’s has its quirks (in Lafayette, there are fake poinsettia plants in the rafters), but when all is said and done, the food is spectacular. From the beautiful hue of the chili Colorado to the breath-taking spice of the chili verde to the richness of the mondongo, it’s a Mexican dream served up on a plate.

Patio

East County: Martini’s

The patio at Longmont’s Martini’s is really an extension of the restaurant’s shabby-chic-hip vibe. The gorgeous old Victorian home spills out on to the yard come summer—with tables, couches and fire places. Just like inside, it’s warm, cool and comfortable.

Boulder: The Rio

In Kansas, a rooftop patio would be a moot point. But in Boulder, where the view is the instigator of all good things that happen, a rooftop patio is heaven sent. Add a margarita and a quesadilla, we are happy.

Lunch

East County: Sun Rose Café

Tucked away inside a downtown Longmont storefront, Sun Rose is a big, airy space filled with diners looking for a little satisfaction. Here, the soups, sandwiches and salads pack a lot of flavor and are whole-heartedly satisfying.

Boulder: Foolish Craig’s

There is nothing foolish about the food coming out of the Foolish Craig’s kitchen. The Southwest black bean burger? Brilliant! The BLT guacamole sandwich? So smart! The Spinach Bleu Cheese Salad? Both sharp and bright!

Salad

East County: Lucky Pie

Lucky Pie not only serves up some lovely pizza, but they know their way around a salad spinner as well. We adore the spicy Caesar and the kale salad.

Boulder: Mad Greens

Mad Greens is the Starbucks of all things green and leafy. Here, the world is your salad. Pick and choose your own toppings and dressing or have one of the expertly fashioned creations.

Seafood

East County: Jax

This contemporary take on a classic seafood joint has been a Boulder favorite for years. While the seafood is tremendous, don’t forget to order dessert.

Boulder: Tortuga’s

People continuously talk about Tortuga’s as “Longmont’s best-kept secret.” Well, we are unkeeping that secret here and now. Tortuga’s is not only East County’s best seafood spot (the fish here is lovely), but it’s one of Longmont’s best restaurants.

Sandwich

East County: Eats and Sweets

“Eats” is a pretty general term, but at Eats and Sweets, it includes some really tasty sandwiches. Pick from 53 different ingredients, and enjoy the results.

Boulder: Snarf’s

Snarf’s is just Snarf’s. You could never confuse a Snarf’s sandwich for something else. From the so yummy bread to the crazy creations to the endless amount of options, it’s just Snarf’s. If you eat there, you get it.

Pizza

East County: Martino’s

When the trend toward wood-fired Naples-style pizza becomes overwhelming, it’s refreshing to break through the noise with a good ol’ American pie. Here, they do it up right with the most fun, tasty takes on pizza topping.

Boulder: Pizzeria Basta

Before all the others joined its ranks, Pizzeria Basta was this artisan pizza shop in Boulder, serving up innovative wood-fired pizzas that taste like nothing else. Time and trends have proved them right.

Steak

East County: Colorado Coal Company

While our editor opts for the fried pickles, our designers dig the calamari and our sales people go for the booze, the residents of Erie flock en masse to Colorado Coal Company for the perfectly cooked steaks: top sirloin, ribeye, the bone-in buffalo ribeye or the New York strip.

Boulder: Boulder Chop House

This high-end joint goes all traditional when it comes to steaks: enjoy the filet mignon or the porterhouse with a baked potato and cabernet thyme jus.

Sushi

East County: 95a

When Magnolia became 95a last year, we feared the worst. But the new owners knew that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing. Keeping the half steakhouse, half sushi bar concept, diners can luckily still enjoy the ruby red roll or the annihilator roll.

Boulder: Sushi Zanmai

Sushi Zanmai is a local’s favorite (duh), which means it’s almost always packed and it’s noisy and fun and full of personality. But it all starts with the food: We recommend the fried avocado and the house specialty, the Z #9 roll.

Thai

East County: Thai Kitchen

Now with three locations, Thai Kitchen is never far away. And that’s such a good thing. Here, all the curries are delectable, the spicy jungle noodles are so tasty and the soups are something to seek out.

