12 Best Restaurants in Boulder, Colorado

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Boulder is a vibrant city nestled against the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Known for its active, outdoorsy culture and thriving craft beer scene, Boulder also has an impressive array of diverse and delicious restaurants to discover.

From farm-to-table venues focusing on seasonal and local ingredients to cozy cafes, acclaimed steakhouses, and international flavors, Boulder’s culinary offerings have something to satisfy every palate.

This article explores 12 of the best and most recommended restaurants that should not be missed when visiting Boulder. For each entry, I outline the restaurant’s ambiance, standout menu items, pricing, and why it deserves a spot on your Boulder dining itinerary.

Whether you’re a local or just passing through, these restaurants showcase the best of what this iconic Colorado city has to offer foodies.

Frasca Food and Wine

1738 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Fine Dining, Wine Bar, Contemporary Space with Rustic Touches

If intimate yet lively fine dining in an elegant farmhouse setting is what you seek, look no further than Frasca Food and Wine. Consistently lauded as one of Boulder’s best high-end restaurants focusing on fresh regional Italian cuisine and an award-winning wine list, Frasca impresses from the moment you step inside its warm and polished contemporary space. Exposed brick, dark wood tables, and antique mirrored accents offset by modern light fixtures and pops of color create a contemporary yet rustic vibe.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: Frasca shines with sharing plates showcasing seasonal and regional flavors from Colorado and Italy, like Squash Blossoms stuffed with Robiola Cheese or Porcini-Dusted Colorado Lamb. Main courses range $34-$49 while small plates run $16-$19. Their wine list contains over 200 selections, numerous offered by the glass or carafe.

Why It’s Recommended: In addition to mouthwatering farm-fresh Italian fare crafted under the expertise of James Beard-award winning Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Frasca impresses with top-notch service that enlivens the entire fine dining experience. It also houses the excellent Frisee salad bar next door.

Oak at Fourteenth

1400 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: New American Cuisine, Hip but Casual, Sleek Modern Interior

For locally-sourced seasonal New American cuisine in a contemporary fine dining setting, Oak at Fourteenth delivers. This airy modern restaurant filled with marble, glass, high ceilings, and pops of greenery aims to impress with both its sleek space and ingredient-driven menu. Diners can opt between the elegant dining room, lively bar, outside patio, or grab the chef’s counter seats for dinner entertainment.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: While entrees like Colorado Rack of Lamb or Pacific Swordfish cost $34-$44, small plates like Burrata Cheese or House Charcuterie & Pickles provide lighter, shareable options at $13-$16. Their cocktail program also shines with creative offerings like the Smokey Paloma with grilled grapefruit.

Why It’s Recommended: In addition to the rotating selection of Colorado-sourced meat, fish, and produce that makes up their New American dishes, Oak is a longtime local favorite thanks to its hip atmosphere and stellar happy hour deals like $6 bites and $7 cocktails. It also houses Pizzeria Locale next door for artisanal takeaway pies.

Corrida

1023 Walnut St C, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Sophisticated Spanish Cuisine, Rich Colors, and Textures

Transport your tastebuds to Spain at Corrida, an elevated Spanish restaurant focusing on tapas plates and Paella. No fluorescent lighting or clinical decor here, instead deep magentas and midnight blues swathe this sultry interior space accented by wooden chairs, dangling Edison bulbs, and ornate tiles. Whether seated at the lively bar or an intimate table, Corrida’s vibrant atmosphere pairs nicely with bold Spanish wines and flavors.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: In addition to their namesake Paellas like Fideua Negra w/ Squid Ink costing $36-$40 to feed two, Corrida excels at tapas starting at just $4 for olives up to $18 for a rotating selection of croquetas, albondigas, pulpo, and more. Their cocktail menu also offers fun twists on Spanish classics.

Why It’s Recommended: Corrida stands apart for its central mission of sourcing ingredients specifically from Spain while also partnering with local Colorado farmers. This exceptional tapas and Paella restaurant impress diners with authentic depth of flavors, warm atmosphere, and top-notch service.

Blackbelly

1606 Conestoga St, Boulder, CO 80301

Ambiance: Farm-to-Table Meat & Seafood, Sleek Yet Inviting Interior

Helmed by Top Chef alum Hosea Rosenberg, Blackbelly brings seasonal, sustainable meat and seafood to diners in a gorgeously modern farmhouse setting. Exposed wood rafters, framed black-and-white farm photos, and pops of greenery cultivate a welcoming vibe inside this restored historic building. Meanwhile, dishes celebrate the intersection of land and sea with choices like bison tartare and whole roasted trout.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: While entrees range $27-$48 showcasing choices like Half Roasted Chicken or Housemade Squid Ink Pasta, small plates offer lighter bites like Hamachi Crudo and Shishitos starting at just $9. Kids, vegetarians, and gluten-free diners also have designated menus.

