Readers’ Choice: Best of the West 2016 – Food & Drinks

Published on: February 15th, 2016

BOW-Food-Drink

Overall Best Restaurant

L’Atelier (Boulder)

Boulder has a reputation for being among the top food cities in the country, and L’Atelier is a big reason why. Yes, the entrees at L’Atelier are a feast for the eyes, but the flavors and textures are equally impressive, as is the wine selection, which focuses on French, Italian and California offerings.

24 Carrot (East County)

24 Carrot is fresh, local, seasonal, and getting rave reviews. In keeping with the farm-to-table theme and the shabby-chic ambiance, the innovative cocktail menu includes the Farmer’s Daughter, with huckleberry-infused vodka, cucumber, lemon, lime, agave, and balsamic. The desserts, too, are curated but familiar, featuring the titular 24 Carrot cake with cardamom cream cheese icing.

BAGEL

Moe’s Bagels (Boulder)

With their huge in-house baked bagels, available in sumptuous flavors like Tomato Cheddar or Jalapeño, and one of the best breakfast specials in town, a stop at Moe’s Broadway Bagel is the perfect way to begin a morning full and sated.

Big Daddy Bagels (East County)

Forget your notions of New York bagels versus anywhere else in the country. Big Daddy Bagels hold their own against the very best in the world. You can get all the traditional bagels as well as flavors that include local favorites like green chile, cinnamon and sugar, and huge bagel sandwiches with plenty of toppings. No plane ticket needed.

BAKERY

Lucky’s Bakehouse (Boulder)

Lucky’s fits well in its charming North Boulder neighborhood. It’s not pretentious, but still has that artisanal feel. Tucked inside Lucky’s Market, the Bakehouse carries the requisite gluten free and vegan fare but doesn’t hold back on their more decadent treats like bacon cheddar biscuits, full-fat butter cream, chocolate croissants, and doughnuts to die for.

Indulge (East County)

Do you want a sunrise wedding with selection of pastries, scones and savory croissants? Or do you need a three-tiered cake delivered to the top of Vail Mountain on a Gondola? Indulge Bakery is very serious about its name. Plenty of options (how does a cheesecake bar sound?) and the best of service make Indulge Bakery an authentically named bakery. 

BBQ

KTs (Boulder)

The K stands for Kirk and the T stands for Tricia but the BBQ has stood on its own for 20 years. Some of their first customers still come back two decades later for the pulled pork. Offering six regional styles of BBQ including their unique “Boulder County Style” they also do catering for all events. People particular about their pork eat at KTs.

Georgia Boys (East County)

If you close your eyes while in line at Georgia Boys you can almost imagine waiting on a front porch somewhere in the South, sipping on sweet tea as the heat and smell of barbecue surround you like a warm blanket. Without a doubt, they have some of the best damn ribs in the State. Who needs a six-pack when you can have ribs like that?

Bloody Mary

Foolish Craigs (Boulder)

The folks at Foolish Craig’s make no bones about their Bloody Mary, calling it their “the best in town”–a sentiment apparently shared by their patrons. With fresh onion, garlic, and peppercorn, the Ketel One infused cocktail (perhaps the only one appropriate 24 hours a day) is a steal at only $6.50.

Waterloo (East County)

Sunday brunch isn’t complete without a spicy Bloody Mary — but have one anytime as “The Loo” is open seven days a week. Their name is based on their previous successful venture, an independent record shop of the same name in Austin, Texas, and their love of music is also why they offer eclectic live music.

Breakfast

Tangerine

For the best in boutique brunching, look no further than Tangerine. From their open floor plan to their fresh color scheme, dining here makes you feel sophisticated and carefree. Enjoy your bubbly mimosa’d or bellini’d with fresh fruit purees and your benedicts any which way. Be decadent with their chicken and waffles or beatific with steel-cut oatmeal and a side of spice poached mission figs. Either way you’ll be fashionable.

