Best of Boulder East County 2013: Food

Josh Karp, owner of Waterloo in Louisville
Photo by Susan France

American Restaurant
809 S. Main St., Louisville, 303-993-2094
Second Place: 95a Bistro & Sushi
Third Place: Sugarbeet / Pumphouse (tie)
Fifth Place: Mike O’Shay’s Restaurant & Ale House

It’s no surprise to see the well-loved Waterloo take the win for best American restaurant. The ambiance in this place could lull you into loving just about anything — and, of course, renewing your love affair with Johnny Cash in this record-store-inspired venue with live music most nights of the week.

But we’re here to talk about food, not atmosphere, so to give you the quick rundown. Start your tour de Austin-inspired food (home to the record store from which Waterloo takes its name) with jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, wings in chili-lime or bbq sauce, or a plate of nachos big enough to be used to hide from your dining partner. Then see your plate filled with chicken chili rellenos, a three-cheese mac and cheese that includes smoked Gouda, or their signature potato burger, a patty of beef blended with potato to make for a juicier patty. Drop in on a Wednesday evening, and they’ll be mixing it up with a sweet potato burger. Because you can never have enough sweet potato in your life.

Appetizers 95A
1381 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette 303-665-3080
Second Place: The Empire Lounge & Restaurant
Third Place: Waterloo
Fourth Place: Old Louisville Inn
Fifth Place: Ralphie’s Sports Tavern

In case you didn’t know, the name 95a, as in the bistro and sushi place in Lafayette, refers to 95th and Arapahoe, its location. And according to our readers, they have the best appetizers in East County, which is no surprise, given that owners Rob and Kelly Kukura spent 18 years with The Mediterranean Restaurant in Boulder, which has a reputation for award-winning apps. The nice thing about 95a is that you are not roped into Mediterranean or even Asian cuisine. Sure, they have the exquisite, from Tempura Avocado & Green Chiles to Tuna Tartar to Beef Carpaccio, but you can also choose from their tried-and-true American classics like deviled eggs, crab cakes, onion rings and even tater tots.

1940 Ionosphere St., Suite D, Longmont, 303-834-8237
489 N. Highway 287, #110, Lafayette, 303-665-5918
4800 Baseline Road, Suite B101, Boulder, 303-554-0193
Second Place: Einstein Bros. Bagels
Third Place: Hole in One Bagels and Deli
Fourth Place: Eye Opener Coffee House
Fifth Place: Moe’s Bagels

Bagels are a complicated bread. White bread, wheat bread, rye: You can have good and bad examples, yes, but you can also pretty well mass-manufacture these breads and maintain high quality. Not so with the bagel, which must be hand-formed, boiled and baked. It takes care, and it’s evident when a bagel is well-made — chewy, spongy, with a firm crust. In Boulder County, Big Daddy Bagels nails the process, turning out New York-style bagels in all kinds of varieties at its three Boulder County locations.

Asian Fusion
1085 S. Public Road, Lafayette, 303-665-0666%u2028
Second Place: Tibet’s Restaurant & Bar
Third Place: Bao Asian Fusion & Sushi
Fourth Place: Asian Garden Grill
Fifth Place: Tasty Asia

No matter where you live in Boulder County, our readers say that this Lafayette gem is well worth the drive. Great food doesn’t have to be fancy, and one taste of Pho Café’s spicy green curry or its curry flavored with refreshing pineapple makes that point perfectly clear. But if curry isn’t your thing, don’t despair. Pho Café offers a wide variety of other dishes and appetizers, including eight different types of noodles for its bowls, which include a choice of four different meats or tofu, making for a nearly limitless selection. OK, it’s not limitless, but you have to admit that having 40 different possible bowl combinations is pretty spectacular.

401 S. Public Road, Lafayette, 303-665-3287
Second Place: Indulge
Third Place: The Huckleberry
Fourth Place: Panera
Bread Fifth Place: Great Harvest Bread

Some things in life just can’t be improved upon. Like, let’s say, cupcakes. Particularly now that the art of the cupcake sandwich has been propagated (which is to say, pulling the bottom off and using it as a top to squash the frosting down to a tackle-able size — unless, of course, you see getting frosting on your nose as part of the fun).

