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Jan 7, 2010 07:49 PM

Boulder and Other Points North Restaurants: A Few Ideas/Opinions

This is the companion piece to the Denver thread here

Salt: I’ve been for one lunch, two Sunday brunches at the bar, and one dinner so far and see many more visits in the future. The first trip at lunch did not blow me away, in part because our amateurish server looked about twelve years old and was obviously in his first job saving money to buy ringtones and Rhianna MP3s. The two specialty salts brought out are in keeping with the theme but are completely unnecessary since all of the dishes we had were sufficiently seasoned. The chicken pot pie was outstanding—parsnips, onions, carrots, turnips, rotisserie birdie, and a hollow cap of puff pastry. The sausage gravy and biscuits were a little disappointing for someone whose mother is a southern-style cook, but a nice flavor nonetheless (even though the crock it was served it made it a bit awkward to eat and the biscuits were a little on the hard side rather than fluffy and ethereal). I really loved the Hazel Dell Mushroom Omelette with goat cheese and roasted red peppers and a side of potatoes, as well as the delicious pork green chile with egg and avocado, although I longed for corn tortillas over the bread that was delivered. At dinner, we were completely blown away by the mouthwatering seven-hour braised Colorado lamb shank with potato leek mash and natural jus. A fellow diner at Frasca’s bar (who was also eating the warm veggie salad there) thankfully hipped me to Salt’s spectacular roasted squash salad with mushrooms, chevre, carmelized onions, and pumpkin seeds. I also got to sneak a taste of my better half’s tomato soup topped with a mini grilled goat cheese sandwich which was equally delicious. I was not a fan of the later years of Tom’s Tavern, but I do like that they left the logo on the side of the building and have a burger named in his honor for everyone who has fond memories of the spot.

Modmarket: This new-ish salad and soup and flatbread spot at the 29th Street Mall has a minimalist interior that reminds me of Larkburger. I was not that impressed with the multi-grain flatbread (flavor is a little off), but have been back multiple times for the addictive Cobbish. Blue cheese, tomatoes, green bean chunks, avocado, egg whites, piquillo peppers (which you don’t see that often), romaine hearts, and a superb buttermilk chili ranch dressing.

Black Cat: Enjoyed a couple of great meals last year perched on the end of the bar watching super-focused Chef Eric Skokan work and a couple with less success when he wasn’t in the house. His sous clumsily put together plates, whereas everything the chef delivered (from Turkish shrimp with chili oil to red lentil crusted salmon to duck) was touched with magic.

Dish Gourmet: Yes, they have unbelievable sandwiches, but I think what sets them apart are their ever-changing, high-quality sides. The pasta salads are a can’t-miss and there’s usually a couple to choose from (Mediterranean, ranch, penne with artichoke-garlic dressing, red pepper bowtie, etc.). Then you’ve got different potato salads, quinoa, beans, potato/veggie hash—always something delicious in the case.

Frasca Food and Wine: I got to start last year off with Marc Vetri in their kitchen serving up an unbelievable smoky foie gras pastrami, cauliflower flan, squash gnocchi and casola (pork rib and cabbage stew) and follow that up with special dinners with Nate Appleman (he of the incredible marinated short ribs) and Joe Bastianich (who was mistakenly reported in the Denver Post as being Moby). Add in the Top Chef Masters watch party on the patio, their fifth anniversary meal of classics (featuring the triumphant return of the peanut butter cup dessert), a luscious Monday menu matched with a Terry Theise grower Champagne flight, and a Masi wine dinner of ’88, ’90, ’95, and ’97 selections all served in gorgeous BV stems, and this had to be one of their best years yet. I still can’t believe we have such a world-class spot in our backyard. This is the spot that can go mano-a-mano with any place in the country.

Waterloo (Louisville): I was intrigued as a former Austin resident and patron of Waterloo Records to visit a BBQ joint started by its original owners. Mr. rlm had the brisket and it was perfect. I brought my parents in a month or so later and my dad ended up with several tough, hard bits on his brisket sandwich (which they did offer to replace). Tender, juicy pork ribs and pork shoulder sandwiches which can be washed down with Shiner Bock. The coleslaw is better than the sweet potato fries and their sauces aren’t that spectacular (for Texan rip-offs, I lean towards the XX at Wild Mountain Smokehouse in Nederland). Lovely patio.

