EC.c : Colterra
Ever since leaving Boulder (Chautauqua Dining Hall and Full Moon Grill) and taking the reins at Colterra (formerly le Chantecler) in Niwot, owner and chef Bradford Heap has kicked his menu offerings up a notch by rediscovering his own back yard. The southern French and northern Italian offerings upon which his Boulder reputation was built get the local treatment here with a near fanatical use of meats, cheeses and produce found no further than easy cycling distance from his kitchen. The result is basic yet sumptuous cuisine that proves doing a simple thing with style is preferable to doing a flamboyant thing without it. From the seven-hour braised Colorado lamb shank you could eat with a spoon to the velvety perfection of the vanilla bean crème brulée, Colterra is the culinary white balance against which other Boulder County restaurants are measured.
EC.r : Sugarbeet
BD.c : Frasca
Not long ago, the only reason Boulder made anyone’s fine dining list was thanks to the venerable House up on the hill. Today, a herd of world-class chefs are plating breathtaking dishes all over the county. But the leader of the pack, by a local farmer’s mile, is Frasca. Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey and Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson—Frasca co-owners who both matriculated from the iconic French Laundry—have assembled a virtually flawless restaurant in every regard. The northern Italian menu changes to reflect the fresh foods of the season. And the wines, perfectly paired by Stuckey on request, will thrill your palate at any price. It’s no wonder that almost immediately upon opening, the wait for a table was measured not in hours but in weeks. If you just can’t wait, join the local fan club and grab a seat at the bar when the place opens at 5:30pm.
BD.r : The Mediterranean
New Restaurant Since April ’08
EC.c : Terroir
Let’s just be honest, Longmont eatery Terroir opened more than 12 months ago, making it just a little too mature to be considered “new”—but we don’t care. Opening on Dec. 31, 2007, Terroir New American Cuisine has since inhabited a special place in our hearts. It has a little to do with the truffled steak fries and a lot to do with the grilled cheese. Truly, Terroir, you’ll always be new to us.
EC.r : Terroir
BD.c : Arugula
With sunlight streaming in and reflecting off the pure white walls, Boulder’s Arugula just feels fresh and enlightened. And the food ain’t bad either. Don’t leave without sampling the cheese and cured meats—you might not be able to pronounce them, but who needs to say bernina bresaola when you can eat it? Arugula also has killer service, so you’ll never feel neglected.
BD.r : Cantina Laredo
EC.c : Mexico Cantina Y Cocina
Mexico Cantina Y Cocina in Westminster, a modern, enticing restaurant, feels like anything but a chain. In fact, the company only has one other location—in Seattle. Rest assured, then, that your experience will be a far cry from stereotypical chain Mexican food. The kitchen takes its inspiration from the interior and coastlines of Mexico, blended with a traditional European culinary elegance, meaning that the food and drink here taste as good as they look, which is really saying something.
EC.r : Chili’s
BD.c : Walnut Brewery
Brewmaster Rodney Taylor takes his suds very seriously, and it shows when you take a sip of any of the brews on tap at Boulder’s original brewpub. Picking a chain brewpub might seem a little controversial in this land of microbrews, but it should also show how serious we think this place is. Chain or not, it’s a great place to grab a burger and a pint with friendly atmosphere, good beer and a great location.
BD.r : P.F. Chang’s
EC.c : Empire
Louisville’s Empire calls its menu “serious campfire food;” we call it amazing. Executive chef Jim Cohen combines the best local, seasonal ingredients to create comfort food that might be—dare we say—better than mama used to make. The menu changes with the seasons, but we bet you’ll find something to satisfy, regardless of the date. The atmosphere finds its niche somewhere between a neighborhood favorite and a destination restaurant and ends up with a comfortable familiarity you’ll want to return to again and again.
EC.r : Zamparelli’s
BD.c : Conor O’Neill’s
It might be the Hibernophile (lover of all things Irish) in us, but everything about Conor O’Neill’s generous pub menu croons comfort: lamb stew, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, hash and eggs, curry and chips—color us satisfied. Whatever time of day you visit this Boulder tavern, you’re sure to find a favorite. And if it’s paired with a pint, so much the better. Try something new; you might be surprised to find a cottage boxty your new go-to for comfort food.