Bobby Pangilinan, co-owner of Eats and Sweets | Photo by Susan France

Take your sweet tooth to Eats and Sweets and you’ll find lots of impossible to improve upon baked sweets, including cupcakes in flavors from vanilla and chocolate to pear and blueberry, in both mini and maxi sizes, alongside cookies, chocolate truffle cheesecake, brownies, cake pops and big and little cookies. They’ve even got gluten-free quick breads.

Still hung up on the sandwich idea? They’ll make ice cream sandwiches from Boulder Ice Cream with cookies or, for a twist, banana bread.

518 Kimbark St., Longmont 303-774-9814 %u2028
Second Place: The Huckleberry
Third Place: The Egg & I
Fourth Place: Super Mini Walnut Cafe
Fifth Place: Morning Glory Cafe

Longmont is so lucky to have one of the five Lucile’s establishments located along the Front Range. This classic, which started in Boulder, is a distinctive breakfast destination with Creole flair, the place to bring out-of-town guests. Like the original, it’s tucked into a Victorian-style house, so prepare to get cozy. Start off with an order of beignets, homemade New Orleans-style donuts sprinkled with powdered sugar, and then slip into one of our favorites, like Lucile’s exquisite eggs Benedict interpretations. Eggs Jennifer, for instance, features spinach, tomato and avocado. Try to keep your mouth from watering. And good luck with that.

645 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont, 303-774-1441
2130 Mountain View Ave., Longmont, 303-702-1111
Second Place: Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
Third Place: The Rib House
Fourth Place: Zucca
Fifth Place: The Huckleberry

Captain James Cook’s tours of the Pacific Ocean in the late 1700s were, ostensibly, about exploring new islands and searching for a large and bread-basket-ready southern continent (let’s just say Australia and Antarctica were disappointments). But the trips also turned into something of a publicity tour for the people who had funded Cook’s expeditions, among them, first lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. A paradisaical eight-island volcanic archipelago found in the midst of the Pacific Ocean was named, in honor of the generous earl, the Sandwich Islands.

But the islanders, who eventually turned on and murdered Cook himself, reclaimed the islands from that PR stunt and we now know them for the name of the largest island among them, Hawai’i.

That’s OK. Sandwich’s legacy has been better preserved in the food item named for the man who first thought it would be easier to take his lunch to go (or, apparently, consume at the gaming table) if he put the meat between two slices of bread. And our readers say the best local company for stocking up your ship for a pan-oceanic voyage or filling the tables for your welcome home party is Snarf’s.

269 McCaslin Blvd., Louisville, 720-890-0999
Second Place: East Moon Asian Bistro
Third Place: Ting’s Place
Fourth Place: Double Happy
Fifth Place: Colorado Wok

East County has several worthy entries in the Chinese food category, but Spice China takes the cake, er, fortune cookie, according to our readers. The atmosphere in this Louisville establishment is inviting, featuring a 90-foot mural created by artist Anna Peng depicting life in 18th-century China. The dishes are equally as exquisite, whether you choose from house recipes or original Shanghai preparations. The sushi gets rave reviews, and there are a host of other dishes to choose from on Spice China’s wide-ranging menu. Warning: It’s going to take several trips to try everything, because the variety here is expansive.

700 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-8020%u2028
Second Place: Lucile’s
Third Place: Dickens Tavern
Fourth Place: Colterra
Fifth Place: The Off Campus Café

So, you ask, what’s so great about brunch at The Huckleberry? Besides the restaurant being housed in an amazing old downtown Louisville building that dates from 1894 with some of the best outdoor dining to be found in a brunch setting, it’s the amazing food, of course. Brunch classics like Huckleberry’s wild blueberry flapjacks, a breakfast burrito that includes chorizo and black beans, a mixed berry crepe filled with mascarpone cheese and cream cheese, and some of the best old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes you’ll ever find anywhere. We know. Our mouths are watering too. But if you slept in, woke up hungry and don’t happen to be in Louisville or have the time to get there, you can’t go wrong with Longmont’s Lucile’s or the Dickens Tavern.


