We go out to eat because we want to be spolied, becuase we need a break from cooking, because we love a good reason to dress up and go out. These are the places you need to know, one plate at a time.
Jax Fish House, Boulder – We stopped in just after they opened at 4 p.m. to check out Happy Hour. We tried the strawberry-infused vodka lemonade, habanero paloma, and peel-and-eat shrimp, which was prepped right there in front of us. All infused vodkas are made in-house. The mustard and cocktail sauces with the peel-and-eat shrimp were delightful. This is a perfect place to drop in with anyone, whether your parents are in town and you want to grab a quick bite and catch up, or you and your friends need to unwind after a long day of work.
Corner Bar at Hotel Boulderado, Boulder – Our server, Lindsey was fantastic – knowledgeable about the menu and quick to get us drinks. I tried their signature Manhattan. My friend, Kat, tried the Boulder Mule. I usually dislike manhattans, but this one was perfectly balanced; I can see why it’s a signature. If you like whiskey, you will love this. The Boulder Mule is a great choice for an afternoon on the patio. Fridays they have live music and Happy Hour.
Tangerine, Boulder – The Boulder brunch spot opened in 2011. Chicken and waffles is a staff favorite. The hip, modern restaurant was full to capacity, even toward the end of brunch service. We shared the poached eggs on salad entree. It was a large salad topped with two poached eggs, fresh charred asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, and fennel. My favorite part of the meal was the delicious trio of homemade jams that came with the toast. Had it been socially acceptable, I would have drank them straight from the container – you absolutely must try them. They recently opened a new location in Lafayette.
Brewing Market, Boulder – Family owned since 1977. My parents used to go here when they went to CU. It’s still one of my mom’s favorite places. They have a wide variety of coffee beans and an impressive loose leaf tea selection. We met the roaster, Andrew, at the Arapahoe location. He was very knowledgeable and helpful in picking out beans. The Timor is a versatile bean to buy and the breakfast tea was subtle. Still the same great place my parents fell in love with and the Nitro Cold Brew is worth going back for.
Big Daddy Bagels, multiple Colorado locations – The Longmont location opened in 1996. All bagels are baked in store and made from scratch. They also have sandwiches, salads, and coffee/smoothies. Try the Four Corners for breakfast, Big Momma for lunch, or Becky’s Breakfast shake for something on the healthier side. If you check them out online keep in mind that mouthwatering pizza menu is only available at their Golden location.
BOBS Sandwich Shop, Louisville – Now BOBS Diner. Same great food with an expanded menu. I’m sensing a theme in my suggestions but when there’s something on the menu called, “I Can’t Decide” it needs to be ordered. It comes with two eggs, two sausage patties, two pieces of bacon, and two pancakes. It makes a great plate to share. They use organic local vodka in their Bloody Mary’s. If burritos are more your speed, the Kitchen Sink is massive and gratifying. If you’re in the mood for a more standard lunch option the blackened salmon is satisfying and pairs well with the spicy red eye or local draught.
Dark Horse, Boulder – The Dark Horse opened their doors in 1975. Fun fact: my parents had one of their first dates here. I wrote my name next to theirs on the wall. Awesome burgers, wings, and amazing atmosphere. You’ll likely end up making a new eccentric friend at the bar. It’s laid-back and completely unpretentious, and so are the people that work there. This is one of those places you have to pop in at least once, especially if it’s game day.
Dot’s Diner, Boulder – The go-to for hangover brunch. Dot’s has been serving up classic diner food since the 70s. The decor will take you back there with its checkered floors and small booths. It’s the kind of place you’ll find aging regulars packed in next to Buffs slouched over a plate of food trying to forget (or remember) last night. Our recommendation: Get the house breakfast with a cinnamon roll.
Eats and Sweets, Lafayette – Soups, salads, Sweet Action Ice cream. Every summer they do an ice cream eating contest around the Fourth of July. The winner gets free ice cream for a year. Start prepping now kids, the two categories are 12 and under or 13 and over. If you want Eats and Sweets to come to you they now have a food truck available.