BD.r : Turley’s
EC.c : Sugarbeet
The voice in the field said it best: “If you build it, they will come.” And if you create delicious food and serve it in comfortable and casual surroundings, customers will hunt you down. Sugarbeet chef/owner Seth Witherspoon knows this and has assembled a select collection of trophy dishes—bistro steak with peppercorn cognac sauce; pan roasted chicken with cranberry-apricot chutney—that have produced a loyal and enthusiastic foodie following. Sugarbeet is a big reason Longmont no longer cowers in the culinary shadow of Boulder.
EC.r : Sugarbeet
BD.c : The Kitchen
In my most obscene fantasy, I’m held “hostage” at The Kitchen and cannot leave until I’ve enjoyed a perfectly paired meal with every wine and beer in their magnificent cellar. I know the Bolognese is the best you can get your fork on anywhere on the Front Range. But in my fantasy, I’d get to find out how it goes with a 1999 Chateau Pavie. And the list of beers that award-winning wine director Karim Boulet has assembled is equally obscene. I figure that getting through such an ordeal would take a solid two years. Oh, darn. At least the unpretentious and comfortable surroundings would take the edge off. And in that time, I’d get to sample the crazy good dishes that chefs and co-owners Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Musk create from locally procured ingredients. Double darn.
BD.r : The Kitchen
EC.c : The Rib House
Any place that serves cheesy corn by the quart is OK by us. Oh yeah—and they also serve ribs. The owners, born and raised in Kansas City, Mo., decided that Colorado needed an authentic barbecue joint, and Longmont’s Rib House was born. If you think Colorado doesn’t do barbecue, go forth and be educated. Try a sampler platter (to taste as much as possible), pick your sides (and make everyone else get something different so you can try them all) and if you’re too stuffed for dessert, order it to go.
EC.r : The Rib House
BD.c : KT’s
Restaurants don’t last for 15 years in Boulder without having something special, and KT’s has definitely built a loyal following. The meats are hickory smoked until they’re so tender they literally fall apart, the sauces are home made, and Kirk’s Killer Beans are, well, killer.
BD.r : KT’s
EC.c : Spice China
Whether you’re craving General Tso’s chicken or white pepper sesame eel (and really, when are you not craving white pepper sesame eel?), Louisville’s Spice China delivers. Their massive, novel-length menu offers American favorites up front with familiar dishes like beef with broccoli as well as house specialties like Aunt Tai’s curry shrimp. In back, the “Shanghai Menu” offers a selection of more traditional Chinese dishes for the adventurous palate. And whether you choose to wash it down with a Fat Tire or Haiku Gekkeikan Premium Select sake,
the experience will surely inspire future cravings.
EC.r : Spice China
BD.c : Golden Lotus
We couldn’t call a Chinese restaurant “best” if they couldn’t do justice to the Americanized standards—sweet and sour, mu shu and kung pao-style favorites—and Golden Lotus in Boulder handles them all with aplomb. But we love a place that branches out and entices us to do the same. Try one of Golden Lotus’ “gourmet entrees,” which include tantalizing dishes with poetic names like “Seven Stars Around Moon,” “Seafood Bird’s Nest” and “Dragon & Phoenix” that appeal to all the senses.
BD.r : Golden Lotus
EC.c : O’s Restaurant
Usually when we say fusion, we mean some contemporary amalgamation of Asian culinary traditions. But at O’s—located within The Westin in Westminster—chef Ian Kleinman is fusing science and cuisine for his molecular gastronomy tasting menu, which is $50 for one, $75 with champagne. A mad scientist of a chef, Kleinman uses everything from liquid nitrogen to a blowtorch to make all sorts of tantalizing, odd and delicious treats. It’s the kind of fusion that makes you say, “O.”
EC.r : Fusion Food & Spirits
BD.c : Bimbamboo
Somehow, Bimbamboo’s atmosphere—a fresh yet quirky vibe of bright colors and contemporary lines—and food—a creative combination of Malaysian, Thai, East Indian, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine with a modern twist—just make you feel happy and kind of exotic. Serving dishes like the soba noodle pancake or the Korean beef wrap with house-made kimchi in whole wheat roti, Boulder’s Bimbamboo is pretty much like the world was wrapped up in a spring roll and served with tamarind chutney.