133 S McCaslin Blvd., Louisville, 720-890- 3875%u2028

Second Place: Winchell’s Donut House

Third Place: Daylight Donuts

Donuts may seem a simple food, but dig deeper and few tasty treats have stirred more controversy. Even the name is up for debate. In the early 1800s they were “dough nuts.” But by 1903 they had become simply “donuts.” Dutch settlers laid claim to inventing these sugary morsels shortly after their arrival to America. But some Native American cultures claim to have been eating donuts before the first Dutch ship ever lost sight of a windmill.

To all of this we say … who cares? Hey Lamar, I’ll have a cream-filled long john, a plain glazed and that crazy looking thing with every color of sprinkle ever created.

Our readers don’t care who invented the first donut, they just care about who made the last one they ate. And when it comes to that, Lamar’s Donuts gets the nod.


1075 E. South Boulder Road #145, Louisville, 303-926-0999

Second Place: Flavor of India

Third Place: Gurkha’s
Fourth Place: Tibet’s Restaurant
Fifth Place: Azitra Restaurant

If you’ve ever attempted to make Indian food — not reheat an Amy’s, people, but get three or four stovetop burners going and add each spice at just the right second — you know Indian restaurants are some of the best deals around. Nobody this side of a carpet installer saves you so much labor. At Taj Mahal III — which, like most awesome Indian places, occupies a spot in a shopping center — you’ll find curries, kormas, saags, vindaloos and masalas, as well as a few kabobs and the very spicy madras dishes. In Longmont, meanwhile, your best bet for a labor-saver is Main Street’s Flavor of India.

2065 Main St., Longmont, 303-485-1055
Second Place: East Moon Asian Bistro & Sushi
Third Place: Sakura Japanese
Fourth Place: Tokyo Joe’s
Fifth Place: Bao Asian Fusion & Sushi Bar

A well-established Longmont institution, Sushi Hana has built a reputation for almost a decade on plating up traditional Japanese dishes, from lunch bento boxes to hand roll sushi. Their dinner menu includes an option to order sushi dinners that assemble a variety of pieces (scaled to beginner, regular and deluxe levels or customized to a selection like California rolls or tuna sushi) and come with miso soup and salad. All items are prepared fresh daily. You don’t have to be a sensei to know that sounds tasty.

820 Main St., Suite 100, Louisville, 303-665-1056
Second Place: Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Third Place: Headliners Pub & Pizza
Fourth Place: Family Affair
Fifth Place: Colorado Wok

Formerly known as Bob’s Sandwich Shop, this Louisville establishment changed its name to B.O.B.S. when it expanded its menu. And when you bring the kids, $4 will get them a drink, fries and their choice of a grilled cheese, hamburger, cheeseburger, hot dog or chicken and cheese quesadilla. One reviewer has correctly called it a “great value.” And might as well let the kids try one of their tasty shakes or malts while you’re at it. There are plenty of options for the grown-ups, too, from the incredible sandwiches they’ve become known for to the build-your-own burger for $5.99.

701 B Main St., Louisville, 720-583-1789
Second Place: Georgia Boys BBQ Company
Third Place: KT’s Real Good BBQ
Fourth Place: Rib House
Fifth Place: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse

Sometimes, the farm-to-table dining experience isn’t enough. Sometimes, you want to get down and dirty with your food. Sometimes, you want tangy barbecue sauce dripping off your fingers and lips, staining your napkins and requiring a wet towel after. In East County, our readers think there’s no better place to get elbow-deep in sauce than LuLu’s BBQ on Main Street in Louisville. Featuring meats smoked and slow-cooked for up to 12 hours, LuLu’s succulent beer can chicken and ribs take the idealized version of barbecue you hold in your imagination and makes it reality. And if you’re in Longmont, check out runner-up Georgia Boys BBQ Company, whose succulent ribs and other barbecue items will put you into food-induced bliss.

