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Thursday, April 25,2013

Best of Boulder 2013: Ethnic Restaurants, Pizza, Sushi and Burrito

By Boulder Weekly Staff
Photo by Susan France
Adrian Lebian of Efrains Mexican Restaurant in Lafayette

Asian-Fusion Restaurant

2655 28th St., 303-442-1700

Second Place: Hapa Sushi
Third Place: Khow Thai Cafe
Fourth Place: Buddha Thai Cuisine
Fifth Place: Moongate Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar

When it comes to Asian fusion cuisine, Chez Thuy shows us time and time again that it’s a step above the rest. With dishes inspired by French, Indonesian, Malaysian and Chinese flavors, Chez Thuy is more than your typical Vietnamese restaurant. Perhaps it’s the taste-budtantalizing Lobster Tamarind or the Kung Pao Tofu that keep Boulder residents coming back for more, or maybe they spiked the boba. Either way, they’ve got our vote! This year marks Chez Thuy’s (pronounced “twee”) 20th in business, and what better way to celebrate than with yet another Best of Boulder award proving the restaurant is still around for a reason.


1320 College Ave., 303-444-3055
1447 Pearl St., 303-444-3955

Second Place: Chipotle
Third Place: Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
Fourth Place: Big City Burrito
Fifth Place: Santiago’s

There’s a noticeable split in this competitive category between the fast-casual cafeteria style, like winner Illegal Pete’s and runners-up Chipotle and Big City Burrito, and the green chile spice of more traditional Tex-Mex runners-up Efrain’s and Santiago’s. Within those categories, it’s all about the little differences. Was it the punk-metal theme as compared to the world music and metallic gleam? Was it the mixing of ingredients before wrapping the tortilla up? Was it that great blessing for dairy haters and avocado lovers: Pete’s gives guacamole free if diners decline sour cream and cheese? No doubt all sorts of reasons crossed voters’ minds. It should be fun to watch — and continue to taste — what these restaurants come up with next.


3970 N. Broadway, 303-440-3500

Second Place: Golden Lotus
Third Place: Moongate Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar
Fourth Place: Five Spice
Fifth Place: Spice China/May Wah (tie)

It’s hard to say what magic lies within sesame chicken or crab cheese wontons dipped in sweet and sour sauce, but when you’re craving Chinese food’s marriage of savory and sweet, nothing else will do. While Boulder has many local restaurants to choose from, our winner, China Gourmet, stands above the rest. Regular patrons come back again and again not for the décor, but for China Gourmet’s fresh ingredients (like healthy, steamed veggies), reliable quality, fair prices and quick service. Our runner-up, Golden Lotus, is also known for its tasty Asian cuisine and makes for a festive evening out.


1001 Pearl St., 303-444-5800

Second Place: Carelli’s Restaurant
Third Place: Ristorante L
Fourth Place: Il Pastaio
Fifth Place: Arugula Bar e Ristorante

As one of the best-established and most widely known ethnic foods in the U.S., Italian should be pretty predictable at this point. It should be like a hot dog or a turkey sandwich: You know exactly what you’re going to get.

And, in some cases, it is. But the winners in this category demonstrate there’s still a world of surprises in Italian cuisine. Whether it’s blending Italian and the West with its buffalo ravioli or bringing together shrimp, crab and scallops over linguine with clam sauce, winner Pasta Jay’s brings out the creativity in one of America’s favorite Old World cuisines. And of course, Pasta Jay’s also dishes out comforting favorites like baked rigatoni, caprese salad and a variety of pizzas.


825 Walnut St., 303-440-7151

Second Place: Tandoori Grill
Third Place: Taj Indian Cuisine
Fourth Place: Kathmandu
Fifth Place: Nepal Cuisine

All restaurants smell good — hopefully. But few can compare to the aroma of an Indian establishment, that complex, mouth-watering fragrance that sometimes hits you well before you open the door.

Sherpa’s has been gracing Walnut Street with its amazing smell for more than 10 years, and once again Boulderites have thanked the restaurant with a Best of Boulder selection. Stepping into the eatery housed in a house is like walking into Food Smell Heaven, as you’re hit by a rich, simmering curry and fresh-baked naan.

It can’t hurt that, along with a long and varied Indian menu, Sherpa’s features a few dishes from Tibet, including Tibetan noodles and momo dumplings.

Most nights you’ll find owner Pemba Sherpa seated at the bar, chatting with staff and diners alike. And if you don’t see him at the bar, his face and those of many other mountaineers, along with a slew of mountaineering gear and Everest climbing permits, adorn the walls.

Japanese Restaurant

1221 Spruce St., 303-440-0733

Second Place: Hapa Sushi
Third Place: Sushi Tora
Fourth Place: Japango
Fifth Place: Amu Sake Bar and Restaurant

Our readers love Japanese cuisine. As a result, the city is in a constant state of hyper-competition to see which of the area’s top Japanese restaurants will win the coveted readers’ choice for Best of Boulder. Because it is so competitive, it’s truly impressive that Sushi Zanmai has once again reined supreme in this year’s competition. Sushi Zanmai’s food ranges from sushi, of course, to offerings such as beef sukiyaki, tonkatsu, pepper steak and noodle selections including yakisoba and curry udon. The restaurant offers happy hour sushi as well as lunch specials. But the secret to SZ’s success is as much about the atmosphere as it is the great food. Bottom line, Sushi Zanmai is always fun, whether it’s a chef blowing on a saxophone or karaoke on a Saturday night. And who doesn’t love a party?

