•CRITICS: Colterra, Niwot
When Chef Bradford Heap took over this beautiful restaurant spread within two historic homes in the heart of quaint Niwot, north Boulder County scored one of the state’s premier restaurant names. The food is consistently some of the tastiest throughout the Front Range, and it comes with the added benefit of being prepared with an eye toward organic and locally grown produce and meats. We look forward to each change of season, because that means a whole new menu is about to appear.
•READERS: Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette
•CRITICS: The Brooklyn Deli at Bleu Sun Market, Longmont
Pretty much everything on the menu is less than 10 bucks. That’s a good thing for those who don’t like spending a fortune on a meal. But this deli is so much more than that—it has genuine potato knishes, hot dogs reminiscent of a New York City street vendor, and some of the best hot and cold sandwiches in this quadrant.
•READERS: Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette
•CRITICS: Sugarbeet, Longmont
We’re actually pretty happy that it seems to be cliché to place a restaurant into the genre “Seasonal American.” That means fresh ingredients from local vendors. Sugarbeet is excels in seasonal, and its popularity has skyrocketed because of this, forcing its owners to virtually double the size just one year after opening. Everything on the menu shines, especially a to-die-for filet and classics such as Lamb Osso Bucco and Pan Seared Monkfish Orzo.
•READERS: Runway Grill, Broomfield
•CRITICS AND READERS: Indulge Bakery, Lafayette
If you don’t like to bake, go see someone who will do it for you with the love and passion mom puts into every birthday cake, lemon tart pie or cinnamon roll. That’s what you get at Indulge, a bakery with perhaps one of the most fitting names you’ll find. After trying a blueberry scone, you’ll want to indulge in a ham and asparagus slice of quiche or a pumpkin pie or an almond croissant. Start your diet later.
•CRITICS AND READERS: Big Daddy Bagels, Lafayette
When Bunker’s Bagels went under almost a year ago, there was community outcry for the town’s mainstay bagel joint. Big Daddy, with locations already in Golden and Boulder, jumped at the chance to take over the turnkey business. They started making bagels the East Coast way—boiling instead of steaming—that garnered a few strange looks from Bunkers’ regulars. But they taste darn good, and Big Daddy has solidified itself as Lafayette’s bagel institution.
•CRITICS AND READERS: Ribhouse, Prospect, Longmont
Prospect is one of the North Metro’s most chic neighborhoods, with cafés, salons, yoga studios, fashion boutiques and a wine store. Still, Prospect somehow managed to pull in the best barbecue joint this side of Kansas City, with Ribhouse straying from the other Yuppie-inspired offerings. A slab of ribs is a good choice, but the pulled pork sandwich and sides such as fried mac and cheese, and cheesy corn satisfy
just as well.
• CRITICS: Lucile’s, Longmont
While the original in Boulder still amazes, we cannot emphasis how happy we are that the Lucile’s empire has expanded over the years into Longmont and Denver, Fort Collins and Steamboat. The Creole-style cooking offered in many of its dishes is the perfect way to start a weekend day. The Creole Omelet, with its spicy sausage and diced ham in a Creole sauce is ahh-mazing. A beignet is a must. Actually, to think of it, almost everything on the menu is a must. Again, thank you Lucille’s for expanding beyond your delicious Boulder beginning.
•READERS: The Huckleberry, Louisville
• CRITICS: Uptown Erie Café, Erie
Who says size doesn’t matter? When the Uptown Erie Café reopened last year, it tried to garner some attention by offering a near 10-pound burger. A short media circus followed, but it’s the massive breakfast burrito, complete with three scrambled eggs, potatoes, breakfast meats and cheddar rolled in a 12-inch flour tortilla and sopped in green chili, that keeps us returning.
• READERS: Santiago’s II Mexican Restaurant, Various
• CRITICS: O’s Restaurant, Westminster
Scrumptious eggs benedict, vegetable crepes with an Asian twist, chilaquiles and chorizo, waffles, pancakes and stuffed French toast—the list of breakfast entrées is enough to fill the satisfied bellies of every guest at The Westin, and you shouldn’t miss out just because you aren’t sleeping at the posh hotel that is home to O’s. The dining room is so sleek, you’ll feel like you’re brunching with the elite, even though you won’t have to spend like it—unless you overindulge on mimosas.
