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The 8 best restaurants in Boulder

Boulder has an eclectic culinary scene that deftly addresses the diverse needs of college students, residents and visitors. Foodies will be delighted with the number of top ethnic restaurants and quality farm-to-table options available in this walkable city at the foothills. With so many great restaurants, it’s a challenge to come up with a list of “x delicious restaurants” to try.

To accomplish this feat, I have focused on moderately priced menus that appeal to a discerning palate. Despite this limitation, I had to give up many delicious options. Keep in mind that since I don’t eat meat, my list may not adequately reflect carnivore choices and my numbering is in alphabetical order and does not reflect my preferences.

Carrots roasted on wood

Wood-roasted carrots with herbed labneh, pistachio duke, pickled red onions and carrot sprouts

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

1. Ash’Kara

If you love authentic Mediterranean cuisine and like sharing small plates to maximize your dining enjoyment, Ash’Kara is a great option. Visitors can choose to dine inside or outside of this trendy restaurant, which opened on Pearl Street during the pandemic. Chef Daniel Asher draws on his heritage to create his take on modern Israeli cuisine using mostly plant-based ingredients.

What you can order from Ash’Kara

Guests who prefer not to consume alcoholic beverages will be intrigued by the turmeric colada, a blend of pineapple, coconut, turmeric, and ras el hanout (a Middle Eastern spice blend). The depth of flavor of the drink’s Middle Eastern spice blend will compliment most of the restaurant’s dishes.

As a die-hard hummus fan, I’m happy with the Basic Holy Land Hummus. This plate comes with lots of hummus but only one pita. If you are sharing with someone who loves pita, consider ordering more. To add to this selection, add a traditional Israeli salad, a plate or two of falafel, the date-glazed eggplant dish, and the wood-roasted carrots. After a nutritious meal, health-conscious individuals can simply walk away satisfied. For those ready to indulge in a sweet treat, consider the chocolate and tahini panna cotta or the sufganiyot, jelly-filled donuts, traditionally eaten at Hanukkah.

Falafel plate at Boychik, at Avanti F&B

Falafel plate at Boychik, at Avanti F&B

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

2. Avanti Food and Drinks

Have you ever chosen a restaurant for a group of friends and then sat down and realized that your guests didn’t like the menu? Sophisticated food courts like Boulder’s Avanti Food & Beverage address this issue by offering multiple restaurants under one roof. Avanti has seven locations – Au Shucks Oyster and Raw Bar, Boychik, Lost City, New Yorksee, Pig and Tiger, Rooted American Craft Kitchen, and Rye Society. The ethnic smorgasbord of tasty dishes can be complemented with a refreshing drink at two bars.

What you can order at Avanti Food & Beverage

Because my husband and I embrace plant-based, health-conscious cuisine, we turned our attention to Boychik, an Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant, the nutrient-dense salads at Rooted Craft American Kitchen, and Dr. Rosen’s Feel Good Bowl at the Rye Society. Our midday hunger was easily satisfied by sharing a generous salad and bowl. Our guests loved the Taiwanese rolls at Pig and Tiger, as well as the handmade Forager pizza stuffed with maitake mushrooms, truffles, and mozzarella cheese. To round off their meals, they drank coffee and enjoyed Little Man ice cream from the Lost City.

Winter lettuce at Bramble & Hare in Boulder

Hearty winter salad at Bramble & Hare

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

3. Blackberry & Rabbit

Bramble & Hare offers an authentic farm-to-table experience in the heart of downtown Boulder. Chef Eric Skokan and his wife Jill operate a 425-acre organic farm on the outskirts of Boulder. This endeavor is the source of many carnivore entrees, as well as the ingredients for the seasonal entrees at both Bramble & Hare and their other restaurant, Black Cat Bistro. Few restaurants have the advantage of harvesting fresh produce daily.

What you can order from Bramble & Hare

Since the price-fixed three-course menu changes daily, visitors cannot rely on reviews or suggestions. What may have appeared in a previous menu may not be available. With few options in the appetizer, entree, and dessert categories, it’s best to ask about the menu, especially if you have dietary restrictions or allergies.

Strawberry banana open dessert crepe at Carelli's in Boulder

Open-faced dessert crepe with strawberries and bananas

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

4. Carelli of Boulder

Foodies craving a spread of northern and southern Italian cuisine will find a great choice at Carelli’s of Boulder. First-time visitors may be overwhelmed by the selection of appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, poultry dishes, pescetarian and veal treasures, pizza options, calzones and hot paninis. These freshly made appetizers are consistently good. Hassle-free free parking at William’s Village shopping center is a bonus.

