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American Restaurant

SALT THE BISTRO

1047 Pearl St., 303-444-SALT

Second Place: Old Chicago

Third Place: Ted’s Montana Grill

Fourth Place: The Kitchen Fifth Place: Murphy’s

 

American food encompasses everything from burgers and pizza to pulled pork sandwiches and more elevated fare such as grilled Florida shrimp. The offerings from this year’s winners reflect the diversity of the national cuisine, and Chef Bradford Heap’s downtown Boulder venue, SALT, pays tribute to both the old and the new. Heap, who held his first restaurant job as a Boulder dishwasher in his teens, serves an updated grass-fed version of the legendary Tom’s Tavern burger. But there’s also more sophisticated regional specialties on tap such as a tasting plate of local organic veggies and pan-roasted Long Farm pork tenderloin.

 

Appetizers/Tapas

THE MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT

1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: Boulder Cafe

Third Place: The Kitchen

Fourth Place: Brasserie Ten Ten

Fifth Place: SALT the Bistro

Spaniards were really onto something when they decided it was a good idea to have small snacks, or tapas, alongside your drinks. Helps absorb the alcohol, for one thing. And at The Mediterranean, there is a wide variety of these tasty, reasonably priced small plates, both hot and cold. Plus, you’re not just limited to Spanish cuisine. You can take culinary sojourns to Greece, Egypt and Italy, sampling something as simple as almonds all the way up to filet mignon. We’re talking Mediterranean staples like olives, prosciutto, mushrooms, cheeses, artichokes, lamb, baba ghanouj, bacon-wrapped dates and tomatoes. Each dish is prepared with a distinctive yet complementary combination of ingredients and spices. Oh, and the drinks that accompany them aren’t too bad, either. We’re also kind of partial to the patio tables at second-place winner the Boulder Café, where you can enjoy fantastic appetizers while Pearl Street people-watching.

 

Brunch

WALNUT CAFÉ

3073 Walnut St., 303-447-2315

SOUTH SIDE WALNUT CAFÉ

673 S. Broadway, 720-304-8118

Second Place: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Third Place: Brasserie Ten Ten

Fourth Place: The Kitchen

Fifth Place: Tangerine

Brunch is a sacred meal set aside for those in-between hours on a few precious days when you got to sleep late (or you ran out early for some exercise) then realized you were ready for the kind of quiche and burritos it takes a smashingly good restaurant to plate up. Enter the Walnut Café and southern sister South Side Walnut Café. A scan down the menu will leave you craving any number of tasty tidbits and wishing, for once in your life, for it to be morning. Big dill eggs — a twist on a benedict with eggs atop an English muffin smothered in Swiss cheese and creamy dill sauce … Make it morning, already! Rumor has it, the way to go if you’re short on calories is the breakfast burrito, a mass that puts those other foil-wrapped bundles to shame. If it’s time you’re short on, get the Sunrise Sandwich to go, and take your egg and sausage away on rosemaryinfused bread.

Asian Fusion Restaurant

CHEZ THUY

2655 28th St., 303-442-1700

Second Place: Hapa Sushi

Third Place: Khow Thai Cafe

Fourth Place: Japango

Fifth Place: Moongate Asian Bistro

This year’s fusion picks touch on most of the cuisines of the Asian continent.

Leading the pack is longtime fave Chez Thuy, a spot that’s hard to beat on value, selection and quality. Lunch specials like the Vietnamese salad-style noodle bowls are on the top 10 list of just about every Asian aficionado, and the grilled lamb chops rival rack of lamb preparations. Wash any of these dishes down with a refreshing Thai iced tea or Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed milk. Hapa provides tasty sushi with a Hawaiian twist, while Khow Thai dishes out some of the most flavorful Southeast Asian curries around. All-you-can eat sushi is a specialty at Japango, but they also provide a terrific lunchtime bento box. Last but not least, Moongate offers up one of the most diverse Asian menus in town, with special recognition for the fresh-tasting Chinese specialties.

Barbecue

KT’S REAL GOOD BBQ

2675 13th St., 303-442-3717 7464 Arapahoe Road, 303-786-7608 799 Highway 287, Broomfield, 303-410-7333

Second Place: Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que

Third Place: The Rib House

Fourth Place: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse

Fifth Place: Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery

There’s no better way to tap into your inner redneck than to hit a barbecue joint and plunge elbow deep into a rack of ribs. Wash it down with a cold beer and it’s like you never left the one-horse town from which you came. Boulder County might not have the barbecue cachet of Memphis, St. Louis or just about any truck stop in Texas, but this year’s winner, KT’s Real Good BBQ, would fit in quite nicely in any of those places. Second place, Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B- Que, was a decades-long staple in Boulder but is now no longer with us. So grab a Pig Pile from KT’s and have a moment of silence for the Granddaddy of Boulder BBQ before you dive into the delicious ménage à trois of meat, sauce and bread in your hands.

