Editor’s note: This is Clay Fong’s last restaurant review for Boulder Weekly.
As I began writing this final piece for Boulder Weekly, I considered a number of potential opening sentences. My first thought, best delivered in a Nixonian tone, was “You won’t have Fong to kick around anymore.” Alternatively, I thought I’d borrow from Blade Runner’s climactic death scene: “I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
But being neither a disgraced politician or a replicant, I’ll simply say I’ve decided to move on after a highly enjoyable tenure at the Weekly. I’ve been lucky enough to occupy this space for seven years, nearly a year longer than World War II, or almost twice as long as a replicant’s lifespan. Given these measures, it’s time for someone else to try their hand at one of Boulder’s most fun writing gigs.
I’ll leave you with a semi-answer to a question I’m often asked, which is, “What is your favorite restaurant in Boulder?” That’s always been a tough one to answer, because depending on the circumstances, one eatery might be the just the huckleberry one particular night. Yet given my sometimes fickle mood, that same spot might not even show up on the radar the next day.
But after giving it some thought, there are five places that stand out for me. Curiously enough, two of them aren’t, technically speaking, restaurants, and two are outside Boulder city limits. These are, in no particular order, the places I find myself consistently returning to and are most in line with what I’m seeking when dining out:
Cured — Will and Coral Frischkorn’s gourmet shop dishes out some of the finest sandwiches around, as well as fine cheese and charcuterie that you just can’t find anywhere else. My current addiction is their jamon Iberico de bellota, the priciest and most prized of cured hams. Cut by a knife instead of with a slicer, proscuitto’s Spanish cousin makes a fine snack with Manchego cheese. 1825B Pearl Street, Boulder. 720-389-8096.
Pizzeria Locale — Fine dining titan Frasca’s more inexpensive sibling, this Naples-style pizzeria delivers high-quality preparations and top-shelf service at an affordable price. I always recommend Locale to out-of-town visitors. The mouth-watering pies include the Campagnola, perfect for a cool evening and featuring San Marzano tomato sauce, anchovy, olives and capers. The budino butterscotch pudding is my favorite dessert in town. 1730 Pearl Street, Boulder 303-442-3003.
Niwot Market — To simply categorize the Steele family’s venue as a grocery store misses the point. Yes, it is the rare independent operation in a chain-dominated world, but Chef Justin’s summer Friday night dinners (the last one of the season is Sept. 6) is as much a meal as a community celebration. Reasonably priced, a single menu might include perfectly prepared roast beef, bouillabaisse freighted with salmon, mussels, shrimp and hearty coq au vin. 7980 Niwot Road, Niwot. 303-652-0919.
Oak at Fourteenth — This relaxed fine dining spot is my main recommendation for special occasions and business lunches when you actually care about the outcome. Their wood oven-roasted Rocky Junior chicken, consistently moist and flavorful, reminds you of just how satisfying poultry can be in the right hands. The grass-fed burger is another favorite, and the kale and apple salad is a first-rate meatless selection. 1400 Pearl Street, Boulder. 303-444-3622.
Sushi Kaiten — While it may be the only spot in Colorado to feature conveyor-belt-style sushi, the real attraction is Chef John’s impeccable preparations of sushi and sashimi. His spicy salmon hand roll and house-smoked salmon may represent the highest and best use of this fish. This is also the place for sparkling fresh exemplars of such rare delicacies as sea urchin roe and monkfish liver. 2055 Ken Pratt Boulevard, Suite A, Longmont. 303-485-9848.
Happy dining all!