• READERS: Greenbriar Inn, Boulder
• CRITICS: Waterloo Icehouse, Louisville
If you’ve followed our restaurant coverage the last few months, you may be tiring of our mention of Waterloo’s Potato Burger. We make no apologies for our frequent recommendations—it’s that good. Potato shavings add the right amount of moisture to the half-pound Coleman beef patties. Plus, you can pile it as high as you want with toppings—avocados, bacon and pepper jack are our faves—without an added charge.
• READERS: Smash Burger, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Bloom, Broomfield
If all national chains were like Fox Restaurant Concepts, we would never complain about corporate giants. Fox, through its various concepts, has proven that corporate and fine dining can actually live together in this world. The Arizona-based restaurant group has three unique brands—Bloom, North and Sauce. All three are represented in the metro area, but we’re lucky enough to have the best, Bloom, in Broomfield.
• READERS: Chili’s Grill and Bar, Various
• CRITICS: Spice China, Louisville
There’s no contest here. The Shanghai Menu (the back half) is authentic Chinese food, or so we’re told. Regardless, the tastes are surprising and delicious. The basil chicken is remarkable. The tofu vegetable pot may be the best version of tofu available in the Front Range. And if you really want to step outside of your comfort zone, try the jellyfish. The American version of their menu (the front half) is great, too. But we visit for the authentic. Period.
• READERS: Ting’s Place, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Café de Paris, Louisville
We love that each cup of java is ground fresh and brewed singularly. The atmosphere is even more impressive, though. With an owner boasting Moroccan heritage, Café de Paris blends the unique northern African culture with classic European appointments. The tea sets are exquisite and the foreign soundtrack piping from the speakers is both intoxicating and energizing. There’s no better place to start the day or afternoon than this new addition to Old Town.
• READERS: Java Java, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Mike O’Shays Restaurant and Ale House, Longmont
Everything on Mike’s menu screams comfort: chicken fried steak, fish and chips, and Sheperd’s Pie, for example. And all of it is quite tasty, especially when washed down with one of the many beers on tap. Beyond the homey quality of the food, take comfort in Mike O’Shays being a legendary locals’ bar that’s been there for nearly 27 years in an area that is often rife with change.
• READERS: Two Dog Diner, Prospect, Longmont
• CRITICS: Colterra, then the Crestone Room of the Niwot Inn
It would be easy to pick Colterra as a great date night because it’s the best restaurant in our region and the beautiful home it is housed in reminds us of the French countryside. It’s more than that; the town of Niwot (we know it’s not actually a town) is Boulder County living at its finest. The summer air is filled with the music of evening festivals, you can walk hand and hand down Main Street checking out the local shops, and of course grab a bite off chef Bradford Heap’s dazzling menu. After a bottle of wine, some time spent in town, stay in the Crestone Room of the Niwot Inn, the premier room in the beautiful downtown hotel. Or you could just go home—but the grandparents are already babysitting, so why waste the opportunity?
• READERS: Nissi’s, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Nine 75 North, Westminster
While we almost shed a tear when we found out Nine 75 took its Twinkie Cake dessert off the menu, the rest of its sweets menu is still so freakin’ good that even the loss of our favorite couldn’t drop them from this accolade. The Rice Krispie Treats are simply devilish for anyone trying to keep a diet as are the Chocolate Truffle and the Pineapple Upside Down cakes.
• READERS: Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Two Dog Diner, Prospect, Longmont
Let’s face it, diners are the ultimate genre of restaurant to please the whole family. Kids love the classic countertop service, friendly staff members, no-kidding-around attitude, monster sandwiches, piles of egg creations and pancakes the size of your head. But most of these spots are “greasy spoons,” emphasis on the greasy. Two Dog bucks that with a fresh menu, interesting specials such as a Gouda mac and cheese. It’ll have you and your kids enjoying the food.
• READERS: Red Robin, Various
• CRITICS AND READERS: Tao Asian Fusion, Louisville
We’ve never fully understood what fusion really means. It’s one of those terms that gets thrown around quite often, especially in Colorado, which is a melting pot of cultures. Tao mixes just about every Asian style into its diverse menu, so we’re pretty sure it qualifies as fusion under most definitions—and it has the term in its name anyway. Regardless, Tao has become a favorite since opening last year. Its menu is balanced, offering fresh sushi and other Japanese-style dishes as well as typical Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese offerings. Everything is tasty, regardless which region you opt to dine from.