Breakfast Burrito

Santiago’s

Nothing says “good morning” like a mouthful of Santiago’s green chile. Enjoy your breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage or chorizo and you’ll have all the energy you need to face your impending day of boring meetings. Or that appointment you had with your accountant. Maybe bring him one too, that way he’ll be in a good mood when he starts your taxes. Santiago’s Burritos put anyone in a good mood.

Brewery

Avery (Boulder)

Like a Monarch butterfly that suddenly bursts forth from its impossibly cramped cocoon and takes to the skies, so, too, has Adam Avery’s craft brewing juggernaut taken flight, thanks to a new, spacious facility in Gunbarrel. The brewery that Avery built is huge, with a capacity of 150,000 barrels annually and room to grow even bigger. The taproom offers a variety of special beers only available at the brewery, as well as a high tech growler filler.

Odd 13 (East County)

Lafayette’s Odd 13 Brewing doesn’t just love a good brew: They also love a good story, claiming that “if we can’t tell a story about it, it doesn’t get made.” That’s right; each of their beers is cast as a character in an overarching narrative that includes Colorado and fantasy themes. There are year-round cans like Eric the Red, a Viking IPA whose weakness is sunlight (a big problem in a state with three hundred sunny days a year!), along with “sinister sours” like Duraznodor, a flamboyant luchador bad-guy with peach and apricot.

Brunch

GreenBriar Inn (Boulder)

Boulder has some damn good Sunday brunch offerings, and in terms of food quality and ambience, Greenbriar is at the top of the list. Show up hungry because even small samples of the good stuff will fill you fast. From a wide selection of cheeses, to carved meats (lamb, ham, and prime rib are regulars), to quiches, to fresh eggs benedict and omelets to-order, to oysters on the half shell and bagels with lox, cream cheese and all the trimmings, you’ll be hard pressed to leave room for the beautiful pastry selections.

Morning Glory (East County)

For a more down home feel, head on over to the Morning Glory Café in Lafayette. It’s a warm and relaxing place for breakfast, brunch or linner. Start with homemade soup, a breakfast burrito or a nice Niwot omelet with some crab added. Just be sure to stop by the kitchen and wave “hi” to your chef ‘cause it’s that kind of place.

Burger

Larkburger (Boulder)

Eaters who love a plain burger come here for the natural ingredients and the culinary mindset that together elevate a burger into something memorable. That said, try the truffle burger on a gluten-free bun with a kale salad. All sauces and dressings are made in house, and their hand cut fries are cooked in trans-free canola oil, which they reuse to power cars.

Waterloo (East County)

Get the all-American experience with The Waterloo burger. For only $12.50 you get a juicy, delicious burger cooked to order, on a challah bun, with unlimited toppings. Yes, you read that right. Toppings galore! Bacon, avocado, whatever cheese you want, and throw a fried egg on it too, for kicks. ‘Murica!

Cheap Eats

Snarf’s (Boulder)

With Buffalo Chicken, double bacon club, and meatball supreme, Snarf’s “Not on the Menu” menu beats out most sub shops’ regular spreads. Prices start at $3.50 for a kid’s grilled cheese, all the way up to… less than $12 for the biggest most action-packed sandwiches. And don’t forget The Big Pickle for only a buck. Throw in their eggplant parmesan, smoked brisket, PBBH (peanut butter, banana and honey), and gluten free options and you’ve got a surprisingly sophisticated menu from our favorite funky sandwich shack.

Martino’s (East County)

Martino’s Pizzeria is a great place for big gatherings, after-work outings, or children’s parties, not only because of the wide variety of delicious eats and dietary options, but also because of the stunningly affordable prices. Split a pizza for two for as little as $12.50, or enjoy a gigantic, fresh, and fully loaded sandwich for just $8. And heads up, parents: Most items on the kids’ menu are under $5, and Monday nights, kids eat pizza or pasta free!

