Best Experimental Taproom
AVERY BREWING COMPANY
5763 Arapahoe Ave. #E, 303-440-4324
Going to Avery Brewing Company’s taproom is like hearing a jam session with Sun Ra, King Crimson and Philip Glass. Actually, that sounds pretty cool, which is fitting, because Avery’s taproom is a haven for the avant-garde beer-lover. Avery makes a lot of frankly strange beers that are great once in a while, but you might not want to buy them six bottles at a time. Which is why the taproom is so great. You can get glasses of good-once-a-year beers like The Beast Grand Cru Ale or the 15-percent-ABV Mephistopheles Stout. It’s also a classy joint with warm wood paneling and a cozy atmosphere. So if you like your beer like Ornette Coleman likes his jazz, check Avery out.
1535 Pearl St., 303-546-0886
627 South Broadway, 303-543-0886
Second Place: Backcountry Pizza
Third Place: Oskar Blues Grill & Brew
Fourth Place: Old Chicago
Fifth Place: Walnut Brewery
We’re no strangers to Southern Sun in South Boulder and Mountain Sun on Pearl Street’s east end, where late-night happy hours help connoisseurs and cash-strapped beer lovers alike keep smiles on their faces (and a few bucks in their pockets). There are at least 12 beers on tap at any time, all brewed specifically for these two spots and the Denver-based Vine Street Pub. Our favorite Southern Sun/Mountain Sun libations include the tart-yet-drinkable Raspberry Wheat, the pure hoppy-ness of 2010 GABF silver medal winner Illusion Dweller I.P.A. and — of course — anything on tap during the (in)famous Stout Month (sadly confined to February). Combine this diverse beer selection, which also includes three-time GABF gold medal-winner Hogback Doppel Bock, with chill employees and plenty of extra board games, and you’ve got one of Boulder’s best spots to grab a pint ... or five.
“Caffe Sole offers a unique wine selection”
1770 13th St., 303-442-4997
Second Place: The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse
Third Place: Brewing Market
Fourth Place: The Cup
Fifth Place: Pekoe Sip House
Chai seems to be trending in Boulder lately. Every coffee shop has a chai drink on the menu, Boulder is home to two well-known chai producers, and restaurants are serving house-made chai. The Dushanbe Teahouse chai is house-made and is unique from the others found in Boulder, but we’re guessing it won the category because of its peaceful atmosphere that seems to fit perfectly with the act of sipping chai. Sitting in Dushanbe Teahouse feels like sitting in another world surrounded by architecture, gardens and tiles not found anywhere else in Boulder.
While the chai drinks offered at the other coffee houses that won are tasty, the scenery isn’t quite the same.
THE BITTER BAR
835 Walnut St., 303-442-3050
Second Place: SALT
Third Place: Oak at 14th
Fourth Place: Centro
Fifth Place: The Med
As tough as it is to choose a cocktail from The Bitter Bar menu, it’s every bit as tough to pick one to highlight in honor of their latest best cocktail win. The Blue Velvet, with its storm-cloud look and it’s nose of lemon and lavender atop 42Below vodka. That Green Drink (no, really, that’s the name) with its Bombay Sapphire gin and … more gin, and then some chartreuse and fresh lime. The patience-demanding Cider Forest, which balances out as its apple cider ice cube melts. The punch of fresh strawberries and blueberries in the Sprig & Berries. It’s all fresh, and all polished up in a bar that feels more like a taste of Manhattan than a dip into a Boulder hangout.
Runner-up SALT has a mix-it-yourself menu that demystifies the cocktail mixology, but their flourish ensures that whatever select items you add to your local vodka or gin will dazzle you off your barstool.
