2017 Best of the West: Readers’ Choice Eats

Published on: February 14th, 2017

The people’s choice for dining in Boulder County.

Best Overall

(EC) 2best-of-the-west-_-yellow-scene-2017--readers-choice-24-carrot4 Carrot
This is the most Boulder-styled restaurant you’ll find this far from the city. It’s elevated twists on menu staples and inventive new dishes draw plenty of crowds. The cocktail bar is exemplary, and to finish things off… beignets!

(B) Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
The idea of seafood in Colorado has been an easier sell since the mid-90s, when Jax rose to prominence. It has built a seafood empire since, thanks to its fresh servings and attentive staff. Why overall? We suspect it’s the execution and environment at Jax that helps it rise to the top of this list.

Contemporary American

(EC) 24 Carrot
It’s all about putting a signature spin on well-executed dishes. Additions like black grape gastrique and bacon braised collards make classic dishes irresistible, especially when coupled with 24 Carrot’s raved-about cocktails.

(B) (tie) Blackbelly; The Kitchen

Blackbelly
A restaurant labeled farmhouse-chic might elicit some skepticism, but fear not: Blackbelly fulfills that classification with locally harvested ingredients, a whole animal butchery program and sophisticated recipes exploding with flavor (hello, grass-fed bison tartare).

The Kitchen
A pinnacle of farm-to-table food not just in Boulder, but across Colorado. Serving up seasonal interpretations of contemporary classics, diners will never be disappointed with The Kitchen’s reliable recipes.

headshot of sam parrett

Best of the West Chef: Sam Parrett.

Chef

Sam Parrett, Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
The Florida man behind the cuisine at Boulder’s Jax location gets some love to match the wins for overall and seafood.


Cheap Eats

(EC) Eats & Sweets
This downtown Lafayette lunch spot is full of options, with some go-to options, but customers love picking fresh ingredients to build their own sandwiches and salads.

(B) Snarf’s
Jimmy Seidel’s brainchild has garnered a cult following, with healthy servings for fair coin, considering award-winning sandwiches like the smoked brisket with BBQ and Swiss cheese, salads, soups and gluten-free options.

Best Bakery

(EC) Indulge
The next time you need a cake that’s equally stunning and delicious, look no further than Indulge. They’ve got the talent, creativity, and expertise to bring all your dessert desires to life.

(B) Boulder Baked
Think midnight cookie runs are just for co-eds? Order a late night treat from Boulder Baked next time you’re feeling down. You’ll be happier, we promise.

Best Bagel

(EC) Big Daddy Bagels
Big Daddy still bakes New York-style bagels at each of its four locations, which is why the Lafayette spot is littered with Best of the West awards.

(B) Moe’s
Deals like the daily special or a dozen of day-olds for the office make Moe’s a repeat winter. Its three Boulder locations are proof of its popularity.

Best BBQ

(EC) Lulu’s
We didn’t ask readers which specific barbecue made them favorite Lulu’s, but we’ll assume it is the Texas Hill Country-style brisket. But don’t worry, they serve pork barbecues too. Sides don’t count in this category, but the range of options warrants a return visit.

(B) K.T.s
With a virtual lock on the Boulder barbecue scene, K.T.’ offers several styles of ’cue and the popular June Bowl, which lets you pick your favorite meat and sides together in a sloppy, delicious heap.

Best Breakfast

(EC) Huckleberry
It may not have a sweet grandma in the kitchen cooking, but their biscuits must be her recipe. Crafting with a farm to table focus, Huckleberry’s chef works side-by-side with farmers to feed us the freshest breakfast possible.

(B) Tangerine
The cheery, retro cafe vibe is complete with tangerine colored seats and coffee cups to start your morning off sunny-side up. Options include Brioche French Toast, Green Eggs and Ham,  and there’s a healthy selection of vegan and gluten-free options as well.

Best Burrito

(B) + (EC) Santiago’s
Alas, something the entire county can agree that Santiago’s sets the burrito standard, but there’s still room for debate: red sauce, green sauce, or best of both worlds?

Best Brunch

(EC) The Post
On weekends, the menu turns more southwestern, with black beans, rellenos and Texas toast popping up. But like all its food, The Post puts its unique spin on brunch stalwarts like eggs Benedict and omelettes. If you like the biscuits, try the buttermilk waffles.