BD.r : Bimbamboo
EC.c : Flavor of India
There’s a Yellow Scene staffer who once shared a secret urge to bathe in a tub of masala. We thought that was pretty odd. But at Flavor of India in Longmont, you sort of understand where she’s coming from. With an expansive menu—including plenty of masala—Flavor of India mixes the exotic with the comfortable, almost like a nice warm bath.
EC.r : Flavor of India
BD.c : Bombay Bistro
With a mixture of traditional and modern takes on Indian classics, Bombay Bistro is Boulder’s go-to spot for the Republic’s Indian wants and needs. Plus, in the comfort of the warm yet chic eatery, diners tend to be doted on and treated especially nicely. Oh, a mangotini, you say? Yes, I think I will.
BD.r : Himalayas Restaurant
EC.c : Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante
Thank God for evolution. Treppeda’s Italian Ristorante—whether in its past incarnation as a gourmet lunch counter or in its current state as a fine dining Italian restaurant in Niwot—pleases the discerning masses with its intoxicatingly delicious and novel alternatives to the standards. This Italian stallion ditches the über traditional spaghetti-and-meatballs fare for dishes like agnello siciliana and bistecca alla griglia.
EC.r : Zamparelli’s
BD.c : Radda Trattoria
Radda Trattoria is inspired. You can feel it in the warmth of the smooth hustle and bustle on a Friday night. You can feel it in the thoughtful menu and hearty Italian creations. You can feel it in the laughter from the groups that gather around Radda’s tables, the inspired conversation, the satisfied smiles of those who walk out the doors and into another world—a world where restaurants are just places to eat.
BD.r : Laudisio
EC.c : Sakura
There’s nothing modish, frilly or overly festooned about Sakura. It’s simple. And that’s simply the way we like it. Truly, the quality of and passion for the Japanese classics are what sets Sakura apart: Whether it’s sushi or dishes like tempura, sukiyaki or katsu, Sakura is simply and sweetly good food.
EC.r : Sakura
BD.c : Sushi Zanmai
Attracting a following of super-fans, this Boulder favorite has superb service and a dynamic menu—a seductive list of sushi, famous rolls and a diverse array of Japanese favorites. The ambience is the other half of this clever puzzle overflowing with enthusiastic fun. Just tell the servers it’s your birthday and watch what happens; you’ll be treated to the finest singing of “Happy Birthday” by a bunch of Japanese chefs you ever heard.
BD.r : Sushi Zanmai
EC.c : Martini’s Bistro
Patiophiles are a stalwart bunch. Who else would risk sunburn and nature’s elements for the sake of their modus operandi? But Martini’s makes things a little more civilized with tables, couches, heat lamps, umbrellas and a fire pit—preparations for whatever Mother Nature has in store. Plus, the only thing better than sitting on a patio on a Colorado spring day is sitting on a patio with a martini on a Colorado spring day.
EC.r : Martini’s Bistro
BD.c : Chautauqua Dining Hall
At its most basic, Chautauqua Dining Hall is an institution. But beyond its history and tradition and its status as a local favorite, this national historic landmark’s wraparound porch provides diners with amazing views—it’s the cherry on the top of Chautauqua’s glorious sundae of hikes, concerts and more.
BD.r : The Mediterranean
EC.c : Tortuga’s
It can be challenging to find good seafood in a land-locked state—for obvious reasons. Luckily, we have Tortuga’s in Longmont bringing a taste of the coastline to Boulder County. A blackboard of not-to-be-missed catches of the day augments the deceptively simple menu—a tutorial to us landlubbers of what great seafood can be.
EC.r : Tortuga’s
BD.c : Jax Fish House
There’s no such thing as a “quiet dinner” at Jax in Boulder, but we think that’s a good thing. Belly up to the bar for some fresh oysters or shooters with the house-made five-pepper vodka or sit down at a table with friends and order fried oysters, peel-and-eat shrimp, crab cakes, pan-seared scallops and the catch of the day.
BD.r : Jax Fish House
EC.c : Colorado Coal Company
Better known as CCC, Colorado Coal Company has delicious steaks and other beefy fare in a great atmosphere that belies its small-town setting. Its location in Old Town Erie only adds a flavor of authenticity to the menu. Stop by on Wednesdays for all-you-can-eat fish and chips, or Fridays for prime rib specials.
