Best food in a casual setting
Lafayette’s 503 Café is a tuxedo meal in a jeans setting.
Best personality you’ll find at a restaurant
Arabesque’s Manal Jarrar
Arabesque’s owner, Manal Jarrar, has a big personality. It’s motherly and ferociously straightforward. She knows she has mad cooking skills—and she’s right. 1634 Walnut St., Boulder
We can debate all day who has the best BoCo barbecue, but this Texas girl gives Lulu’s the title for brisket, hands down. 701 Main St., Louisville,
Most happy restaurant experience
Two Dog Diner
There is something in the eggs, here. Because whenever I leave Two Dog Diner, after a late breakfast or quick lunch, I seem to feel better about the world. How can you deny the Two Dog mood bump? Especially in a sunny room with hot coffee and a plate of eggs stuffed with shrimp, pesto and goat cheese. 645 Tenacity Dr., Longmont
Best “freebie” with dinner
The warm, French cheese puffs called gougères that Beehive serves gratis with your meal or beverage take the concept of restaurant freebies to an impressive new level. 2018 10th St., Boulder
Best quick, cheap lunch
Marco’s Hot Dogs
Just four words: bacon-wrapped hot dogs.
1647 Kimbark St., Longmont
Biggest BoCo restaurant trend
In 2011 it was pizzerias, but in 2012 taquerias dominated our restaurant landscape. And we’re not complaining. Taste the trend at Comida in Longmont, Pica’s Taqueria in Boulder or La Revolucion Taqueria y Cantina in Louisville.
Best place to grab a beer in Niwot
Bootstrap Brewing Company
This family-run neighborhood Niwot brewery is already a favorite of the locals. It’s worth the trek for the rest of us for the excellent brews and the “everybody knows your name” atmosphere. 6778 N 79th St., Niwot
Crispy and sweet, the fried softshell crab at Chez Thuy is the stuff that dreams are made of. Served with a fish sauce for dipping, this dish could run for president and potentially win.
It’s just that good. Chez Thuy’s massive menu has numerous vote-worthy dishes.
Best cup of coffee
Boxcar Coffee Roasters
Ordering coffee at Boxcar is a little like visiting a mad scientist in his lab: whirring machines, glass beakers, precision timing, strange contraptions. Order a cup and be mesmerized by the process (and the handsome baristas in waistcoats). 1400 Pearl St., Boulder
Best dining experience
FORK Social Lab
It’s not a restaurant; it’s not a club. FORK is in a category all its own, offering culinary classes and intimate social dining experiences that cannot be replicated. Sign up for a delicious one-of-a-kind experience. 639 Main St., Louisville
Best eating class
Cured’s Cheese 101
Learn to appreciate more than just cheddar in this comprehensive yet digestible introduction to the cheese plate. 1825 Pearl St., Boulder
Best restaurant to discover again
Jill’s at the St. Julien
If you haven’t been to Jill’s in a while, it might be worth another look. Order something en flambé tableside for a memorable date night or take advantage of their weekday Tuscan Table lunch, which is one of the best values in town (all you care to eat for $11.95). 900 Walnut St., Boulder
Best cooking class
Piece, Love and Chocolate classes
Learn to whip up the sorts of desserts that will make you a legend in your own kitchen: chocolate soufflés, flourless chocolate torts, molten chocolate lava cake, truffles, eclairs… The chocolatrices here make it all seem infinitely doable. 805 Pearl St., Boulder
Il Mondo Vecchio closing
It’s a sad example of what’s wrong with our country’s food safety program when a small business making artisan products, with no safety violations, is forced to choose between cost-prohibitive additional testing, putting additives in their product or shutting their doors. Food safety is an important function of our government, but the process is broken, especially when it comes to small artisan producers, and our only Colorado-based salumi operation is one of the latest casualties.
Best use of kale
Oak at Fourteenth’s Honey Crisp and Kale salad
Move over, lettuce. This salad—with thinly sliced Honey Crisp apples, parmesan and candied almonds—will make even kale haters crave their veggies.
El Milagro del Cerdo dinner at Pica’s Mexican Taqueria
Gather 10 of your best friends and book yourself the milagro del cerdo dinner at Pica’s to experience the miracle of the pig. 5360 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
I’ve tried a lot of Boulder breakfasts in the last year, but the house-made pastries, French press coffee and perfect accompaniments at Café Aion still make the top of my list. When I dream of breakfast, it looks like a Café Aion bagel and lox. 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder
Best micro-roasted coffee
Paul’s Coffee has a quiet presence in the McCaslin area of Louisville. But once inside, you’ll find that this coffee shop is more than just a coffee shop. Pick up a bag of house-roasted Bebop blend, a dark but subtle roast, to take home. You’ll soon find yourself relying on Paul’s coffee morning after morning.
Best New Mexico-style enchiladas
Kachina Southwestern Grill
When it comes to enchiladas, it takes a lot to impress me, but the New Mexico-style stacked, blue corn chicken enchiladas with green chile at Kachina in Westminster come as close to Santa Fe as you can get this far north of the border. 10600 Westminster Blvd., Westminster
Best new desserts
Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery
This little shop is like something out of a modern fairy tale, with giant whisks for light fixtures, platters of ethereal glittering candy floss behind the counter and display cases full of the sorts of treats to make any sweet tooth sigh with pleasure. Outstanding cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pastries and gelato for the asking. 3990 Broadway St., Boulder
Best summer hotspot
While ice cream may not tempt your hibernating tastebuds right now, come summer, you’ll be craving the cold, creamy treat. Bring the kids and head down to Sweet Cow, where they’ve retrofitted the parking lot into a big awesome play/lounge area. Oh, and they have insanely good ice cream. 637 Front St., Louisville