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Sep 10, 2008 07:41 AM

Just moved to Boulder, CO - give me your favs!

I was just relocated to Boulder and now need to find a bunch of new fav restaurants and chowhound spots!

Fav Italian? Mexican? Grocery store? Bakery? Best loaf of bread in the city? Best relaxing bar?

Any other tips are welcome!

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  1. Welcome!

    Fav Italian: Alba, Radda

    Avoid: Pasa Jay's

    Mexican: Rio Grande for margaritas; my husband (who likes Mex a lot better than I) likes Ajua Ajua and Juanita's best; also good, Efeain's in Lafayette and Louisville

    Grocery store: I go to King Soopers for staples; Whole Foods for seafood, meat and bread; Sunflower because it has a lot of similar items to Whole Foods but w/ (some) lower prices

    Bread: Whole Foods, Breadworks

    Relaxing bar: The bar/lounge/lobby of the St. Julien hotel

    I write a Colorado-oriented dining and food blog that is heavily canted toward Boulder. Click on my name on this message; from my profile, you can click on the blog. Lots of posts of Boulder (and beyond) restaurants.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ClaireWalter

      P.S. If you are in North Boulder, the Safeway at 28th and Iris is a Whole Foods wannabe in terms of appearance and inventory. Ideal at Broadway and Alpine has just been redone and reamins a well-loved little neighborhood market.

      1. re: ClaireWalter

        that sounds great! I'm living near 34th and Iris and the whole foods on pearl is a nightmare it's so busy.

        have any rec's for the best greasy spoon breakfast in the area?

        also, best sushi?

        1. re: reubensandperrier

          Greasy spoon breakfast I'd say Dot's Diner or Village Coffee Shop.

          Sushi there are a number of choices including Hapa, Japango and Sushi Zanmai with each having their loyal followers.

          Sunflower Market is new to the area and is right next to McGuckins (another great place!).

          Pupusas El Sabor in North Boulder on Broadway is a favorite as well.

          1. re: reubensandperrier

            Greasy Spoon (my husband is the authority on this): Village Coffee Shop on Valmont; Parkway Cafe at 47th and Pearl Parkway and (for hippie-ish greasy spoon) Dot's Diner, one On The Hill and one not far from you on 28th Street.

            Sushi: Sushi Tora, Sushi Zanmai, Hapa Sushi and Japango, all downtown on or near Pearl Street, are all good but different in terms of ambiance. I have not been to Kasa at 15th and Pearl or to the all-you-can-eat sushi place on Walnut. the one that impresses me least is Sumida's, downstairs from Siamese Plate on Folsom, not far from the aforementioned Village Coffee Shop.

            For Italian, I should have added that I like the Trattoria on Pearl and also Laudisio's, 29th Street.

            1. re: reubensandperrier

              Best Sushi:

              Sushi Zanmai - if you want your sush in a fun and vibrant atmosphere

              Sushi Tora - a little more calm and quiet...

              They are both great, we alternate because we can't decide which one is our favorite. Both do certain things better than the other...zanmai's miso is better, tora's age dashi tofu is better...blah blah.

            2. re: ClaireWalter

              FYI...Ideal Market was purchased by Whole Foods this summer.

          2. I'll chime in with my own opinions here:
            Italian: The Gondolier is an old standby for inexpensive housemade noodles with marinara and meatballs -- and their minestrone is really good. Like Claire, I avoid Pasta Jay's (don't care for the food nor the owner). I do like Frasca, but that's more of a high-end experience; it's not what people think of first when they say, Let's go get Italian. Radda is good if spotty (in terms of both food and service), but their prices are reasonable. I once had the worst croissant ever there, but I could live on their signature salad of endive, hazelnuts, and parmesan. Alba is high on my list of places to try based on what I've heard friends say.

            Mexican: Our standbys are Efrain's and Casa Alvarez. The Rio's margaritas are good, but their food is just okay (despite the fact that they have had on staff a person who has the title Beans and Rice Manager), and on a busy night the place is a noisy nightmare. Aji, specializing more broadly in Latin American food, is a great value for lunch or happy hour but I have found they can be awfully officious about where and when you can order from which menu. Pupusas Sabor Hispano is a lovely, inexpensive little place with Salvadoran foods that is worth going to the northern edge of town.