Why It’s Recommended: Blackbelly stands out by seamlessly incorporating inventive flavors into the preparations of premium locally-sourced meat and seafood. The menu stays true to the seasons while also boasting meticulous technique. Paired with the casually elegant farmhouse ambiance, Blackbelly makes fine dining approachable.

Brasserie Ten Ten

1011 Walnut St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Classic French Brasserie Fare, Parisian Interior with Colorado Touches

Offering a taste of Paris in the Rocky Mountains, Brasserie Ten Ten brings traditional French Brasserie dishes to an elegantly Parisian setting in downtown Boulder. With its zinc-topped bar, crimson leather banquettes, dark wood accents, and tile mosaic flooring – plus Colorado touches like an antler chandelier – Brasserie Ten Ten transports diners across the Atlantic. Daily Happy Hours and Brunch add to the convivial atmosphere.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: Classics like Escargots for $14, French Onion Soup for $10, or Steak Frites running $32 exude French flavors with local ingredients. Small Plates offer lighter bites like Prince Edward Island Mussels for $16 while their Rotating Cassoulet runs $26. Sweet crepes, macarons, and mille crepes provide that final French flourish.

Why It’s Recommended: For Francophiles and foodies alike, Brasserie Ten Ten brings a transportive taste of Parisian cafe culture and cooking techniques all with a Colorado twist – plus dynamic Happy Hours and Weekend Brunch. Its bustling downtown location makes it an ideal spot for people watching too.

Salt Bistro

1047 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Upscale Seasonal New American, Sleek Modern Interior

Helmed by acclaimed local Chef Bradford Heap, Salt delivers seasonal New American cuisine focusing on sustainably-sourced seafood and thoughtfully curated ingredients inside a contemporary downtown setting. With its neutral tones, marble accents, vaulted ceilings, and gallery-like ambiance, Salt offers a refined yet relaxed fine dining experience from brunch through dinner.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: Inventive small and large plates range from Grilled Spanish Octopus for $17 up to Tajima Wagyu Beef Tenderloin running $95, showcasing contemporary flavors and preparations. Sunday Brunch also shines with choices like Lobster Hash at $24 or their signature Salt Benedict for $18.

Why It’s Recommended: From the young, talented staff to award-winning Chef Heap’s brilliant manifestations of seasonal American cuisine with global influences, Salt offers a wholly memorable fine dining experience matched by an understated elegant ambiance.

Boulderado Hotel’s Steakhouse No. 316

2115 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Old-World Steakhouse Charm Inside Historic Hotel

For a classic steakhouse experience complete with dark wood panels, leather banquettes, and antique accents – not to mention exceptional service – look no further than Steakhouse No. 316 inside the historic Boulderado Hotel. Get lost in time as you sip your Martini under chandeliers and mounted bison heads before savoring perfectly seared steaks sourced from local purveyors.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: While there are seafood and salad options, Steakhouse No. 316 built its longstanding reputation on cuts of premium Colorado beef grilled over hickory wood. Steaks range from a 6oz Filet Mignon for $41 up to a 20oz Bone-In Ribeye running $65. Don’t miss their table-side Caesar Salad and pillowy Parker House Rolls either.

Why It’s Recommended: From its location inside Boulder’s iconic historic hotel and charming old-world ambiance to flawlessly executed steaks and genuinely warm service – Steakhouse No. 316 offers a quintessential steakhouse experience that keeps diners returning year after year. Time feels suspended within its charming environs.

Arcana

909 Walnut St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: European Cafe Meets Neighborhood Bistro

Blending the charm of an intimate European cafe with the warmth of a neighborhood bistro, Arcana brings a taste of the Old World to downtown Boulder. With exposed brick walls, framed artwork, pendant lighting, and windows overlooking bustling Walnut Street, Arcana feels both contemporary and convivial. Locals pack the place all hours of the day – fueling up on espresso drinks, beer, wine or inventive New American plates showcasing seasonal produce, meats, and seafood at affordable prices.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: While small plates like ahi tuna tartare and pan-roasted cauliflower satisfy lighter appetites at $11-$15, larger plates like the grass-fed burger or papardelle Bolognese offer heartier options at $15-$22. Arcana’s weekend brunch features decadent plates like Steamed Clams & Mussels Benedict alongside Morning Pastries and Avocado Toast.

Why It’s Recommended: From solo diners perched over laptops to couples splitting a bottle of Natural Wine, Arcana’s lively yet intimate bistro ambiance keeps patrons lingering morning to night. Affordable prices also make it an easy regular haunt.

