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Home / Articles / Special Sections / Best of Boulder /  Best of Boulder 2013: Overall & General Restaurants
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Thursday, April 25,2013

Best of Boulder 2013: Overall & General Restaurants

By Boulder Weekly Staff
Photo by Susan France
Dushanbe Teahouse, winner of best restaurant ambience

Overall Restaurant

1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: The Kitchen
Third Place: Jax Fish House
Fourth Place: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Fifth Place: Brasserie Ten Ten

In a city like Boulder, where there is, like, one restaurant for every six residents, getting crowned the best overall is saying something. And The Med has repeatedly been awarded this honor. Deservedly so. They do so many things well, from top-notch service to a wood-fired oven to delectable drinks to sumptuous tapas to delicious entrees. We know that when we bring relatives and friends to town, after seeing the sights on the Pearl Street Mall, this is the place that can satisfy all discerning tastes. The runner-up, The Kitchen, isn’t exactly a slouch, either, with its clean atmosphere and locally sourced ingredients that make you feel good about eating out.


1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: Brasserie Ten Ten
Third Place: Boulder Cafe
Fourth Place: The Kitchen
Fifth Place: Aji

It just seems right that a category with the word “tapas” should honor a restaurant that has the word “Med” in its name, especially since there are so many Spanish appetizers to choose from at this establishment. Just enunciate when you tell your friends — or even more importantly, your in-laws — that you want to go to a tapas bar, or they may think you are referring to a less-respectable joint that features women without blouses. When it comes to respectable, The Med takes the cake in this category yet again, with unbeatable ambiance, a charming patio and a long list of small plates ranging from simple olives and almonds to carefully prepared seafood and meats.

Business Lunch

1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: The Kitchen
Third Place: Brasserie Ten Ten
Fourth Place: Boulder Cork
Fifth Place: OAK at fourteenth

We know how it is with these business lunches. The boss clamors for Spanish food. The visiting executive wants Greek. The worker bees are making overtures about Italian. And the IT guy wants Egyptian. Well, you are in luck. There is a place that serves all of these cuisines and more, and it’s in downtown Boulder. It’s The Med, and the ambiance is perfect for professionals, whether you get seated on the gorgeous patio or in one of the clean, tastefully decorated dining rooms. The menu is diverse enough to satisfy all tastes, and if it’s one of those three-martini lunches, they can accommodate!


5541 Central Ave., Ste. 272, 303-443-4049

Second Place: Dish Gourmet
Third Place: Il Pastaio
Fourth Place: Ristorante L
Fifth Place: Sage and Savory Catering

Whether you’re hosting a wedding, bar mitzvah or birthday bash, everyone knows one of the key ingredients to creating an event to remember is the food. Since 1987, A Spice of Life Catering has made a name for itself as a caterer that won’t leave you hanging with overcooked steaks or too few salmon fillets. If you prefer full-service, A Spice of Life boasts its own event center in addition to specialized vegetarian, kosher and brunch menus. But beyond the great food, A Spice of Life takes its mission of sustainability seriously, with a commitment to farm-to-table ingredients, zero waste and giving back to the community.

Fine Dining

1138 Flagstaff Road, 303-442-4640

Second Place: Frasca Food and Wine
Third Place: The Kitchen
Fourth Place: Brasserie Ten Ten
Fifth Place: Black Cat Farm-Table-Bistro

Top honors in this category have changed this year, as Boulder’s finest continue to jockey for best fine-dining experience. Rising from second place, Flagstaff House has grabbed the top spot with its French-American menu, devised by Executive Chef Mark Monette after extensive experience in kitchens in New York, France and Asia.

Flagstaff House knows how to get everything about a fine dining experience right. Romantic tables overlook Boulder from the restaurant’s spot nestled on the mountainside. The wine list boasts an enormous, award-winning collection of wines, and its menu items have included Maine Day Boat Lobster and Buffalo Filet Mignon and Foie Gras “Wellington.” And there’s the attentive waitstaff, who keep your plate warm with tasters between courses. Headed by Monette, his brother Scott and father Don, staff continue to earn Flagstaff House national accolades. To our readers, the dining at Flagstaff is as fine as the view.

Food Truck


Second Place: Oskar Blues Bonewagon
Third Place: RollinGreens
Fourth Place: The Wandering Cow Frozen Yogurt & Waffles
Fifth Place: Verde Food Truck

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a bright pink food truck serving up Mexican comfort food out of a kitchen on wheels.

It’s hard to miss the Comida food truck stopped on a side street, standing out against a mundane, ever-so-normal neighborhood, the smell of sizzling steak and pork carnitas wafting in the breeze. Changing the game of fast food, Comida serves $3 tacos and $2 Mexican Cokes to those trying to eat on the run — or anyone hoping to break up the monotony of leftovers in the office break room. Curious diners can catch the pink truck at festivals, in office parks and at neighborhood events.