EC.r : Magnolia
BD.c : Boulder Chop House and Tavern
Stepping into the Chop House feels like stepping back in time to the 1940s, when dining out was an occasion to be savored. The menu, however, is thoroughly modern with all-natural beef, free-range chicken, fresh fish and seasonal, locally grown vegetables. Pair your steak with a selection from their extensive wine list to round out your relaxed yet regal meal.
BD.r : Boulder Chop House and Tavern
EC.c : Sushi Jianken
This artsy sushi bar fits right in with the new urbanism neighborhood of Prospect, where it makes its home. The sushi is impeccably fresh and expertly made with something to please both newbies or the most seasoned sushi fanatic. The experience is also decadent, with some of the most artfully plated dishes we’ve ever seen. The sculptural creations that come out of the kitchen at Jianken are some of the prettiest and tastiest dishes you’ll find.
EC.r : Sakura
BD.c : Sushi Zanmai
Fish is king in the festive atmosphere at Sushi Zanmai. Servers and chefs alike take their craft very seriously, which creates an attentive ambience only heightened by the quality of the food. Traditional favorites like fatty tuna give way to more exotic delicacies like urchin and octopus, or find their way into exotic rolls. Everything is prepared fresh, while you watch, either at the bar or tableside, and accompanied by the dulcet sounds of karaoke if you happen to be dining late.
BD.r : Sushi Zanmai
EC.c : Thai Kitchen
There’s something homey and comforting about the flavors of Thai food, even though we’re not even a little bit Asian. Maybe it’s because Thai Kitchen in Longmont is family-run business, with family recipes on the menu. They do an amazing job with our personal favorites. In fact, we feel better just thinking about it.
EC.r : Thai Kitchen
BD.c : Khow Thai
Since its grand opening in 2002, Khow Thai has become a Boulder institution, winning tons of awards for best Thai food. We’re normally not ones to follow the crowd, but in this case, we can’t help ourselves, because the accolades are so well deserved. Try any of chef Toi’s specialties for a real Thai treat.
BD.r : Chy Thai
EC.c : Saigon Pho Grill
Westminster’s Saigon Pho Grill is a surprise to many, tucked into a nice strip mall amid video rental places and dry cleaners on Federal. The food is authentic and delicious, with Vietnamese favorites like fried shrimp cakes and pho, as well as more eclectic and original fare like delicious Vietnamese young chicken. Don’t let the location fool you: This is hip Southeast Asian cuisine at its best.
EC.r : Saigon Pho Grill
BD.c : Chez Thuy
If the name weren’t enough to woo you into Chez Thuy (pronounced shay twee—how fun is that?), the food should be. Definitely try the house specialty: soft-shell crab deep fried in a light batter and served with fresh lettuce, mint, cucumbers, bean sprouts and nuoc mam sauce for dipping. You’ll be a convert with one bite.
BD.r : Chez Thuy
EC.c : Richard’s On 3rd
Not 100 percent vegetarian, Richard’s On 3rd is nevertheless the place we go when we want great veggie fare. Glorious sandwiches and tongue-tyingly good Southwest specialties (accented by great green chile, as we mentioned earlier) make this a standout. Ask to sit in the courtyard when the weather is fine.
EC.r : Whole Foods
BD.c : Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
Vegetarian fine-dining restaurants are hard to come by, but Leaf Vegetarian is a definitive example of the genre. The cuisine is called vegetarian global and spans flavors from barbecue to South American to Italian. Many meals are vegan or can be made so, which is even more rare in the fine dining world. For veg-heads and omnivores alike, try the prix-fixe menu: three courses for $26.
BD.r : Sunflower
EC.c : Left Hand Brewing
The Front Range is often called the Napa of Beer—and we say, California can have its Zins and Pinots. We’ll happily opt for a pint of Left Hand Brewing’s Sawtooth any day. Expanding recently and continuously garnering awards, Left Hand’s brews are local favorites and the tasting room is a mainstay for beer wonks, tourists and casual beer-lovers alike.
EC.r : Left Hand Brewing
BD.c : Avery
We don’t care what Pete Coors keeps telling us, simple beer is so 1995. These days, it’s cool to be complex. Avery Brewing’s English- and Belgian-style ales are not for binge drinking or games of beer pong. Avery’s creations are serious—and seriously drinkable. It’s all about unique and adventurous recipes challenging drinkers’ palates.