Lyons Restaurant
303 Main St, Lyons, 303-823-6685
Second Place: Lyons Fork
Third Place: Black Bear Inn
Fourth Place: The Stone Cup & Kitchen
Fifth Place: Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Taphouse

Oskar Blues is in the middle of town and in the middle of everything going on in town. It’s the hub for drinking fine craft beer, as in Oskar Blues’ own craft beer. The company is now one of the 50 largest craft brewers in the country. It’s the place to go for live music. It’s the place to go for great food, from unique salads to po’ boy sandwiches to meatloaf to pizza to a fine rack of ribs, all served up with comfort food sides like mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. It’s also one of the few places you can still play a bunch of old-school video games like Asteroids and Galactica, all under the flashback-causing illumination of a black light. Our readers know cool when they see it and this place is it. Just try hitting that fast-moving, obnoxious little space ship in Asteroids after a couple of Ten FIDY stouts. It ain’t easy.

588 U.S. 287, Lafayette, 303-926-1400
Second Place: Basil Flats Restaurant

The Best of Boulder publications aren’t a place for us to advocate or make an argument. But we have to say this: When our readers say you’re the best restaurant in your category, and you’re only open until 6 p.m., well, the people love you! They definitely are wanting more! Lafayette’s Mumtaz Mediterranean Food only stays open until 6, so until they cave in to popular demand, make sure you’re ready to eat early — or swing by for lunch and pick from pita wraps, gyro and kefta entrees, and plenty of vegetarian options, like falafel, hummus and baba ghanouj.

Fine Dining
732 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-7777
Second Place: Zucca Italian Ristorante
Third Place: Sugarbeet
Fourth Place: Colterra
Fifth Place: Via Toscana

Live it up in Louisville. Yes, in all of East Boulder County, Louisville has a large lead in lavish lunching. First place here should be no surprise: The Melting Pot has been setting the standard for fine dining in three countries and 36 states since 1975. The restaurant offers an evening-long experience like no other in the county. Second place establishment Zucca is also in Louisville, as is fifth place finisher Via Toscana.

New Restaurant
246 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-9923
Second Place: Lunada
Third Place: Bistro 503
Fourth Place: Joe’s of Longmont
Fifth Place: Lulu’s BBQ

When Taos original Antonio’s opened a sister restaurant in Longmont, the husband-and-wife team who co-own the restaurant brought with them a commitment to quality New Mexican cuisine. That’s blossomed into a menu of dishes served New Mexican style: with red chile, green chile, or a “Christmas” blend. Homemade mole poblano spices up roasted chicken and braised pork. Barbacoa — roasted lamb with guajillo pepper, cumin and garlic — comes wrapped in a banana leaf. And the appetizer queso carries the polish of a gourmet sauce — the kind of sauce that would sniff haughtily at cheese whiz. Our readers concur: It’s this year’s best addition to dining in East County.

Niwot Restaurant
210 Franklin St., Niwot, 303-652-0777
Second Place: Treppeda’s
Third Place: The Garden Gate Cafe
Fourth Place: Niwot
Tavern Fifth Place: Ajuua

Chef Bradford Heap of Colterra is the man. He’s committed to creating his Southern French and Northern Italian cuisine using ingredients from local farms, so his seasonal menu is constantly changing based on what’s available at each time of the year. The restaurant even has its own vegetable garden! In addition, Colterra uses only naturally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. The ambience is top-notch as well — sitting outside on the garden patio is delightful, whether it’s a business lunch or a romantic weekend dinner with a bottle of Pinot Noir.

Place To Eat Outdoors
817 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-6224
Second Place: Miller’s Bar and Grill
Third Place: Dickens Tavern
Fourth Place: Harold’s Restaurant & Lounge
Fifth Place: Crane Hollow Café

As the marquee motif at the front of the Louisville Rex indicates, the building that houses our readers’ favor ite pick for dining outdoors has a long history as a movie theater. The building was constructed around 1908 and converted from billiard hall to movie theater in 1910. Movies played there until 1977. When the current owners bought the building in 2010, they undertook major — and historical society-approved — renovations to restore some of that theater charm. And the enticements of the sidewalk tables and the rooftop patio have earned the Rex our readers’ vote as the best spot in town to enjoy a meal prepared from fresh ingredients while catching the breeze or a bit of sun.

