If you’re visiting Colorado and you want to fill up, head to the city that’s been called both the fittest and foodiest town in America. Boulder’s packed with award-winning restaurants. Even better news: Most of those are also healthy and locally inspired. It’s hard to find fast food junk in Boulder.
Boulder’s list of food-related awards is lengthy, including multiple James Beard Awards. Plus, the Boulder Farmers Market is considered one of the best in the country. Boulder even boasts a “Top Chef” winner—Hosea Rosenberg.
From food trucks to fine dining, Boulder’s restaurant scene is strong. Here are seven of the best places to try.
The Flagstaff House, is arguably the best restaurant in Boulder—and for miles. This high-end, French-American restaurant has won more dining and travel awards than any other restaurant on Colorado’s Front Range.
Start with the views. This restaurant is built atop the mountain, at 6,000 feet above sea level, with sweeping views of the region. Open Table named this one of the top ten restaurants with a view in the nation.
Then there’s the service. This is one of the few Forbes Four-Star Restaurants in Colorado and a Triple AAA Four Diamond restaurant consistently since the ‘80s.
Of course, there’s the food. The chef de cuisine here, Chris Royster, won Food Network’s “Chopped” show.
The Flagstaff House’s drinks match its quality of food. The restaurant holds Wine Spectator’s highest accolade, the Grand Award, only granted to less than 100 restaurants per year worldwide. Did we mention the Flagstaff House has earned this honor every year for more than three decades? Only fittingly, the restaurant owns the biggest wine collection in Colorado.
Blackbelly also has a celebrity chef. Hosea Rosenberg, the owner and chef at Blackbelly, was the winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef” show.
Regardless of the reality TV hype, what makes Blackbelly stand out, long after the cameras stopped recording, are its deep farm roots. The menu here is built around produce and meat from local ranchers and farmers. One such farm animal, the blackbelly breed of sheep, inspired the name of his restaurant.
In addition to a delicious restaurant that’s truly farm-to-table, there’s a Blackbelly butcher shop that cures local meats, which come together with local, organic produce to offer one of Boulder’s most mouthwatering charcuterie programs. You can grab breakfast and lunch at the butcher shop, too.
Frasca is famous among foodies. The restaurant has earned not one but three James Beard awards.
The most exciting of those was when Frasca made the finals for the James Beard Outstanding Restaurant category, which is like winning the Oscar of all Oscar awards for deliciousness and quality.
Frasca also has the Best Chef in the Southwest and has been lauded for its wine service. The master sommelier (and also co-owner) Bobby Stuckey is one of the best in Colorado—the restaurant's wine list features more than 200 different types.
Frasca serves locally sourced Northern Italian food in a fine dining atmosphere that aims to ring true to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. The “Frasca” in Italian tradition is a casual gathering place for locals to hang out, eat and drink together.
A popular time to visit Frasca is Mondays, for special, four-course tasting dinners expertly paired with wine, offered at a discounted rate (still not cheap). You’re going to need a reservation to get in here.
Oak at Fourteenth has roots at Frasca. Respected chef and co-owner Steve Redzikowski worked at Frasca before opening this delicious downtown restaurant that centers around its oak-fired oven and grill. In fact, won Food and Wine’s People’s Best New Chef Southwest award. Oak has been named one of the top 25 restaurants in Denver.
Redzikowski’s menu is innovative, locally inspired and oh so delicious.
The open kitchen is lined with bright, oversized windows facing the street to allow for entertaining people-watching, if watching the chefs prepare your dishes isn’t entertainment enough.
Tip: If the crispy fried pickles, Wagyu beef tartare and glazed pork shoulder aren’t enough to tempt your taste buds, Oak makes fresh donuts from scratch every morning, with rotating flavors to keep you surprised (and drooling).
Bramble & Hare is another Boulder restaurant run by a respected gardener-slash-chef. Co-owner Eric Skokan not only runs this small, charming restaurant just off Pearl Street, but he also runs an impressive farm nearby. There, he grows his own veggies, including a special corn that he uses to make polenta. He also raises his own farm animals: duck, lamb, pork, chicken.
The menu is small and shaped by what the farm reaped that day. It’s always evolving, highly creative (you have to be able to work with whatever the Earth provides) and always delicious.
The restaurant has a totally local, small-town, farmhouse feeling—it's dimly lit and rustic, the kind of place you could miss if you didn’t know what deliciousness was inside. In that, Bramble is a total hidden gem, and it’s a local favorite. It gets especially busy later at night. This is an honest look at Boulder: warm, relaxed, intentional, friendly, one of a kind, a little untamed and just plain brilliant.
The tiny, open kitchen tries to use as much of the produce as possible; shavings or trims of veggies and fruit are handed to the bartender, who incorporates them into cocktails, sometimes muddled, sometimes syrup-ed, sometimes garnished.
Wild Standard is one of the best places to get seafood and cocktails in Boulder.
Although this restaurant is rustically elegant, romantic and sexy (chandeliers, white-washed exposed brick walls), it’s also a bit quirky. You can see that in its innovative cocktails (like the Pickle Rick, with muddled cucumbers, named after the “Rick and Morty” show) and its friendly servers.
The beachy decor provides foreshadowing for the sustainably sourced seafood on Wild Standard’s menu. Classic dishes take on a unique twist, like a sweet and spicy gluten-free calamari served with a Thai sweet chili glaze.
The seafood here is flown in fresh overnight, so even though Colorado is a landlocked state, the ingredients have never been frozen and tastes as fresh as if you were actually beachside. Make sure you check out the raw oyster bar.
Wild Standard also has non-seafood options, from beef to chicken to seasonally changing produce. End your meal on a high note with house-made bread pudding served with a chocolate banana.
This is a must-visit in Boulder, not only for its delicious Asian-inspired menu but especially for the atmosphere. This colorful, ornate teahouse is a work of art that you can sit inside. The building was a gift from Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe. Drink tea, sit on pillows on the floor or at a table next to the fountain and slow down, right across the street from Central Park. The flower-filled patio outside is nearly as lovely as the inside.
This isn’t fancy, but it’s a favorite. There’s always a long line to get into this cozy, relaxed Creole breakfast and lunch restaurant that serves chicory coffee and beignets, for starters. The restaurant itself is a converted, historic home, with mismatched tables scattered throughout in different rooms. Lucile’s doesn’t take reservations, so just expect to wait outside on the patio. The shrimp and grits and pan-fried trout are worth it.
This is Boulder’s food truck court, stretching across 15,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor space. Various food trucks roll in and out of here all day, providing an ever-rotating assortment of food. There’s also a bar on site, so you can sip a beer, listen to live music, hold special events, play yard games outside and stay all day, whether you want street tacos, BBQ, burgers or hey, maybe all three.