Azitra Restaurant – Indian Culinary Nirvana

Chana Masala

Chana Masala… Chickpeas + Diced Potatoes Cooked In Punjabi Style Sauce

I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms – by multiple folks, that the Indian food available in Boulder is nothing to write home about. Generally, people point to a few rough diamonds here and there, but for the most part, I’ve heard little aside from faint praise. So I went to Broomfield.

You’d be hard pressed to overhear, “Oh yeah… you want authentic Indian food? Head to Broomfield, Colorado!”

You’ve probably never heard that. Until now! 

Azitra is solid. The staff is awesome, the food is delish, and they have a decent selection of craft brews on tap and by the bottle. And I’m not kidding about the staff – we’ve received nothing but high-end service in five or six trips to Azitra.

Azitra lies just south of Flatiron Crossing. They have stunning views of the Front Range… and Walmart.

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Sarah and Sara – Besties in Boulder!

picture of Sarah and Sara

The Sara(h)s… about to show Boulder who’s boss…

Did somebody say Girls’ Weekend in Tropical Boulder? In March? Hells yeah. S&S are hitting the town, and I’m just sayin’… these are the places most loved by locals, so check ’em out. Have fun!

When money is no object

Black Cat
Frasca
L’Atelier
Pizzeria Locale

Most hoppin‘ & happenin’

The Med

For my favorite brunch

Brasserie Ten Ten

Vegetarian/vegan

Leaf

Best cocktails

Salt
Bitter Bar

Largest cocktails

Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace

Best sushi

Kasa Japanese Grill

Off Pearl Street, but not too far by cab or designated driver

Radda
Agave (happy hour in the upstairs bar from 7-10 p.m.)

All-day happy hour on Sunday

Aji Latin American Restaurant (food *and* drinks)

Boulder restaurant women seem to love most

Dushanbe Tea House

Cheese Importers – Artisan Cheese & Specialty Foods

the great wall of cheese, yeah

The Great Wall of “Cheese–Yeah”. Just one of many refrigerated, cheese-filled walls at Cheese Importers in Longmont

Cheese Importers' delectable olive/pepper/antipasto bar

also in Cheese Importers’ cooler is a delectable olive/pepper/antipasto bar… adding a sultry element to Longmont’s allure

Spanish cheese

I have yet to sample this particular Spanish “Capricho de Cabra”, but any cheese housed next to “Cockles from Spain” gets its own patch of real estate on the Unchained Eatery blog

spinach salad at Cheese Importers

Light spinach salad lunch at Cheese Importers’ European Cafe/Bistro was fantastic… the Cafe is conveniently attached to the cheese/specialty shop so you can refuel following what promises to be a spirited morning or afternoon of artisan cheese sampling.

Cheese Importers' Cafe counter

Cheese Importers’ Cafe counter made us feel as if we were in gay Par-ee… but alas… we were in Longmont.

French macarons

French macarons at Cheese Importers in Longmont. Dessert, anyone?

bought lots of cheese

We went a bit nuts on the cheese and chocolate purchasing… we followed it up with wine tasting at Boulder Creek Winery. I gotta say it was a good day.

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Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Fonseca 'bin 27' ruby porto, Taylor Fladgate 20-year tawny port, and Taylor Fladgate, 10-year tawny port... consumed right to left.

Fonseca ‘bin 27’ ruby porto, Taylor Fladgate 20-year tawny port, and Taylor Fladgate, 10-year tawny port… consumed right to left.

Who knew the best place to taste test port in Boulder was at a fish house? This isn’t the world’s best photo, but if you drink enough port, it won’t matter. Full review to come…

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Kasa Japanese Grill & Bar

Snow Beauty sake at Kasa in Boulder

Pair your unfiltered sake with the best sushi in Boulder at Kasa

My best advice for your visit to Kasa in Boulder: Trust the sushi chef.

Your first step in dining at Kasa should be to return the warm greeting you received upon walking through the front doors from Mimi – the most enthusiastic and charming host in the universe. She makes you feel as though you’re a long-lost friend who just happened to wander into her home. If you’re feeling down, Mimi will brighten your day with a smile and a boatload of friendliness, so at least stop by and say hi.

Back to the sushi chef… after Mimi guides you to the best table in the house, she’ll hand you the nightly sushi features, which have been painstakingly scribed in colorful Sharpie-esque markers on a large, white dinner plate.

