Walk down the Pearl Street Mall and it’s no question: This isn’t the same Boulder as years ago. Things have changed.
And while the impetus (you know, a global pandemic) may not have been great, some of the unexpected outcomes left in its wake are.
West Pearl has replaced a stretch of street with lines of outdoor tables and gathering spaces. Many restaurants have expanded outside, and even after many of the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, some of those changes have stuck.
We like it.
After all, Boulder’s beautiful outdoors is what drew many of us to town to begin with.
Beyond more spacious dining rooms and expanded outdoor seating, as you return to restaurants this summer, you will see new menu offerings, cocktails and events. When many restaurants were closed or at limited capacity, they used that time to brainstorm, evolve, build and transform — and now that we are (hopefully) on the other side of the pandemic, we are left with some fun surprises. Restaurants that you thought you knew are now new and improved.
So if you’re sick of your own cooking and can’t stomach another boring meal at home, let the area’s restaurants cook for you so you can enjoy something different. Here are a few post-Covid dining highlights to add to your hunger bucket list this summer.
Centro Mexican Kitchen, 950 Pearl St.
Centro, in downtown Boulder, recently rolled out lunch — plus a new brunch menu.
“Coming out of Covid, we have retooled our lunch and brunch menus at Centro, adding some soulful and delicious dishes to the menu,” says Dave Query, chef and founder of Big Red F Restaurant Group, in a written statement. “No-rules Mexican food and fun is what’s happening in our kitchen here.”
The new menu is all kinds of creative. Mexican food like you’ve never had it before. Take the new Birra Burrito, made with slow-braised beef. Other new menu items include a crispy cauliflower taco board, a grilled squash and tofu bowl and the Mexiwedge (a salad with charred onion dressing, manchego cheese and tortilla crunch).
For brunch, try the Centro Benedict smothered in queso instead of hollandaise.
If you have space for dessert, the best bet is the new grilled banana cream tart, inspired by Zolo Grill’s banana cream pie.
Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar, 928 Pearl St.
Jax recently released a new, larger menu. As before, all of its seafood is sustainably sourced. But the new menu (one of the biggest menu overhauls in years) focuses on lighter, fresher flavors and highlights seasonal fish and shellfish from its sourcing partners. An example of that: the healthy grilled Hawaiian yellowfin tuna steak — line-caught yellowfin tuna (not endangered bluefin) served Mediterranean-style, with veggies, garlic and olives.
New dishes include ahi tuna poke, blue crab garganelli and Alaskan halibut with Anson Mills grits. Jax revamped its ever-beloved lobster roll into a simplified version. And the crab cakes are now jumbo lump crab cakes; this means they’re chunkier and crabbier — so tasty.
Also check out the new “accidentally-vegan” stuffed tomato and quinoa pilaf with marinated heirloom sea island peas.
T-Zero Lounge, 900 Walnut St.
T-Zero, located in the St Julien Hotel & Spa, just launched a new happy hour menu. Every day from 4-6 p.m. you can toast to summertime with new cocktails like the Blood Orange Paloma and the Pearl Martini, both on draft. For something ultra summery, try the Whispering Angel Frosé, a frosé cocktail with rosé, vodka, fresh strawberry and citrus.
Pair these beverages with small plates, from the familiar fave, Jill’s Bistro Tots, to new offerings. Make it a full night and stay past happy hour every Wednesday through Sunday this summer, when live music will fill the terrace starting at 6.
Hotel Boulderado, 2115 13th St.
The Hotel Boulderado introduced a Lobster Pot Patio Pop-Up during Covid, and it was such a success that the hotel is keeping it around indefinitely. Get fresh, live, steamed Maine lobster (flown in for the occasion) outside on the Pine Street Patio. You can also get Alaskan king crab, baked New Bedford sea scallops and more.
Each entree comes with salad, steamed red potatoes, “milk and honey” corn on the cob and choice of dessert (such as peach bread pudding).
This unique pop-up is offered by reservation 4-9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and comes with live music until 8 p.m.
Gold Hill Inn, 401 Main St.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Gold Hill Inn, located 10 miles from Boulder, turned its side yard into an outside beer garden. It was such a hit that the restaurant decided to keep it.
You can now enjoy a limited dinner menu in the beer garden Wednesday through Sunday, along with live music from 5-7 p.m. on weekends.
The beer garden is also home to the restaurant’s holiday barbecues and concerts on Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day.
Steakhouse No. 316, 1922 13th St.
This new downtown Boulder steakhouse had barely gained traction when COVID-19 put up major barriers for diners, so if you haven’t tried it out yet, it’s time. This sultry, dim steakhouse is a spinoff of the Aspen original, which Food Network named one of the best 50 steakhouses in America — and Boulder’s branch rises to the same caliber.
Steakhouse No. 316 is located where the Irish pub Conor O’Neill’s used to be, but you’d never recognize the space. It’s been completely refurbished with crushed red velvet banquettes, a large fireplace, black walls, taxidermy decor and a marble bar. But the star of the show is the menu, with the top 2 percent of prime meats in the country.
Don’t miss the caesar salad made tableside. Steakhouse No. 316 has turned this common salad into an uncommon work of art worth a visit, in and of itself. Not to mention the entertainment of watching it be made before your eyes.