BD.r : Walnut Brewery
EC.c : Bloom
It’s been a long week, and you need to settle into the weekend. Wine is likely the answer. At Bloom in Broomfield, you’ll find a solid list of lovely options. With a selection that spans from the Central Coast to the heart of the Rhone Valley, Bloom’s wine menu is not patronizing or inaccessible. And get an introduction to Bloom’s vino by tackling the flights.
EC.r : Terroir
BD.c : Greenbriar Inn
OK, Greenbriar Inn, we get it. You have an exceptional wine list. You have amazing food and tremendous service. You have a Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.” You are a Mobil Travel Guide three-star winner. It’s a good thing it’s all true and we agree wholeheartedly; don’t let it go to your head.
BD.r : (tie) Frasca and Greenbriar Inn
EC.c : Zamparelli’s
Eastern Boulder County’s best-kept pizza secret has to be Zamparelli’s. The lure of Jimmy and Nancy’s delicious pastas, salads and sandwiches is strong, but once you crunch into a slice of the brick oven pizza, the rest tends to disappear. Toppings include the usual suspects as well as delicious combinations of such “exotics” as four different kinds of peppers, cannellini beans, imported pepperoni, fontina, cambazola and pecorino cheeses, poached pears and caramelized onions. Go ahead, take your tongue out to play.
EC.r : Zamparelli’s
BD.c : Proto’s
This is how pizza should be. Fresh, flavorful and fundamental ingredients are the foundation of Pam Proto’s Napoletana-style pies now celebrating 10 years in Boulder County. The homemade sauce and dough are baked in imported pizza ovens from Rome and when you order olives, you get real kalamatas, not the flavorless black disks the delivery chains use. The difference, as is instantly apparent with every pizza, is astounding.
BD.r : Proto’s
EC.c : Waterloo
The attractions are plenty at Louisville’s Waterloo. The music, the Texas barbecue, the righteous mac’n cheese and the gracious wait staff are all legit reasons to visit. But the sublime burgers—made with a half pound of natural Coleman beef (or ground bison, if you’re rollin’ with the buff burger)—will keep you coming back. And give the potato burger a chance. Shredded spud is kneaded into each patty making for one juicy burger.
EC.r : Pumphouse
BD.c : The Sink
Its 86-year history (Robert Redford worked here during his college days) and décor of compelling caricatures of much-aged or long-forgotten Boulder denizens might be reason enough to hit the Sink. But the fact that this subterranean icon of The Hill serves a damn fine burger is an even better reason. Yes, they offer chicken, turkey, tofu and garden versions, but stick with the all-natural Colorado beef or buffalo to find out what “great” tastes like.
BD.r : Red Robin
EC.c : Little Fig
I first discovered Little Fig at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, at home between stalls overflowing with fresh vegetables or flowers. I would pass close to the table to take a sample of their unique wine crackers and make another pass on our way back down the row…and then maybe one more for the road. Offering dozens of handcrafted products, Little Fig is the Mediterranean patisserie of your dreams—that just happens to be in Longmont.
EC.r : Indulge Bakery (Little Fig, honorable mention)
BD.c : Breadworks
To be honest, Boulder’s Breadworks could have won this category on the strength of their brownies alone. But all their creations—which use only the highest quality ingredients, including 100 percent organic, stone-ground flour—are award-worthy: from the buttery croissants that practically melt in your mouth to the selection of beautiful, crusty artisan breads. Because man cannot live by brownie alone (no matter how much we try).
BD.r : Great Harvest
EC.c : Martini’s Bistro
The dessert menu at Martini’s seems to take the old “two great tastes that taste great together” chestnut and exploit it to its logical extremes. How else could they come up with creations like cheesy brulée, a New York cheesecake with a caramelized top? Or the Blimey, a key lime filling in a flaky butter crust topped with a light lime cheesecake? Why choose one when you can get two?
EC.r : Indulge Bakery
BD.c : L’Atelier
Chef Radek Cerny has taken the concept of molecular gastronomy to the dessert menu, offering unusual dishes with a signature chocolate foam. The Griottes feature brandy-marinated cherries with chocolate foam, the Hot Love offers warm berries, Grey Goose vodka and chocolate foam; but if you want to impress, order the Window of Chocolate: chocolate foam, crème anglaise and berries.
BD.r : Cheesecake Factory