Bakery

BREADWORKS

2644 Broadway, 303-444-5667

Second Place: Great Harvest Bread Company

Third Place: Spruce Confections

Fourth Place: Boulder Baked

Fifth Place: Tee & Cakes

It’s morning. You need coffee, and — given the sad state of your pantry — a muffin or something would be nice, too. So you head to Bob’s Coffee, sugar up your caffeine vehicle, and choke down their special, the Ultra-Dry No-Flavor Scone. Ah, breakfast. Coffee first, food later, if at all.

This year’s winner, Breadworks, turns that whole formula on its head. Offering shelves upon shelves of baked delights ranging from muesli bread and English muffin bread to fruit tarts, cupcakes and cookies, the North Broadway bakery won out despite a notable breakfast deficiency: a long-broken espresso machine. The baked goods are just that good. Breadworks goes well beyond breakfast, too, offering extensive, cafeteria-style dining for lunch with specials like salmon cakes and chicken yakitori — but its sweet and savory breads are still Boulder’s best.

Best Big Breakfast for the Bucks

NORTH BOULDER CAFÉ

4479 N. Broadway, 303-449-3663

DOT’S DINER

2716 28th St., 303-449-1323

We couldn’t make up our minds, so we gave them both first place.

Since the beginning, no self-respecting climber would even contemplate heading off to the rock without first loading up at North Boulder Café. It was the home of “lots for less.” It’s been a mainstay since back in the days when North Boulder was pretty much the place where everybody who didn’t cash trust fund checks for a living called home. The area didn’t have NIMBY issues like today because the whole place existed as a collection of all the places and people that were rejected because of NIMBY issues somewhere else. It was a beautiful thing.

And as for Dot’s Diner, where else would Boulderites wait an hour and a half for the opportunity to eat a giant plateful of breakfast at a gas station? Well, the gas station location is only a memory now, but the great breakfast at a reasonable price is still available. If you love good food in good quantity at a good price in the morning, give these places a go. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Breakfast

LUCILE’S CREOLE CAFÉ

2124 14th St., 303-442-4743 518 Kimbark St., Longmont, 303-774-9814

Second Place: Walnut Cafe/South Side Walnut Cafe

Third Place: The Buff Restaurant

Fourth Place: Dot’s Diner

Fifth Place: Tangerine

When you talk about breakfast foods, bacon is the pop star with the No. 1 hit on iTunes, the glitzy live show and the legions of adoring teenage fans tweeting “I LUV UR SONGZ OMG LOL!!!” Sausage is the indie band that always put out good albums but that never really made it onto the radio. Lucile’s Creole Café is the hipster record store that rolls its eyes and says, “I was into bacon before it was cool.” While you can order bacon at Lucile’s, the specialty is sausage — all varieties of Creole, Cajun and everything in between. Get the Pain Perdu, for example, and you’ll get a wonderful spicy sausage to nibble on as you make your way through your meal. Then you can have the satisfaction of calling your friends’ breakfast tastes mainstream as you take them to Lucile’s to show them how to eat with true hipster condescension.

Burger

LARKBURGER

2525 Arapahoe Ave., 303-444-1487

Second Place: Mountain Sun/ Southern Sun

Third Place: Smashburger

Fourth Place: Dark Horse Bar and Grill

Fifth Place: Rueben’s Burger Bistro

Truffle oil doesn’t just make things better.

It makes them the best. Larkburger has once again seduced Best of Boulder voters by doubling up the truffle oil on both the truffle burger and the parmesan and truffle oil fries. There’s a simple pleasure in the brusquely short menu and the Ikea-toned, well lit, cafeteria-style restaurant, as if to say, “Why yes, we can put our burgers in the full light of day and you’ll still be comfortable putting them in your mouth.” Runner-up Mountain Sun/Southern Sun gets points for flair for plating up specialty burgers with unlikely strings of ingredients, like the Date Night burger with dates and goat cheese.

