Sherpa’s Adventurers in Boulder feels a little bit like home — not necessarily your own home, but a home.
It’s located in an old building on the far west end of Walnut. To the west of Sherpa’s is a woodsy, over-priced parking lot (you don’t have to park there to go to Sherpa’s) and then a foliage-filled view into the foothills. You’re far enough from the bustle of Broadway and the foot traffic of Pearl so it’s quiet and feels more secluded than it is.
There’s also a white picket fence out front that welcomes diners into a semi-roofed courtyard and beckons the visitor to the front door. Inside, Sherpa’s looks like it simply put restaurant fixtures into the living and dining rooms of an old home — they likely did just that. To the left is a wooden staircase that leads to a newly finished upstairs banquet room. To the right is a small front parlor that Sherpa’s refers to as the traveler’s library and lounge. In that room are bookcases filled with travel books, maps and guides for adventures, specifically those to the Himalayas. The walls are covered with photos of past trips to Mt. Everest and other high points in the region in and around Nepal.
It makes for an inspiring, and awe-inspiring, drink at the simple wooden bar in the library. Beers are cheap and include a Sherpa Ale, brewed for the restaurant by Odell Brewing Co. Through the library, there are door-less passageways to other small rooms. The light inside is homey, the smells are familiar and warm, and the servers are welcoming to regulars and first-timers alike.
We sat against a window in a small, tuckedaway room in the back of the house. On the table, under a glass covering, was a detailed map of a segment of the Himalayas, a subtle and fun way Sherpa’s reminds the diner that an adventure is always within reach.
Sherpa’s food is an enticing juxtaposition, then. At once, it brings cuisine from far away to Boulder, but manages to effect comfort and familiarity even if you haven’t eaten there much or at all. Take for instance, a spread that includes dal soup, fresh and charred naan bread and tomato chutney. The dal, made of primarily lentils, is soothing, like pea soup on a cold day. It has a robust kick of black pepper to keep your taste buds awake. The naan is billowy and warm, with thin, blackened edges of bubbles, and when it’s torn and dipped in either the dal or the spicy chutney, it’s a full indulgence of coziness.
Or consider the house specialties of Thupka and the Sherpa Stew. The former is a bowl of thick, round, long noodles in a rich-tasting, thin tomato broth. There are fresh vegetables that retain just enough crunch and flavor to make each bite interesting, but that are so well developed in the dish as a whole that it makes for easy-scarfing. The Sherpa Stew is a more robust bowl of dumplings, choice of meat, fresh vegetables and spices in a similar broth. It’s a winter-warmer, straight from the high peaks of Nepal and Tibet.
We also had samosas — they were thicker and more browned than typical, but perfectly-seasoned with deep Indian spices. There was also a plate of tofu aloo — two-inch rectangles of tofu and chunks of potato swimming in a thick, bright tomato sauce that was devoured in minutes.
Sherpa’s bone-in chicken cooked in the tandoor was smoky with a thick, tough skin, but moist on the inside. The meat fell right off the bone with minimal effort.
Sherpa’s menu is rife with the mixture of comfort and adventure; from lamb curry to yak vindaloo. Whether or not your visit inspires you to take that trip to the Himalayas, Sherpa’s success in Boulder for over 20 years is proof that their restaurant will at least inspire you to come back to eat.