• CRITICS: La Botana, Thornton
One former Yellow Scene staffer was a Latina with intricate knowledge of the North Metro region. Before this staff member left, we were able to mine some of the secrets of the area when it comes to finding great, off-the-beaten-track Mexican restaurants. La Botana is certainly one of these gems, if for nothing else than its amazing green chile. Succulent pork and just the right amount of kick make this the ultimate addition to virtually any dish on the menu.
• READERS: Santiago’s II Mexican Restaurant, Various
• CRITICS: Flavor of India, Longmont
We’re never going to claim to be experts in Indian cuisine having never explored the vast country in person. We’re just hoping that the food there is as good as the version Flavor of India offers. We’ve explored the menu much like we’d love to explore Calcutta’s culture and haven’t found a dish we didn’t love. We could live off the veggie somosas and be content nibbling on Flavor’s nan and biriyani every day.
• READERS: Taj Mahal, Louisville
• CRITICS: Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante, Niwot
It’s been almost two years since Treppeda’s made the jump from casual lunch spot to great dinner-on-the-town status. We’re thankful for that move, as it gave Old Town Niwot two bona-fide destination restaurants within walking distance of each other. Embracing true Italian style, Treppeda’s offers an extensive menu of antipastas, salads and main courses meant to be eaten very, very slowly with friends, family or both. The dishes are simple and the ingredients are mostly local and organic—don’t miss the Mushroom Farrotto and Gorgonzola. An approachable wine list adds to it all. It’s often difficult to find good Italian in Colorado, so consider Treppeda’s a goldmine.
• READERS: Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette
• CRITICS: Sushi Jianken, Prospect, Longmont
This new eatery was in the running for best new
restaurant in the region, and for good reason. Delectable sushi dishes highlight the menu, but Jianken hasn’t skimped on other national dishes. Try the Maguro Poke, a mix of fresh raw tuna, avocado, sweet onion, chili marinade and yuzu cream. It’s one of the prettiest plates in the region. The seaweed salad is a great kick off, and there are endless small plate options.
• READERS: Sakura Japanese Cuisine, Longmont
• CRITICS: ¡Ajuua!, Niwot, Broomfield and Boulder
There’s just something a little more fun about ¡Ajuua!—perhaps it’s the exclamation point included in the name. It makes you want to scream “¡Ajuua!” prior to entering. The food backs up that euphoria with a mix of all the classics such as enchiladas, tacos, big combination plates and great margaritas. When owner Liberato Garcia bought the Boulder location in 1998, he officially crafted the mission statement to read: “To Become America’s Favorite Family Mexican Restaurant.” Ajuua!’s doing pretty well with captivating the North Metro market, anyway.
• READERS: Efrian’s Mexican Restaurant, Lafayette
New Restaurant (since April ’07)
• CRITICS AND READERS: Empire Restaurant, Louisville
A delayed opening in December made many gourmands a little antsy. How often does a sleepy little town get a chef with a James Beard nomination and a pedigree that includes Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, the Phoenician in Phoenix and Tante Louise in Denver? Not often. But when Jim Cohen teamed with Brendan McManus, who has run some of Denver’s biggest restaurants, Louisville got one high-end restaurant. The thing is, the menu is far from expensive. There are tasty small plates, elegant main courses, a hip vibe and a blackboard menu that changes nightly.
• CRITICS AND READERS: Martini’s Bistro, Longmont
There’s nothing better than sitting on one of the benches below a sleeping giant of a tree, sipping on a cocktail waiting for a delicious meal to present itself. While the food and libations are certainly a draw, we say the best reason to visit Martini’s in the summer is to sit on its expansive patio that jets out from the mansion-turned-restaurant. It gets great afternoon sun and is as relaxing as a snooze in a hammock.
• CRITICS: Village Bistro, Westminster
When you have to wow a client, show an employee how important he or she is, or celebrate a big business transaction, grab a table, order a bottle of the 2001 Penfolds Shiraz RWT, start with the Game Sausage and Cheese Plate, and finish with the Sirloin Steak Sandwich. The Bistro is elegant, conjuring a fun mix of urban trend with deep colors and leather couches that scream for you to linger long after the lunch bell rings.
