Hotels are not on the average diner’s radar. But Jill’s at the St Julien in Boulder ought to be. A boutique hotel in the style Colorado does best — casually elegant — the restaurant carries this same kind of elegance, and makes it even more pleasing with the value and wide range of offerings at one of the best happy hours in town.
An impressive menu of food is available in the bar during happy hour, a rare treat since so many bar menus are short and sad. Jill’s has 22 plates available, with selections as wide-ranging as Tuna Tartare [$9.95] and a Chicken, Tomato, Arugula Sandwich [$12.95] to Spaghettini Pomodoro [$12.95] and Rigatoni Bolognese [$16.95] offered for half price between 4 and 6:30 p.m.
The main dining room is lovely as well, beautiful and approachable, not overdone or intimidating. My husband and I have eaten many meals there, as a couple and with visiting family and friends, but we spend most of our time in the bar area because of the stellar deals. Even when ordering the most expensive plate on the menu — the rigatoni — it’s still just $8.50.
Jill’s Bistro Tots with truffle aioli and reggiano [$7.50] are not to be missed. A slight crunch on the outside, and pillowy softness inside, they are one of the best bites you can get in Boulder. Totally craveworthy.
There are also two salads [$7.95 to $9.25], both big enough to make a meal out of. One, the 900 Walnut, is a delightful combination of organic baby greens, walnuts, chunks of pears, halved grapes and hazelnut vinaigrette. The stars would have to align for me to have all those ingredients on hand to make at home.
Another excellent choice is the Truffle Mac & Cheese [$10.95], which is the definition of decadent. Made with aged Vermont cheddar and a black truffle béchamel, and small shavings of black truffle in the sauce, it comes in a medium-sized ramekin. More a side than a main, but for $5.50 at the happy hour pricing, this is one of the best deals on the menu.
Four pizzas are available, including a traditional margherita, and an exciting fig and prosciutto, [$12.95 to $14.95]. With all of the options, you can snack or have dinner. Or snack, then have dinner.
Drinks, oddly, are the second string of my concern when I go to happy hour at Jill’s, but don’t get me wrong — I do drink there. We’ve been going there since it opened, and for years, I’d order a glass of red Zinfandel that I liked and had taken the attitude that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But on my most recent visit, I decided to at least taste their house Cabernet, Jill’s own label produced by Trinity Oaks Vineyards in Monterey. A glass is only $5 during happy hour and it turned out to be better than the Zinfandel. Jill’s also offers a Merlot and a Chardonnay under the same label, for the same price. Draft beers from Tivoli, Fat Tire and Stella are $3. You can also get a Sicilian Blood Orange Bellini for $5, and a glass of La Marca Prosecco from the Veneto region for $7, among a couple of other cocktail selections.
All in all, it’s a deal in the truest sense of the word.