Bitter Bar (in the back of Happy): I have not revisited the food at Happy (Noodle House), but the well-crafted cocktails at the bar have made me a fan. Slow-melting giant ice cubes for the Old Stage whiskey cocktail, house-made bitters…just lots of love and attention to detail here.

Flagstaff House: In these economic times, so few places have the balls to put actual Champagne by the glass on the list. Not Cava or Prosecco or domestic sparklers, but the real goods. This alone would make me go more often were it not for the hot lights, awkward chairs, and outdated atmosphere in the bar area that could really use a facelift. Last summer I had a fantastic soft shell crab with potatoes, corn, and mussels along with a perfect foie and sweetbreads plate. They even gave us a mini-loaf of blueberry lemon poppyseed bread to take with us.

Frasca Food & Wine
1738 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302

Flagstaff House Restaurant
1138 Flagstaff Dr, Boulder, CO 80302

1918 Pearl St Ste 100, Boulder, CO 80302

105 Edwards Village Blvd, Edwards, CO 81632

Black Cat
1964 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302

SALT - Boulder
1047 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302

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  1. I didn't realize Frasca has been around 5 years. Its amazing that they seem to just get better and better. I don't get there as often as I like (only because I live in AZ now), but look forward to our next trip "home", which was specifically timed to ensure we could dine there.

    Agreed on outdated atmosphere of Flagstaff house as well. I remember it being pretty pricey, which is probably hard to pull off in these current economic times. A facelift would probably breathe new life into that place. They certainly still have the amazing view, which is hard to come other places.

    Thanks for the great reviews.

    1. I'll add a few that I posted once on a different forum:

      Zolo Grill, $$, upscale southwestern cuisine
      2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, 303-449-0444
      Always good eats, the enchiladas are great (smoked gouda kills it!), lots of food for the price. Good margs. Good guac.

      The Med, $-$$, Mediterranean cuisine
      1002 Walnut St, Boulder 303-444-5335
      Great tapas menu, can eat a great dinner just from it. Good pizzas. Nice bar area. Outdoor atrium/patio. Great date place, not too expensive but is classy. I rarely order entrees (other than salads for lunch), and reports are that the entrees are not always great for the price.

      Lucilles, $, cajun, breakfast/lunch only
      Numerous locations (Boulder, Denver, Longmont, Ft Collins, Steamboat).
      Great breakfasts. Biscuits are out of this world, especially with the homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. Beignets are good too. Great hollandaise sauce. Huge portions.

      Chez Thuy, $-$$, Asian.
      2655 28th Street, Boulder. 303.442.1700.
      Huge menu, largest I have ever seen. Is techincally Vietnamese, but has most asian cuisines represented, almost all of it very good. Big fan of the pork/black bean hot pot. Service is good but somewhat brusque.

      The Corner Bar, $-$$, upscale pub food
      corner of 13th and Spruce in the Hotel Boulderado, Boulder, (303) 442-4560.
      One of my favorite places in Boulder. Food is publike but a bit fancier, and always good (shares the kitchen with Q's, a really nice restaurant). Nice mellow atmosphere, almost always table space but also rarely empty. Because it's a "hotel bar" it's open on Christmas Day. :) Always have a beer of the day for $3, all day.

      Saxy's Cafe, $, paninis and salads, coffee
      2018 10th St (just off Pearl), Boulder, (303) 786-8585.
      Basically a hipster coffee shop. To be honest, I have never had their coffee (pretty expensive). But their paninis and salads are great. Also kind of pricey ($7.95 for panini, $8.95 for salad) but the sammys are pretty big and come with a small side salad, so it is actually a pretty good deal. The best are the Tacchino and the Salmone Fume. Very gourmet sandwich food.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LurkerDan

        Thanks for adding to this! I've had the coffee at Saxy's (quite some time ago) and enjoyed it, but now I'll have to check out their food.

