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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.

                                2. Recent Boulder lunch thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555599

                                  Frasca Food and Wine is one of the best spots in the country (inspired by Friuli and open for dinner only). Snag a seat at the bar or salumi bar if you don't have a reservation. http://www.frascafoodandwine.com

                                  I enjoy The Kitchen downstairs for breakfast/lunch/weekend brunch but prefer their Upstairs companion for dinner. http://www.thekitchencafe.com

                                  The bar in the St. Julien (T-Zero) tries so desperately to be hip, although I have enjoyed some of their happy hour food like the gourmet tots. The hotel itself is relaxing (and expensive). http://www.stjulien.com/stjulien_tzer...

                                  Never been a passionate fan of Zolo and not overly impressed with Rhumba's rebirth as Centro (prefer Jax and West End Tavern). http://www.bigredf.com/

                                  Another dinner spot: Black Cat

                                  Have had a couple of great lunches at SoBo Bistro and one mediocre dinner at the bar:
                                  You can avoid the downtown crowds here as long as you don't mind looking out from comfy surroundings to a parking lot and strip mall stocked with a Dollar Saver.

                                  I would rather drive to the Whole Foods in Lakewood at Belmar which is swankier, larger, and less busy than brave the crowded one in Boulder or the old Wild Oats which is largely a WF in name only in Superior (unless I am short on time). I hope after the Boulder expansion is complete that I will be able to safely navigate their parking lot. I like Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver too. http://www.marczykfinefoods.com
                                  The Boulder Farmer's Market is fantastic: http://www.boulderfarmers.org/boulder...
                                  While there it's always good to stop and have a spicy corn tamale with green chile from Amaizing Corn Tamales or some dumplings from Sister's Pantry.

                                  Best sushi is in Denver (Sasa or Den).

                                  And if you're in Denver, be sure to check out Rioja and Fruition (two of the best spots there).

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: rlm

                                    Oooh thanks for the great list!

                                    Do you have any recs for Japanese or Indian curry?

                                    1. re: reubensandperrier

                                      I suspect rlm might rec Domo (also in Denver) for Japanese curry? I have had some good dishes there and some less good ones, but it's definitely a local fave—the space is absolutely lovely, rustic and garden-fringed.

                                      I haven't had any Indian in Boulder but I have had in Denver, and was quite pleased with my first trip to India's Pearl. The space is a bit awkward but the saucing/seasoning was precise, not at all indifferent/muddied. Hope that continues to be the case.

                                      1. re: reubensandperrier

                                        Indian curry - Gurkha's Restaurant in an obscure corner of the Gunbarrel Shopping Center.

                                        1. re: reubensandperrier

                                          I like Taj Mahal in Louisville for Indian. Not the one in Boulder though.

                                          1. re: reubensandperrier

                                            The spot at 30th and Arapahoe in Boulder that was briefly Bali to Bombay (and previously Thai Gemini, iirc), is now "Mantra Kabob and Curries" (or curries and kabob). I guess the owners are still the owners of the Taj, but they decided to drop the Thai portion of the menu and rename it. Here is a website with the menu: http://www.mantracolorado.com

                                            Claire, I'm planning to try Gurkha's next week - have you tried their goat?

                                            1. re: lotuseedpaste

                                              Lotusseedpaste - No, haven't had their goat. Lk fwd to a report. Your conclusion about ex Bali to Bombay is about like mine.

                                              1. re: lotuseedpaste

                                                I love goat and never saw this until now...LSP, how is Gurkha's?

                                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                                  Well, the day we went there, they were out of goat, so I can't comment.

                                                  A waiter at Tandoori grill said they sometimes have goat, and that with the conversion of the Indian mart next door to an international grocers (now with Pakistani ownership), that goat might be more frequent.

                                          2. I am now on the hunt for the best Chinese take-out. Recs?

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: reubensandperrier

                                              I haven't lived in Boulder for over three years, but when I was there I really liked Ping's for Chinese take-out. They were (are?) in the shopping center behind Video Station, on 28th st.

