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Short Trip To Colorado...Any tips??

So I'm planning a trip out to Colorado and we'll be in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder each for about a day in a few weeks. Any suggestions? I've never been and research so far hasn't turned anything too substantial yet (at least in my mind). Here are what the options are so far:

- Root Down
- Rioja
- Lola
- D Bar
- Biker Jim's Gourmet Dog
- Sam's No. 3

- Nosh
- BJ's Velvet Freez

- The Buff
- Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

I hail from Los Angeles and currently reside in San Diego so I have my fair share of Mexican food here. I also eat all types of Asian food quite often in LA so I didn't list any in CO. But open to suggestions of all kinds if anyone has any. :)

Thanks all!

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  1. I don't have too much to input because I haven't been to most of those places yet, but I was greatly disappointed at D Bar. I didn't think the entree I had was all that great and the desserts were very disappointing. Service was VERY bad...server forgot to bring out an appetizer we had ordered, took 15 minutes to get a diet coke etc etc. We went around 9pm on a weeknight so maybe they were all ready to go home, but still, that's no excuse.

    I loved Biker Jim's and I think it'd be a great lunch option...and it's very uniquely "Colorado".

    1 Reply
    1. re: juliejulez

      Funny, I had quite the opposite experiences. For me D Bar has always been great. The desserts are very rich & worth having at least once. Service was great-very attentive servers.

      Biker Jim's to me possibly the worse "hot dog" I've ever had. They were so dry and the casing was hard to bite through. The bun was stale and the people at the counter were not very helpful.

      Granted every place has good/bad days. It's up to each of us to decide if it's worth it to give them another shot.

      I will say Rioja hit it completely out of the ballpark! One of my favorite meals ever.

    2. We've enjoyed both Rioja (Denver) and Frasca (Boulder) over the years; both aren't necessarily unique relative to what you'll find in LA, but both recently won James Beard awards and make an effort to use local ingredients, so they might be worth a visit if you're looking for a relatively fancy lunch/dinner.

      No specific recommendations for where to get them, but be sure to check out some of the local microbrews and green chili (a more Southwestern than Mexican specialty, I think) as well. I've also always especially enjoyed trying out whatever local game (elk, bison, etc) is on the menus during our trips out there.

      1. I agree with juliejulez re: D Bar - I've never really been that impressed with the food there. Also, as rovingfoodie mentions, Rioja (Best Chef SW) and Frasca (Wine Program, I think?) both recently won JBF awards.

        For Denver, I'd say you should nix Sam's No. 3. It's fine but I don't consider it "special" enough for a 1-day visit to Denver. Lola may be in the same category. Maybe also consider Squeaky Bean, Il Posto, The Kitchen (also a location in Boulder) or Ethiopian (if you want to head out to the burbs a bit, there's a place called Nile that's good for food but sometimes a little lackadaisical on service).

        For Boulder, there's the aforementioned Frasca, Pizzeria Locale or The Kitchen.

        Have fun!!

        1. Thank you all for the suggestions! I guess D Bar can be nixed from the list. We are looking for "unique to Colorado" places so Biker Jim's just jumped up on the list. We'll make sure to look into the other places you mentioned as well.

          Any suggestions for a specific green chili destination in any of the cities? We'll probably only get to one fancyish restaurant as we prefer low profile, local cheap eats over a nice dinner most days.

          3 Replies
          1. re: darrenw

            >> We'll probably only get to one fancyish restaurant as we prefer low profile, local cheap eats over a nice dinner most days.

            When I was researching for my trip to all three cities last fall, five "fancyish" restaurants got lots of praise in discussions here: Penrose Room at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs (considered by many to be the best restaurant in Colorado), Flagstaff House and Frasca in Boulder, and Fruition and Kevin Taylor in Denver. I chose Penrose Room and Flagstaff House. I would recommend Flagstaff House as a "unique to Colorado" upscale dinner, because it combines excellent food with an exquisite setting and view (it's perched on a cliff overlooking Boulder, with floor-to-ceiling windows).

            I also loved Euclid Hall, a beerhall-type restaurant in downtown Denver's Larimer Square from the owners of Rioja. Ultra-casual, with a menu focusing on creative sausages and such. I especially LOVED their s'mores pot de crème for dessert!

            You don't mention breakfast-focused restaurants, but I went to the Boulder locations of Lucile's (five locations) and Snooze (five locations). Both were good; of the two, I especially enjoyed Lucile's, which has creole/Southern cuisine. The Boulder location is in a former residence, with lots of small cozy dining rooms. I loved the beignets, the blackened salmon, and the rice pudding porridge.

            Website links:

            1. re: darrenw

              uh oh, now you've done it- you've invoked green chile wars....

              I'll throw in my favorite- Efrain's- the one in east boulder. It's such a weird place, some things are GREAT (green chile, costillas), and other things are not good (chile rellenos with this weird mild tomato sauce).

              In Denver- I'll admit to being so-so about Euclid Hall at first, but I really love it now. The beers and cocktails are great, the house-made sausages are fantastic. I think I wasn't in the mood for it the first time I went, no blame on the restaurant. Duck Poutine? Yes, please.

              We had lunch at Biker Jim's today, I do recommend it. I used to feel rushed to order, because there are a number of options in dogs, toppings, etc., but they do a great job.

              You also might enjoy linger, I love the small plate format. They used to have a fantastic deck with a great view of downtown, but there's a big building in the way of that view now- the deck itself is still great. I've had many things there that I really enjoyed, and never had anything that I'd call bad or ill-considered.

              Enjoy your time in CO.

              1. re: darrenw

                A bowl of green with a couple warm flour tortillas at the Cherry Cricket is one of the best around. Nice chunks of tender pork and plenty of heat.

