The food here is almost as good as the views. In an art-centric community like Boulder, it’s rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t double up as an art gallery — or at least boast local or unique artwork on the walls.
From high-end sculptures to awe-inspiring architecture to quirky and colorful murals that tell a story, Boulder restaurants look as creative as their menus.
Here are just a few of our favorite places to feast your eyes while you fill your bellies.
1. Dushanbe Tea House
But of course, this amazing restaurant is a work of art like no other. It was hand-built using ancient techniques in Tajikistan (Boulder’s sister city) by more than 40 artists. Details include:
- the colorful exterior, including eight ceramic panels telling the story of the Tree of Life and a lush flower garden
- the hand-carved, hand-painted ceiling inside
- the 12 dramatic, uniquely-carved white pillars
- the oil-painted artwork on the walls (a blend of Soviet art with ancient Persian influences)
- and the water feature in the center of the dining hall. Inside this fountain are seven copper sculptures inspired by the poem “The Seven Beauties.”
The dishes here are so stunningly displayed that they are a work of art in and of themselves (try the fennel and grapefruit sorbet if you want to see the craziest, Avante Garde-ish edible sculpture you will ever put into your mouth).
This matches the whole atmosphere of the restaurant, which feels like you’ve walked into a modern art museum. Take time to walk around the space and admire the details, from the doodads on the main counter (like a glass globe on a metal octopus-leg stand), to the glowing purple paintings on the wall, to the light fixtures. The 20-foot-long white hackberry tree table in the middle of the room invites community.
Even Emmerson’s entry floor tile is different and sets the vibe.
Emmerson’s menus are also works of art, most notably the cocktail menu, which is designed like a retro comic book. Each drink gets its own page, picture and even its own QR code, which is associated with a song. You will want to take this menu home with you. And try everything on it.
3. Cheese Importers
Cheese Importers in Longmont is where to go if you like your art French, pastel, a little (OK, a lot) gaudy, retro, cozy and mismatched. This entire restaurant-slash-cheese-store could fill a full Pinterest folder. You will find interesting furniture, artwork, mirrors, sconces, candles, lamps, pillows and table decor everywhere you turn.
Don’t miss the less-busy upstairs, where the decor really shines. The private back room is made up of a series of cozy vignettes, all different and beautiful. Pick the table, mismatched chairs and wall hangings that inspires you.
The outside is also inspiring, especially in the spring and summertime when the flower gardens are in full bloom.
Want to take some of this art home with you? You can. The Cheese Importers is a great place to shop. Both upstairs and downstairs has a wide selection of home goods, kitchen goodies and artwork, both vintage and new, that you can buy.
4. Brickstones Kitchen
Brickstones gets its vibe from the hotel it’s stationed in: the ultra-artsy Embassy Suites by Hilton in Boulder. This hotel features more than 1,500 pieces of unique art, many of which are locally made.
A cool thing about Brickstones Kitchen and Bar is how it’s set up. It’s not a separate restaurant, blocked off from the hotel. The tables are scattered throughout one wing of the hotel and blend with the lobby area, which means all of the crazy artwork set up in the halls and lobby is also part of the restaurant decor.
Make sure you set aside extra time to browse the sculptures, wall exhibits and small collections throughout. Each pocket seems to tell a different story. You never know what you will find here.
5. Taco Junky
This casual taco joint on University Hill is alive with art. A giant mural painted by local artists Laura McGowan and William Thompson is showcased on one wall. It tells an elaborate and detailed story, following the impact of youth’s political and social impact through the years. You will see lots of musical and pop culture references. Everything on the mural has a purpose and is meant to make you think.
Another wall features two large glowing stars around painted eyeballs.
Even the bar is thoughtfully decorated. The tequila bottles glow, seeming to lure you in for just one more marg.
Other artsy restaurants in Boulder County:
Here are some other local restaurants with great art.
Bramble & Hare: The whole vibe here is artsy, but lowkey artsy. It’s hip, rural, vintage. There’s an old piano, a retro scale in the restroom, repurposed farm equipment and sweet details throughout that will catch your eye and keep you amused throughout your meal.
Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar: Shine’s new location features a nature-inspired mural across one whole wall, painted by Jake Johanson. He left three leaves unpainted for the three triplets who run the restaurant to each paint, leaving their mark on the wall, before it re-opened.
The Sink: This is Boulder’s most famous indoor mural. The entire restaurant of this casual burger joint is painted and drawn on, from floor to ceiling.
Celestial Seasonings Tea Cafe: If you like the artwork on the Celestial Seasonings tea boxes, you’ll love the charming art on the walls in the Celestial Cafe in Gunbarrel. The art is bright, cozy, cheerful and folksy, inspired by the famous tea labels.
This wine bar and restaurant features a super cool piece of art made entirely out of wine corks. PMG, which stands for Pour ma gueule (French for “for my trap”) offers great wine and locally sourced food in a casual yet sexy environment. While wine is the focus here, the food deserves a nod, too. Food includes the likes of cavatelli with lamb ragu or grilled squid with chickpeas.