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Best of the West 2022: Critics Choice

Best of the West 2022: Critics Choice


by Thomas Rutherford


Although our readers have a say on almost everything Best of the West, we have a little section where we like to share our own picks in BOCO. Here are 19 things to check out (or happen to stumble upon) in the area.


Best Once Stray Cat

Tony aka “Big Tone”: Initially believed to be female and pregnant, this chonk of love wandered into a home full of warmth one dreary fall day. Finally safe from the mean streets, he now spends his days lounging, chilling with his Australian Shepherd roommate, and destroying house plants.

Best Place to See a Drink Dumped on a Racist Evangelical

Photo: colorado.edu

CU Boulder Campus: The students of CU Boulder have no tolerance for the intolerant and at least a few times every year, some racist, homophobic POS sets up outside the UMC to spew Bible-fueled hate speech at kids trying to learn. Just saying, the UMC has many cold drink options and plenty of places to quickly dip into. Not that we’re implying anything.

Best Bus Stop

Photo: Loren Chang via BusinessYab

US 36 and Table Mesa: Clean, safe, and sporting a close-up view of the Flatirons, it’s a great place to catch a ride to most places in North Metro or anywhere in Boulder. Also, the morning sun warms it in the summertime, which is honestly lovely if you’re rocking a hangover.

Best Dumplings

Photo: Everest Restaurant via Facebook

Everest – Longmont: Momos are dangerous things. They’re Nepalese and Tibetan dumplings and they absolutely slap. Everest does ‘em as authentically as it gets over in our part of the world. Pick your filling and next thing you know all your other responsibilities will fall away, your only concern being where to get that next sweet momo fix. Just one bite is all it takes.

Most Underrated Venue

Photo: Jarred Media

The Caribou Room – Nederland: A favorite for local jam and bluegrass bands, it’s almost criminal this place isn’t talked about more. It’s a cool place in a cool town with a cool balcony and a huge dance floor that’s just sticky enough to be cool.

Best Mural

Photo: Street Wise Boulder

Adri Norris (Afro Triangle)’s Piece On the Side of Lolita’s Market: In a part of the state so flush with art and color, it is a beautiful thing to see a stunning piece that says something. This one highlights the history of voting suppression faced by BIWOC, allowing those going in for their morning burritos to learn about something tragically not taught in schools. Go get some enlightenment and see it for yourself.

Biggest Sign of Hope in Trying Times

Photo: depositphotos

Creation: When the world feels almost impenetrably dark, we sometimes have to create our own light. Art, music, beauty all come from within us, all scream to get out and shine across the looming sky to remind us that even when things feel hard and hopeless, light remains. So, keep on writing, painting, singing, dancing, whatever your medium, because it all serves to make this world of ours a little less dark.

Best Place for Local Bands to Practice

Photo: Dog House Music Studios via Facebook

Dog House Music Studios: Since coming under new management three years ago, Dog House has become one of the finest rehearsal and recording studios in the area. No matter what your genres, instruments, or aspirations are, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll have whatever you need. Plus, it’s insanely affordable… so stop making excuses and go practice!

Park With the Best Grass

Photo: bouldercolorado.gov

North Boulder Park: On a sunny day, the grass in North Boulder Park sings. Soft and inviting, it begs for bare feet, six packs drunk with friends on top of blankets, and smiling dogs relishing the freedom and open air. A great place to let your kid run around if you need a break.

Park With the Worst Grass

Photo: Wally Gobetz, Flickr

Central Park Bandshell: On any day, sunny or not, the grass decidedly does not sing in Boulder’s Central Park Bandshell. But that’s okay, as many times someone is on stage singing in its place. Home to mini-festivals, markets, and many other events, the park’s a great place to trample on some dirt.

Best Natural Body of Water

Photo: depositphotos

Pacific Tarn: We in this great state pride ourselves on being some of the highest in the country in more ways than one. Pacific Tarn is literally the highest elevated body of natural water in the United States. Trust us, the 6.5 mile hike to get to it is worth it.

Best Juice Bar

Photo: Blendz Smoothie & Juice Bar, Facebook

Blendz – Lafayette: Offering everything from wheat grass shots to smoothies to coffee to boba, Blendz is a relatively cheap, tasty, healthy place to go to make yourself feel better about your life choices. You know what choices we’re talking about.

Best Place to Find Strength in Your Community

Photo: depositphotos

Your Community: It borders on cliché at this point, but the fact remains: we are all in this together. Things are hard right now. People are struggling. But just as you struggle, so does your neighbor. And while moving forward can seem impossible, be reminded that beauty still lives in the hearts of our townships. Let us join hands and find solace together.

Best Place to Buy Used Books

Photo: Konner McIntyre, Facebook

Used Book Emporium – Longmont: Based on the sheer volume found within, the first tentative steps inside Longmont’s Used Book Emporium can be overwhelming. Soon, however, you will find yourself lost in the multitudes until you stumble out, dazed and blinking in the sun, dragging a massive pile of very affordable used books back to wherever it is you call home.

Best Record Shop

Photo: Paradise Found Records & Music, Facebook

Paradise Found Records & Music – Boulder: We get it. You collect records. But whether you are years into your collection or just starting out, Paradise Found, formerly known as Bart’s and now located on Pearl St., has everything the discerning enthusiast could ever want.

Best Spot to Talk to Canvassers

Photo: depositphotos

Wherever you come across them: We know talking to canvassers can be a bit of a hassle, especially when you’re busy and in a hurry. However, these people are out there in earnest, braving the elements and trying their damndest to make the world a better place. You don’t have to donate or sign up or anything, but maybe give ‘em a listen. At the very least, you might learn something.

Best Mozzarella Sticks

Photo: The Rusty Melon, Erie via Facebook

The Rusty Melon – Erie: Nobody likes a soggy mozzarella stick. Thankfully, The Rusty Melon knows what you want. Their mozzarella sticks have just the right amount of crunch and pull apart magnificently. So go grab a beer, watch the game, and enjoy.

Best CBD Shop

Photo: leafly.com

Boulder CBD: Oh, CBD, how we love you so. While many dispensaries offer CBD options, if you really want to get the best of the best, you’re better off going to a store dedicated to the wonder drug. Whether you’re looking to improve your sleep, just need to relax a bit, or for any of CBD’s myriad other applications, Boulder CBD has an impressive selection and staff that knows exactly how to help.

Best Tea Shop

Photo: Ku Cha House of Tea – Boulder, Facebook

Ku Cha – Boulder: Similar to a well-stocked bookstore, Ku Cha can be a bit overwhelming the first time. Its walls overflow with every kind of tea imaginable. The staff can help you find just what you’re looking for and the zen garden in the back is a wonderful place to sit, sip, and relax.

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