            I go to Vitamin Cottage for most staples, and same as Claire, Whole Foods for meats/fish, and buy whatever's left on my list at King Soopers and Costco. We buy our sandwich breads from Great Harvest, and I like Breadworks' breads (soups and other foods are great there, too), a lot of the local grocers also carry the very excellent Udi's bread, from a bakery in Denver.

            As for relaxing bars: The St. Julien is nice, and I like the more downscale Hungry Toad for pub food and beer, as well as the Mountain Sun/Southern Sun.

            Have fun discovering the many charms of our local chow!

            2 Replies
            1. re: vanillagrrl

              I actually had lunch at the mountain sun the other day! loved all the beers, and the grilled cheese menu. super cheap, too.

              1. re: vanillagrrl

                Where can you find Udi's bread? Whole Foods's bread has been pretty bad lately...

              2. Welcome! Favorite Italian, maybe Radda, I suppose. Laudisio is an old standby for expensive italian, but I'm not terribly fond of our cheaper options. The Med isn't strictly italian, it has foods from all over the Mediterranean, but it is a great restaurant, walks the fine line between comfy/casual/affordable and classy/fancy.

                Mexican: you don't say where you moved from; if it's somewhere that doesn't have good mexican, you'll be happy with places like Juanitas. But if you come from somewhere that has good mexican, Boulder disappoints in this category. Rio margs are very strong, it can be a fun place, but not great food. Now, if you expand "mexican" to include "southwestern" then Zolo Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

                Grocery store? Not crazy about any of them. I prefer King Soopers to Safeway, but the Safeway on 28th and Iris is the nicest market to shop in. Whole Foods can be a nightmare.

                Best relaxing bar? The St. Julien may be very nice, but truth be told, it's way too upscale for me to say it's the best relaxing bar (but if upscale makes you comfortable, you'll like it). Southern Sun is my standard to meet friends and have a few beers at, I don't like the Mt Sun very much, very different vibe even if the beers/food are the same. For downtown, my favorite relaxing bar is the Corner Bar in the Hotel Boulderado, good food and always a good beer on special.

                9 Replies
                1. re: LurkerDan

                  Amazing that Zolo Grill is still around. So it's still good, eh?

                  That reminds me, when I lived in Boulder (before moving east before moving back to Denver) in the mid-90s, there was a place called Trio that I remember being very good. Is it still there? If not what is?

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    Trios was decent but didn't last very long, in the grand scheme of things, suffering in part by not being on Pearl Street. It closed a few years ago and there's a whole new building where that once stood, with a bank and offices. It seems that with the exception of the Dushanbe Teahouse and Khow Thai (very good if you like your Thai hot) few eateries are able to thrive in that zone of downtown between Uni Hill and Pearl Street.

                    1. re: vanillagrrl

                      I've only been to Khow Thai once, and found the curry very 'meh'; someone else in the party found the pad thai to be so bland as to be almost inedible. I haven't found a good Thai place anywhere near Boulder, and I've been methodically working through them (just Siamese Plate left on the to-try list). Chy Thai at Canyon and 28th is tolerable for fast-food thai, Buddha Thai at 28th and Iris was more flavorful but my order of pad kee mao bore no resemblance to what I expect in the dish, aside from the presence of noodles. Thai Kitchen in Longmont wasn't worth the long drive, Bali to Bombay (30th and Arapahoe) was ok but not exciting, with the menu weighted toward Indian with only a few Thai dishes.

                      For Chinese, drive south to Spice China in Louisville, or better yet, all the way down to Alameda in Denver.

                      The Asian Market on 28th (near Valmont) is very small and many of the items are of dubious expiration date - I prefer to drive down to Pacific Ocean Mart on 120th in Broomfield. While you are at POM, pick up a banh mi at the deli counter, or try pho next door at Pho Duy or Pho 79.

