Boulder is downright bursting with awesome restaurants, from casual burrito joints to fine dining temples to solid spots from which to grab a slice.
But what are the very best restaurants? The ones you absolutely, positively must visit to treat your taste buds and pleasure your palate?
Here, 10 iconic Boulder restaurants we can’t live without.
The stories here are endless: Yes, Robert Redford worked here as a janitor in the 1950s. The wall murals, including the iconic Sink Angel and Sink Devil, come from beatnik artists (including one named Llloyd Kavich, with three L’s). Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate here when they were in town. On graduation day, seniors head to The Sink pre-commencement for beer and to sign their names on the ceiling. But stories are only as good as they taste, and the Sink burgers, pizza and beer live up to the legends. 1165 13th St., 303-444-7465; thesink.com
Since 1995, Boulder has been eating breakfast at The Buff. Perhaps equally known for its 99-cent mimosas and Bloody Marys as for its omelets, skillets and White Buffalo Cakes—white chocolate-filled pancakes topped with strawberries, white chocolate syrup and whipped cream—we don’t really believe you’re from Boulder until you’ve nursed at least one hangover here. 2600 Canyon Blvd., 303-442-9150; buffrestaurant.com
The Greenbriar Inn
With 20 acres of woodlands, two ponds, multiple gardens and a waterfall, The Greenbriar Inn has ambiance in spades. It extends to the inside of the 55-year-old restaurant, too—all wood-paneled elegance with a luxe European menu. Think: beef wellington with foie gras and sherry mushrooms, pan-seared duck breast with rice pilaf, and wild mushroom strudel. This is the place to go when you want to live it up. 8735 N. Foothills Hwy, 303-440-7979; greenbriarinn.com
Fans of “Top Chef” already know Hosea Rosenberg, the TV show’s season five champion. Boulderites know him, too, for his New Mexican spot Santo and meat mecca Blackbelly. Both are great restaurants, but it’s Blackbelly’s incredible beef tartare, lamb, pork and burgers that keep us hungry for more. 1606 Conestoga St., 303-247-1000; blackbelly.com
In 2010, Bon Appetit magazine named Boulder America’s Foodiest Town, and Frasca got a good portion of the print in that article. The fine dining restaurant focused on the food and wine of Italy’s Friuli region is an elegant experience worthy of any to-eat list, but we think its more casual sister restaurant Pizzeria Alberico is just as special. With wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, a crave-worthy butterscotch budino and spritzes for days, it could be serving Boulder’s perfect meal. 1738 Pearl St., 303-442-6966; frascafoodandwine.com & 1730 Pearl St., 303-442-3003; localeboulder.com
There are now a dozen Illegal Pete’s locations, but it’s the Pete’s on The Hill that started the burgeoning burrito empire. There’s no more Boulder a place to go for customized burritos the size of your face, fish tacos and spicy ranch salads. Wash it all down with a margarita, and you’ll be ready to hit the Fox Theatre, the trails or just your couch. 1124 13th St., Boulder, 303-444-3055; illegalpetes.com
The views, the food, the wine—there are multiple reasons why the Flagstaff House is one of Boulder’s top dining experiences. This is where to go for celebrations, for pampering and to live the high life, literally. Perched atop Flagstaff Mountain with floor-to-ceiling windows to capture all the views, every detail here is so well-considered and well-done that it’s almost painful to pull yourself away from that bottle of red and drive the windy road back to town. 1138 Flagstaff Rd., 303-442-4640; flagstaffhouse.com
Mount Everest Cuisine
People forget just how much good Indian food comes out of Boulder kitchens. We have buffets and quick stops, but one of the best Indian restaurants is Baseline’s Mount Everest, which also specializes in Nepalese dishes like momo (steamed dumplings) and thukpa (noodle soup). The vast vegetarian menu means there are choices galore for everyone at the table. 4800 Baseline Rd., 303-499-0469; mounteverestcuisine.com
Il Pastaio Ristorante
For more than 20 years, this tiny strip mall Italian restaurant has been rolling out fresh linguine, ravioli, fusilli, pappardelle and even more shapes and sizes of house-made pastas. The recipes come from co-owner Giuseppe Oreamuno’s Pisa-based family, and there may be no greater pleasure than sitting at one of the high-top tables on a winter day in front of a steaming plate of pasta and sauce. 3075 Arapahoe Ave., 303-447-9572; ilpastaioboulder.com
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful building than the Dushanbe Teahouse. More than 40 artisans in Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, created the vivid ceramic panels, hand-painted ceiling, hand-carved columns and hammered copper sculptures that decorate the museum-worthy teahouse. Drop in for brunch, dinner, tea or whenever you want a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach. 1770 13th St., 303-442-4993; boulderteahouse.com