There’s no denying that Coach Prime—aka Deion Sanders—has reignited Boulder’s passion for college athletics. Under his leadership, the Buffs are now 4-3. But, perhaps just as important as the team’s performance, Coach Prime has gotten fans excited about the team again. As such, season tickets have been sold out since April.
Fortunately, there’s a new place in town to catch the Buffs (and all your other favorite teams): The Sophomore.
Located at 1043 Pearl Street in Boulder, the new sports bar replaces Ash’Kara, the Israeli and Middle Eastern restaurant that closed in July. The Denver location of Ash’Kara remains open and just won a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide.
“We’re proud of what Ash’Kara was, and what it still is in Denver,” says Josh Dinar of Working Title Food Group. “This particular space just needed to be something different.”
That “something different” was a place where Dinar, his wife Kate and their two high school-aged sons would feel comfortable hanging out after the boys’ athletic activities at Boulder High.
“We see a need for a casual place that’s easy to roll up to, order food, meet friends and spend some time together in a low-pressure environment that has really good food and drinks,” says Dinar. “We’re always trying to figure out where to go after a game, a practice, do we really want to eat at Chipotle again? How can we uplevel that experience while still being accessible?”
The recent excitement surrounding the Buffs also helped solidify their vision and, in September, The Sophomore was born.
The vibe is light, open and comfortable, with fun little touches to help create an elevated sports bar atmosphere. In addition to retro murals on white brick walls, there’s a wall of fame that highlights local kids playing sports and a lit tunnel entryway that mimics the “Thunder Chute” at Folsom Field.
“It’s really just a fun place to connect, whether you’re there for a sporting event or just in for a casual drink or meal,” says Dinar. “We want you to just relax, hang out and don’t worry.”
On the menu, guests will find traditional sports bar fare like burgers and chopped salads—but also a few creative twists. For example, executive chef Steven Queen and sous chef Justis Evans came up with a “fancy toast” menu that features fire-toasted bread topped with “a variety of awesomeness,” like fig, apple and brie or oven-roasted veggies with mozzarella.
Similarly, there’s also an entire section of the menu dedicated to whimsical sliders that guests can mix and match, like the Ph.D in Pork, which includes Dr. Pepper BBQ smoked pulled pork and Niman Ranch smoked bacon on a mac & cheese “bun.” Another fun option is the Sushi Roll, which includes seared, sesame-crusted, sushi-grade tuna, Napa cabbage slaw, Asian aioli and fried rice noodles on a bao bun. And those are just a few of the many examples of sliders.
“We’ve seen people trying their way through [those menus] the same way you’d approach a taco menu.” says Dinar.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a sports bar without chicken wings—and the team behind The Sophomore made sure theirs passed the “oh my god these are awesome wings” test, says Dinar.
To wash it all down, beverage manager Maddie Curry put together a selection of made-to-order and draft cocktails. A fan favorite? The Juanita-rita, which pays homage to Juanita, the restaurant that occupied the space for nearly 30 years and was a beloved Boulder staple.
If you can’t make it for college football on Saturdays, never fear: The Sophomore just launched a robust weekday happy hour that goes from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. They’re also rolling out “game kits” that you can grab and take home, like platters with an assortment of sliders, multiple chicken wing flavors and a variety of large salads. These are great for game-watch parties in your living room, as well as team events, office gatherings, poker nights and more.
And, soon, the team will also open the Whiskey Bacon Cave, a new “man-cave speakeasy” in the basement, says Dinar. This subterranean space will feature low ceilings, rock walls, a 105-inch screen and a high-end selection of whiskeys. There will also be a few exclusive menu options, like bacon-wrapped shrimp, a bacon flight and charcuterie selections.
“It’s a really quirky, unique spot for private watch parties or other events,” he says.
Bottom line: The Sophomore is a casual new hangout on Pearl Street. It’s designed to be an un-fussy eatery that doesn’t disappoint in the food and beverage department.
“At The Sophomore, you don’t need a reservation, you shouldn’t have to worry about your food taking too long and you can choose to order casually with QR codes when you want another round or have table service,” says Dinar. “It’s an easy casual lunch and an obvious weekend hangout spot, and it really tries to bring together an expectation of quality without any pretension at an approachable price.”