Efrain’s Restaurant, Boulder and Longmont – Awesome authentic North Mexican food. The restaurant is named after the owner’s Dad, Efrain. People keep coming back because it’s delicious and you can taste the love. Longtime favorites are the award-winning blue corn enchiladas. They pair well with the Premier Margarita. The Efrain Coin Margarita is another good one. But be careful, those margaritas can sneak up on you.
Huckleberry, Louisville – They have amazing pies, but everyone recommends you try the latkes – they’re delicious and authentic. But if you only do one thing, you have to go for afternoon tea. They also have childrens’ tea parties, which would make a fun and unique birthday party.
Boulder Vapor Distillery, Boulder – This was the first legal distillery in Boulder County, opened 2007. You can sample spirits in their tasting room or sit at the bar. It’s a great place to meet with friends after work. They brought home several awards this year from the 2018 San Francisco World Spirits competition. The Boulder Bourbon Whiskey is my favorite award-winner; drink it on the rocks, or enjoy it in your favorite mixed drink. It pairs well with ginger beer and lime. The award-winning Ginskey is another good one. The floral gin notes make it a good one to mix with soda water and lime.
Lulu’s BBQ, Boulder – Texas Hill Country style BBQ. I hadn’t realized there were so many different types of BBQ. Avoid trying to decide what part of the menu to eat and to get a sample platter. They also make a delicious BBQ tofu for those that love BBQ and animals. It pairs beautifully with your favorite local beer.
Martini’s Bistro. Longmont – A date night favorite since 1990. For Happy Hour visit your happy place, it’s delicious. You’ll want to arrange a ride or a designated driver so you can enjoy the martini’s. The Bikini; Bond, James Bond; Gingerdrop; and Mex and the City are all highly recommended, as are the bacon wrapped scallops, Fiery Fettuccine, and grilled Irish salmon.
Mateo, Boulder – Opened in 2001. Chef/Owner Matthew Jansen’s love of food and Boulder is palpable. It’s survived because it makes Provence food approachable. They also have a killer Happy Hour menu and a wine list that will make you melt. Try the plateau provençal and a glass of Château Combel-la-Serre.
Moe’s Broadway Bagels, four Boulder locations, two Denver locations, Louisville: These guys are a bagel staple. Even after decades in business, the owners are still very involved. If you’re in a rush this is a great place to stop for a quick bagel breakfast sandwich and a delicious cup of coffee. It will make your commute painless. They also make a wonderful challah for Shabbat dinner on Fridays.
Old Santa Fe Grill, Louisville – Kitschy, but delicious. Stop in for kids-eat-free Sundays when they have a balloon animal artist from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Taco Tuesdays feature $1.50 tacos. They also have a great Happy Hour featuring 2 for 1 margaritas everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Have your friends meet you after work, share the margaritas and one of the platters.
Village Coffee Shop, Boulder – Like Dot’s, this place is magic when you decided it was a good idea to drink the entire bottle of vodka. Also perfect if you’re on a road trip. This is a place you have to stop into on your way through Boulder. If you let them know it’s your first time you’ll be welcome in with a round of applause from the staff and patrons alike. You’ll be treated like family, well if it’s the one aunt that tells slightly inappropriate stories but mixes really good drinks. Solid diner food, the blueberry pancakes are a favorite in my family. For those of you that are particular about your gravy – you can get white or brown gravy here.
Walnut Cafe/Southside Walnut Cafe, two Boulder locations, Lafayette – This has been a cornerstone of the community for years. The must try list includes their: waffles, Denver omelette, vegetarian Sloppy Joes, and apple pie. Pair any of their homemade pies with Dana D’s Vanilla Blast Off!, a triple shot of espresso, vanilla, and a secret. They have a foundation and do a lot of charitable work, which is what sets them apart. It’s always lovely to see groups giving back as selflessly as the Walnut Cafe does.