        1. re: rlm

          Other Boulder restaurants that are worth experiencing include: Arugula Bar e Ristorante (, fine northern Italian cuisine, excellent service. John's (, charming, intimate, restrained and excellent. L'Atelier (, beautiful place serving beautifully prepared and just plain beautiful food. Still more: Mateo (country French/Provencal), Laudisio's and Trattoria on Pearl (both Italian) and Jill's at the St. Julien and Q's at the Boulderado (both commendable hotel restaurants).

          Beyond Boulder's borders, there's Colterra in Niwot (, Sugarbeet in Longmont ( and Empire in Louisville (

        2. re: LurkerDan

          I just realized that this thread is missing at least one very well-known and deserving restaurant, hard to believe it hasn't been mentioned.

          The Kitchen -- this place just continues to be very good. Upstairs wine bar for more casual eating/drinking, a big community table downstairs, community dinners (every Monday, I think). They've been focusing on local ingredients since the day they opened.

          Two other places that I think deserve mention.

          Arugula (I think someone else mentioned them) -- good fine italian food. I have not been a lot, but all 3 meals I have had here have been excellent. A hidden gem, IMO.

          Centro -- very good Latin food, another in Dave Query's empire (along with Zolo, Jax, Happy, Lola). For some reason, I used to think this place was good but maybe a bit overpriced. But I ate there recently and had a delicious roasted half chicken, extremely well done with delicious sides, and it was a steal for $15. So now I just think it is good.

          950 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO 80302

        3. Was just reading Denver Magazine's take on Salt and it sounds like either the restaurant has wild consistency issues or perhaps the journo's visits were earlier on before they had stabilized the kitchen. She reported that her lamb shank "wasn't fork tender," whereas ours was amazingly fall-apart tender on a recent visit. She also did not like the squash salad that I and another diner loved, and I did not notice an overabudance of lettuce on my trip like she did (being a fan of the correct "goodies to greens" ratio that I am). She mentions the Rattlesnake cocktail being "perfectly executed," whereas we have found that it ranges from mediocre to great depending on who is making it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rlm

            An update on another one of my favorite spots in Boulder: Pupusas Sabor Hispano on North Broadway. They have added two booths along the front wall now which do not match the others. The shocking development is that they no longer have Mexican Coke (or any Coke) available. Only domestic HFCS Pepsi, although they still have Jarritos.

            1. re: rlm

              The Mexican Cokes were back on a recent visit...

          2. I second The Med, Lucille's and Pupusas.

            The Med because it was much more than I expected for way less money than expected. The desserts were more than worth the price that some restaurants charge for a slice of cake. We had several tapas (we are such food dorks that we never order tapas but we were glad the waitress recommended we try them). For the tapas we had carpaccio, muestro and the empanadillas. The carpaccio was so good I could have licked the plate if it wasn't for the five billion people all around!

            My guy had the Valencia paella and I had the baked pasta (marinara covered shells stuffed with eggplant, sundried tomato and ricotta). The food was great, yes, even the paella! We don't drink so I can't comment on the wines but I was very happy with the desserts. My guy had the panne cotta and I had some lemon thing. The crumbles on top of the lemon thing (sorry, can't remember what it was...mouse or some sort?) were a little bit boring but the whole thing was terrific. I preferred the panne cotta.

            Lucille's because the food is done well and every now and then we all need a little heart attack food! Creole pan fried red trout makes me smile. No need to order beignets because many dishes come with a gigantic (the size of a small field) biscuit. Naturally, the only thing I can order there is the Eggs Pontchartrain. I can't seem to want to try anything new. I get it sans bearnaise but I'll bet it is a terrific sauce, just not my thing.

            Pupusa's because there is just something different about Salvadoran food. If you are tired of regular Mexican restaurants serving the same things, try Pupusa's. I always get at least one pupusa. If you don't know, they are hand made corn masa balls stuffed with cheese and other things (I get the fiddlehead fern pupusas or the red chili ones), pressed flat and fried, pan fried maybe. They are served with a tiny cabbage salad and a dollop of red sauce. The garnishes have a cooling effect. Honestly, the pupusas are all I care about but the other food items are good according to my guy.

