Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
It’s the weekend. You want to sleep in, then bite the dog that bit you with a mimosa and leisurely munch your way through lunch, into the early afternoon. Boulder loves its brunch.
But all brunches are not equal, and there are many different flavors for this best meal of the week. Brunch can be fancy, buffet-style, casual, indulgent, healthy, boozy, for partiers, for lovers. The menu can be classic, innovative, broad or niche. Boulder’s got all of these types of brunch and more.
We decided to look at two of our favorite places to brunch in Boulder: Centro Mexican Kitchen and the Greenbriar Inn. They both feature fantastic brunch but do it in totally different ways. Here’s how they compare.
The Greenbriar Inn has been a Boulder County landmark and destination for fine dining for more than 50 years. It started as a continental-style German and Austrian restaurant but has evolved to highlight classic, expertly prepared American fare, all seasonally influenced.
The historic building was constructed in 1873 and has served many roles: a house, store and post office, before becoming a restaurant. It’s also a popular destination for outdoor mountain weddings and special events.
This restaurant is located just outside of Boulder, at 8735 N. Foothills Highway, between Boulder and Longmont. The scenic highway runs along the base of the foothills. The Greenbriar is at the base of the Left Hand Canyon, perched on 20 acres of open space and gardens. It feels like it’s in the country, although it’s about 10 minutes from Boulder.
After eating, you can wander through the property, along pathways and to the ponds, waterfall, woodlands and fruit, veggie and flower gardens. Veggies grown here (like five different kinds of lettuce that you’ll see on your plate) are pesticide free. The restaurant uses organic fertilizers. While exploring the grounds you might see deer, elk, eagles or other wildlife.
Greenbriar Falls is the restaurant’s own ecosystem that includes a fish nursery and hatchery.
You can also drive up the canyon to visit the small mountain towns of Jamestown and Ward.
The Greenbriar is elegant, romantic and sophisticated. Expect white tablecloths, fine wine, top-notch service and quiet conversation, although families are welcome. It’s still Boulder, after all, so it’s never pretentious. But if you’re looking to impress, the Greenbriar won’t disappoint.
During warmer weather, for a more relaxed environment with a view, get a table outside on the patio. The patio is not open year-round because it does not have heaters and is not covered.
The Greenbriar is one of the only brunch buffets around and it claims to be the biggest for the best value (not that it’s cheap). This massive selection even outdoes most high-end brunch buffets in Denver.
The champagne buffet brunch is only offered on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The selection evolves with the seasons but typically includes ingredients from the on-site herb and produce gardens as well as sustainably caught and farmed meat. Typically, the Greenbriar cures its own bacon, smokes its own meat, hand-makes its own sausage and even makes its own jams and compotes. The restaurant’s pastry chef whips out some of the most mouth-watering cakes, bread pudding, cookies and pastries (including gluten-free choices). The dessert table always spans more than 20 different options.
Other menu selections include oysters, jumbo shrimp cocktail, made-to-order omelets, various eggs benedicts and quiches, a carving station that may include a leg of lamb and roast prime rib and international cheeses. Is your stomach growling yet?
Any good brunch includes a solid drink menu too, and the Greenbriar doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it has received the Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for the last 20 years.
The wine cellar holds more than 900 types of wine from around the world.
For brunch, try a bellini, bloody Mary or make your own mimosa. Bonus: the champagne brunch comes with bottomless champagne or mimosas. For something a little different, try the Sparkling St. Germain, a blend of sparkling wine and St. Germain.
Need a boost? The Greenbriar also can make a variety of coffee beverages, including a Chaicoffski and Dirty Chai Latte.
You might not expect a Mexican restaurant to serve amazing brunch, but then Centro isn’t your standard Mexican joint. In fact, USA Today named Centro one of the 10 best brunches in Boulder. Centro’s creative and tasty food is inspired by northern Baja.
Centro Mexican Kitchen offers brunch on Saturday and Sunday. And its brunch starts early, too: at 9:30 a.m. (running until 2:30 p.m.). One feature we love is the Brunch Happy Hour during the first two hours, where certain brunch menus are discounted for the early bird.
Centro’s location is ideal. It’s right on the Pearl Street Mall, at 950 Pearl St., in the soul of downtown. It’s walking distance from some of Boulder’s top hotels, including the St. Julien and Hotel Boulderado.
It’s also a short walk down Pearl to the foothills, if you want to hike off that extra brunch dessert you splurged on.
Even if you’re not staying nearby, parking is free in downtown Boulder on the weekends, or you take the bus. The RTD Hop stops right in front of Centro. It’s convenient to access, and once you’re here, the Pearl Street people-watching is impeccable.
Centro is hip and modern. You don’t have to dress up to come here, but if you do, you will fit in just fine too. The atmosphere is upbeat and lively and playful. The indoor dining room is spacious but has great little private nooks if you want a more intimate experience.
For a more social brunch party, grab a seat on the massively long indoor-outdoor bar that feels like you’re actually on vacation in Mexico. We love Centro’s patio in warmer weather. It’s large, so you can actually sometimes get a table outside and the tables aren’t crammed in. There are plenty of different styles of tables (tall and bar-style to cozy and small) so you can craft your own style of experience.
Centro is great for families because it’s fun. It’s great for the hip, younger crowd because the bar is incredible. It’s also beloved by foodies because the menu is inventive and delicious.
Centro’s brunch menu has a Mexican twist, with creative sophistication. For example, the Basics Bowl adds frijoles charros to hash browns, scrambled eggs, pico, green chile and queso fresco. The Centro Cazuela is incredible: sweet potato-plantain hash, spinach, two fried eggs, chile rojo, guac and cotija cheese (mmm, cheese).
If you’re craving a benedict, Centro’s version includes slow-roasted pork and roasted jalapeno served on a smoked cheddar-green chile biscuit. Centro’s take on biscuits and gravy comes with those spicy-smoky biscuits, too, plus chorizo gravy.
There are also more traditional offerings like huevos rancheros and homemade granola, yogurt and fresh fruit. Splurge on dessert with a plate of cinnamon-sugar-dusted churros smothered in chocolate sauce.
A great starter or dessert is the burnt grapefruit or the coconut-fried bananas.
In addition to great flavor, Centro’s brunch dishes are not weak in size. Prepare to fill up and possibly have some to take home for later.
Looking for something quick and simple? Centro also sells $5 breakfast burritos (chorizo or veggie) to go. Pick them up with a cup of coffee outside the front door.
The drinks at Centro are just as good as the food. Centro’s Loaded Bloody Mary is everything you want a brunch beverage to be. It’s garnished with a pickled veggie and bacon. Tip: Ask them to add in the house-infused, spicy pepper tequila. If you like your drinks to burn a bit, the unique El Generalissimo is made with chile liqueur (plus tequila, pineapple juice and sparkling wine).
For a lovely and refreshing mimosa version, try the La Reina: sparkling wine, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and pomegranate juice. There’s also a mimosa made with local mead, passion fruit puree and sparkling wine, and another made with grapefruit juice and agave.
Picky drinkers will love the option to make their own custom mimosas from a variety of different juices. So no matter what you’re craving, from classic to crazy, Centro’s got your whims covered.