Best Coffee Shop Patio
637 S. Broadway, #R, 303-449-2985
Not only do these folks make great coffee, you can enjoy it on the patio with a spectacular and close-up Flatiron view. Equally attractive, Caffè Sole leads a second life when evening rolls around. When the sun moves low behind the Flatirons, the coffee shop transforms into a great jazz venue on Monday nights. Live music can also be heard at the café Thursday through Saturday evenings when, in addition to coffee, a stellar wine list and great food offerings are available. Their website says that Caffè Sole is all about community, and it shows. So grab a table outside and relax.
RIO GRANDE MEXICAN RESTAURANT
1101 Walnut St., 303-444-3690
Second Place: Efrain’s
Third Place: Tahona Tequila Bistro
Fourth Place: Zolo Grill
Fifth Place: Centro Latin Kitchen
Who else could it be? The Rio seems to take this award every year, and for good reason. By their own admission, they are better known for their margaritas than their food. (They’re trying to change that by improving their vittles.) But we think their enchiladas are pretty darn good too, especially after three margaritas .
These babies are potent. (The margaritas, not the enchiladas.) The sign says “Limit 3,” and they mean it! The last time we had three of these bad boys and then went bar-hopping, we, um, prayed to the porcelain god. So take it easy on the chips and spicy salsa, because that will just make you want to suck the margs down even faster. Pace yourselves, people. Second-place winner Efrain’s makes a fine margarita as well, and there are locations not just in Boulder, but in Longmont and Lafayette.
THE MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335
Second Place: Boulder Café
Third Place: Centro Latin Kitchen
Fourth Place: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Fifth Place: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun
You work hard. Slaving away all day in an office might not be the most physically demanding task, but it has a certain way of making a person hungry — and thirsty for non-office-friendly beverages, if you catch our drift. So unless you’re one of those health nuts who heads to the gym right after clocking out, a happy hour is a logical place for you to go after work. The Med has the best happy hour in town according to you, dear reader, probably because only with the restaurant’ s extreme discounting can the average shlubb afford such delicacies as bacon-wrapped dates and speck-wrapped asparagus. The Med’s happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., but if you miss it, head over to Boulder Café, where the incredible happy hour happens every day from 3 p.m. to close. Bottoms up. You deserve it.
Underappreciated Bar BOULDER BROKER INN 555 30th St., 303-444-3330
Stepping into the Boulder Broker Inn’s bar is like stepping back in time a few decades. It’s a place where day-drinking and casual alcoholism are not just ignored but tacitly approved. A small, colorful group of regulars fuel some lively conversation should you hop on a stool and order a cheap beer during happy hour. Plus, we happen to know that this was the bar of choice for a certain gonzo journalist named Hunter S. Thompson when he visited our town. Like him or not, the man knew a thing or two about a good bar. So come on down, the people here are gold, Jerry, gold, and the antique ambience of the place can’t be beat.
OZO COFFEE CO.
5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885
Second Place: Boxcar
Third Place: Unseen Bean
Fourth Place: Conscious Coffee
Fifth Place: Silver Canyon
Ozo Coffee Company’s team likes to roll up their sleeves and deliver finely crafted private roasts. Proprietary flavors abound at Ozo, and the variety and foundational flavors have dazzled and possibly befuddled, but nevertheless pleased and impressed. Hardly the organization to leave flavors well enough alone or go stale, count on more developments from Ozo’s lab to build on a smooth, well-roasted brew.
3053 Arapahoe Ave., 303-247-1170
Second Place: Rush
Third Place: Glacier Homemade Ice Cream
Fourth Place: Maiberry
Fifth Place: Inta Juice
Jamba Juice, with four locations in Boulder, appears to have a hold on people’s hearts and on the smoothie market. Maybe it’s the power boosters that can be added to any smoothie, like the “whey protein boost” or the “weight burner boost.” Or maybe it’s the fact that you can get all your servings of fruit for the week by ordering the “Orange Strawberry Blueberry Raspberry.” Whatever the reason, Jamba Juice and its nice, cool drinks, incessantly cheery colors and army of workers ready to blend has taken the gold in the best smoothie category yet again. Runner-up to Jamba is Rush, whose smoothies and fruit and granola bowls have helped make University of Colorado students healthier since it opened on the Hill in the fall of 2004.