Place to Go on a First Date

1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335

Second Place: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Third Place: Centro Latin Kitchen
Fourth Place: Brasserie Ten Ten
Fifth Place: Pizzeria Locale/The Kitchen

On a first date, you don’t want to go over the top, visiting a super-expensive, ritzy, pretentious place that will make your date feel like you are either a stuck-up snob or about to pop the question. And yet you don’t want to go too lowbrow. Your love interest will think you are a cheapskate if your idea of splurging is super-sizing your extra value meal. That’s why The Med is such a great option for a first date. It’s a comfortable yet elegant environment without the pretense and prices that usually come with a nice restaurant. And your date will easily find something to like on the wide-ranging menu. Even, um, dates.

Food Delivery

659 30th St., 303-447-3278
1325 Broadway #108, 303-447-1133

Second Place: Jimmy John’s
Third Place: Abo’s Pizza
Fourth Place: Sun Deli & Liquor
Fifth Place: Blackjack Pizza

Crisis: you’re hungry. But you’re glued to your couch. No worries, dude — order a pizza. If you order from this year’s winner, Cosmo’s Pizza, you can get free delivery. Sweet. Cosmo’s has two Boulder locations, including one on the Hill. Their menu offers popular pizzas like the Hawaiian, the Veggie Supreme and the Meat Lovers. Load up with extra toppings like artichoke hearts, fresh basil or anchovies. As a side, you can order a pint of Cosmo’s homemade spicy ranch dressing in which to dip your crusts.

Late Night

659 30th St., 303-447-3278
1325 Broadway #108, 303-447-1133

Second Place: World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill
Third Place: Abo’s Pizza
Fourth Place: Boulder Baked
Fifth Place: Hapa Sushi

Do you really need that slice of pizza after last call? Yes, you do. Luckily, Cosmo’s Pizza serves up its pizza and calzones and spicy ranch dressing until 2 a.m. Don’t forget — even if pizza helps soak up some toxins, it won’t replace brain cells. Also, if the room is spinning, or slanting, or otherwise disobeying the laws of contemporary pizza-place design, late-night pizza may not be your best choice. Perhaps you’d be better off at the Dark Horse, the second-place winner, where comparably booze-absorbing bar food is served through an easily navigable window from bar to kitchen.

New Restaurant

627 S. Broadway, Ste. A, 303-927-6921

Second Place: Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place
Third Place: FATE Brewing Company
Fourth Place: OAK at fourteenth
Fifth Place: Native Foods

The only reasonable argument we’ve ever encountered for derailing once you’ve got a Sun restaurant on the mind (the Southern Sun and Mountain Sun having becoming much-loved Boulder institutions) is the wait time. It’s hard to not share your craving for craft beer and solid pub fare with many, many other hungry and thirsty people.

So when the Sun estates announced they were expanding in Boulder by acquiring a recently vacated space in the same shopping center as the Southern Sun, cheers likely went up around town. But it’s still surprising — and impressive — to see Under the Sun hop to the front of the Best New Restaurant category just a few months after opening their doors.

What those doors open to is a world where Sun taps are shared with other carefully cultivated beer choices, the menu makes plentiful use of a large wood-fired oven for entrees like tasty flatbread pizzas and roasted chicken, and the staff carries on with the same cheerful and friendly feelings that other Sun restaurants have made a fundamental part of a cherished brand. So we’ll happily raise a glass to — or, more optimistically, actually at — this latest Boulder institution.

The light of Under the Sun may have taken the lead, but let’s not let the sun blind us entirely. Our runner-up in the new restaurants category, Shine (are we sensing a theme here?) with its entirely gluten-free menu and generous vegetarian options, is another welcome addition to the community. And, beer aficionados that we are, we’re glad to see FATE Brewery arrive on the scene as well. May their new, extra-fancy brewing system see many a long pour.

Place to Eat Outdoors

900 Baseline Road, 303-440-3776

Second Place: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Third Place: Rio Grande
Fourth Place: The Mediterranean Restaurant
Fifth Place: Boulder County Farmers’ Markets

We can only take the fact that the Chautauqua Dining Hall was closed for months prior to this year’s Best of Boulder survey as a ringing endorsement for this historic eating establishment. The Dining Hall, first opened in 1898, reopened April 10 with new management, updated d├ƒ┬ęcor and a refreshed menu. Care of the Dining Hall now rests in the hands of the same folks who have been tending to another local treasure, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse: Lenny and Sara Martinelli.

Dining outdoors at Chautauqua means taking a seat on the wrap-around porch and taking in the views of the scenic Chautauqua Park. Whether pre-concert or post-hike in the Flatirons, it’s an idyllic setting in which to enjoy offerings from a menu that focuses on Colorado products, including locally made beer, liquor and wine as well as produce from local farms.