Hickory & Ash, 8001 Arista Place, unit 150, Broomfield
Head to nearby Broomfield for Hickory & Ash’s new menu. Highlights include spinach artichoke fritters with Calabrian chili hummus, mustard remoulade and dill; the K.F.C. Sandwich, with Korean fried chicken, cucumbers, kimchi ranch and avocado; and Alaskan halibut with chorizo shrimp ravioli, cauliflower and fava bean sofrito.
While soup may make you think of colder weather, there’s also the new and surprisingly refreshing grilled salmon chowder, with potato leek gnocchi, smoked trout, yellow corn and kombu herb butter.
Edge Restaurant and Bar, 1111 14th St., Denver
For a special night out, reserve a table at one of Colorado’s favorite steakhouses, Edge Restaurant located inside the Four Seasons Hotel. Edge just completed a lengthy, complete, top-to-bottom renovation, so even if you’ve dined here before, it will feel like a new experience, including two new bars (one in a spacious lounge area and another located inside the restaurant).
Matching its fresh, new look is a fresh, new menu, featuring a raw bar, plus fine, aged cuts and other innovative sides. Ask about the Butcher’s Block, a new opportunity to eat inside a glass-walled dining space with views of the kitchen, as the team makes a custom menu just for the Butcher’s Block guests. The new flavors and culinary experiences are spearheaded by new chef Jessica Biederman.
For additional private dining options, Edge offers three more private dining rooms.
The Edge Bar was also expanded into three different areas throughout the lobby to open up the space. This included redesigning an outdoor patio.
Enjoy the wine pairings and stay the night, while you’re in Denver. The hotel itself also just wrapped up a seven-month reno, with remodeled guest rooms and suites, meeting spaces, event areas and public areas. The previous darker, earthy, natural tones have been integrated into more cool colors, like icy greys, blues and snow whites, inspired by the mountains and skyline.
“Our team is ecstatic to be back and you can feel the energy and excitement throughout the hotel,” says Thierry Kennel, regional vice president and general manager of the hotel.
Tamayo, 1400 Larimer St., Denver
After a pandemic hiatus, the innovative Mexican restaurant, Tamayo, recently relaunched a bottomless brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Bottomless brunch means exactly that: unlimited small plates. Bottomless margaritas. Bottomless cocktails.
Needless to say, there’s a two-hour limit per table.
Menu items include the likes of huevos rancheros, carnitas tacos, chicken enchiladas and tres leches with raspberry sauce, whipped cream and toasted coconut. Wash it down with mimosas, margs and Bloody Marias, oh my. The whole shebang is $42 per person (or $28 if you don’t want the cocktails).
Note: You can add other things a la carte, like coffee, juice, espresso, guac and more.
Cooper Lounge, 1701 Wynkoop St., Denver
The Cooper Lounge, located inside the Denver Union Station Plaza, saw such success with its private igloos this winter that it is now offering Picnic on the Plaza. This private dining experience allows you to book garden igloos Friday and Saturday evenings.
Your outdoor meal comes with a picnic basket packed full of classic Southern food (BBQ pork ribs, cold fried chicken, potato salad, Southern wedge, cornbread muffins and cookies) and three beverages each from the lounge’s selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
Other New Notables
- Blackbelly, 1606 Conestoga St. in Boulder, recently added the Blackbelly Wine Club. This focuses on a different theme or wine region each month. Blackbelly is currently expanding its butcher shop and market to be twice the size. The restaurant is also adding a huge outdoor seating area and gardens, as well as a new private dining room/event space to the main dining room. The improvements should be done by the fall.
- Corrida, 1023 Walnut St., recently started offering caviar service (1-ounce black sturgeon caviar with black truffle chips and housemade creme fraiche). Coming later this summer, the restaurant will be adding a raw bar station with oysters and caviar on the rooftop, and bringing back its GinTonic drink cart. They will also be adding brunch service.
- The Beer Spa, 3004 N. Downing St., recently opened in Denver. This is exactly what it sounds like: day spa plus craft beer bar. It features beer-inspired spa treatments and, of course, local brews.
- The Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, 6700 N. Gaylord Rockies Blvd. in Aurora, added several pop-up restaurants, like Monte Jade Express and Ski Village Taco Cantina. These help extend the variety of food offered and give more options for families that prefer not to sit down at a restaurant. The Gaylord is also adding on a bratwurst and hot dog station at the pool.
- Or if beer is off the table, check out a new alcohol-free bar, Awake, 2240 Clay St., unit 100, in Denver. This alcohol-free bar/coffee shop opened in the spring with an extensive curation of alcohol-free mocktails, spirits, wine and beer.
- Another new bar, Forget Me Not, opened in Cherry Creek North (227 Clayton St.) this spring. Named after its former tenant, a flower shop, this cocktail bar pulls inspiration from flowers, making cocktails with infusions of flowers, wood, bark and spices.
- Flexible dining space became the norm in 2020, and The Nook Mobile Dining Room in Fort Collins keeps that alive with its creative option for extra outdoor dining. The Nook is heated, affixed with speakers and built atop a trailer, so it can be rented for parties, special events or restaurants.
- In 2020, the Dairy Block in Denver extended patios on the sidewalks and communal dining in the alley, and it has decided to continue the expansions into the foreseeable future. Drag Queen Bingo Brunch in the Alley, launched in January, became so popular that it’s now an ongoing event every week. And there will be an added Drag Queen Bingo at Night on special days.