            One that wasn't mentioned, or at least I didn't see it mentioned, is Radda Tratorria by Ideal Market. Okay, I admit, we haven't tried it for lunch or dinner because we are obsessed with their breakfast! It is a menu that has both savory and sweet and you put your meal together as you please. I always get the polenta because, really, it is just so darn good. There must be five pounds of grana padano in there alongside the fifty pounds of butter and cream...mouth watering! My guy regularly gets the croissant with butter and jam or the fagioli e pomodoro which has what I consider to be a provencal taste. He swears by their coffee. One day, we'll get out and have their dinner.

            I think it is a great list you've put together!

            6 Replies
            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

              It's "Lucile's" not "Lucille's". That's important if you're trying to find it in Google Maps, for example.

              1. re: ToddBradley

                Some updates:

                Comida (Boulder County): This is one mobile food vendor completely worth finding, even though several people on Westword’s Café Society blog seemed outraged at the prospect of a $3 taco. Yes, I’m tired of all the copy-cats rushing out to buy a cart or a truck. When gas was hitting the 3’s, weren’t we all ditching our gas-guzzling behemoths for a sensible hybrid? Now every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks they need to compete with me and my Magical Cheez-It Dispensing Pinto. Comida’s definitely one of the winners though. I love dirt-cheap street tacos too, but Comida dresses theirs up so wonderfully they are truly a different experience and completely worth it once you taste the love that goes into every bite. The words you need to remember for this bright pink truck are: The Short Rib Situation.

                O’s at Westin Westminster: Chef Tournant Camilo Robledo gets to show what he can do every Tuesday night at the community table. This is an amazing $22 deal of four courses paired with wines. Call ahead to reserve since it’s limited to 20 people. I’ve been to a couple and must admit at being shocked by the flavors and presentation in each of the dishes. Both have started with a dish served family style (jumbo lump crab salad on one visit and a unique spin on peas and carrots on the next) and followed up with fish (monkfish, cod cake), meat (tenderloin, BBQ ribs), and dessert (dark chocolate ganache and blueberry/raspberry/coconut napoleon) courses. Keep your eye on this guy.

                Colterra (Niwot): On a recent dinner trip the duck confit gnocchi was the star that the roasted lamb which followed couldn’t compete with. So of course I had to order a different but equally-delicious vegetarian version at brunch with mushrooms, sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, and a touch of cream. I really love the charming atmosphere here, especially the relaxing patio. Service is friendly and neither pokey nor rushed.

                Basil Flats (Longmont): The Noodles and Co. guys apparently didn’t have enough cash in the bank since they’ve chosen to open this fast-casual Med spot that is screaming “please franchise me to death.” The small panzanella salad is huge and tastes decent and is therefore a good deal at 4 bucks, but it’s not really a bread salad unless you count the flavorless, chewy croutons it came with. Not realizing how large the small salad would be, I ordered The Italian sandwich as well and made it through half (partially due to the size of the salad and partially due to the fact that it just wasn’t that delicious). It is listed as a grilled flatbread sandwich on the menu but is actually a soft wrap. Lots of buzzwords abound on the menu like artisan, house-made, freshly grilled, hand-crafted, signature, and farm-fresh, but I think their recipes could use a little tweaking to live up to their marketing.

                Modmarket (Boulder): They sadly no longer have the Cobbish salad and can’t make it since they no longer stock piquillo peppers (and being on the pricey side that's understandable). Salads are still delicious and zingy. I thought it fitting that they won a restaurant design award recently since their flatbread tastes like a copy of Architectural Digest. It is maybe just a little too hippy-dippy for me, as plenty of people seem to enjoy it. Wondering if their newer sandwiches would be better. I still don’t like the set-up where you have to order salad separately, meaning you can’t sit down to enjoy it because you’re waiting to order something from the brick oven.

                Smashburger (all over): Consistently good burgers including the Swiss-Mushroom and the Spicy Baja, and the Colorado Dog makes me want to investigate the Chicago version on the next trip, but I have been disappointed with the sweet potato fries, smash fries, and fried pickles. Improvement over Icon Burger which they bought out before expanding their empire, but if Park Burger and the other palaces were closer I probably wouldn't come here much.