Chinese

Zoe Ma Ma (Boulder)

Zoe Ma Ma owner Edwin describes his decidedly un-Americanized Boulder-based Chinese restaurant as many things: dedicated to high-quality fresh and organic ingredients, traditional without being conventional, and inspired by both street food and, most importantly, his mother’s home cooking. Pair your ginger-flavored Formosan iced green tea with top-secret family recipe potstickers, old-school favorites like hot and sour soup, or less-common dishes like rich, soupy Sichuan braised beef noodle.

Spice China (East County)

Louisville’s family owned and operated Spice China offers all the convenience of any favorite Chinese delivery and takeout restaurant with especially high-quality ingredients and a lovely ambiance for an affordable night out. With low-price traditional mainstays like hot and sour soup, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, and even a full-service fresh sushi menu, Spice China also has an impressive array of desserts, from green tea ice cream and key lime calypso to decadent Grand Marnier chocolate mousse cake.

Cocktail

Japango

While Japango has long been known for its Japanese food and sushi, the cocktails (and guys that mix them — Dexter Hostetter and Michael Lombardo) are the best in town. The selection of spirits here is extensive, but the cutting edge of mixology these days can be found out on the frontier of bitters. Angostura is probably the most well known. Well Hostetter makes his own from a recipe his great-great-grandfather put together as a medicinal treatment during the Civil War.

Coffeehouse

Ozo’s (Boulder)

It’s no small feat making it as Best Coffeehouse in Boulder. You have to do more than make excellent coffee. Ozo’s doesn’t just freshly brew and serve their home roasted coffee, they teach all about it. From their knowledgeable (and free) Friday coffee tastings at their brew bar, to fundamental barista skills taught in their Specialty Coffee Association of America licensed campus, the folks at Ozo’s are the experts.

Cannon Mine Coffee (East County)

None of that we’re-too-cool-for-school, coffee-house-pretention here. Everyone is welcome at the warm and comfortable Cannon Mine Coffee. It serves up only local coffee from Boulder Organic Coffee, so everything is super fresh and flavorful. Make sure to try the Toddy coffee, the perfect solution for anyone who finds the regular cup of Joe too bitter.

Colorado-Based Chain

Snarf’s

Unlike some Colorado-based burrito chains, Snarf’s stayed out of the national spotlight this year but continued to shine. What started out as one small in-and-out joint has steadily spread to over 20 restaurants in Longmont, Denver, Westminster, Austin, St. Louis and Chicago. Their quality meat, cheeses, and veggies, along with their own oven-toasted bread, make for quality, snarfilicous sandwiches across the U.S.A.

Contemporary American

Salt (Boulder)

Salt owner and chef, Bradford Heap, has created a showcase for what can be created from locally produced beef, pork, lamb, trout, chicken, vegetables, cheese, fruits, herbs, beer and spirits. It’s not easy, and of necessity the menu changes often depending on what’s fresh. But a loyal Salt clientele has learned that dozens of entrees do not a great menu make; a handful of stellar options are more than enough. And keep your eye out in mid-to-late summer for Heap’s farm dinners (check saltthebistro.com).

24 Carrot (East County)

The menu at Erie’s 24 Carrot Bistro is as nostalgia-inducing as it is creative. With healthy, local takes on comfort foods, late-night snack go-tos, classic American dishes, and old favorites, you’ll find plenty of treats to fit your culinary fancy. For lunch, try the warm kale Parmesan dip with sweet potato chips before tucking into a blood orange and pomegranate salad or gulf shrimp and golden corn grits, depending on your appetite. The rustic brick-and-hardwood interior matches the food: it’s cozy and classic, but also a treat for the senses.

Dessert

Piece, Love & Chocolate (Boulder)

If chocolate is an art form to you, then you’ll fall in love with the artistic talents at Piece, Love and Chocolate. From a wall of chocolate bars framed like the art they are to a counter packed with thousands of small bites of heaven, it’s like being a kid in a candy factory. Or an adult. At a chocolate shop.