Boulder: Khow Thai

One of our staffers is a Khow Thai super fan. I recently asked him to elaborate on the Boulder Thai spot. And this is what he said, “Khow Thai is the shizzz, not only because they have the most amazing Thai food in Colorado, but the husband-wife tag-team owners are some of the nicest people around. My favorite dishes are Masaman Curry and Pad Thai, not to mention their Thai iced tea and mango with sticky rice dessert are bombbbbbbb!” Did I mention he’s 23?

Healthy

East County: Morning Glory Café

On the menu, you’ll find hormone-free meat, organic veggies and free-range eggs in dishes like whole grain pancakes, beet carpaccio, stuffed squash and a black bean, tempeh burger. Bonus: it’s delicious.

Boulder: Leaf

Meat-eaters beware, you’ll enjoy this place. The folks behind Leaf know their veggies: making vegetarian food as good as it possibly can be. They are expanding horizons, and breaking culinary boundaries.

Overall bar

East County: Waterloo

It all begins with the atmosphere: low lighting, brick walls and the bar as the centerpiece of the room. As you enter, you already know this night at Waterloo will be a good one. And then a beer appears in front of you and the band plays.

Boulder: Tahona Tequila Bistro

There are three requirements for a bar: booze, munchies and deals. Right in the heart of Boulder, Tahona serves nearly 20 types of margaritas along with a menu of high-end snacks, including duck nachos. Don’t forget happy hour seven days a week. Check, check and check.

Dive Bar

East County: Henry’s

Cheap beer, darts, pool tables and a jukebox. What else do you need? Nothing, Henry’s in Louisville has everything you could ask for in a dive bar.

Boulder: Sundown Saloon

You’ve got friends at the Sundown Saloon. This classic Boulder basement bar has friendly bartenders and an interesting mixture of people who are ready to make your acquaintance. Oh, and cheap drinks!

Brewery

Left Hand Brewing Co.

There are breweries purely for tours, sampling and buying T-shirts (ahem, New Belgium). At Left Hand, it’s as much a local watering hole as any bar in Longmont—a gathering place for locals who want a beer and some good conversation.

Beer

Sawtooth Ale, Left Hand

Sawtooth is Left Hand’s flagship beer: It’s an easy-drinking amber ale with tons of flavor and complexity. We could shower you with terms like “malty chewiness,” but we know that it’s just good beer.

Bloody Mary

East County: Waterloo

Served in a pint glass and topped with a pepperoncini and limes, Waterloo’s bloody Mary is well balanced and full of all the right flavors. It’s a hearty bloody Mary, perfect for the times when you really need a bloody Mary.

Boulder: Snooze

When all else fails, go spicy. Especially in the morning, when coffee isn’t enough, and you’ve spent an hour waiting for a seat, opt for Snooze’s bloody Mary with pepper-infused vodka.

Happy Hour

East County: Empire Lounge

Happy hour should make you happy, and at Empire, you’ll find $3 munchies and discounted drinks, which is just pure glee.

Boulder: Boulder Café

Happy hour at the Boulder Café is actually happy hours: everyday from 3 p.m. to close, the top shelf happy hour offers up half-price appetizers and half-price beer, glasses of wine and you-call-it cocktails.

Margarita

East County: Si Senor Real Mexican

Along with real Mexican food, Si Senor serves up very real margaritas. And you can order them in 16-, 32- or 64-ounce servings. We suggest the organic margarita with blue agave tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime juice…and make it a large.

Boulder: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

You’re officially a local if you have a story that begins with, “And then, after my third Rio margarita…” Where that story goes—dancing on a bar, sleeping in your car, etc.—is up to you, but know this, all good stories begin with a Rio margarita.

Wine List

East County: Zucca

The new kid on the block brings in a win with a list of Italian wines that’s diverse and well balanced. These glasses and bottles fit perfectly with the dishes of broad Italian influence.

Boulder: Frasca Food and Wine

Once again, Frasca co-owner and master sommelier Bobby Stuckey has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation for exceptional wine service. It’s not really a surprise: Stuckey has compiled a well-rounded, courageous list of wines.

Go to Critics’ Picks for Food and Wine

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  1. […] purveyor of top-notch ice creams and treats, Eats & Sweets (which was incidentally voted Best of the West for food and drink by Yellow Scene […]