                Which Wich (Westminster): A sandwich chain popping up all the over the place, I ended up here when the nearby Snarf’s was closed on a holiday weekend. Their gimmick is you pick up a numbered bag divided into different types of sandwiches such as turkey, veggie, seafood, beef, and ham & pork and check what you want with a magic marker. Then the bag is clipped to a sliding line over the sandwich makers and the finished product is plopped into your bag. It was incredibly busy when I stopped in and the system didn’t seem to be running that efficiently. Split a serviceable beef cheesesteak with Swiss and caramelized onions and an Italian grinder with hot peppers, spicy mayo, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and provolone with the better half. Not bad for a “your first option was closed” spot. (Speaking of Snarf's, an employee at the Arapahoe location in Boulder was eating with his hands outside and got up to follow me inside to wait on me without washing his hands. I turned around and left. I am sure this happens all the time in the biz, but I don't want to see it.)

                Pizzeria Basta (Boulder): Very good basic Margherita pizza (called the Daisy here) and a kick-hiney market special pizza on another trip of fingerling potatoes and Long Farm Pork. I only wish they had a few more pizza combos, a bigger wine list, and a more comfortable bar area—it’s a little too bright, seats aren’t comfy, and it’s not as much fun swigging wine while kids are standing around gaping open-mouthed at the pizzas going into the wood burning oven. They’ve added market pastas (like a $15 chicken cannelloni with Munson corn) and sous vide ribs with the dreaded “market price” designation on the menu, although I’m dying to try them. After the Frasca gang opens their adjoining Pizzeria Locale this year, I’m wondering if they will still be able to compete for my affections.

                Salt (Boulder): Have checked out social hour multiple times and tried everything. With options ranging from 2 to 5 dollars, it’s a screamin’ deal. Faves have included flatbread (arugula pesto/sun dried tomato/goat cheese) and roasted beets with hazelnuts and goat cheese. The slider was more bread than meat but the only thing I didn’t care for was the grilled pear with the gorgonzola sauce. Brunch is still the winner at this spot, and I hope they never take the pork with green chile off the menu.

                Street Legal Pizza (Broomfield): This is next to Bloom at Flatiron Crossing so I truthfully wasn't expecting much. My better half ordered a pizza on "bachelor night" and saved me a few slices. I was surprised they tasted so good warmed up, so I went back for carry out on another date. They were very busy so I had to wait about 30 minutes after ordering, but again, I was surprised at how good it smelled inside compared to other suburban pizza places. Better prices than something like Double D's and tastes better than Abo's. It's not like Pizzeria Basta or Virgilio's--more like Anthony's--but if you're in or near Broomfield, whatcha gonna do?

                210 Franklin St., Niwot, CO 80504

                5340 Arapahoe Ave Ste J, Boulder, CO 80303

                2755 Dagny Way Ste 103, Lafayette, CO 80026

                Which Wich
                1129 13th St Ste A, Boulder, CO 80302

                1. re: rlm

                  Only a week left to dine at Frasca before the temporary closure for renovations:

                  1. re: rlm

                    If you have not had a chance to check out the newly-re-opened Frasca, you should make it a priority to get there. More space = more room to expand the pasta program, a little easier to accommodate walk-ins, expanded wine storage, a real entry-way with double-doors to keep out the elements, marble-topped bar, new booths, phone system that allows you to hold to speak to a reservationist instead of leaving a message, etc.
                    Check it out:

                    1. re: rlm

                      Looking forward to trying Oak at 14th when it opens soon:

                      1. re: rlm

                        Oak at Fourteenth is scheduled to open tomorrow (Monday).

            2. I'd like to add Empire Restaurant and Lounge in Louisville to the list. I finally ate there Friday night and had a delicious meal. Started with braised Kobe beef cheeks for an appetizer which was melt in your mouth delicious. For dinner I had a braised lamb shoulder with masacarpone polenta and greens which was some of the best lamb I've ever had. And they make a mean Pimm's Cup. A friend had the pork and ricotta meatballs which I tasted are were also very good. Service was friendly and fast. I'll definitely be back.