                      1. re: lotuseedpaste

                        I too think Thai is lacking in Boulder. Some rave about Khow Thai but I think those folks just haven't had really good thai food, or maybe I just ordered wrong. But when a place can't make great pad thai, I just can't think of them as a good thai place. Chez Thuy and Moongate Bistro have good asian, both have some decent thai dishes though Chez Thuy is technically a vietnamese place. I tried Chy Thai once and thought it was ok but not amazing.

                        Greasy spoon has been covered, but it doesn't cover what are the two best breakfast places in Boulder IMO, Lucille's and the Walnut Cafe (2 locations). They may not be greasy spoon diners, but damn, they are good eats.

                        As for sushi, ClaireWalter said exactly what I would have (right down to the 2 places I haven't been and the one to avoid!). I have had a bad experience at Hapa so I don't go there, I prefer Zanmai or Japango (Tora is generally too authentic for me, too sterile and expensive, but the fish is excellent), but all 4 have their followings and all 4 are more or less equivalent but different.

                        1. re: lotuseedpaste

                          Is there any good Japanese curry anywhere?

                      2. re: tatamagouche

                        I still like Zolo! And I just went to a bachelor party where the chef of Zolo was hired to prepare dinner, and the dinner was AMAZING. So there's some talent in that kitchen for sure.

                        1. re: tatamagouche

                          If you're referring to Trio which used to be upstairs in the old Public Service building at the corner of Broadway & Canyon, it's long gone, as is the building. But a great place. Trios opened on 13th just north of Pearl and in my opinion had better music than food. It too, is now history.

                          1. re: chowmix

                            Downtown Boulder once had Trios, Trilogy and Triana -- and as Chowmix noted, now has none of those.

                            1. re: chowmix

                              Yes, that's the one I mean. An upstairs place with beautiful blue glass sinks, IIRC.

                        2. Maybe the warm jalapeno corn bread w/any breakfast or Sunday brunch at the Hotel Boulderado, in the sunny room?

                          1. Check out the Tacos at Tacoria del Rey on the SW corner of 30 and Valmont, Behind
                            the gas station, if you like real Mexican food.
                            This place is not Texmex or Calimex. The tortas are great. Around the
                            corner at 29th and Bluff also on the SW corner is the Fruitaria. Muy Mexicano for fruit
                            veggies and a real mexican butcher shop with great homeade chorizo and excellent
                            Carne para Milinesa. I also use this cut for stir frys. Not to good on English but
                            Sylvia trys hard.
                            I agree with another poster that the Redneck cafe AKA Village coffee shop on Folsum
                            across the street from McGuckin's is the hot breakfast spot for your early fix of salt
                            and grease. Love it.
                            Bakery.... Breadworks on Broadway 2600 block Across from the hospital. Best
                            loaf of bread in town.
                            Fav Bar. Hands down is the Hungry Toad. English pub kind of place. Family style
                            great fish and chips.... The owner is English.... Across the street from the
                            Breadworks. 2500 block of Broadway, north end of block. Relaxing sort of a place.
                            30s 40s 50s crowd. Nice sort of a place to take friends if you want to be able to hear
                            Welcome to Boulder, where the hip meet to trip.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: paul balbin

                              The Hungry Toad's still there too? That does my heart good. I need to get up to Boulder more.

                              1. re: paul balbin

                                oooh the hungry toad sounds exactly like my kinda place. thanks for the tip, i'll try it this weekend!

                                1. re: reubensandperrier

                                  I forgot to mention the loaded potatoes at the hungry toad, oui la la. Give me
                                  a call and lets meet for lunch some time. 303 258 3249

                                  1. re: paul balbin

                                    sounds like fun. shoot me an email sometime:


                                    1. re: paul balbin

                                      If you like loaded potatoes, Paul Balbin, have you tried Spud Brothers on 10th between Pearl and Spruce?

                                      1. re: ClaireWalter

                                        Thanx for the tip, I am on my way. I totally agree with your comments on The China Gormet. Joy and her whole family do a great job.