Gluten-Free Menu
1377 Forest Park Circle #101, Lafayette, 303-604-6351
Second Place: Pinocchios Italian Eatery
Third Place: Sun Rose Café
Fourth Place: Bistro 503
Fifth Place: Johnny Carino’s

Gluten-free diners who are used to that dietary restriction limiting their number of options to a handful of menu items can breathe easier at the Morning Glory Cafe, our readers’ pick for best gluten-free menu. Almost all the options on their menus are flagged as gluten-free, many also available vegetarian or vegan. Some are obvious GF choices, like the Erie Omelet, with ham, onions, swiss cheese, potatoes and … toast or pancake? Say what? Say yes. The Morning Glory Café serves gluten-free blueberry pancakes, in addition to gluten-free toast. Lunch is similarly friendly, with a menu spotted with gluten-free sandwich options. All their dinner entrees are gluten-free, and options range from ponzu seared sea scallops to parmesan cream ravioli with sundried tomatoes, spinach and shitake mushrooms.

Hygiene Restaurant
7502 Hygiene Road, Hygiene 303-776-1551
Second Place: Praha

A town as small as Hygiene is lucky to have a few stellar dining options, and we know people who drive from far and wide to eat at the Crane Hollow Café. Before we get to the main courses, we must mention the desserts. Homemade baked goods are a highlight, especially the pies. Freshly made breakfast dishes, burgers and green chile stew are favorites, but Crane Hollow’s hallmark is its country-style fare and quaint, down-home atmosphere, where you are just as likely to see a local farmer as a cyclist taking a break from a back-roads ride.

Business Lunch
808 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-6499
Second Place: Waterloo
Third Place: Eats & Sweets
Fourth Place: Mike O’Shay’s Restaurant & Ale House

Need to impress a client? Get a nice change of venue while you hash out the nitty-gritty details of your business plan with your co-workers? Hop on over to Zucca Italian Ristorante, whose lunch menu attracted the accolades of our readers this year. This classy yet reasonably priced eatery offers the culinary concoctions of Southern Italy. Classic dishes include house-made pasta, margherita napolitana pizza, soups, salads, paninis and more. For a more casual, Johnny Cash-inspired experience, check out second-place vote-getter Waterloo, located just across the street.

Restaurant Service
2770 Arapahoe Road #116, Lafayette, 720-328-9208
Second Place: The Melting Pot
Third Place: Zucca Italian Ristorante
Fourth Place: Eats & Sweets
Fifth Place: Mike O’Shay’s Restaurant & Ale House

Ask anyone in the business: Restaurant service is as important, if not more important, than the food. So here’s an ode to servers: those under-appreciated, hardworking folk who ensure that your coffee cup is always full, your food arrives on time and the important decision you make regarding the menu is an informed and, dare we say, enlightened one. As service goes, our readers think Super Mini Walnut Café offers the best around, with friendly, fun servers who never intrude yet make sure everything related to your meal goes smoothly. Pair that with excellent food, and what more can you ask for from a restaurant experience?

965 S. Hover St., Unit A-1, Longmont, 303-485-7412
2755 Dagny Way, Lafayette, 303-926-9700
1650 28th St., Boulder, 303-656-4694
Second Place: Waterloo
Third Place: Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Fourth Place: Pumphouse Brewery and Restaurant
Fifth Place: Harold’s Restaurant and Lounge

Some foods are notable for their history, others for their future. The hamburger is most definitely in the latter category, as its whirlwind romance with the American palate eventually devolved into an ugly fast-food-drive-thru guilty pleasure situation. But the winners on this list are looking ahead to brighter days for the burger, actually thinking about how to make burgers good instead of how to make them fast. Smashburger has been leading that charge since it was founded in Denver in 2007, and our readers picked its locations around the county for the best burgers.