Sweet Cow (East County)

“Small batch,” “locally sourced,” “environmentally-friendly,” and all those other important buzzwords apply here. But the most important thing is the ice cream. Sweet Cow offers 22 flavors that change daily, so swing by on Monday for some Gingersnap Molasses then come back Tuesday for Milena’s Earl Gray Cookie or Cocoa Puffs Ice Cream. Have an allergy? Ask about the nut-free menu.

Gluten-free

Blooming Beets (Boulder)

Whoever said going gluten/GMO/refined sugar free was a culinary curse never sat down to a meal at Blooming Beets. This place is proof that what’s good for you can be delicious in the right hands. In the case of Blooming Beets, those hands belong to owner Iva Paleckova who has developed seasonal brunch, lunch and dinner menus that eschew processed seed oils, grains or sugar, relies almost solely on organic vegetables, and limits use of dairy to a little organic butter here and there.

Martino’s (East County)

Gluten-free pizza is sometimes a rarity and often difficult to make delicious or exciting; Martino’s Pizzeria in Lafayette offers an entire menu of exceptions to this unfortunate dining rule. All items on the gluten-free menu are also free of nuts, dairy, soy, and casein. Besides the make-your-own-pizza option, you can add gluten-free crust to any signature Martino’s pie, or choose from gluten-free cheesy bread, chicken strips, sandwiches, pasta, or chocolate chip cookies.

Green Chile

Efrain’s (Boulder)

Never pass on a chance for a night out at Efrain’s, because your pals’ pictures of the margaritas, enchiladas, and award winning green chile on Instagram will leave you green with envy. Feel the burn with this intense, hardy chile verde on a burrito, chimichanga, hamburger, or many of the other especialidades on Efrain’s giant menu.

Santiago’s (East County)

For more than 25 years, Santiago’s has been the go-to for Mexican food and green chile in Colorado. The recipe for Santiago’s famous green chile originated with the founder’s mother, who started out roasting whole jalapeños on their grill. From there, those chiles went into a smorgasbord of tasty Mexican favorites.

Happy Hour

The Med (Boulder)

Happy Hour at The Med is more than a small menu filled with five-dollar appetizers. Unwind from your stressful day with one of the many different kinds of tapas, including mussels, falafel, baba ghanoush and so many other delicious Mediterranean dishes. Every Happy Hour at The Med also features a plethora of drinks and cocktails all under five bucks.

The Post (East County)

The drinks here are flavorful and creative, like the refreshing El Diablo made with El Charro Blanco tequila, Crème de Cassis, lime and ginger beer. But you’ll want the added depth of the smoky version made with Sombra Mezcal. And if summer temperature is pushing the triple digits, avail yourself of one of the infinitely quaffable Micheladas – Howdy Pilsner, housemade michelada mix and a salted rim – or a Lemon-Mint Radler – again with Howdy Pilsner, lemonade and fresh mint.

Healthy Meal

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant (Boulder)

Vegetarians deserve more than one or two options on the menu and Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant delivers countless meatless offerings even your carnivorous friends will love. When they say “farm-to-table” here, they mean it — many of the ingredients that end up on your plate started out growing at the nearby Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette.

Morning Glory (East County)

Wake up, Sunshine. It’s time for another happy, healthy meal at the Morning Glory. From tofu to pancakes, fried rice to German sausage and eggs in the mornin’ to crab mac and cheese, or Colorado rainbow trout picatta, this Lafayette café always comes with a heap of local sources. And wine. Don’t forget their $7 bottomless house wine every Wednesday from 7 to 8pm. That keeps everybody happy.

Honorable Mention

Blackbelly Market

On the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, Blackbelly Market will astonish all types of diners — from the most sophisticated to those who like to keep it simple. With a menu that changes seasonally (including unusual options like quail eggs), a full bar, an old-timey butcher shop, and a kitchen that proclaims itself a “laboratory”, Blackbelly is the perfect intersection of modern experimentalism and an old-school approach to ingredients – they even raise their own livestock!