Best Way to Burn Calories While Bar-Hopping MY HANDLEBAR
Picture this, if you haven’t already seen it in downtown Boulder. It’s a big, covered bar car on wheels, with seats for 16. The front end is a bicycle. The catch is, there are 10 seats, five on each side, from which you need to pedal to get the thing to move. You can rent My Handlebar to cruise around downtown Boulder, stopping at restaurants to gain sustenance between cycling sessions. If you’re not near a bar, they can serve brews while parked on private property. The concept is brilliant, especially in Boulder, where we love our libations, food and exercise. If you’re feeling a bit lazy — or you’ve had too much to drink to be trusted to pedal — pick a seat in the back where you can relax and enjoy the ride. Check out www.myhandlebar.com.
OZO COFFEE CO.
5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885
Second Place: The Laughing Goat
Third Place: Vic’s
Fourth Place: The Cup
Fifth Place: Amante
Lattes, frothy little cups of espresso and milk, are perfect for those seeking the caffeine high from an espresso shot without the strong and sometimes bitter taste of coffee. In fact, the milk tends to hide the flavor of the coffee, especially if flavoring or sugar is added as well.
But honestly, the best part about lattes has got to be the art, which Ozo Coffee Co. does well. It’s hard not to smile while the barista delicately pours the steaming milk into your espresso, carefully moving the small pitcher to create a design of a heart, leaf or animal. You may think it’s strange, and you may wonder why you would want your latte to have the design of a heart, leaf or animal, but suck it up and enjoy it. This is what you get for ordering a latte instead of a plain cup of coffee or a shot of espresso.
OZO COFFEE CO. 5340 Arapahoe Ave., 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885
Second Place: Laughing Goat
Third Place: Vic’s
Fourth Place: The Cup
Fifth Place: Caffè Sole
Because a gourmet coffee is every bit as meaningful as a fine wine to those who prefer their elite beverages caffeinated rather than alcoholic, Ozo Coffee Co. hosts weekly tastings every Friday starting at 2 p.m. in the Pearl Street location. Ozo Coffee Co. is always busy developing flavors and experimenting with new exotic brews, and customers get a chance to sample one coffee brewed using three different methods.
Empirical evidence suggests that Ozo and its roasts have landed a firm spot as Boulder’s chosen coffee house for 2012.
With two locations serving discerning palates on the west and east ends of town, a commute is bound to pass an Ozo location and permit, if not a swish and swirl kind of tasting, at least a to-go cup of magical brew.
Best Local Non-Beer Alcohol Maker 303 VODKA
This was a close one, because we are also quite partial to Roundhouse Spirits, which makes a couple of great gins. But we sure like 303’s back story. Distiller Steve Viezbicke found his Polish family’s treasured potato vodka recipe tucked away in his grandfather Pete’s old steamer trunk. Pete’s parents apparently placed the recipe in the lining of the trunk when they sent Pete to America in 1907 to avoid World War I. “Steve tinkered with the recipe until he created a smell he remembered as a child,” according to the 303 website.
You just can’t make this stuff up.
THE BITTER BAR
835 Walnut St., 303-442-3050
Second Place: Mountain Sun/ Southern Sun
Third Place: Conor O’Neill’s
Fourth Place: West End Tavern
Fifth Place: Dark Horse Bar and Grill
If anyone thought that the 2011 rebranding of Happy Noodle/Bitter Bar into a single speakeasy was a bad idea, they’re eating their words ... and probably washing them down with one of the complex and original cocktails at Big Red F’s newest old sensation, The Bitter Bar. Once a hidden, late-night gem, The Bitter Bar is gaining in popularity without sacrificing the refined sensibilities (and unique cocktails like the Sprig & Berries with barrelaged tequila and natural fruits or the classic Moscow Mule) that made it Boulder’s favorite bar. With happy hour from 5-7 p.m. and late night food until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, The Bitter Bar satisfies many a palate with items ranging from the highfalutin’ (duck pâté, anyone? Bueller?) to the down-home (pretzels, fries and brussel sprouts).