(B) Brasserie Ten Ten
BoCo really likes its variants of eggs Benedict, so it makes sense that a French eatery wins here. Good service, fun brunch drinks and a patio make it a big winner.

Best Burger

(EC) Miner’s Tavern
This bar hasn’t lost its roots as a local establishment serving local fare to a hard-working bunch of locals. Miner’s Tavern opened in 1926 as the watering hole for the coal miners of Erie, and now, its burgers and craft brews serves and satiates the whole neighborhood.

(B) Larkburger
The burger line-up is simple: seven distinct choices plus all the fixins, but it stands out for its commitment to local ingredients and embrace of unique flavors, like the ahi tuna burger with wasabi-ginger dressing.

Best Chinese

(EC) Spice China
Louisville’s Spice China has a fairly standard Chinese menu, but its got something else that sets it apart: a deep dessert menu and a selection of sushi rolls. Try the beef jalapeno coupled with a spicy tuna roll—your tongue might be engulfed in flames, but your heart and soul will be dancing with delight.

(B) Tsing Tao
Sure, General Tao’s or  sweet and sour chicken are menu staples, buta Thursday night vegan buffet? That’s not standard fare. Tsing Tao has that, and a host of other delicious, meat-full dishes on the menu at all times.

Best Coffeehouse

(EC) Cannon Mine
This is like the front porch of Lafayette, with good, no-nonsense coffee, treats and beer. And it’s a YS pick for live music.

(B) Ozo’s
The brew is great, but the unparalleled coffee expertise sets it apart. Employees are happy to help you navigate the often confusing maze of coffee regions, styles and brew methods to find the very best cup for you, even explaining coffee chemistry as they prepare a sultry Ethiopian pour-over just for you.

Best Gluten-Free

(EC) The Post
It appears Celiacs have been missing out on fried chicken, and the bird here just happens to use GF breading and a dedicated fryer. The menu usually includes a compliant dessert, too.

(B) Shine
The kitchen is gluten-free, so no worrying whether the staff mixed up a specialized order; and the fare will give you some vitality points.

Best Dessert

(EC) Eats and Sweets
Eats and Sweets is guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth — and keep you coming back for more. Can’t decide what to get? The banana bread ice cream sandwich will be very, very good to you.

(B) Sweet Cow
Sweet Cow has 15 rotating flavors that seem to get even more delicious as time goes on. To stay in the know (and because samples are free) consider making Sweet Cow stop-ins part of your weekly routine.

CO-based Chain

Chipotle
We wonder if some people aren’t aware of all the state’s chains, or they just love this take on Mexican food. Either way, the chain that made headlines for food safety problems in 2015, didn’t lose fans in Boulder County in 2016.

Green Chile

(EC) Santiago’s
Santiago’s is built upon it three varieties of green chile sauce with pork, so it makes sense that one of the most popular burrito spots gets the popular vote for its sauce, too.

Indian

(EC) Taj Mahal 3
Louisville’s solution when you crave saag, lentils and curry. Grab some roti and dig in. The lunch buffet is a quick lunch bargain.

(B) Taj
Among the many Boulder options, Taj rises to the top with diners raving about its buffet… and carrot pudding.

Mexican

(EC) Efrain’s
A favorite for when you want a classic Mexican menu with some spice and maybe a bit of a mess on the plate. Come hungry, come early.

(B) Centro
This is modern, upscale Mexican cuisine, with new twists and inventive entrees. Anyone who gripes about “authenticity” might want to visit Mexico City, where chefs also build on tradition rather than be held back by it.

Italian

(EC) Zucca
Some of us grew up in places with an authentic Italian area of town, nowhere near an Olive Garden. Not only does this spoil us silly, but it forces us to only eat good Italian food. We’ve found this authenticity in Zucca, which offers an ever-changing menu of locally sourced quality ingredients.

(B) (tie)

Pasta Jay’s
Follow the smell of garlic up Pearl Street and pull up to a plate of pasta. While mom’s house is still the top deal around, Pasta Jay’s is a close second.  

Carelli’s
A polished, romantic interior with big comfortable booths, fire pits, and a swanky bar make this an ideal spot for date night, special occasions or simply a night to eat rich and satisfying Italian food.