Ice Cream
637 Front St., Louisville, 303-666-4269
Second Place: Eats & Sweets
Third Place: Glacier Homemade Ice Cream
Fourth Place: Cold Stone Creamery
Fifth Place: Lyons Dairy Bar

There are stores that sell ice cream, and then there are stores that use ice cream as a pathway to improving the world and building community, one delicious scoop at a time. Ask anyone who has fallen in love with Sweet Cow Ice Cream and they will tell you that this Louisville mainstay has a special place in their heart as well as with their sweet tooth.

Sweet Cow not only sources its ingredients locally, it also strives to be green in all that it does by using only compostable and recyclable products. Every scoop sold at Sweet Cow is hand-crafted with care. And our readers tell us that the Sweet Cow staff is the friendliest anywhere. So next time that craving strikes, you’ll know where to go for a little ice cream and a whole lot more.

Food Truck
Boulder County, follow @OBboneWagon on Twitter for location updates
Second Place: Comida
Third Place: Wandering Cow
Fourth Place: Rollin’ Greens
Fifth Place: Heirloom

The tasty bar food served by the people who brought you Dale’s Pale Ale is mobile. The Oskar Blues Bonewagon appears at special events and in parking lots across the county. The mobile tank of flavors takes animals raised on Oskar Blues Hops and Heifers Farm (where they are fed spent grains from the brewery, supplemented by other nutrition) and turns them into the restaurant’s signature wings and breakfast burrito, among other ever-changing selections. If you can’t get to the restaurants in Lyons or Longmont, this is your best shot to get a sample of the fine fare Oskar Blues offers alongside its beer.

401 S. Public Road, Lafayette, 303-665-3287
Second Place: Snarf’s
Third Place: Porch Deli
Fourth Place: Deli Zone
Fifth Place: Your Butcher Frank

30 Rock heroine Liz Lemon sagely declared, “I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”

And really, it’s true. So when you find somewhere to sit in peace and want a good sandwich to go with it, our readers recommend Eats & Sweets. Ready for a moment of real sandwich autonomy? Eats & Sweets, in addition to its long list of some classics and a few custom sandwiches — like the Egg SalHam, egg salad with a slice of ham, American cheese, lettuce and tomatoes — lets you create your own sandwich, combining, should you so choose, bleu cheese crumbles with peanut butter, or jalapeños and tuna salad … OK, so maybe we’ll leave the sandwich-creating to the pros. But should you prove a wiser chef than we are, it’s a great way to take your sandwich-crafting wheels out for a spin.

637 Front St., Louisville, 303- 666-5743
Second Place: Proto’s Pizza
Third Place: Abo’s Pizza
Fourth Place: Martino’s Pizzeria
Fifth Place: Pulcinella Pizzeria

Wallis Furman of Lucky Pie in Louisville | Photo by Susan France

Certain restaurants in certain communities function as more than just a place that serves food you didn’t have to prepare or clean up after. Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House is one of these that serves as a community gathering space as well as a great place to dine. Our readers think the high-end pizzas at Lucky’s are second to none in East County, and if you try items like the Napolitana — spicy salami, calabrian chilies, roasted garlic, smoked mozzarella, tomato sauce — or the Banana Hammock — hot Italian sausage, piparra peppers, roasted garlic, chives, mozzarella, oregano, tomato sauce — you’ll likely agree. As for serving the community, Lucky’s happy hour is one of the most popular in town, and the place is brimming with customers during those after-work hours.

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

Tortugas, a Caribbean-style fish house, is East County’s seafood gem. Spice up your life with a taste of Cajun and escape to the islands — yes, in downtown Longmont, across the street from the Post Office. We love the décor in this house-turned-restaurant, and yet it’s outdone by the quality of the fish and other seafood. In addition to nightly specials and standards like jambalaya, fish tacos and etouffee, Tortugas offers several distinct styles with which to prepare your shrimp or catch of the day. Throw in one of their signature house drinks, like the Rastamon, Lime in the Coconut or Bayou Breeze, and your island getaway is complete.

