1738 Pearl St., Boulder
Founded by French Laundry alums Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson (chef) and Bobby Stuckey (MS), Frasca has been Boulder’s culinary gem for more than a decade. It’s no secret, either: Frasca has been lauded since its opening and was a James Beard finalist in 2016 (for Outstanding Restaurant, in good company with places like Momofuku Noodle Bar and The Spotted Pig). While you can opt for a customizable four-course menu, we recommend choosing the seven-course chef’s tasting option, which showcases the Friulian cuisine they’re known for. Stuckey's wine list, which includes more than 200 varieties, is a major part of the appeal here.
3070 28th St., Boulder
The Verde kitchen got its start in 2010 on wheels, when some friends from Arizona wanted to bring the Sonoran-style Mexican food they missed to Boulder in the form of a food truck. (Around this time, they adopted the motto “Work Hard. Be Nice. Eat Burritos.”) After years of success, they finally expanded to a brick and mortar location, which sells the same great tacos and burritos, plus chile rellenos, fajitas, and best of all, a menu of margaritas.
West End Tavern
926 Pearl St., Boulder
Truly a neighborhood bar, West End Tavern has been around for decades—though you wouldn't know it from the updated décor. Everything about the place is as inviting and warm as you might hope: The menu is full of genuinely delicious comfort food, from sautéed greens and deviled eggs to burgers to roast-pork sandwiches and shrimp po’ boys, plus some seriously good barbecue. Of course, the bar has craft cocktails, more than seventy-five bourbons to choose from, and a draft and bottled beer line-up that really showcases Colorado’s craft beer culture. There’s indoor and outdoor rooftop seating with some of the best views in the area, and this is also a great place to watch a Buffs game.
1730 Pearl St., Boulder
An offshoot of Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson's beloved Frasca (in fact, it's right next door), Pizzeria Locale brings the founders' skills to the humble pizza—and to great acclaim. Here, pies come out of the super-hot oven in the back at warp speed, and prosciutto is sliced-to-order behind the bar on a gleaming red machine that looks more like it belongs in a Ferrari dealership than behind a deli counter. While you won't get out of here without a pizza (they do a great gluten-free version, but we wouldn't recommend skimping on the real stuff to anyone but the truly allergic), the antipasti dishes, like a ridiculous fennel salad and perfectly crispy arancini, make worthy openers. Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson partnered with Chipotle a few years ago to open a few fast-casual versions of the restaurant in Denver, and while they're perfect for a quick lunch, we prefer the white-washed original. P.S. They deliver.
1606 Conestoga St., Boulder
Chef Hosea Rosenberg (Top Chef season five champ) debuted Blackbelly first as a catering company, with a focus on local, organic ingredients. Since the 2011 launch, Rosenberg's larger vision for Blackbelly has been realized with the addition of a restaurant, butcher shop, and market. The restaurant serves dinner daily; the menu highlights the fresh butcher offerings and their impressive charcuterie spread. Blackbelly's happy hour, 4-6pm every day—oysters included—is noteworthy. Next to the restaurant, the expert, whole-animal butcher counter is open every day except for Sunday, and also serves breakfast and lunch on the weekdays—from egg-and-tater-tot burritos to bone broth and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.
3601 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
Basta's location is admittedly random (it's off Arapahoe in an otherwise unassuming apartment complex with an open patio that's very much secluded from the street), but that's part of what makes it so great. The elegant yet casual restaurant, which specializes in pizza baked on-site in an extremely hot oven, is helmed by chef Kelly Whitaker, also of Cart-Driver and one of the area's most promising up-and-comers. Though the pizza is year-round, Whitaker's ingredients are constantly changing to accommodate Boulder farmers and whatever they have in stock—expect great contorni, a few good salads, and piada bread—a puffed-up bread Whitaker bakes on-site and tops with burrata. The wine program, which is run by Frasca alum Alan Henkin, is more than worthy of a menu this good.
Oak at 14th
1400 Pearl St., Boulder
Like many of the breakout chefs and sommeliers in the area, Steven Redzikowski (chef) and Bryan Dayton (somm) came up under Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson at Frasca Food & Wine before breaking out on their own, and their mini-empire now includes two restaurants—Oak in Boulder, and Acorn in Denver. The menu at Oak—which is their original spot—is decidedly new American, with sophisticated but accessible dishes like a Boulder-roasted chicken with butternut squash gnocchi, a scallop risotto with satsuma oranges and paprika, and a sweet fennel sausage (served with peppers and arugula) that they make in-house. Oak is right on the corner of 14th and Pearl Street, so it's the perfect place for a restful lunch while you're exploring downtown, though it's plenty dressed up for a date night out, too.