Bagel

MOE’S BROADWAY BAGEL

3075 Arapahoe Ave., 303-442-4427 2650 Broadway, 303-444-3252 3267 28th St., 720-406-9000

Second Place: Einstein Bros. Bagels

Third Place: Big Daddy Bagels

Fourth Place: Mickey C’s Bagels

Fifth Place: Panera Bread

All hail the almighty bagel. It is the Cadillac of breakfast foods (or in this town, the Prius), and all other breakfast foods tremble before the bready circle’s dominance at the day’s first meal. If there is one Boulder County business that understands the gravity and importance of the bagel in today’s gastronomic culture, it would be Moe’s Broadway Bagel, winner of this category for the bazillionth year in a row. They serve bagels as the bagel gods intended them: fresh, delicious and with several inches of cream cheese layered on to raise the top half closer to the heavens. And don’t forget Big Daddy Bagels, the third place winner: Their Santa Fe breakfast bagel is the perfect starter for a day on the slopes or deep in the mountains. Oh, daddy.

Burrito/Wrap

ILLEGAL PETE'S

1320 College Ave., 303-444-3055

1447 Pearl St., 303-440-3955

Second Place: Chipotle

Third Place: Efrain’s

Fourth Place: Big City Burrito

Fifth Place: Santiago’s

Illegal Pete’s wraps up another year as 2012’s best burrito — get it, wraps? Like in tin foil? Serving burritos in Boulder since 1995, Illegal Pete’s has now expanded to five locations across Colorado. For its full menu, including quesadillas, salads and tacos, Illegal Pete’s complements its selection of fresh ingredients with sustainable and preservative-free sources. It’s a growing trend among burrito joints, but we’ll give Pete credit for being a trendsetter. Beyond the food, Illegal Pete’s sports a taco cantina atmosphere for relaxed, casual meals and drinks should you stumble — we mean, steer — yourself in off Pearl Street some evening.

Business Lunch

THE MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT

1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: The Kitchen

Third Place: Brasserie Ten Ten

Fourth Place: Boulder Cork

Fifth Place: Boulder Cafe

If there’s such a thing as corporate jujitsu, one of the most vital skills is selecting an appropriate venue for that mystical ritual known as the business lunch. The ideal locale cannot be too extravagant, lest your colleagues mistake you for a free-spending Bernie Madoff sort, nor can it sink to the level of Mickey D’s. Of course, in Boulder, most business types aren’t opting for a buttoned-down experience, either. Located in the center of downtown’s nexus of law firms and financial houses, The Mediterranean is the perfect place to take colleagues, whether they are jaded big-city foodies or they want to expand their culinary horizons. While the menu here may lack the brute force of a karate chop, it can accommodate the vegetarian with spanokopita as well as the ravenous carnivore who couldn’t be happier with a hanger steak.

Catering

A SPICE OF LIFE

5706 Arapahoe Ave., 303-443-4049

Second Place: Dish Gourmet

Third Place: Laudisio

Fourth Place: Il Pastaio

Fifth Place: Big Bang

A Spice of Life has been churning out culinary masterpieces and stealing the hearts of Boulderites since 1987. Since then, the company has grown to be the largest catering company in the county. While its philanthropic efforts are abundant (the local and organic company contributes to more than 60 organizations via charity and fundraising events each year), it’s the overall experience that A Spice of Life creates for each individual that truly sets them apart.

 

Best Block for New Restaurants 13TH STREET BETWEEN PEARL AND SPRUCE STREETS

Looking for a new restaurant downtown but don’t know where to look?

Do we know the block for you. Head on down to 13th Street between Pearl and Spruce! Now, I know you’ve already been to those two restaurants. But have patience! Since 2007, there have been seven (yes, seven!) different restaurants occupying those two spots. They include RedFish, Boulder Draft House, Los Oasis, b.side Lounge and Trilogy. All signs say newcomer Shine is on the path to success. Let’s hope it and whoever moves in next door can buck the trend.

East County Restaurant

EFRAIN’S

101 E. Cleveland St., Lafayette, 303-666- 7544

451 S. Pratt Pkwy., Longmont, 720-494- 0777

1630 N. 63rd St., Boulder, 303-440-4045

Second Place: Empire Lounge & Restaurant

Third Place: 95a Bistro & Sushi

Fourth Place: Lucky Pie Pizza

Fifth Place: The Huckleberry

Some of you who live in the heart of Boulder may be frowning over this category and wondering, “What do they mean by East County?” Well folks, contrary to popular belief, there is life beyond the eastern city limits of Boulder. Granted, the land may not be overrun with restaurants that will leave you with a $200 tab at the end of your dinner for two, and there may be fewer grungy college students roaming around, but other than that, the “easterners” and the food offerings yonder are quite familiar. In that spirit, we’d like to congratulate Efrain’s on winning the best restaurant in the mysterious East by sporting authentic Mexican cuisine and having a location inside the city of Boulder bubble, enabling the less adven turous Boulderites to recognize the name of at least one of the restaurants on this list of venues, which are all well worth the visit.