Chez Thuy

Whether you’re looking for a quick, healthy lunch or a relaxed, delicious dinner, Chez Thuy in Boulder has been a go-to favorite for Vietnamese food. Their Pho is fantastic and the seafood is always fresh and perfectly done. Fresh herbs and vegetables are the key to quality Vietnamese cooking and Chez Thuy doesn’t cut corners. From lemongrass to jicama, banana blossom to bean sprouts, the ingredients look, smell and taste fresh from the field.

Empire

With a tinge of “Americana” in the decor and lip-smacking-good food, Empire Lounge is guaranteed to have a lively atmosphere any time of day. The calamari salad and tuna burger have inspired countless causal visitors to become loyal regulars. The menu rotates with the seasons,  but the commitment to locally-sourced, fresh ingredients is evergreen.

Indian

Curry & Kebob (Boulder)

Curry-n-Kebob owner Zuned Khan’s take on Northern Indian cuisine is flavored by his Bangladeshi background and commitment to affordability. And affordable is right: Nearly all entrees at this made-to-order eatery are under $10, with daily lunch specials for just $7.75.

Flavor of India (East County)

Watch live Bollywood while Daman Singh and his father make a meal for you from their family’s own recipes. New to Indian food? That’s not a problem as all the employees are dedicated to helping customers find the flavors that suit them best. Indian food lovers will recognize right away that this Indian restaurant goes beyond the typical with their lobster biryani or their Goan fish curry.

Italian

Carelli’s (Boulder)

Step into Carelli’s and aromas of bread, garlic and basil will engulf you. The fireplace-in-the-round lends a warm and inviting atmosphere to the cozy environs. The Italian fare here is spot on, with robust and flavorful sauces, expert seafood preparation, and fresh local herbs, meats and vegetables. But no Italian restaurant is worth its sauce without a wine list that complements every element of the menu, and Carelli’s has that in spades.

Zucca (East County)

Zucca Italian Ristorante, in old-town Louisville, combines fine Italian dining with Colorado’s burgeoning farm-to-table movement, partnering with Three Leaf Farms. Enjoy a light, fresh, arugula and radicchio salad, a comforting, creamy, fettucine vodka rustica, or a hearty lamb shoulder on Zucca’s lively patio.

Liquor Store

Hazel’s (Boulder)

Hazel’s Beverage World, Boulder’s largest liquor store, claims to have “reinvented the liquor store,” and they just might be right. Hazel’s boasts over 12,000 selections of beer, wine, spirits, and accessories and a friendly interior that makes every booze run a fun experience. With delivery and shipping options, specialty tastings on Fridays and Saturdays, a cigar humidor, and weekly deals for members, Hazel’s features are anything but average for anyone who likes drinking at home (and we mean that in the best way possible).

DaveCO (East County)

DaveCO Liquors in Thornton claims to be “the world’s largest liquor store,” and if that title alone isn’t enough for you to head on over for libations, we’re not sure we can help you, but their weekly specials might. Whether you’re a lakeside beer drinker who favors local Colorado brews, a porch-sitting Irish whiskey sipper with a locked collector’s cabinet, or a wine lover in need of new glassware after last week’s evening-gone-right, DaveCO’s got you.

Lunch

Zoe Ma Ma (Boulder)

Zoe Ma Ma is the perfect downtown Boulder lunch spot for something delicious and inexpensive without sacrificing quality. Stave off the 3 PM blues with a cleansing jasmine or oolong tea while enjoying comfort foods like the aptly-named “CPR” (one taste and you’ll need it–stat!), a dish jam-packed with chicken, potatoes, gravy, and egg or rice noodles. For foodies and slightly more adventurous eaters, we recommend the roast duck wonton noodle soup, served on Fridays and Saturdays.

Cheese Importers (East County)

Looking for a bon repas? Look no further. Enjoy the soupe du jour or a Jambon ham sandwich but save room for the lemon tart. And contemplate purchasing cheese from the gigantic walk-in cheese cooler. No other place in East County will make you wish you had kept up with your French lessons.

