Boulder doesn’t have a sea, but it does have tasty seafood — from fancy oysters at brunch to casual fish and chips.
And even though we’re hundreds of miles away from the nearest salt water, some local restaurants fly in fresh catch daily. So you can enjoy the freshest coastal flavors while gazing at the Rocky Mountains.
If you’re craving something fishy in Boulder County, here’s where to cast out your net.
For an impressive date night out with seafood as the centerpiece, try these restaurants:
Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar, 928 Pearl St.
Jax is ideally located on Pearl Street and is considered one of Colorado’s top seafood restaurants. Jax only serves sustainable seafood in a high-energy, hip but never pretentious atmosphere. Happy hour here is one of our favorites, with discounted oysters all day Monday. Jax serves oysters from both the East and West coast; try both and see which you prefer. Jax even has its own proprietary oyster, the Emersum, cultivated exclusively for the restaurant from an oyster company in Virginia. Not many Colorado restaurants can claim that.
Wild Standard, 1043 Pearl St.
Wild Standard features fresh seafood flown in overnight, quirky cocktails and a raw oyster bar all in one of downtown’s sexiest atmospheres. Reserve a table by the front window for extra privacy and enjoy your perfectly prepared dinner while people-watching on the Pearl Street Mall outside. Wild Standard features white-washed, exposed brick walls and elegant chandeliers, but this is Boulder; you can dress up or casual and fit right in. The seafood here is sustainably sourced. Don’t miss the sweet and spicy, gluten-free calamari dipped in a Thai sweet chili glaze.
Greenbriar Inn, 8735 N. Foothills Highway
While the Greenbriar doesn’t specialize in seafood, its brunch is among Boulder County’s absolute best, and the highlight here is the oysters. Enjoy oysters with mimosas (plus an impressive spread of other indulgent food) at Greenbriar’s Sunday champagne buffet brunch. The food here is served fine dining style, on a white tablecloth with one of the best views in Boulder. This homey restaurant is at the mouth of the valley surrounded by open space and walking trails that you can stroll along after filling up.
Spruce Farm and Fish, 2115 13th St.
The Hotel Boulderado is a Boulder institution, as well as a historic landmark, and it’s also home to this modern restaurant. The seasonally changing menu here specializes in farm-fresh “New American” food, fine wine and fish. The farm-fresh oysters are a win, but don’t overlook the likes of Rocky Mountain Trout, pan-seared with brown butter. While it’s not of the sea, prepare to be impressed by Colorado’s water-borne critters, too.
The establishment itself makes a great date, whether for dinner or brunch, and whether you’re staying at the Boulderado or not. Spruce features a mosaic tile floor, stained-glass windows and coffered ceilings. Request a table on the patio in warm weather or inside on the fully enclosed porch near the oversized windows to watch the excitement of downtown Boulder.
Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar, 1117 Pearl St.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy seafood and fish is rolled up with seaweed and rice. Boulder has a surprisingly large number of top-notch sushi joints (read all about them here: Boulder’s Best Sushi Restaurants). Hapa, on the Pearl Street Mall, rises to the top of our favorites, though. First, the location; especially in warmer weather, a spot on the mall-facing patio is prime people-watching. Second, because Hapa is fun, with creative twists on Japanese food.
The menu is for adventurous eaters looking for new flavors (and a laugh at some of the names of the rolls). If you’re feeling lucky, try the Multiple Orgasm roll. (That’s a California roll wrapped in salmon, broiled in spicy aioli, add cream cheese and fried smoked salmon tempura.) If you’re craving seafood, the 69 Roll centers around shrimp tempura and you can order octopus sashimi.
Japango, 1136 Pearl St.
Right across the mall from Hapa, Japango is also known for its sushi and sashimi. But its creative seafood dishes reach far beyond that. Start with the likes of lobster potstickers or lobster tail tempura-fried and tossed in a spicy chile sauce. Japango’s New Zealand mussels, spicy calamari and grilled whole squid (served with teriyaki sauce) are also fun. Make sure you try the seafood miso soup. Japango also serves sushi bowls, including one with barbecued fresh-water eel served over sushi rice. The vibe is lively but can still feel intimate, and the happy hour is solid.
Fish Without Flair
In Colorado, there’s a fine line between fancy and casual. Many people wear jeans everywhere, and only a handful of restaurants in Boulder will flinch if you show up in a T-shirt. But if you’re looking for quick seafood in an extra casual atmosphere, here’s where we go in Boulder County:
Wahoo’s Fish Taco, 2790 Pearl St.
Yeah, it’s a chain. And yeah, Boulder eternally prefers locally run businesses. But if you’re looking for a quick, grab-and-go, counter-style fish taco (hello, shrimp burrito), Wahoo’s is an easy go-to. There’s a storefront in Longmont, too. Did we mention you can get beer and wine with your meal?
Reelfish Fish and Chips, 2770 Arapahoe Road, Unit 112, Lafayette
Here’s your answer if you want quick, counter-served fish without the chain. Reelfish in Lafayette features a rotating menu of seafood, specializing in fish and chips. Everything’s made with a special gluten-free batter. Fresh-cut fries, craft beer, lobster rolls, fresh or fried oysters, lobster bisque, Cajun catfish and hush puppies are just a few of the ways to fill up here. Reelfish’s mission: to serve quality seafood at an affordable price, hot and fast.
Local tip: Kids eat free all day on Monday (two kids per paying adult).