1381 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette, 303-665-3080%u2028
Second Place: Sushi Hana
Third Place: East Moon Asian Bistro
Fourth Place: Sakura Japanese Cuisine
Fifth Place: Bao Asian Fusion & Sushi

There is a simple truth to sushi: The fish must be perfect for the sushi to be acceptable. According to our readers, the fish must be pretty perfect at 95a Bistro & Sushi. It is impressive that a restaurant that does more than just sushi could win this category. In Boulder County, eating sushi is as close to a religious experience as dining out can get. Which is to say that Boulder County sushi eaters are a very hard group to please. So we tip our hat to 95a and its owners, longtime area restauranteurs Rob and Kelly Kukura, who have managed to do just that.

Once again, if you find yourself desiring a religious dining experience in Longmont, the sushi at Sushi Hana never disappoints. And if you get a chance to sit at the bar, put your dining experience in the capable hands of world-traveling sushi chef Andrew, and enjoy an amazing night out.

Take Out
215 Main St., Longmont, 303-772-1169
104 N. Public Road, Lafayette, 303-604-0715
1325 Broadway, Boulder, 303-245-9365
Second Place: Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
Third Place: Flavor of India
Fourth Place: Fan’s Chinese
Fifth Place: Kho’s Asian Bistro

There’s been a general decline in fashion standards in public in the past, oh, 50 years. Even still, sometimes you’re dressed so bad you need to return to the couch as soon as possible. On those days — and others — our readers suggest you turn to the take-out brilliance of Santiago’s and go home happy. Burritos — smothered, if you want, in famous green chile — lead the Mexican menu here, as they do at runner-up Efrain’s, with locations in the same three cities as Santiago’s.

700 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-8020
Second Place: Super Mini Walnut Café
Third Place: The Egg & I
Fourth Place: Le Peep Restaurant
Fifth Place: Morning Glory Cafe

There are three kinds of people in the world: savory breakfasters, sweet breakfasters and the awful, ridiculous and wrong people who don’t eat breakfast. Then again, the more people in the third group, the more classic buttermilk pancakes, blueberry flapjacks and cinnamon French toast from The Huckleberry for us. And do latkes count for this category? We can only suggest you order a plate with apple compote and sour cream and decide for yourself. This category marks yet another victory for Louisville’s Main Street, East Boulder County’s favorite dining drag.

101 E. Cleveland St., Lafayette, 303-666-7544
451 S. Pratt Parkway, Longmont, 720-494-0777
1630 N. 63rd St., Boulder, 303-440-4045
Second Place: Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant
Third Place: 3 Margaritas
Fourth Place: Deli Cioso
Fifth Place: Casa Alegre

There’s a reason why Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina holds such a revered place among local diners. It’s the first place that comes to mind when an out-of-towner asks about good Mexican, and one look at the menu is all you need to find out why. Tasty tamales? Check. Mexican steak, hamburgers and ribs? Check. Faijitas? Chimichangas? Chile capable of burning your mouth off? Check. A page full of different margaritas? Check. This family-friendly restaurant has locations all around Boulder County, so you’re always close to an authentic, fun Mexican restaurant experience. And if you prefer your Mexican food in the morning, second-place finisher Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant has excellent breakfast burritos to satisfy your morning tortilla cravings.

Place To Go On A First Date
732 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-7777
Second Place: Zucca Italian Ristorante
Third Place: Tortuga’s
Fourth Place: Crackpots Pottery Studio
Fifth Place: Eats & Sweets

The Melting Pot in Louisville is a really romantic place, and not just because there’s something sensual about dipping breads, veggies and meats in various cheeses, chocolate and sauces with your sweetheart. The dark, wood-paneled interior just exudes warmth and intimacy, and if you can land one of those private booths, it becomes the perfect recipe for a first date. You may want to check out the menu online beforehand, especially if you’ve never done the fondue thing, because there are many options on what to dip — and what to dip it in.

808 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-6499
Second Place: Pinocchios
Third Place: Via Toscana
Fourth Place: Zamprelli’s Italian Bistro
Fifth Place: Carrabba’s Italian Grill

If you don’t know anything about Zucca Italian Ristorante, know that it was birthed from the hands of experts. The eatery is run by Three Leaf Concepts, the company behind other fine area locations, including Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, The Huckleberry, Aji Latin American Restaurant, the Chautauqua Dining Hall and the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. Zucca is the Three Leaf Italian restaurant, offering excellent fare inspired by the country’s southern side. From gnocchi to margherita pizza to polenta, all the classic Italian dishes receive all-star treatment and preparation. Pair the food with vino from the exclusively Italian wine list, and you’ll swear you’re in Italy.