Margarita

The Rio (Boulder)

With nearly a dozen different margaritas to wet your whistle, The Rio clearly knows how to craft the perfect marg. On the rocks or frozen, your marg is the perfect gateway to an afternoon of relaxation on the patio with a lime-fueled haze of smiles and Cuervo. Try it mango or try it strawberry, just remember there’s a three-margarita limit, for very good reason.

Si Senor (East County)

In the mood for something sweet, salty, sour, and a little strong? Look no further than the bright-colored bar stools of Si, Senor Real Mexican Food, where you can have your pick from a margarita menu that offers something for everyone – from the playful Frozen Peach to the redoubtable El Patrón.

Mexican

Efrain’s (Boulder)

Spicy. Colorful. Authentic. Sound like what you’re looking for to enhance your Friday night fiesta? Then Efrain’s should be at the top of your restaurant go-to list. The blue corn enchiladas and gluten free options are second to none. If your appetite is serious, order their signature big burrito smothered by “who knows what” – you’ll be satiated for weeks!

Lunada (East County)

Have your Happy Hour where the atmosphere and guacamole are as zesty as your squad. Lunada’s will delight your every craving. From tacos to tamales, they have it all. Bonus: they even serve breakfast.

Overall Bar

Boulderado: Corner Bar & License 1 (Boulder)

Boulder’s legendary historic hotel, Boulderado, is home to not one, but two bars that tie for best overall. For a wide food selection and a contemporary feel, head to Corner Bar, with a variety of small plates, killer fresh salads, and creative cocktails like the Dubb Step (beet-infused gin, Domaine de Canton, lime juice, and mint). For those who prefer their old-fashioneds, well, old-fashioned, soak up some history (among other things) at License 1, named for the first liquor license awarded to a venue in Boulder after a period of prohibition. Luckily, prohibition is very, very over, but the speakeasy ambiance is still swinging.

The Post (East County)

You’d think that nabbing All-Star Brewmaster Bryan Selders to launch the craft beer side of a new restaurant would be enough to cover the bar side of things at The Post. But you’d be wrong. Not only has Selders come up with an array of flavorful session beers to complement the various menu items – from spicy to mellow – but The Post has stocked its bar with an admirable selection of local and American made craft spirits including the beautiful bourbon and rye from Laws Whiskey House in Denver.

Patio

West End Tavern (Boulder)

Boulder’s West End Tavern has been serving up fresh, delicious barbecue, creative specials, and a killer beer and bourbon menu since before hipsters were a thing. This locally legendary watering hole, named Boulder’s favorite bar by many critics and patrons, boasts a gorgeous heated rooftop patio perfect for private events, parties, and year-round dining and drinking. Enjoy wings, booze, fresh salads, or a juicy burger on a light strung rooftop overlooking the mountains.

The Roost (East County)

The short story is that Dan Lance fell in love with Longmont, was confronted with the crow of a rooster in the dark while running, and with his co-owners Sean and Rebecca Gafner started this craft casual restaurant in the heart of downtown Longmont. Combine craft food, top-notch drink and free live music, and your taste buds and your toes are hopping. This triple-threat combination ensures that their patio is the place to see and be seen in Longmont.

Pizza

Pizzeria Locale (Boulder)

For upscale Italian pizza in an elegant setting, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Pizzeria Locale, where the menu is full of flavor-packed pizzas with perfectly crispy crust and fresh toppings. Try the Bianche or white pizzas with smoked scamorza, fennel sausage and broccoli rabe, or go for the Rosse or red pizza and get the classic Margherita. Whether you want a classic pie or an unique culinary concoction, Pizzeria Locale has you covered.

Martino’s (East County)

Martino’s Pizzeria’s menu offers an Italian spin on traditional Midwestern-style pizza. The wide variety of pizzas includes the heart-stopping bacon cheeseburger pizza, topped with natural ground beef and apple wood bacon and the signature Primo pizza, which features Martino’s own natural Italian sausage, alongside even more adventurous treats like Mexican and Thai-inspired pies.