The Kitchen [Next Door]

1039 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Hip Farmhouse Chic Serving Elevated Comfort Food

While its acclaimed predecessor The Kitchen still offers exceptional fine dining just across the street, The Kitchen [Next Door] provides a more relaxed, affordable setting for Chef Kimbal Musk’s satisfying American comfort fare. Diners perch around an inviting bar and exposed-brick tables underneath chandeliers as servers ferry out elevated versions of home cooking like Handmade Agnolotti and Chicken Fried Trout.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: In addition to Musk’s family recipes on the menu, diners also shouldn’t miss happy hour when specials like Crispy Cauliflower dip and Half Off Bottles of Wine make appearances for just $7 and $18 respectively. Entrees like Grassfed Beef Meatloaf and Seared Alaskan Halibut run $19-$28.

Why It’s Recommended: While fine dining waits across the street at the iconic Kitchen restaurant, its younger sibling Kitchen [Next Door] offers Chef Musk’s soul-satisfying New American comfort food at more affordable prices – plus a hip laidback ambiance fitted out in chic farmhouse decor.

Japango

1136 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Contemporary Japanese Izakaya & Sushi Bar

For the best sushi, yakitori skewers, and modern Japanese fare in a slick, contemporary setting – Japango has you covered. Clean lines, black lacquer accents, and pops of greenery cultivate a hip yet relaxed urban oasis vibe. A lively sushi bar sits at its center while the back patio offers alfresco dining. From happy hour through late night, Japango satisfies with quality sushi rolls, tasty yakitori bites, and Asian-inspired cocktails.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: While sushi and sashimi choices like Hamachi Jalapeño run $5.25-$16 per order, yakitori skewers like Bacon-Scallop or Pork Belly cost just $3.50-$4.50 for tasty meat and veggie bites. Don’t miss their daily Happy Hour either for deals like half off drinks, $4 rolls, and $6 hand rolls.

Why It’s Recommended: For the widest selection of creative sushi rolls, perfectly charred yakitori skewers, and contemporary izakaya fare in Boulder under one roof – Japango is a favorite spot. Quality ingredients, affordable prices, and a slick downtown location keep its bustling almost nightly.

Centro Mexican Kitchen

949 Pearl St, Boulder, CO 80302

Ambiance: Lively Modern Cantina Celebrating Mexican Cuisine

For a high-energy good time complete with contemporary Mexican fare, specialty cocktails, and walls adorned in vibrant Day of the Dead iconography – Centro Mexican Kitchen hits the spot. With its airy industrial interior, centrally located bar pouring signature margaritas, and patio seating prime for people watching, Centro emanates celebratory vibes from morning through night. Weekend brunch also draws crowds who balance Morning Bravos with hangover-busting plates.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: In addition to traditional tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas running $15-$19, Centro also excels at breakfast plates like Huevos Rancheros for $13 at Brunch. Their cocktail menu offers fun adaptations of classics like the Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita for $12.

Why It’s Recommended: Lively ambiance and affordable prices have made Centro a downtown go-to for celebratory Mexican fare and drinks morning to night. Their weekend brunch and happy hour specials also satisfy party people budgets.

Ras Kassa’s Ethiopian Restaurant

2802 Iris Ave, Boulder, CO 80304

Ambiance: Cozy, Colorful authentic Ethiopian Cuisine

Venture just a few minutes outside downtown Boulder for a taste of authentic Ethiopian flavors and hospitality at Ras Kassa’s cozy establishment. Awash in jewel tones with ethnic touches, Ras Kassa’s envelopes patrons in the warmth of East African cafe culture. Diners sit at handcrafted mesob tables partaking in flavorful vegetable, lentil, and meat dishes served atop spongy injera flatbread perfect for scooping up small bites by hand. An Ethiopian coffee ceremony caps the experience.

Standout Dishes & Pricing: Their $40 Vegetarian Platter offers a perfect introduction to flavors like Key Sir, Gomen, and Alecha. Meat combinations cost slightly more while gluten-free injera is also available. Ethiopian honey wine and beer make ideal pairings.

Why It’s Recommended: For a completely immersive and affordable culinary trip to Ethiopia without leaving Boulder, Ras Kassa transports diners with authentic flavors, decor, coffee rituals – and exceptionally welcoming hospitality.

Conclusion


This list only scratches the surface of Boulder’s vibrant, ever-evolving food scene ranging from long revered fine dining institutions to wonderful international holes-in-the-wall.

Yet these 12 restaurants encapsulate favored establishments where visitors can best experience regional cuisine, cocktail culture, and the city’s distinct personality – whether during a special occasion dinner or casual weekend brunch.

From updated American comfort food inside hip farmhouse digs to expertly mixed cocktails alongside Spanish tapas, Boulder dining offers incredible variety. Just arrive hungry and ready to eat with the locals.

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