• READERS: Village Tavern, Broomfield
• CRITICS: Hanna’s Specialty Foods, Lafayette
The true test of a delicatessen’s worth is its ability
to make a Reuben. If you can’t succeed in making one, you have no business being in business. Somehow, Hanna’s has been able to succeed with a far-from-classic version. The Hanna’s Reuben has six ounces of pastrami piled high with wasabi slaw, not kraut, and mixed with Gruyere cheese and Thousand Island dressing. Sure there’s a traditionalist somewhere thumbing his nose at the mere idea of the wasabi slaw, but that’s out of sheer ignorance. It is blissful, as is every other sandwich on the menu.
• READERS: Deli Zone, Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont
• CRITICS AND READERS: Tortugas, Longmont
For as long as we can remember, Tortugas has been the premier restaurant in Longmont as it had little competition in the way of fine dining. Lucky for area foodies, that is changing with a rush of more upscale restaurants opening inside city limits. Still, no one can touch Tortugas’ seafood dishes that have a kick of Cajun and Caribbean flavor that will have you dreaming of oceanside vacations.
• CRITICS: Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette
There’s just something so filling about the
gourmet pizza that comes out of Z’s ovens. Whether it be one of their fancy pies such as the Cippolla Gorgonzola (caramelized onions, bacon, Gorgonzola crumbles) or a simple slice of pepperoni at lunch, the Italian bistro in Atlas Valley always impresses. Let’s put it this way, a few of our critics are official East Coast Pizza Snobs; they leave Z’s with glowing remarks each visit.
• READERS: Proto’s Pizzeria, Boulder, Lafayette and Longmont
• CRITICS AND READERS: Colorado Coal Company, Erie
In the absence of a true classic Colorado chophouse in the region, we had to go looking a little harder to find a great steak. Sort of. It turns out, the best steakhouse around is a mere 12 feet from our office. We’ve discovered this time and time again while getting a post-deadline beer inside the historic neighborhood grill. We’ve always known the Coal Company for satisfying filets and ribeyes, but it’s the addition of a buffalo steak that propelled it above the others.
• CRITICS: Sushi Yoshi, Superior
We never thought we would find divine sushi in a strip mall, yet there is Sushi Yoshi, sitting in the shadow of Big Box retailers. It offers as good of a sushi experience as can be found in Denver or Boulder. In fact, the uni (sea urchin) might be the best in the Front Range for those with palates that can appreciate the taste. Creative dishes such as the New Style Sushi—a seared selection of classic sashimi—round out the menu.
• READERS: Sushi Zanmai, Boulder
• CRITICS: El Sabor Jerezano, Northglenn
A Northglenn staple for years, this family-run Mexican restaurant offers the kinds of tacos that you won’t find at Chipotle—authentic ones. The Tacos al Carbon are the highlight of the menu with marinated beef, a chili-based salsa kick served with sautéed onions, jalapeno and tomato bits. The other tacos are all on par—just mix in your meat of choice and other add-ons.
• READERS: Taco Bell, Various
• CRITICS AND READERS: Thai Kitchen, Longmont
And then there was one: This category went from zero restaurants competing to 100 and back to one in five years. Even though we have lost two local faves (Know Thai and Tim’s Thai) in the last few months, Thai food lovers can rest assured that this tiny restaurant tucked into a sleepy strip mall in north Longmont packs a powerful punch of flavors big enough to fill the void. And if you love a little pain, get a Thai hot not found in any hip, urban restaurant.
• CRITICS: Flavor of India, Longmont
It should not surprise that the best vegetarian food comes from the same place as the best Indian. Indian food is created around vegetable offerings; meaning Taste’s non-meat options are centerpieces, rather than afterthoughts. Start with a vegetable somosa, a crispy hearty pleasure that is mixed with garlic chutney. Then move on to the vegetable biryani, a dish that combines carrots, snap peas, beans and broccoli with basmati rice, nuts, raisins and a spicy curry—this is a f dish that can turn someone vegetarian. While we’re not suggesting you give up meat, it’d be better if we all scaled back a little. Taste’s menu will ease the transition.
• READERS: Sunflower Restaurant, Boulder
• CRITICS AND READERS: Buffalo Wild Wings, Westminster and Longmont
The snob in us had to be reminded that mega national chains started as little guys, too. And if it’s the best in the region, it doesn’t matter if there’s a corporate office behind the menu. Still it was hard for us to come to grips with picking a corporation for best wings. To drown our sorrows, we’ll be at Buffalo Wild Wings, enjoying a dozen wings with the classic hot sauce on them and a Wet-Nap nearby.