Here’s what you might guess about the Boulder food scene after a casual stroll downtown: it’s alive and thriving. You might need to trust us on this one (and perhaps erase years of societal conditioning), but the scene is also quite welcoming to the solo eater. We’ve scouted five of the best spots to visit if you’re wanting to immerse yourself in an authentic Boulder dining experience or grabbing a quick bite to eat alone. So read up and take yourself out on a date; you deserve it.
For people-watching: World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill
Locals, college students, visitors… they’ve all gravitated to the whimsical neighborhood bar and grill that is the Dark Horse since 1975. Its unassuming exterior obscures a playful inside maze full of knick-knacks such as mechanical gears, boots glued to the ceiling and peanut dispensers. After 3 p.m. it’s self service, so mosey your way up to the food counter to order a juicy burger, then find a seat at the bar for a local brew while you wait for your name to be called. With tons of seating space, great happy hour specials and a weekly trivia night, this bar is a great pit stop for the solo traveler.
2922 Baseline Road, 303-442-8162, darkhorsebar.com
For your weekly cleanse: Zeal
Everything about Zeal is Zen. Not only are you treating your body to flavorful and nourishing superfoods, you get to do it al fresco by the babbling Boulder Creek. Follow the never-ending signs through the tiled garden path to a quaint and intimate patio setting, complete with cavernous umbrellas and twinkling lights. It’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a refreshing acai bowl, wholesome mighty bowl (packed with quinoa, chickpeas, sauteed greens, sweet beets, carrots, cucumber and lentils), or filling grass-fed meatballs and zoodles in an addicting tikka masala sauce.
1201 Arapahoe Ave., 720-252-3398, zealfood.com
For a sweet breakfast fix: Foolish Craig’s Cafe
Forget pancakes and Belgian waffles to start your day: Foolish Craig’s has just the right idea with its sweet crepes (which are so good, it made that TV host with the wild hair stop by. Cough, Guy Fieri, cough.). Order “the whole thing” crepe, a sweet and spongy crepe filled with hot, oozy Nutella and topped with caramelized bananas, walnuts, cinnamon and whipped cream. Wash it down with an iced Americano (spiked version also available upon request).
1611 Pearl St., 303-247-9383, foolishcraigs.com
When you’re craving sushi: Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar
Asian fusion, when done well, is exciting cuisine. Such is the case at Hapa. Known for its delicious blend of Japanese and Hawaiian nosh, this sushi favorite has those tropical and savory flavors down. Grab a seat at the sushi bar and watch the masters craft your roll, or sprawl out on its sunny patio, where you can watch the passersby stroll through Pearl Street Mall. We go for the lunch special, which comes with a sushi roll and tuna poke salad in a fried rangoon shell. You also can’t go wrong with the Hawaiian pork sliders or Red Bird chicken katsu bowl with Japanese steak sauce.
1117 Pearl St.,303-473-4730, hapasushi.com
Where it feels like home: The Kitchen
What draws us back to The Kitchen again and again may have something to do with its always amicable staff, its perfect juxtaposition between industrial and classic design in an airy layout and, of course, its fresh takes on American cuisine. Go at midday for the seasonal lunch menu, like the Munson Farms grilled corn on the cob, topped with Aleppo chili, charred green onion mayo and popped sorghum (a type of cereal grain). Then treat yourself to a butterscotch pot de crème.
1039 Pearl St., 303-544-5973, thekitchenbistros.com