                                              Going back to your previous requests...

                                              Il Pastaio at 30th and Arapahoe for Italian: Very casual, but the pasta was so fresh and good. It was really cheap, though they raised their prices just before I left. It is/was owned by a really sweet couple that really made me feel as though I was being invited into someone's home.

                                              Greasy Spoon: My vote is for Dot's. I would order the huevos rancharos.

                                              Bar: Not my favorite bar any other night of the week, but nothing could beat a Sunday night at Conner O'Neil's. They have (still have, I checked) an Irish Session on Sunday nights, and a whole slew of musicians come out for it. If you go every week, you really start to notice the regulars. The food there is pretty good as well, I always liked the chicken boxty.

                                              1. re: erns53

                                                Ping's is gone.

                                                My fave for Chinese takeout on North Broadway is China Gourmet (special menu), but reubensandperrier didn't ask about Chinese.

                                                1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                  Um, yes she did, the post right above Erns53.

                                                  I've also heard good things about Spice China in Louisville if you happen to be out that direction.

                                                  1. re: RobynS

                                                    David Fan, owner of Spice China, is the son of the owners of China Gourmet. He worked at his family's restaurant while getting his own underway -- and also worked in software. (I know a bit about the family tree, because he and my husband were colleagues in a now-defunct software firm.) Some of the menu items appear at both -- prepared the same way. Spice China is fancier and has a liquor license. Both are very good.

                                              2. re: reubensandperrier

                                                China former in north boulder is our favorite. Tasty, consistently good. They have an authentic menu if you ask for it.

                                              3. I think it would be fun if all of us Boulder Chowhounds got together to Brake some
                                                Bread together. I would like to meet all you guys. Any one else up for this.
                                                Pablito el gordito

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: paul balbin

                                                  Some friends on a budget (recent grad school students) who are slightly conservative eaters wanted Italian food in Boulder and we figured they’d balk at our beloved Frasca. Il Pastaio isn’t open on the weekends. There was a 45-minute wait at Laudisio and the bar was packed but we opted to stay since we were headed to a movie afterwards anyway. (Wonder what happened with that lawsuit they had against the 29th Street Mall indicating their business was slower than expected…)

                                                  They are losing money by not offering a drink or a wine list to those waiting (besides the fact that feeling like you are being ignored is no way to begin a dining experience). I had to squeeze in at the end of the bar in the way of servers who were picking up drinks (twice) in order to procure some wine.

                                                  I did enjoy an excellent house-made fettuccine with mushrooms and truffle oil. They were pouring Sottimano Nebbiolo by the glass as a special, but it wasn’t quite the same served in the dorky bulb-shaped glasses they brought out as compared to the lovely Bottega del Vino stems we sipped the same wine from at Frasca last weekend. Completely psychological, I know, but appropriate stemware really does add to the experience. Moreover, there’s no comparison between truffle oil and the real deal from Alba that we had at Frasca either, so I probably shouldn’t even be mentioning these two dining experiences in the same breath.

                                                  We saw several luscious-looking dessert samplers of three different selections being carted out while waiting for our table. When it came time to order dessert, our server told us they were out of the sampler. However, before we left, we saw another server carrying one of the dessert samplers to the service area at the back to stand there and eat. Truly tacky. Sure, fine, you’re working hard, so save yourself a dessert sampler for the end of your shift. Just don’t carry it across the dining room in full view of paying customers when they were told half an hour earlier that you were “out” of the item in question.

                                                  This is akin to an experience we had at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival at a paid event where the server came by our table of eight and only topped off the glasses of two people at the table.

                                                  We did like our server, and the bartender who waited on me both times was friendly and efficient even though he was very busy.

                                                  In an update on our SOBO experiences, we have discovered their amazing weekday happy hour. Not sure how long they'll be doing it this way, but they are offering half off of drinks (including imports like Blanche de Bruxelles) and all of their delicious shared plates (calamari with curry aioli, guac with cumin-dusted wonton chips, butternut squash soup, polenta/mushroom/tomato/basil/goat cheese/spinach casserole, mango ceviche, etc.). There were two different ladies running the bar on each of our last two trips and they were slammed yet still did an amazing job with a smile.