Sandwich

Snarf’s

Everybody loves Snarf’s this year, and why not? Each sandwich here is one-of-a-kind. Go classic sub with their piles of meats and cheese, or put your pinky up a little and order their specialty artichoke, feta and provolone. Either way you’re getting the best.

Seafood

Jax Seafood (Boulder)

Tucking into fresh fare at Jax and you’d swear it came from an ocean down the street. And while that ocean dried up and tossed its solidified sandy bottom up in the air some 400 million years ago, Jax is alive and hopping every night of the week. And the Maine Lobster Roll will make even the most hardened of East Coast transplants weak with nostalgia.

Reel Fish (East County)

Get on board with the best cod and chowder in the county. The broad beer selection and pleasant staff will have you wanting to anchor down and stay for a while. But be sure to save some for later, having leftovers is the best part!

Steak

The Boulder Cork (Boulder)

Collectively,  Chefs Jim Smailer and Greg Larson have been wowing the taste buds of Boulder diners for more than 60 years. And over the years the dining room has expanded, the menu has evolved, and craft beer, wine, and spirits have taken over the bar. But one thing hasn’t changed: the philosophy of never-ending improvement. When you have a hankering for a steak, head back to where hand cut, aged beef has been the standard for decades: The Boulder Cork.

740 Front (East County)

Its tavern license is the oldest ongoing in Colorado and it is one of Colorado’s oldest bars. But it’s the steak not the shtick that makes this place famous. Only eight percent of beef in the U.S. is Certified Angus Beef, which is the main beef they use. They also offer Waygu (Australian), Aspen Ridge (naturally raised Angus) beef, Bison Tomahawk “Bone-In” ribeye, as well as New York, T-bone, Filet and more.

Sushi/Japanese

Sushi Zanmai/Amu (Boulder)

The sake and sushi party has been cranking for 31 years at Sushi Zanmai and judging from the Karaoke madness on a recent Saturday night, it’s not even close to slowing down. The nigiri is fresh, the fusion rolls offer unique combinations and sauces, and the miso soup and other traditional Japanese dishes well done. But the attraction here is the raucous atmosphere and rock-and-roll sound track.

Sushi Hana (East County)

The mark of a great sushi restaurant is its specialty rolls and Sushi Hana has lots of amazing rolls to choose from. You can’t beat the Shiso Honey Roll, which comes with eel, crab, shiso and honey with sweet soy sauce. If raw fish isn’t your thing, you can still load up on amazing Hana Hawaiian Sliders, Colorado Style Hamachi or Stuffed Scallops, among many other traditional Japanese dishes at Sushi Hana.

Thai

Aloy Thai (Boulder)

Traditional, comfortable ambiance, and Thai family recipes are the mark of excellence here, with truly authentic dishes and the best Pad Thai this side of the Mekong. Health conscious folks will also love the many healthy-yet-savory options like the Tom Kha Gai.

Busaba (East County)

Spice up your Saturday night by taking your taste buds on a trip to Thailand. Their fabulous drinks and authentic drunken noodles will have you buzzing, but the intense spiciness might leave you a little tongue-THAI-ed.

Wine Shop

Boulder Wine Merchant (Boulder)

Anyone can take over an old grocery store and pack it with every kind of booze imaginable, but seriously, who has gone through and tasted each of the wines or beers there? Boulder Wine Merchant doesn’t carry everything; they don’t have the space. But what they do carry has been carefully chosen, tasted (by Master Sommelier and owner Brett Zimmerman and most of his veteran staff) and put into their collective recall.

Atlas Valley Purveyors tied with PJ’s (East County)

Lafayette’s Atlas Valley Purveyors is breaking down barriers, literally. Knocking down the wall between the liquor store and the delicatessen next door created an old-world charm, where you can stroll back and forth between displays of wine, a meat counter, and a collection of cheese.

If you want a bottle of Pliny the Elder in Longmont, PJ’s Wine and Spirits is the only place you’ll find it. Its reputation for quality and value has locals detouring around closed bridges because it just can’t be beat.

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