Kasa Sushi specials plate

Kasa Sushi specials plate

So here’s what to order: Ask the chef. Ask the chef to prepare whatever he has featured for the night, and you can’t go wrong. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know better than a sushi chef when it comes to ordering sushi. Unless you happen to also be a sushi chef, you will lose. This also means I can only suggest you consider trying whatever sashimi Kasa has on offer when you dine. If the sushi chef agrees you should try it, then go for it. Do not take my word for it. I’m not a sushi chef, nor am I a regular chef. I sometimes make a pickle/olive/cheese plate for dinner, so what the hell do I know?

Chefs, sushi and otherwise, are proud of their craft. Sushi chefs in particular, however, typically have closer interaction with customers than other chef-y types. If you’re sitting at the sushi bar, they’re typically standing right in front of you, waiting for your face to light up in moderate-to-full-blown ecstasy as you indulge in the fruits of their talent. Cooking – or not cooking, in sushi’s case – is their artwork, so feel free to take their word for it when it’s time to order.

you'll want to hug a sushi chef after trusting said chef with your order at Kasa

you’ll want to hug a sushi chef after trusting said chef with your meal at Kasa in Boulder

chef's choice of sashimi at Kasa in Boulder

Kasa’s sushi chef, per usual, delivered sashimi perfection.

marmalade cocktail

Kasa’s refreshing orange marmalade cocktail… one is all you’ll need.

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Backcountry Pizza & Tap House

Backcountry bacon & cheese slice

Backcountry Pizza & Tap House does not skimp on the bacon

The story of Backcountry is pretty simple: pizza and beer. They have other edibles such as sandwiches, calzones, fried mac’n’cheese, salads, etc… but really, you go for the pizza and beer. Like most pizza joints these days, you can get gluten-free crust, and theirs is top notch. To be sure, the sandwiches and calzones are great as well, and you won’t leave hungry – everything on the menu is available in large or really large.

So… after you’ve decided you want pizza, the only real decision left is: do you want one of the 50 draft beers or 125-ish bottled beers? Good lord. It’s a beer geek’s dream.

Hofbrau Original at Backcountry in Boulder

Working lunch at Backcountry with a half liter of Hofbrau Original

My recommendation? Start small. Order a microbrew that won’t make your eyes googly right off the bat. Or split a new-to-you bomber with a few friends. Don’t go big right away. Work your way up after you’ve conquered half a cobb salad ($6) or a slice of cheese pizza ($2). Then make your move to the Pliny (Elder or Younger are both available frequently here). Or the 90 Minute. Or any of the 25 rotating taps…

This is one of my top, go-to places in Boulder – it’s a slam dunk for beer snobbery and cheap pizza… and they have a patio!

One last note: you really should try the fried mac’n’cheese. I know, I know… “heart attack”, “clogged arteries”… whatever. They’re friggin’ great, so dive in.

Words to live by - "Beer will change the world! I don't know how, but it will."

Wisdom donning the wall at Backcountry in Boulder

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Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant

If you’re craving vegan or vegetarian fare, Leaf should definitely be one of your top choices for a romance-y dinner in Boulder.

portobello mushroom steak at Leaf in Boulder

Jedi Mind Trick from Leaf in Boulder: this looks like a giant steak, but it’s actually a portobello mushroom

I recommend starting with the Raw Wrap (rainbow chard, pea shoots, mixed sprouts, carrots, basil almond pâté, cashew “ricotta”) and following it up with the Vegetable Wellington (mushroom, onion, tomato, spinach & fontina in puff pastry, bordelaise, twice baked potato, sautéed greens, endive) entree. There’s a fair chance you won’t be able to finish the Wellington because it’s huge and awesome. The puff pastry and accompanying sauce are incredible.

It turns out it’s probably just as well you don’t finish the Wellington as Leaf features a prix fixe option where you choose three of one small plate, one salad, one entree, and one dessert. It’s a great deal for a boatload of high quality food.

Leaf vegan blueberry cheesecake

We inhaled the Leaf vegan blueberry cheesecake in less than 90 seconds.

As an aside, Leaf is owned by Aji Latin American Restaurant, which has one of the best happy hours deals in town on Sundays because it lasts for six hours – food and drink. Go get some.