Bloody Mary LUCILE’S CREOLE CAFÉ 2124 14th St., 303-442-4743 518 Kimbark St., Longmont, 303-774-9814 THE RIB HOUSE 1801 13th St., Suite 180, 303-442-7427 1920 S. Coffman St., Longmont, 303-772-8264 CAFÉ AION 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., #A, 303-993-8131
Before the battle over who should win best Bloody Mary gets, well, bloody, we decided the best method was to honor all three of our top choices for ways to ease out of your hangover and into your Saturday. Lucile’s has a great, spicy Bloody Mary that gets its own Lucile’s creole spice — a secret formula — around the lip to make the perfect start to your day. Personal touches continue at The Rib House, which uses its own barbeque sauce to add flavor to its Bloody Mary. Café Aion’s is light enough to not feel weird drinking it at night… That’s a direct quote from a Boulder Weekly staffer, but it’s up to you to sort out what it means. We say try them all and you decide.
BOULDER DUSHANBE TEAHOUSE
1770 13th St., 303-442-4993
Second Place: Pekoe Sip House
Third Place: Celestial Seasonings
Fourth Place: Ku Cha House of Tea
Fifth Place: Atlas Purveyors
Another no-brainer here. This is a Boulder jewel, one of those places you have to take Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Reginald when they come to town for a long weekend. And you may not be aware that, despite the amazingly carved, painted and decorated building, the real star here is the tea. At Dushanbe, they carry teas by artisans using the “orthodox” method of tea manufacturing, unlike the mechanized CTC (cut, tear, curl) method, which is reserved for massproduced Lipton. In the orthodox method, tea is picked by hand, and the whole process is carefully overseen by an actual human being. What a concept. Oh, and they do a dang good job with their food, too. Celestial Seasonings and its famous “mint room” (if you haven’t done so already, take the tour) took third place this year, even though it’s not a house.
THE KITCHEN 1039 Pearl St., 303-544-5973
Second Place: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Third Place: Bacaro Venetian Taverna
Fourth Place: The Corner Bar
Fifth Place: Restaurant 4580
Yeah, yeah, we know that Boulder loves all things local, and so does The Kitchen.
Hence, the restaurant’s brand new “Grain to Glass Cocktails,” each of which features at least one locally sourced ingredient. Moreover, the restaurant makes all bitters in-house, candies its own ginger and handcrafts its classic honey-lavender syrup. Their rotating menus feature a number of food and drink staples, including grilled lacinato kale, hand-rolled gnocchi and a delightfully delectable lychee martini. For the Kitchen Upstairs, the restaurant’s bar, the lychee martini is a modernized classic. Made with Tito’s Vodka, a dash of simple syrup and pure lychee juice, the drink is refreshingly smooth. People are leery of the lychee, but we say fear not! The Asian fruit, a sort of raspberrypear crossbreed, is a bit meaty, a bit sweet and totally delicious.
Best Innovation LEFTHAND BREWING COMPANY’S MILK STOUT NITRO 1265 Boston Ave., Longmont, 303-772-0258
Lefthand’s Milk Stout was already an arrow in every serious beer drinker’s quiver, but what the company has done with this particular beer of late is groundbreaking. You may recall that Guinness made news a few years back when it added a widget to its cans of stout in order to create a more draught-like product. The widgets released nitrogen into the beer instead of carbon dioxide. Enough, Mr. Science.
Nitrogen makes stout taste creamy with an appropriately thick head. Lefthand figured out a process to bottle its Milk Stout Nitro with nitrogen without using a widget. We don’t know or care how they did it (no cows were injured in the process). We care that the results are delicious. Just remember to pour the beer hard for best results.
