Boulder’s culinary scene has a wealth of restaurants committed to working with the local community, bringing sustainable and high-quality ingredients to its diners in the heart of Colorado. Here are the 10 best restaurants in Boulder.
Inspired by the simple yet flavoursome hallmarks of Spanish cuisine, Cafe Aion’s menu draws heavily on the popular small plates common to tapas, priding themselves on a relaxed, informal and communal atmosphere. For groups, the rich yet fluffy paella is the perfect dish to share and for those simply after traditional tapas, the Colorado lamb merguez sausage and aion fried cauliflower are amongst the most popular choices. Cafe Aion is understated but committed to producing great quality food in a fun-loving environment. The jalapeño and smoky mescal cocktail is a local favourite but in order to secure a spot, be sure to make a reservation – particularly on the weekend.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, Boulder | Image courtesy of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Teahouses in Central Asia are traditionally places of community, where people can meet friends, play games and enjoy a communal, convivial dining experience. Usually decorated in the traditional Persian style of repeated motifs and patterns, teahouses have the mark of artisans whose skills and craft are often passed down through the generations. In 1987, Mayor Maksuf Ikramov announced that Boulder would be presented with one such teahouse, aligning it with the culture of Tajikistan and celebrating the town’s links with Dushanbe. Chief architect Lado Shanidze oversaw the project and ensured that the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse did justice to its cultural heritage. Whether looking for an afternoon tea or the traditional Tajikistan Plov for a relaxed and unusual dinner, the Dushanbe Teahouse promises an exquisite setting and a memorable visit.
Bradford Heap brings the flavours of Southern French and Northern Italian cuisine to Colterra’s tables, with dishes such as the pan roasted Petaluma chicken breast – served with local French beans, polenta, turnips, foraged porcini mushroom jus and a white truffle essence. The restaurant’s name comes from the Latin ‘to cultivate’, highlighting its commitment to using local produce to feed the ‘body, mind and health’ of its customers. Located just on the outskirts of Boulder, the patio dining area is a perfect setting to enjoy Colterra’s fresh offerings. The restaurant is also hosting several wine evenings and events throughout October and November, including a Thanksgiving Feast for $55 per person on November 27th between 2-7pm.
The Kitchen, Boulder | Image courtesy of the Kitchen
At the heart of The Kitchen’s ethos is the notion of ‘community through food’. Owners Kimbal Musk, Jen Lewin and Hugo Matheson selected the name to represent the role of the domestic kitchen in the home: the nucleus of family life, a kitchen brings people together to communicate and share in a united experience. With this in mind, The Kitchen in Boulder opened as a community bistro and offers a community hour between 3 and 5, during which time there is a subsidised menu available comprising of classic dishes such as mac and cheese, pork sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding. Community nights are also popular, where diners can come and meet the farmers and purveyors who keep The Kitchen fully stocked, offering a chance to fully engage in the process involved in getting ingredients from the farm to the plate.
Salt Bistro, Boulder | Courtesy of SALT The Bistro
Inspired by the European travels of owner and chef Bradford Heap, SALT the Bistro embraces local produce and incorporates his own travelling experiences into the menu. Heap’s ethos starts with the belief that ‘superior taste begins at the farm…I am always trying to expand our network of regional growers and purveyors’. The sister restaurant of Colterra, SALT retains the burger tradition of its predecessor Tom’s Tavern, giving this classic American culinary item a gourmet edge. There is also an impressive range of seasonal cocktails on the menu, including the ‘The SC Sour’, consisting of Breckenridge Distillery Bourbon, amaretto, vanilla simple syrup, egg whites and fresh lemon.
Built into the mountainside, Flagstaff House Restaurant offers a breath-taking dining experience, overlooking the entire city. Originally built as a holiday cabin in 1929 by Hattie Bilchert, the Monettes family purchased the building in 1971 and opened it as an all-year-round fine-dining restaurant, adding the floor-to-ceiling windows to allow diners to experience the natural beauty of Boulder City Park. Still family-run, the restaurant is renowned for its impeccable, old-school service – perfect for if you’re celebrating a particularly special event. The maple bacon appetiser, pork tenderloin and sticky toffee pudding come highly recommended. The extravagance of the food is reflected in the price, but for a truly special and memorable dining experience Flagstaff should be top of your list.
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Frasca’s culinary inspiration has roots in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northern Italy, a place where cultures merge and locals have a direct relationship with the land their food derives from. The menu is therefore, a blend of traditional rustic Italian fare with the sophistication of modern international influences. Frascas in Friuli are now few and far between, but originally they were meeting places for farmers to enjoy hearty meals and became synonymous with ideas of hospitality. Visit on a Monday for their weekly tasting menu, favourites include the Berkshire pork shoulder, the bombolini and the torta al cioccolato.
Leaf is dedicated to providing its diners with an outstanding vegetarian experience. Using ingredients from their very own garden at the Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette, the restaurant honours its commitment to sustainable dining as well as being able to use wholly organic produce for dishes such as their sweet pea gnocchi – served in a Dijon beurre blanc with pine nuts and radish sprouts. Leaf also hosts a number of events, including the First Bite Boulder Festival – running from 14-22 November in 2014, celebrating the best of Boulder’s culinary scene – and a brand new traditional afternoon tea service available every day between 3 and 5pm.
A fusion of Colorado’s rustic heritage and the emerging contemporary vibe of Boulder, Oak at Fourteenth offers a seasonally focused menu using ingredients sourced from the rich array of local Colorado farms, all prepared using Oak’s unique oak-fired oven and grill. The pairing of owners Bryan Dayton – a passionate mixologist – and Chef Steven Redzikowski, is what makes Oak’s so special. They bring cocktails to the forefront of their menu, sitting in pride of place alongside the food and creating a perfectly balanced, flavoursome experience. Recommendations include the house ricotta and smoked corn ravioli as well as the crispy ancho glazed pork.
‘Riffmaster’ John Platt spearheads the vibrant creations of Riff’s menu, artfully combining flavours to ensure a ‘thoughtful’ yet affordable dining experience in the heart of Boulder. Taking its name from jazz terminology, Riff’s creates its own interpretations of traditional American cuisine and allows diners to sample tasting plates until they find something that truly satisfies their cravings. A perfect venue for a relaxed evening with friends, recommendations include the short rib ravioli, the organic green salad – consisting of red grape, green apple, blue cheese and walnuts tossed in a light vinaigrette – and the warming apple pie served with a dash of Leopold Bros Applewood whiskey caramel.