by Bryan Dayton
Though the mountain town of Boulder, Colorado, may measure on the small side, its dining scene is no less competitive than that of major metropolises. An influx of travelers touting eclectic palates has demanded elevated dining experiences here, and helped cultivate a cutting-edge food and beverage industry as a result. Seasoned bartender and co-owner of Denver‘s Acorn and Boulder’s OAK at fourteenth eateries, Bryan Dayton has selected the best dining and imbibing bets in this hip mountain town, for your palate’s pleasure—here are his curated recommendations.
Best for Breakfast
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Try Snooze for wholesome breakfast foods served up in a fun, hip environment. I usually get whatever their seasonal pancakes are (pumpkin is great in the fall) and one of their morning cocktails (like a Bloody Mary). Lucile’s is the oldest breakfast spot in Boulder—it’s been around for over 30 years or so. Set in a charming Victorian-style house, they serve Cajun/New Orleans-inspired cuisine (I usually go with the étouffée). Or, hit up Brasserie Ten Ten, which has a great weekend brunch.
Best for Lunch
For sandwiches, Snarf’s is my go-to, especially for their Italian sub. It’s good, quick, easy, and one of the better Boulder restaurant staples. I also really enjoy Mateo for great, Provençal-inspired food. A nice glass of wine paired with their Poulet plate is pretty much perfect—it’s one of my all-time favorite chicken dishes.
Best for Dinner
Head straight to Frasca Food & Wine for a full-blown dinner experience—it’s downright world-class Italian dining, with special appeal for oenophiles. The Kitchen also wins points for their oysters and wholesome food, with a menu that incorporates the best in seasonal and local ingredients. Finally, try T-aco for solid Mexican fare in the form of street-style tacos, salsas, guacamole, margaritas, and Mexican beer.
Best for Late-Night Bites
Shameless plug: My own eatery, OAK at fourteenth. There’s simply not a lot of variety when it comes to quality late-night eats in Boulder, so swing by for tasty options like crispy fried pickles, chicken liver pâté, or kale salad, washed down with a beer or one of our classic cocktails. When I’m looking for something outside of my own restaurant, Bramble and Hare is another great late-night spot, especially for us industry folks. The chef, Eric Skokan, puts a fun spin on the menu, and their grilled cheese is sure to satisfy any after-hours craving.
Best Alfresco Dining
Originally built as a cabin in the 1920s, the Flagstaff House was converted into a restaurant years later. The dining room and patio have fantastic mountain views, and the wine list is also worth intent gazes, with its excellent selection of vintages.
Best Hidden Gems
For Vietnamese, hit up Black Pepper Pho—I usually go with the steak and meatball pho, which is great any time of year, but especially during the winter months. Or, try Café Aion, a beautiful Spanish tapas-inspired spot with excellent food and a really fun ambiance.
Best for Cocktails
The original Boulder cocktail bar, The Bitter Bar serves up classic craft cocktails in a lighthearted, cozy atmosphere.
Best Hotel Bar
The bar at the St. Julien hotel hosts fun weekend events, like dancing, live local music ,and whatnot. The terrace has fantastic views of the Flatirons (local mountain formations), and, during the winters months, also touts a crackling fireplace.
Best for Wine
From the same owners of Frasca, Pizzeria Locale is a more casual affair that serves up traditional Neapolitan-style pies. Best of all, guests have access to the Frasca wine menu, which definitely ranks tops in town.
Best Dive Bar
For the best whiskey selection around, hightail it to the Sundown Saloon. The owners, Jon and Tony, are outstanding hosts, and it’s one of those special places that put patron’s pictures on the wall everywhere (perhaps I’m partial, but they actually have one up of my son, when he was a baby!). Now, that’s worth toasting to!
Photo credits: Photo of author Bryan Dayton: Courtesy of Bryan Dayton; Best for Breakfast: Courtesy of Snooze; Best for Dinner: Courtesy of Frasca Food & Wine; Best for Late-Night Bites: Courtesy of Bramble + Hare–Ashley Davis Tilly; Best Alfresco Dining: Courtesy of Flagstaff House; Best Hidden Gems: Courtesy of Café Aion–Caroline Treadway; Best for Wine: Courtesy of Pizzeria Locale