Fine Dining Restaurant

FRASCA 1738 Pearl St., 303-442-6966

Second Place: Flagstaff House

Third Place: The Kitchen

Fourth Place: Black Cat

Fifth Place: SALT

You don’t have to be a modern-day Nostradamus to predict this town’s top two choices in the fine dining category. Each is synonymous with sterling service and topnotch culinary prowess. Frasca Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson has garnered national accolades for his distinctive interpretation of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulian cuisine. Fellow French Laundry alum, coowner and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey possesses unparalleled wine knowledge, and wears a suit better than anyone else in Boulder. Antipasti selections range from salt cod with polenta to white asparagus, and the bold entree courses span from grilled sturgeon to tender pork belly. The Flagstaff House, under the leadership of Mark and Scott Monette, offers classics like filet mignon and rack of lamb. Pair these selections with the stunning mountainside views to make for a fine dining experience that remains in the memory long after the meal is finished.

Food on the Hill

THE SINK

1165 13th St., 303-444-7465

Second Place: Café Aion

Third Place: Half Fast Subs

Fourth Place: Illegal Pete’s

Fifth Place: Abo’s Pizza

If you examine the colorful painted walls at Boulder’s college-town institution The Sink, you’ll see an illustration of a dashing blond guy holding a broom. That’s because Robert Redford worked as a janitor at The Sink when he was attending CU. Indeed, this establishment is probably one of the first-mentioned favorite hangouts among CU alumni, even old-timers. When it opened in 1923, The Sink went by the name Summer’s Sunken Gardens, and was nicknamed The Sink due to a large, sunken fountain in the center of the dining room. Then, in 1955, the famous Sinkburger was introduced, and the rest is history. It still serves as the heart and soul of the Hill. Runner-up Café Aion across the street has emerged as another local favorite after being in existence for only two years.

Food Truck

COMIDA

eatcomida.com/the-truck, 720-204-6455

Second Place: Verde

Third Place: The Tasterie Truck

Fourth Place: RollinGreens

Fifth Place: Heirloom Food Truck

The act of pursuing a food truck is like living in your own Indiana Jones movie.

You never know where the treasure is going to be — or at least not more than a few hours before you leave for your adventure — and you never know what obstacles you will have to face to get there. And you will likely be fighting off other crazed Boulderites to arrive before the treasure drives off into the horizon. It is also a gratifying feeling once you arrive at the truck, because you had to be tech-savvy enough to access Twitter or Facebook and learn their location. Yet chasing down a taco truck may not be everyone’s favorite lunchtime activity. Luckily, for those of you who don’t enjoy hunting for your food but still enjoy the fast Mexican fare, Comida recently opened a cantina that stays in the same place, all the time, to complement their motorized meals.

Chinese Restaurant

GOLDEN LOTUS

1964 28th St., 303-442-6868

Second Place: China Gourmet

Third Place: Moongate Asian Bistro

Fourth Place: Five Spice

Fifth Place: Spice China

For a lot of folks, Chinese food is comfort food. Arguably, this is one cuisine where diners are more than happy with a meal that follows a set menu with little deviation. A cup of hot and sour soup, an egg roll or cream cheese wonton, some fried rice and kung pao chicken makes for a surefire recipe for contentment. Even the not-entirely Asian fortune cookie at the end constitutes a necessary coda. For years, diners have flocked to Golden Lotus for soul-satisfying fare in an upscale atmosphere that’s a cut above the rest. Additionally, ambitious dishes like twin lobster tails and Peking Duck with homemade pancakes, scallions and plum sauce are also on tap. More casual is North Boulder’s China Gourmet, a humble spot that also offers a traditional menu featuring such authentic items as cold salty duck and Chinese eggplant hotpot.

Restaurant Dessert

SALT THE BISTRO

1047 Pearl St., 303-444-7258

Second Place: The Kitchen

Third Place: The Mediterranean Restaurant

Fourth Place: Frasca

Fifth Place: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Colorado, as you may have heard, is the least obese state in the nation, and Boulder is the least obese city in the country. That’s great, that’s wonderful, that’s excellent. Lots of health benefits and all that, not to mention bragging rights. But you can’t help but wonder if Boulder is missing something. Can a runner’s high or an endorphin rush really compare to the joy of polishing off a massive piece of cake?

If you want to fight back against the fitness regime, our readers say SALT is the best place to indulge your darker side. SALT brings its customary attention to detail and quality to its final course, offering cakes, mousses and tarts that feature local ingredients as well as a roster of “shakers” that tack on a little alcohol to the end of a meal.


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