Microbrewery MOUNTAIN SUN/SOUTHERN SUN
1535 Pearl St., 303-546-0886 627 South Broadway, 303-543-0886
Second Place: Avery Brewing Company
Third Place: Oskar Blues Brewery
Fourth Place: Left Hand Brewing Company
Fifth Place: Boulder Beer Company
Living in the Napa Valley of microbrews, it’s not tough to find a place to drink great beer. It’s tough to pick any one place to fill your pint glass over another. But once again this year, readers have spoken (as if the persistent hour-long wait to get a table even on a Tuesday night didn’t tell you): The Suns win it. (Well, of course, voting is done right after Stout Month.) The field is a fiercely competitive one, and our runner-ups, Avery Brewing, Oskar Blues, Lefthand and Boulder Beer deserve a glass raised in their honor, too. But the Mountain Sun/Southern Sun duo’s balance of steady homebrews, which includes a glass-toppling array of stouts during Stout Month, the knock-yourhelmet-off Java Porter, the fair and balanced Annapurna Amber and the hopped-to-the max Illusion Dweller I.P.A., keeps us coming back for more. Oh, and did we mention Stout Month? A whole month devoted to a rotating tap list of stouts brewed with everything from bonus hops to chai to chocolate and mint. Come February 2013, we’re moving in.
OZO COFFEE CO.
5340 Arapahoe Ave., #F, 303-440-0233 1015 Pearl St., 303-645-4885
Second Place: Laughing Goat Coffeehouse
Third Place: Vic’s Espresso
Fourth Place: The Cup Espresso Cafe
Fifth Place: Trident Bookstore and Cafe/ Starbucks (tie)
Yes, you are reading that correctly. The line-up for best latte and best mocha are pretty much identical. Yes, there is a difference between lattes and mochas. A mocha has chocolate and usually tastes more like dessert than coffee. Oh, wait. The winners aren’t exactly the same. What is going on with fifth place? Seriously, what is going on? People of Boulder, every town with a population of more than 100 non-related people has a Starbucks within driving distance. In fact, most towns in America have multiple Starbucks. Boulder has about 10 Starbucks, all of which likely get their mocha mix from the same warehouse as every other Starbucks in the country. Boulder also has a ton of local coffee shops that roast their own coffee and have great-tasting mochas. Congratulations to Ozo Coffee Co. for having the best mocha in town, for roasting their own, being locally owned and making coffee by doing more than pressing a button.
1738 Pearl St., 303-442-6966
Second Place: Flagstaff House
Third Place: Boulder Cork
Fourth Place: The Kitchen
Fifth Place: The Mediterranean Restaurant
For those of you who like to swirl, take a sniff and float away on the complex bouquet of a fine wine, Frasca is the place for you. Wine lovers will enjoy a large and eclectic selection of vintages, some familiar, others awaiting that first introduction. If you’re not quite sure exactly which of the more than 200 wines that comprise Frasca’s list would best accompany your meal selection, don’t despair. One of the restaurant’s sommeliers is always standing by to offer “unpretentious guidance” for just such occasions. Putting your evening and taste buds into the hands of one of these knowledgeable folks is a great way to enhance your wine-drinking experience at one of the finest restaurants in the state.
Best Coffee Liqueur ROUNDHOUSE SPIRITS’ CORRETO COFFEE LIQUEUR 5311 Western Ave., Suite 180, 303-819-5598
All right, we admit it. We went to the Roundhouse Distillery because we heard the place was producing great gin, and it is. But somewhere along the way we became distracted by the small craft distillery’s Corretto Coffee Liqueur. This stuff is great, as in “the last bottle disappeared in less than 48 hours” great. In fact, we think it is hands-down the best coffee liqueur we’ve ever tasted. Less sugar than the others, more alcohol than the others, better flavor than the others. More alcohol than the others (this can not be overstated). If you haven’t tried this liqueur, you are truly missing out.