              2. The Kitchen Next Door for happy hour. I live in LA and go to SD often. For this type of food (quality and cost) I haven't found anything comparable. in LA the same type of restaurant will charge double for what hey offer. Local beer on tap and excellent pork sandwich and tomato soup.

                1. Haha you guys/gals look like you know your stuff. Awesome suggestions everyone. I'm super excited to check these places out. Love options. We'll see how many we get to and I'll make sure to let everyone know how it goes.

                  We do have a Snooze here in SD so I think we'll skip that. But I didn't mention breakfast and I'm glad we have some options now nsxstasy. I wonder how the beignets compare to the ones I've had in New Orleans... :?

                  1. Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is a lovely place to stay and dine.
                    The Golden Bee English Pub is great for a pint, Penrose and Summit were also quite good.
                    As a native San Diegan, you just don't see hotels like this...Hotel Del would be the closest.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      I agree on the Broadmoor and Penrose Room. It's a good start when you valet your car and rather than give you a ticket with a number, they simply ask your name.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        We stayed during Christmas...damn, they decorate the place, like nobody's business.

                      2. re: Beach Chick

                        The Broadmoor (hotel) and Penrose Room (restaurant) are indeed wonderful places. The closest and most obvious parallel near San Diego would be Montage Laguna Beach and their restaurant, Studio. Outstanding and luxurious in every way, with a national reputation. Of course, there are differences; Montage has its view of the ocean, while the Broadmoor has those big game hunting trophies. :)

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          Love Studio at Montage.

                          I think the closest on scale with Broadmoor in SD would be the Hotel Del Coronado.
                          1500 Ocean is a lovely restaurant but Studio has it beat.


                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            FWIW, the Penrose Room and Studio are two of the 28 restaurants in the country awarded with five stars from the Forbes Travel Guide: www.startle.com/about/awardwinners

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              i think it's a good to know but the OP states cheap eats and casual. i don't think the Penrose is cheap or casual unless it's changed.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  true true. and a good reference for later since this board is so slow.

                                2. re: trolley

                                  Golden Bee at the Broadmoor is a lovely English Pub on the grounds and its casual and lovely...don't recall it being expensive either.
                                  Couldn't imagine going to Colorado Springs and not having at least a pint and a walk around the grounds of Broadmoor Resort.

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    yes, that would be like going to San Diego and skipping the beach.

                        2. For Colorado Springs, I would concur on Nosh. Their food is always well prepared and interesting. BJ's Velvet Freez is just an old style ice cream stand, not sure why it would be worth a special trip. The Warehouse and Craftwood do good game and other interesting food, but are on the more expensive side. Warehouse does have small plates. King's Chef is supposed to have really good green chili and diner food. We like Tapateria (tapas) and Pizzeria Rustica, but they are not uniquely Colorado. The Rabbit Hole has some interesting small plates, too.

                          1. Alright folks, best laid out plans are best foiled due to unforeseen circumstances. But regardless, we were able to get to some of these places talked about.

                            Biker Jim's (the restaurant) was pretty tasty. We got the buffalo and the bat dog. I kind of wanted to try elk on the trip and this was one of the chances to do so, but I decided on the buffalo last minute.

                            D Bar. We were trying to get to Lucile's but they were closed so we tried D Bar even though there were mixed reviews here. It was okay. One thing people mentioned was bad service. We must have gotten lucky since our server was super attentive and checked on us enough to make us feel wanted, but not uncomfortable. The chocolate malt of the cake and shake was the highlight.

                            Thai Satay in Colorado Springs. The gf felt like Asian food so we went to this unassuming strip mall for some Thai food. Not all that bad but they served all sorts of Asian flavors like Malaysian and Vietnamese. The Tom Yum soup was the best for us.

                            Next was Kitchen Next Door. I couldn't remember which Kitchen everyone recommended and didn't realize there were 3 all next to each other so we basically went to the one that was more affordable and looked busier. This was okay. Burger wasn't anything to complain about and the fish and chips were alright. Wish the garlic smashers were softer and more potatoey.

                            Curry and Kabob. Funny this was one of our favorites. Loved the chicken kabob and the chicken tikki specials. If this place was in SD and close to us it would make the normal rotation (which is large but still!).

                            Efrain's! Okay, when I looked at the menu and saw the green chile bowl was a solid 10 on the spicyness I was sad because I already had made up my mind that I needed to try it due to all the comments here. So because I don't like to go back on what I have my mind set on and didn't want to shy away from the last opportunity to give this Colorado staple a try, I sheepishly ordered it. When it came out that first bite was memorable. Very hot, very savory, very hot, and oh so tasty. After 5 bites I didn't know if I could take it down. But after 10 my mouth was numb and the rest was history. I'm glad I got to give this a try and thank you all for the great input! I believe the food adventures were a success!! We wanted to try The Penrose Room but they were closed the day we were in town. Darn! Next time...

                            One last thing I will say is that everyone we met and spoke to was really kind and just pleasant to talk to from the tour guides, the servers, all the way to the gas station attendants. And people are so chill on the roads. There was a huge accident on the freeway and cars started pulling over probably two football fields beforehand. There wasn't one douchebag that tried to cut in front either. That would never happen in California! Thanks Colorado, you guys were awesome.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: darrenw

                              i'm sorry you didn't like the Kitchen Next Door. I have to admit the place is a hit or miss. i've had some meh dishes there and some really great ones like the tomato soup. The Kitchen OTOH is really great. Its a higher price point but more refined. The KND is more of a casual pub with healthy food.

                              we just got back from a trip to CO as well yesterday. and i completely concur about the drivers!! we were back at LAX and man, it was hell. and then back on the freeway with all the other jerks. i said you know you're back in LA when a white BMW cuts you off going 90 miles her hour in slow moving traffic. colorado wins with the most polite and best drivers!