Zolo Southwestern Grill, Boulder – Two words: tequila bar. The food is good, the tequila is better, you won’t be disappointed. They have IXÁ organic tequila on their menu. I haven’t been able to find this anywhere else in the states. The agaves are cooked in clay ovens before fermentation and distillation which gives the tequila a distinct flavor. You don’t need to do anything to this tequila just order it to sip on while you enjoy the salsa sampler. The Hazel Dell Mushroom Empanada and redfish tacos are also highly recommended.
Asti D’italia, Westminster – This is your usual Italian place, Tuscan style. Great wine list. The shrimp scampi and mussels are highly recommended. You can get wine by the glass, bottle, or flight. They also offer authentic Italian sodas with or without milk. The ambiance is relaxed, the food approachable, and the staff knows the menu, ask your server for their thoughts on drink and food pairings.
Black Pepper Pho, Boulder – They have really great and approachable food. You can order through HungryBuffs.com which makes this an easy one for group orders. Definitely worth checking out next time everyone in the office wants to order food together. They can work with a wide range of food allergies and restrictions. So even “that guy” will be able to find something that works. The Pho is delicious.
Breadworks Bakery and Cafe, Boulder – We used to stop in here every weekend after rock climbing at the Flatirons. The food hasn’t changed since the first time I stopped in (after they opened in 1995). They pride themselves on simple organic breads and pastries. They have a great a la carte menu. The turkey sandwich with cherry compote is a favorite. Their day old breads make great bases for bread puddings.
Chophouse, Boulder, multiple Colorado locations – The Chophouse is entwined with date night or celebrations. They have a refined and elegant atmosphere. You feel fancy just walking in. The Woodford Bourbon Stout is amazing, but if you prefer lighter beers try the Dortmunder Lager. Don’t forget to ask your server about the Brewer’s Marker, there have been some truly delightful beers in the past. Awesome Happy Hour menu, everyone says the Prince Edward Island drunken mussels and caprese and pesto risotto tots are a must try. If you enjoy steak the filet is perfection.
Da Gabi Cucina, Boulder – They have a nice relaxed atmosphere and welcoming ambiance. It’s a wonderful place to go with friends or family to sit and catch up. They have a great tapas menu, wonderful pizzas, and when you go in you must try the paellas. The Drunken Goat Cheese is a favorite of mine.
Gondolier Italian Eatery, Boulder and Longmont – I remember all-you-can-eat spaghetti Tuesdays as a kid. When they started doing it in 1980 my mom would take my dad there because he could eat about as much as a small army and all she had to pay was $1.99. This place hasn’t changed much over the years and that’s a good thing.
Illegal Pete’s, Boulder, multiple Colorado locations – They’re a quick-bite burrito place. What sets them apart is their starving artists program. Touring artist eat for free and all Illegal Pete’s does is ask the band to promote the restaurant on the artists’ social media. It’s exploded from the first location in Boulder to a popular chain.
KT’s BBQ, Boulder – Opened in 1992 and they’ve been a staple of the Boulder food community since. When we were younger we would go there to eat. I have vivid memories of my youngest sister playing with the sauce bottles. You can get an authentic southern breakfast. The “BBQ 2 Go” family picnic pack is a great deal. All their meats and sauces are gluten free and so are several sides. You can check their website for more information about dietary restrictions under the FAQ tab. They do not stock or use nuts in the restaurant so this is a safe bet if you have severe nut allergies.
Larkburger, Boulder/Broomfield, multiple Colorado locations – Safe, allergen friendly, great Happy Hour. Students/broke people can get a beer and hamburger for $5 during Happy Hour. They have a seperate space they use for all gluten free orders. This is the perfect spot to stop in with friends after classes.
Miner’s Tavern – Located in downtown Erie. The Miners Tavern was first established in 1926 at its current location. My grandparents went there before they had kids on their way to the ski slopes. They have something called the Munchie Basket that is a mix of your favorite bar foods. If you have trouble making up your mind it’s the perfect option for you. Try it with the Peacemaker Pilsner.