Restaurant Ambiance

1770 13th St., 303-442-4993

Second Place: Flagstaff House
Third Place: The Mediterranean Restaurant
Fourth Place: The Kitchen
Fifth Place: Black Cat Farm-Table-Bistro

If you’re looking for ambiance, it’s hard to beat a place where you can either sit outside, listening to Boulder Creek babble by, or dine under a ceiling that was hand-carved and painted with Persian art halfway around the world. The cedar columns inside the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, of which no two are exactly alike, were also carved without the use of any power tools in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The teahouse was sent to Boulder from its sister city, Dushanbe, in ready-to-reassemble parts, as a symbol of international friendship. We’ve welcomed it with tourists, locals, business meetings and special-occasion gatherings — and anyone else who can’t get enough of the unmatched atmosphere.

But if your preferred ambiance involves wine or breathtaking views, you may go for the runner-up, the Flagstaff House, which is built high on Flagstaff Road and overlooks Boulder.

Restaurant Service

3073 Walnut St., 303-447-2315

673 S. Broadway, 720-304-8118

2770 Arapahoe Road #116, Lafayette, 720-328-9208

Second Place: Mountain Sun/Southern Sun
Third Place: Flagstaff House
Fourth Place: Frasca Food and Wine
Fifth Place: The Kitchen

There’s a war going down in the restaurants of Boulder. It’s a very polite war. Its weapons are speed, smiles and samples. Its armor is aprons and no-slip shoes. Its battleground is the unsuspecting diner. But, trust us, that’s a good thing.

This category is as close and as fiercely fought as any in our Best of Boulder contest. Last year, Walnut Cafe/Southside Walnut Cafe and Mountain Sun/Southern Sun fought to a draw, each taking home a share of the title. This year, it looked like the same outcome was inevitable, but the caf├ƒ┬ęs edged out the brewpubs in the end.

The Walnut has long been known for super-friendly service, which can include banana bread and coffee for those waiting for tables. The staff is prompt and friendly, and comes armed with advice and recommendations, a good thing when you’re staring down a blended coffee drink menu as expansive as the Walnut’s. The same is true for the runner-up Suns and their beer.

Take Out

2602 Baseline Road, 720-304-2044
1600 28th St., 303-546-9000
1245 Alpine Ave., 303-440-0991

Second Place: Snarf’s Sub Shop
Third Place: Khow Thai
Fourth Place: Chez Thuy
Fifth Place: Nick-N-Willy’s

You don’t know if you want Chinese, Nepalese, Italian or just plain old American. All you know is that you’re starving and way too tired to worry about making dinner, let alone putzing around the grocery store. You know you need take out, and you need it now. From Asian to Mediterranean to American food, Noodles & Company has all your bases covered. Whether it’s homestyle mac & cheese for the kiddos, a Mediterranean salad you’re taking to the gluten-free neighbor or a bowl of savory Thai curry soup you want all to yourself, Noodles has got your back. So, fear not, hungry Boulderites, for Noodles is fast food that you can feel good about grabbing.

STAFF PICK: Place to Get a Gluten-Free Panini and a Chocolate/Bacon Bar While Looking at Local Art and Listening to Live Folk Music

379 Main St., Longmont, 303-651-3533

Yep, you can get all that and more at the Sun Rose Cafe. This place is definitely a little different, in a very good way. The Sun Rose supports the local arts scene by providing abundant space on its exposed brick walls for artists to show their wares. And a regular lineup of folk and bluegrass music keeps the place lively. The menu has a great selection of sandwiches and salads, and in the evening the Sun Rose rolls out a special menu of fine dining to accompany the regular menu choices. And they sell an eclectic selection of organic products, from chocolate to chips to sauces and beverages that you can’t find just anywhere. It’s well worth checking out.

STAFF PICK: Hole in the Wall

2850 Iris Ave., 303-440-4141

Calling a restaurant a “hole in the wall” isn’t a bad thing, any more than calling a shirt “long-sleeved” is. It’s just a fact.

And no restaurant’s more of a hole in the wall than Restaurante 100% Mexicano, a cafeteria-bright spot tucked into the Diagonal Plaza’s mini-mall with a DMV office and a check-cashing service, among others. But 100% isn’t just the biggest hole in the wall. It’s also the best. 100% is a truly authentic Mexican restaurant, meaning you won’t see Combination Special No. 5 on the menu, you’ll see eight tortas and menudo — weekends only, naturally — not to mention tongue tacos and birria lamb stew. It’s the kind of place that has horchata, carrot juice and Jamaican flower juice.

To return to the Best of Boulder 2013 page, click here.

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I'm sorry, but the Med is terribly overrated.  It's noisy, overpriced, and the service is flat-out bad.  Never understood why it's so popular.  But especially as a first date location?  That's a great idea if you don't want to, you know, talk to your date.  Flagstaff House is also pretty blah for its price range.  The food at Frasca is much better.  The Flagstaff House mostly caters to tourists who are impressed by the view.


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