Overall Restaurant
700 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-8020%u2028
Second Place: Pumphouse Brewery & Restaurant
Third Place: The Melting Pot of Louisville
Fourth Place: The Empire Lounge & Restaurant
Fifth Place: Colterra

You just knew that any place that could win the “best of” category for brunch would have to be in the running for best overall restaurant in East Boulder County. Great pancakes are like cheating, right?

Steven Lembke, general manager of The Huckleberry in Louisville | Photo by Susan France

But add to that great brunch a dinner menu that includes such dishes as Sweet Pea Pasta Roulade, Pan Seared Salmon, Herb Roasted Chicken, Pepper Crusted Grassfed Flat Iron Steak and Shrimp and Grits, and you have a bona fide slam dunk for best overall. The Huckleberry not only serves great food in an incred ible space — a cool old downtown building dating from 1894 — the food is locally sourced as much as possible from the owners’ very own Three Leaf Farm. So whatever time of day it is, take our readers’ advice and get a great meal at East County’s best, The Huckleberry.

But if you happen to be in Longmont, you won’t be disappointed if you drop by the Pumphouse for a meal and a brew. The mayor of Longmont helped start this place and we assure you that his suds and food are way better than the Denver brewpub and restaurant founded by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Restaurant Ambiance
732 Main St, Louisville, 303-666-7777 %u2028
Second Place: Zucca Italian Ristorante
Third Place: The Empire Lounge & Restaurant
Fourth Place: Sugarbeet
Fifth Place: Tortugas

The best restaurateurs in the world realize that great food is only one ingredient to a successful business. After all, most of us can pull together a pretty good spread, whether it’s grilling a thick juicy steak or whipping up a delicious vegan casserole. In other words, great food alone can’t justify the expense of dining out. What can justify that expense is fantastic ambiance. Going out for a fine meal is more about the experience than the food. Sure, the food has to be just right, but add to that a wonderful space with warmth and unique architectural qualities, along with amazing service with that just-right blend between friendly and professional, and you have perfect ambiance. And perfect ambiance is priceless. Lifelong memories can be made from such dining experiences, and our readers say that The Melting Pot of Louisville is their favorite place to create such memories.

Restaurant Dessert
720 Main St., Louisville, 303-666-7777
Second Place: Eats & Sweets
Third Place: Tortugas
Fourth Place: Zucca Italian Ristorante
Fifth Place: Mike O’Shay’s Restaurant and Ale House

Dessert philosophy was at stake in this category. Eats & Sweets is the classic: traditional varieties of ice cream and toppings, shakes, floats, cookies and cupcakes of all imaginable kinds. The Melting Pot of Louisville is the DIY option: Start with chocolate fondue and take it in dozens of directions, dipping marshmallows, strawberries, pound cake or four other options into all sorts of chocolate mixes. We suspect The Melting Pot’s two-page dessert drinks menu might have helped push it over the edge; you can finish off a fondue dinner with a liquored-up coffee drink or a cordial like Amaretto Disaronno or Frangelico.

Thai Restaurant
2130 Main St., #5, Longmont, 303-772-7800
Second Place: Busaba
Third Place: East Moon Asian Bistro & Sushi
Fourth Place: Asian Garden Grill
Fifth Place: East West Grill

As far as non-American cuisines go, Thai food might not be as popular in the states as, say, Italian or Mexican, but that might be changing. Just look at the fact that in landlocked Colorado we have cuisines of all types available at our fingertips, and spicy curries, noodle dishes and unique soups are increasingly entering our thoughts when we think about going out to eat. Thai Kitchen gets our readers’ blessing as best Thai restaurant, and their dishes offer all the reason to believe pad thai will soon be as much a comfort food as tacos or spaghetti and meatballs. If you’re on the other side of the Diagonal Highway, check out Louisville’s Busaba, which landed second place.