Mumtaz Mediterranean Food, Lafayette – The owner/operator, Hiam, grew up in the mountains of Lebanon. It was a dream to open her own restaurant. Her dream came true over thirty years ago when she opened Mumtaz in Lafayette. When you walk in you genuinely feel welcome and like you matter. If you’re having a rough day this place will cheer you up. The staff is lovely, the atmosphere is inviting, and the food is wonderful. Get the Mezza sampler to share and a chicken wrap. Check out the daily dessert specials for a sweet end to your savory meal.
New Moon Bakery, Nederlands – They roast all their coffee in-house and bake everything before they open. First come first serve. Get there early for a cinnamon roll and chocolate croissant. They specialize in gluten free baking. The great thing about most of their gluten free items is that it doesn’t taste gluten free. You still have the same great flavors as the items with gluten.
Pasta Jay’s, Boulder – Hurry in! To celebrate turning 30 they’re going back to their 80s pricing. Obviously if you pop in here you have to try a pasta dish. They have a solid Happy Hour and some great wines and cocktails. The lobster mac and cheese is a savory taste bud attacker.
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, multiple Colorado locations, started in Boulder – Their margaritas turned them into a chain. Grab chips, queso, and a margarita to unwind after a long day. There have been complaints at some of the South Denver locations about food quality. However, you can never go wrong with the seafood enchiladas regardless of the location. Stop in for Happy Hour to try their Barrel-Aged Big Tex with a plate of street tacos.
Smokin Dave’s BBQ and Taphouse, Boulder, Longmont, Estes Park, Denver – “Get sauced.” They have good BBQ and a decent beer selection. Get the Hoggin’ Combo as an app to share with friends. The Buffalo ribs are a mess to eat but completely worth it, the flavors pop. The catering menu is reasonable and works well when you’re looking to order in for the office.
Sundance Cafe and Lodge, Nederlands – Skiers/boarders, in case you didn’t know, this place is only 10 minutes from Eldora. You can spend the weekend here skiing, eating, and having a great time with friends. There are twelve rooms available, each has free WiFi and DirectTV. As of the writing of this article the cafe is temporarily closed for restoration. They will reopen soon. The food is as fun as the atmosphere. You can grab breakfast before you hit the slopes, then unwind with dinner at the end of the day.
Treppeda’s, Niwot – Live jazz begins at 6:30 p.m. weekly. They have monthly industry wine nights, if you work in the service industry you can stay for dinner after and enjoy 15 percent off your bill. It’s worth stopping in for one of their many enticing desserts, a glass of wine, and live jazz. It may be more fun to go with a group, order several desserts, and a bottle of wine to share.
Via Toscana Ristorante, Lafayette – Dishing up delightful Italian, the consistency of their flavor profiles has kept them around all these years. Try the crispy kale chips and caprese with a glass of the Querceto from the Happy Hour menu. Check out their website for a full gluten free menu. They take great care in working with food allergies, especially those who are gluten free and have trouble finding the flavors they want at other Italian restaurants.
Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy – This place is awesome. It’s fun to go for the tour. You can also pick up your favorite goat cheese, a bottle of wine from one of the Italian restaurants or wineries, and hit Chautauqua for some music. The blueberry goat cheese with fresh basil is my personal favorite. The cracked pepper mixes up great with eggs for a quick breakfast to go. It also balances beautifully on a strawberry and spinach salad.
740 Front – Back bar built in the 1880s, its been at its current location since 1904. This is the second oldest saloon in Colorado. It’s worth stopping in for a bite and beer even if it’s just to say you’ve been there. The current owner has had the place since 2015. The 740 chopped steak is a revival of an old menu item (from early 1900’s). The O.S.O.F is the original recipe old fashioned. The recipe dates back to the 1880s and goes great with anything off their seasonal menu.