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218 Coffman St., Longmont 303-772-6954

Combining a hospitable, homey, Key West feel with a menu of fresh seafood prepared in the manner of the Caribbean, Mexico and New Orleans, Longmont’s Tortugas is an easy winner. Noteworthy dishes include the Creole BBQ shrimp appetizer wrapped in bacon, and the bright-tasting shrimp Mojo, with a Cuban citrus, garlic and olive oil sauce. Chocolate bourbon bread pudding is an exquisite dessert, among the best endings available locally.

Salt Bistro

1047 Pearl St., Boulder 303-444-SALT

Downtown Boulder’s Salt Bistro, one of the newest entrants in the affordable midday meal sweepstakes, now serves a “farm-to-table” lunch for $9. Favored choices include the Reuben, made with pork belly instead of corned beef. The meatless eater will likely favor the quinoa and chickpea fritters. Preferred sides include the tomato soup garnished with a tiny grilled cheese wedge and the beet or apple salads, available for $2 more.

Jai Ho Indian Kitchen, Bar and Lounge

1915 28th St., Boulder 303-444-5151

Jai Ho, the Boulder spinoff of a popular Aurora restaurant, offers an intriguing blend of Northern and Southern Indian food, ranging from street-style eats to the ubiquitous lunchtime buffet. The buffet offers a fine opportunity to appreciate the skilled spicing of such dishes as the creamy chicken Tikka Masala and its fiery chile-based relation, Vindaloo. The dosa, a crisp, cylindrical crepe, is also a winner, featuring hefty veggie stuffing and subtle sourdough tang.

Zucca Italian Ristorante 808 Main St., Louisville 303-666-6499

Located smack dab in the middle of downtown Louisville, Zucca Italian Ristorante boasts an inviting ambience balancing the rustic with a subtle but unmistakable European flair. The same can also be said of the menu, which ranges from old standbys like comforting spaghetti and meatballs to more elevated selections like seafood cannelloni and rack of lamb. Can’t-miss items include the fried calamari starter, garnished with piquant pickled peppers and fresh tomato, and the arugula salad, a winning combination of greens, gorgonzola and apple.

Fan’s Chinese Cuisine

7960 Niwot Road, #C9, Niwot 303-652-6249

Fan’s Chinese Cuisine, situated in a Niwot strip mall near a sheriff’s office substation, serves up dishes free of MSG, as well as gluten-free choices. Outside of that, the reasonably priced lunch bill of fare is a Chinese- American hall of fame, spotlighting such chestnuts as chow mein, Szechuan beef and vegetarian Buddha’s Delight. Top choices include flavorful Mongolian beef garnished with expertly stir-fried pepper and onion, as well as the fresh-tasting Grand Marnier shrimp.

Santa Fe Coffee & Burrito Co.

33 S. Main St., Longmont 303-996-1010

Longmont’s Santa Fe Coffee & Burrito Co. certainly lives up to its name. This welcoming breakfast and lunch spot features caffeine ranging from classic diner coffee to espresso drinks and hearty, New Mexicoinfluenced meals. Morning highlights include anything with the green chile; piping hot skillets such as the Santa Fe, featuring bacon, chorizo, potato, bell pepper and onion; and the compelling enchiladas and eggs.


1710 29th St., Suite 1076, Boulder 303-442-1300

While Laudisio is best known for its Italian-influenced lunches and dinners, it certainly satisfies with its solidly constructed brunch menu on the weekends. Offerings include egg-based dishes such as a Hazel Dell mushroom frittata, sweet choices like a perfectly balanced lemon ricotta pancake, and breakfast pizzas topped with prosciutto. Other noteworthy items include the hearty steak and eggs sided with homefries, and the piping hot Italian-style donut holes.

Whole Foods Market

2905 Pearl St., Boulder 303-545-6611

The expanded food court at the Pearl Street Whole Foods quite literally has everything from soup to nuts. Available items range from a crisp, anise-scented fennel salad to a surprisingly flavorful interpretation of Chinese barbecued pork. Made-to-order fare includes taqueria-style Mexican street food and Asian noodles, highlighted by the Vietnamese-influenced pho ga, a chicken and rice noodle soup.

Oak at Fourteenth

1400 Pearl St., Boulder 303-444-3622

Oak at Fourteenth is back with a vengeance, serving up winning gourmet fare inspired in part by American regional cuisine. A sleek interior coupled with denim-clad waitstaff give it a subtle cowboymeets-foodie feel, accented by attentive service. Dinners include a porterhouse steak for two and house-made pastas. At lunch, the shrimp grits are sublime, and the winning $11 burger lunch special includes two grass-fed patties, Old Bay seasoning-scented tater tots and housemade root beer.

Pearl Street Steak Room

1035 Pearl St., Boulder 303-938-9604

Wagyu steak is a pricey delicacy, and the Pearl Street Steak Room is a coolly retro venue where people can indulge their taste for this artisan beef. Richly marbled, sweet and tender, the Wagyu filet’s a good way to go, especially after one of their smooth martinis. The adventurous can start their meal with chicken-fried sweetbreads, but more sedate choices like duck confit also tempt.

The Bitter Bar

835 Walnut St., Boulder 303-442-3050

The Big Red F Restaurant Group’s foray into the world of artisan cocktails, The Bitter Bar, has taken over the former Happy Noodle venue. Drinks here range from original award-winning concoctions such as the Gone Fishin’, featuring naval-strength rum and ginger liqueur, to Irish coffee. But the focus on libations doesn’t detract from the food, which includes a fresh-tasting lobster risotto and the unique gingerbread cake garnished with bacon caramel popcorn.


2027 13th St., Boulder 303-449-0120

Boulder’s Shine is the newest venture from the Emich triplets, late of Trilogy fame. Shine is a bar and restaurant as well as a performance and gathering space showcasing everything from world music concerts to yoga classes. The menu features healthful offerings ranging from locally sourced, grass-fed beef burgers to meatless jackfruit tacos. There is also a selection of housemade beer, and various elixirs and potions flavored with herbs and touted for their restorative qualities.

95a Bistro and Sushi

1381 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette 303-665-3080

95a Bistro and Sushi is a worthwhile addition to the East County dining scene. It provides an opportunity for a reasonably priced lunch prepared with care, an intriguing small plate meal, or a dinner combining comforting home cooking with gourmet flair. Winning small plate choices, none of which cost more than $7, include clams and chorizo, braised pork over potato, and chile pepper and avocado tempura.


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