What to order at Carelli’s Of Boulder

Many choose to nibble on the restaurant’s homemade garlic bread while starting their meal with a bowl of vegetarian minestrone or a generous salad. Please note that some of the salads are plentiful enough to be ordered as a starter. Pescetarians can’t go wrong with any of the seafood dishes. While my preference is for seafood, other guests have not been disappointed with any of the other options.

Daily specials tend to be creative and feature seasonal ingredients. On one occasion we enjoyed a cauliflower risotto and lemon garlic shrimp made with roasted poblano peppers, corn, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil and Parmesan cheese. Dessert options include a selection of dishes presented on a silver platter, as well as an appealing selection of open-faced crepes.

Sushi assortment at Japango in Boulder

Sushi assortment at Japango

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

5.Japango

Although far from a coast, Boulder has many notable sushi restaurants. Japango is a top choice for traditional and innovative sushi creations along with an indoor and outdoor ambience that is second to none.

What you can order from Japango

While similar items are available for lunch and dinner, the best lunch choice is a lunch bento box. With nearly a dozen varieties, diners are sure to find a great combination. Each bento box selection includes miso soup, mixed green salad, rice and an appetizer. Some feature both a California roll and veggie tempura, while others feature just one of those elements. Happy Hour offers great deals daily from 3pm to 6pm and all day on Mondays.

Pan seared Verlasso salmon served at Jill's in Boulder

Pan seared Verlasso salmon served at Jill’s

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

6. Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro

Hotel restaurants are not usually at the top of my list. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the contemporary cuisine at Jill’s at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa in downtown Boulder. The dining experience is enhanced by live music at certain times. Although the menu is relatively small, it offers organic options for carnivores, pescetarians, and vegetarians.

The weekend brunch menu with extended opening hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. also offers a cross-section of tasty dishes. Categories include appetizers, brunch entrees, salads and sandwiches, and woodstone flatbreads. After a hiatus during COVID, the popular vegan lunch buffets have been reintroduced on Fridays.

What to order at Jill’s

While we patiently awaited our dinner choices, many nearby guests ate the Snake River Wagyu Burger or shared a woodstone pizza. Instead, we opted for a broader selection, capitalizing on Jill’s emphasis on farm-to-table food. We enjoyed our entree of crispy Brussels sprouts, the yakisoba noodle salad made with cucumber, carrots, ginger, spring onions and crispy wontons, and the pan-seared teriyaki-glazed salmon dishes accompanied by wild rice and pea sprouts.

Lobster rolls at The Kitchen

Lobster rolls at The Kitchen

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

7. The kitchen

The Kitchen offers another popular farm-to-table lunch, brunch, and dinner option in downtown Boulder. Most of the menu is filled with creative sharing dishes aimed at gluten-free and vegan diners. Pescetarians and carnivores alike will rejoice in larger plates that appeal to these diets. Creative desserts round off the sweet treat.

What to order in the kitchen

Popular dishes — crispy cauliflower, lobster rolls, hand-cut fries/garlic fries, crab fried rice, and tagliatelle — appear on more than one menu. Guests wanting to experience a medley of flavors can share several small dishes, as well as a heartier fish or meat dish.

Misticanza salad at Pizzeria Locale

Misticanza salad at Pizzeria Locale

Copyright: Sandy Bornstein

8. Local Pizzeria

Quality restaurants with limited seating require forward planning. Such is the case at Boulder’s Pizzeria Locale, which only has a small number of tables. While college towns typically have no shortage of city-based pizzerias, few offer a version that rivals what can be sampled in Naples, Italy. Great care has been taken to import authentic Italian pizza making techniques and equipment. This restaurant features Colorado’s first wood-burning Stefano Ferrara stove and an attentive and personable staff.

What you can order at Pizzeria Locale

Purists will come simply for the restaurant’s hot pizzas, which come in two versions – Pizze Bianche and Pizze Rosse. Unless you’re a purist who always orders marinara or margherita pizzas, it will take you a moment to read the other options listed in the two versions. Appetizers add texture to the meal, while shareable salads add healthy greens to the diet.

Boulder restaurants pro tip

Restaurants will be packed when the University of Colorado hosts school and sporting events and when the students’ parents are in town. Reservations are required during these peak times.

For more information on Boulder, see these articles:

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