                                                  1. re: paul balbin

                                                    anyone up for this? just moved in this weekend- love to get together!

                                                    1. re: liveloveat34

                                                      Sorry, just noticed your reply, Hope you see this. I would still love to have a
                                                      chowhound get together or lunch in boulder. email me if you see this
                                                      Paul, mahonpoc(at)indra.com

                                                  2. best pizza - proto's (by leaps and bounds)
                                                    best sushi - tora (again, leaps and bounds)
                                                    best grocery - sunflower is great and, in season, don't miss the farmer's market.
                                                    best sandwiches - snarf's (classic toasted deli style sandwich) and dish (gourmet amazingness)
                                                    best relaxing bar - the kitchen upstairs (happy hour flight of wine is 9 bucks)
                                                    best tacos - centro

                                                    10 Replies
                                                    1. re: mahjede

                                                      I'm sure that you really don't mean "best" for all your listings. What you really meant to say was YOUR favorites.

                                                      I've always thought that Proto's is good but overrated.
                                                      I prefer Sushi Zanmai.
                                                      Sunflower? Gimme a break. Some good stuff but limited selections. The Safeway at Iris and 28th is better.
                                                      Snarf's. Why? Haven't been to the new Boulder location but Longmont is filthy dump.
                                                      I do love Dish Gourmet.
                                                      I find the Kitchen upstairs to be cold although the food is great the wine flights a deal. Carelli's bar is much more relaxing as is the bar at the St. Julien.
                                                      For real tacos try any of the taquerias in Longmont or the place on Valmont just west of 30th.

                                                      By the way, I've been in Boulder since 1968, how about you?

                                                      1. re: chowmix

                                                        Whoa doggy!

                                                        The Snarf's on Pearl is pretty damn good, not gourmet, but good. And, it's not filthy.

                                                        I agree that I don't find the Kitchen Upstairs to be relaxing...they do have an amazing selection though.

                                                        1. re: lavendula

                                                          Like I said, I haven't been to the new Snarf's location and never found the old one to be anything that special. I stand by my comments about the Longmont store.

                                                          More important, I have a general aversion to anyone who personally begins declaring that a particular restaurant is the "BEST!"

                                                          In my opinion, "I" make the BEST pizza in Boulder in my kitchen. But, that's a subject for a post in a different forum.

                                                          1. re: chowmix

                                                            OK, so what is some good Indian in Boulder....does it exist?

                                                            1. re: lavendula

                                                              I am not an expert on Indian by any means, but I went to Himalayas on the Pearl St mall a few months ago for the lunch buffet and really liked it. I tried as many different dishes as I could handle and they were all delicious.

                                                              1. re: lavendula

                                                                Royal Peacock.
                                                                Tandoori Grill in Table Mesa
                                                                Tibet's on McCaslin in Louisville is my favorite.

                                                                1. re: chowmix

                                                                  I like some things at Raj in the BaseMar Center a lot, esp what they do w/ saag. Bombay Bistro on Walnut (downtown) is a sister restaurant to the Tandoori Grill. Ghurka's in Table Mesa is good for dinner -- less inspired for lundh. For Himalayan food, Sherpa's on Walnut between 8th and 9th has good food and distinctive atmosphere.

                                                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                    I didn't know that Bombay Bistro was related to Tandoori. Tandoori Grill is probably my favorite pure Indian food in Boulder, and Bombay Bistro my least favorite (especially the naan - it was inedible last time we were there). Interesting.

                                                                    1. re: monopod

                                                                      what do u reccomend at TG? we live nearby n would love some recs...thanks!

                                                                      1. re: liveloveat34

                                                                        Liveloveat34, I would like to talk about starting a Boulder Chowhound
                                                                        get together.
                                                                        Paul Balbin Mahonpoc{at}indra.com or 303 258 3249