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant in Boulder

What Leaf has, Aji has, and vice versa

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Basta – A Wood Fire Eatery + Pizzeria

asparagus soup and bacon salad

Basta lunch: chilled asparagus soup followed by a baby lettuce salad with dates, walnuts, blue cheese, and awesome, enormous chunks of bacon — plus a New Belgium Heavenly Feijoa Tripel

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta:

baked herbed ricotta

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: house cheese – baked herbed ricotta, cherry tomato and sliced sunchoke

Basta Farro Salad

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: Farro salad – pomegranate, butternut squash, kale, hazelnut, and Colorado goat cheese – paired with slightly less Hog heaven

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: 24-hour slow-cooked, red-wine chuck flap, fingerling potato + root vegetable - paired with not much Hog Heaven left at all

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: 24-hour slow-cooked, red-wine chuck flap, fingerling potato + root vegetable – paired with not much Hog Heaven left at all

Basta campfire vanilla ice cream

First Bite Boulder at Pizzeria Basta: homemade Basta campfire vanilla ice cream – paired with a local Boulder porter

Basta's all wood fire oven

Basta’s all wood fire oven with a reflection of my enormous hair in the protective glass

Basta wood fire vegetable salad

Pizzeria Basta – wood fire vegetable salad – radicchio, beets, croutons, wood fire balsamic, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes

Basta House red

House red at Pizzeria Basta in front of firewood used to stoke the oven

Basta Daisy Pizza

Basta Daisy Pizza – tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, olive oil – This pie rivals Pizzeria Locale’s Margherita. Exquisite!

Basta burnt caramel ice cream with sea salt

Pizzeria Basta dessert – burnt caramel ice cream with sea salt – Try it with a Porter!

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“Looking for authentic Asian food? Don’t go to Denver.”

banana wrap photo

Deep fried banana leaf meat (photo courtesy of Jared M.)

If you live in Colorado, you’ve likely heard this line more times than you care to recall. Happily, nothing could be further from the truth. While discovering a great restaurant can involve heaps of trial and error, there *is* a more efficient route: get someone else to do the legwork for you.

I feel lucky to have inadvertently surrounded myself with foodies. How did I pull this off? I have no idea. There’s no question I exude a heavy yuppie vibe – but as to whether this actually attracts fellow food snobs – I don’t know. I do know this: I have a slew of friends who are familiar with the “Federal Corridor” in Denver, and they’ve assured me that the following Asian restaurants are solid. So here’s what to look for:

for Dim Sum (Chinese):

Star Kitchen (open 7 days a week AND has a liquor license)

for Noodles/Vietnamese:

Vietnam Grill

Pho Duy

Saigon Bowl

 

for Thai:

J’s Noodles & Star Thai

So… having recommended these restaurants, I now have to actually go try them. Consequently, I’m putting enormous trust in my friends that the above eateries will live up to their billing. I have no doubt they will. So please call me, and I’ll meet you for some authentic Denver Asian fare. If you don’t love it, I’ll buy you a beer… unless I think you’re lying. Deal?

rice and curry bowls

Delectable rice, curries, etc. (photo courtesy of Jared M.)

Khow Thai Cafe

To a certain extent, apparently, I like spicy food. I like the kind of spice that sort of kicks your ass, but doesn’t continue to kick you while you’re down. It turns out I was kicked while down at the Khow Thai Cafe, but it was completely my own damn fault.

The server saw that I was struggling to make an ordering decision, so she said, “Do you like it spicy?

I, grinning like an idiot, said, “Of course!

She went on to recommend the “Pad Kee Mow”, which, in the Thai language means “Melty Hot Uranium in Your Mouth”.*

hot lava picture

Lava is typically a hot substance — of high temperature; it is boiling, hot, and generally the opposite of chilly.

 
*This is a complete fabrication and means nothing of the sort.

Quoting Khow Thai’s online menu, here are the Pad Kee Mow ingredients: Spicy Flat Noodles with Fresh Chili, Garlic, Bell Pepper, Basil Leaves, Tomato, Onion & Chinese Broccoli. Note also that this menu item had a tiny little pepper next to it, which means “Painfully Boiling Lava Hot, But You’ll Still Love It”, which I did. I will absolutely go back to this place. The food, while cooked with Satan’s palate in mind, was excellent. Next time, I’ll take care to specify that I do NOT like it spicy, because, as their menu states: you have your “Choice of Mild, Medium, American Hot or Thai Hot”. I’m not sure if I received American or Thai Hot, but I definitely got what I deserved.

Khow Thai is perfect for lunch, and parking is free, which is nearly unheard of in downtown Boulder.

Multiple thumbs up for Khow Thai. Thanks for kicking my mouth’s ass!

Khow Thai parking lot in Boulder

Khow Thai in Boulder has ample, free parking – a Boulder rarity

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Watercourse Foods

Full review coming soon!

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Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria

Read the full Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizzeria review here.

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Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza Denver menu

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Root Down

Full review coming soon!

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Centro Latin Kitchen and Refreshment Palace

Full review coming soon!

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Centro Boulder menu

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Salt the Bistro

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Salt Bistro Boulder menu

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