Mexican Restaurant

1630 N. 63rd St., 303-440-4045
101 E. Cleveland St., Lafayette, 303-666-7544%u2028
451 S. Pratt Parkway., Longmont, 720- 494-0777

Second Place: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant
Third Place: Zolo Grill
Fourth Place: Agave Mexican Bistro & Tequila House
Fifth Place: Casa Alvarez

Our favorite dish at Efrain’s is a little something called blue corn enchiladas with chicken and a side of green chile to pour over the top, to give it a spicy kick. Oh, and a margarita or a Negra Modelo with lime. Sorry, just drooled a little bit on the keyboard. Efrain’s has been a Boulder County institution for more than two decades, delivering authentic northern Mexican cuisine from the state of Chihuahua. It is a recipe for a satisfying south-of-the-border experience. Ole.

Pizza Slice

2761 Iris Ave., 303-443-1921
1124 13th St., 303-443-3199
637 S. Broadway, Ste. S, 303-494-1274

Second Place: Cosmo’s
Third Place: Pizza Colore
Fourth Place: Backcountry Pizza & Tap House
Fifth Place: Nick-N-Willy’s Pizza

Proud-of-their-town New Yorkers would tell you there’s no slice like one from Brooklyn. And Boulderites have spoken: New York style in Boulder takes the top prize again, as Abo’s Pizza retains its title.

Abo’s pizza is hand-tossed at every location and boasts a cracker-like thin crust and a wide array of toppings. If you’re out for the afternoon with the kids, check out the arcades at Abo’s North or South. If you’re craving a beer and a slice bigger than your face, make your way to Abo’s on the Hill. Although all Abo’s are not created exactly the same, you can rest assured that the dough, the sauce and the cheese at all locations will create Boulder’s best slice.


1730 Pearl St., 303-442-3003

Second Place: Beau Jo’s
Third Place: Proto’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Fourth Place: Backcountry Pizza & Tap House
Fifth Place: Lucky Pie Pizza and Tap House

If you want to view Boulder foodies in their natural habitat, look no further than the artisan cheese-topped goodness at Pizzeria Locale. Our winner serves up Neapolitanstyle pizzas so good that you may feel the urge to kiss your fingers and come back again with your mama. Creatively crafted dishes include the white “Panna e Crudo” (mozzarella, egg yolks, crème fraiche, prosciutto crudo, garlic, arugula, parmigiano reggiano) or the red and veggie “Ortolano” (tomato sauce, mozzarella, pecorino, zucchini, eggplant, peppers).

If you’re craving a straightforward pizza born in a nearby mountain town, check out our second place winner, Beau Jo’s.


1221 Spruce St., 303-440-0733

Second Place: Hapa Sushi
Third Place: Sushi Tora
Fourth Place: Japango
Fifth Place: Sushi Hana

Boulder is blessed with fantastic sushi from any number of world-class restaurants. Our children start stuffing raw octopus in their mouths just about as soon as they learn to walk. By the time they hit grade school, most Boulder tykes wouldn’t even consider knocking back a little Uni without insisting on adding the raw quail eggs. In other words, when our well-educated, well-traveled readers — folks who have literally grown up on sushi and have consumed this delicacy in some of the finest sushi haunts from around the world — say that Sushi Zanmai is the best sushi restaurant in this sushi town, it’s really saying something. And it speaks very highly of every restaurant on this list.

Thai Restaurant

1600 Broadway, 303-447-0273

Second Place: Buddha Thai Cuisine
Third Place: Thai Kitchen
Fourth Place: Aloy Thai
Fifth Place: Busaba

Boulder has a healthy variety of restaurants serving up pad thai, spring rolls and yellow curry. But when it comes down to it, locals choose Khow Thai — in fact, 2013 marks the 10th consecutive year the restaurant has won Best of Boulder. Regulars swear by the reasonably priced panang curry and Pad Kee Mow (spicy flat noodles). And it’s hard to resist Khow Thai’s origin story of hard-working Toi Newman, an immigrant with a knack for cooking who, along with her husband, opened a restaurant in bustling Boulder and made their dream come true. Here’s to 10 years of awesome!

STAFF PICK: Caribbean Style Fish House

218 Coffman St., Longmont, 303-772-6954

For 16 years Tortugas has been serving up the best Caribbean style seafood on the Front Range. The owners not only greet you at the door, they cook up every amazing meal of fresh coastal seafood from the U.S. and Mexico paired with fresh fruit salsas and other distinctive Caribbean and Cajun ingredients. Throw on some “Pete’s Heat” — Tortuga’s own magical concoction — and you will swear you’re sitting on an island beach. Throw back a few rum drinks and you might even hear the ocean. This place is a must.

STAFF PICK: Empanadas

2525 Arapahoe Ave. #A05, 303-442-4133

It’s a wonder that empanadas aren’t more popular. The pastry, basically dough folded and baked around various combinations of meat, cheese, sauce and vegetables, is essentially a South American calzone. You can find them all over Central and Latin America, but they are most prevalent in Argentina, which is fitting, given the country’s strong Italian influences. The empanadas of Rincon Argentino will transport you south of the equator for fractions of the price of a plane ticket. Stepping into the store is like getting a glimpse of Argentina — people order in Argentine Spanish, pronouncing “pollo” as “poisho” — and, in the ultimate sign of Argentinian authenticity, the jersey and portrait of soccer great Diego Maradona graces the wall.

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

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