Patio

(EC) The Post
An spacious patio with picnic tables are such a better way to mingle and meet friends than the traditional standing room only bar. Pint in one hand, cornhole bag in the other.

(B) Centro Mexican Kitchen
Another open bar that spills out onto a patio, Centro’s is a popular spot to grub and drink while you watch Pearl St. flow by.

Lunch

(EC) 24 Carrot
On par with any nice restaurant in downtown Boulder, 24 Carrot holds a rustic, historical, and minimalist charm that adds style and quality to the streets of downtown Erie. Embodying a true farm to table restaurant, they offer a dining experience that is thoughtfully crafted and as adventurous as you dare to make it..

(B) Zolo
Crispy duck confit tacos and queso fundido are examples of cuisine with just some

like a decent one-two punch? Zolo has more killer combos waiting in the wings.

Sandwich

(EC) + (B) Another unified results and repeat winner, Snarf’s is the sandwich standard in BoCo. We won’t go on about why, you already know, but don’t forget the not-so-secret menu items like the Snarf’s Supreme or Buffalo Chicken sandwich.

Seafood

(EC) Reelfish Fish & Chips
Fresh fish fried or grilled or prepared in a number of specials. We’re alway partial to the chowder and bisque.

(B) Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar
We raved about them in the overall category, so we’ll use this slot to praise its Emersum Oysters, just one of its sustainable practices. Eating these exclusive oysters helps rebuild the vulnerable population along the Chesapeake Bay.

Pizza

(EC) Martino’s Pizzeria
Colorado isn’t exactly known for its authentic pizza, but Martino’s in Lafayette is a rare find. Here, you’ll find thin crust ‘za loaded with toppings, cheese, and Italian heritage.

(B) Cosmos
From hazy late-night binges to wholesome family picnics, Cosmos is your go-to pizza joint for all occasions. If you really want to do Cosmos right, order an extra large pie with a jar of their signature spicy ranch.

Steak

(EC) 740 Front Street
This timeless bar serves a host of certified Angus steaks: sirloin, ribeye, New York, T-bone and plenty more. Bring your appetite.

(B) Boulder ChopHouse
Juicy cuts of straightforward steaks, with plenty of suds, sides and desserts to go with.

Sushi/Japanese

(EC) Sakura
A wide selection of sushi, we recommend broadening your idea of sushi and choose from the chef’s choices.

(B) (tie) Japango + Sushi Zanmai
Japango
The modern open style doesn’t scream sushi spot, but the more social atmosphere doesn’t mean they don’t deliver great sushi.
Sushi Zanmai
A perennial winner and Boulder darling, this sushi institution still delivers quality fish and wins over new devotees.

Thai

(EC) Busaba
Everything on this Thai joint’s menu is simply heaping with flavor. Stop by Busaba’s light-filled location in Louisville, and you’ll leave feeling ready to face the world (or another plate of drunken noodles).

(B) Aloy Thai
Aloy Thai’s reasonably-priced menu is filled with some of the best curries, sticky rice and noodle dishes around. Hop aboard the Aloy Thai Train for a top-notch catering, takeout or dine-in experience.

Healthy Meal

(EC) Modern Market
Fast food has undergone a serious health makeover in recent years, and Modern Market is the pinnacle of that effort. Stop in for scratch-made food that’s fast, satisfying and designed to meet any dietary restriction.

(B) The Kitchen
Garden-fresh meals are always plentiful at here. Ingredients like; beets, quinoa, heirloom pumpkin and wild salmon all play a leading role in healthful dishes.

portrait of justin goerich

Zolo’s Chef Justin Goerich.

VIP Pick
Justin Goerich
chef de cuisine at Zolo Grill:

What is your favorite cafe to visit? I like going to the Stone Mountain Cafe in Lyons. They have great coffee and sandwiches. I also love Meadow Mountain Cafe in Allenspark. That place is awesome. The breakfast is amazing. They are always packed and have been consistently great for 15 years. Most people don’t even know that they exist.
What restaurant defies category? I’m going to go with Lola. Great food. Great Atmosphere. I’m not just saying that because they are in the Big Red F. I truly love that restaurant and wish I made it down there more often.

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