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Thursday, April 29,2010

Best of Boulder 2010: Drink

Mountain Sun/Southern Sun 1535 Pearl St., 303-546-0886 627 S. Broadway, 303-543-0886
Runner-up: Avery Brewing Company
Honorable Mention: Oskar Blues

Beer. A wondrous, bubbly, golden liquid. Quencher of thirst, loosener of tongues, restorer of courage and uniter of strangers; faithful companion to sports, counterbalance of salty foods and food group for college students. The virtues of this beverage, old as written history itself, are many. And we, the fortunate few in Boulder, have been blessed to have many quality practitioners of the frothy faith in our midst, and the competition for the coveted title of Best Beer Selection is appropriately fierce. Bringing home the title once again this year are the gifted brewers at the Mountain Sun/ Southern Sun, whose carefully crafted selections like the Annapurna Amber, the XXX Pale and the Colorado Kind draw crowds of faithful pilgrims to indulge in the best beer Boulder has to offer every night of the week. And a word to the uninitiated: Try the Kind Crippler, a 50-50 beer combo that might just become your regular order. But don’t forget Avery Brewery, where creative concoctions, from earthy stouts to sour ales, always come as a pleasant Katherine Creel surprise. And Oskar Blues up in Lyons and Longmont has quietly been turning out outstanding brews for years now, gaining recognition from The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Come enjoy what has given so much joy to so many — or be forever stuck in purgatory drinking Coors.


The Laughing Goat
1709 Pearl St., 303-440-4628
Runner-up: Vic’s
Honorable Mention: Amante

What makes a coffee house a good place to hang? To find out, head to The Laughing Goat. The coffeehouse uses organic, shade-grown, Fair Trade coffee roasted by the Kaladi Brothers in Denver, to prepare a wide variety of coffee and espresso drinks. But coffee is only part of it. The café’s main location, at 1709 Pearl St., is home to live music and poetry readings that attract Boulder’s cultured clientele. There is also a smaller location in the Norlin Library on the CU-Boulder campus, which bustles constantly as students seek fuel between classes. Both locations are staffed with expert baristas who, if you’re lucky, will decorate your latte with a delightful design. The Pearl Street location also serves wine and beer, extending its service from coffeehouse to evening social venue, with a nightly happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m. With moveable tables, rotating artwork and a wall that opens onto Pearl Street, the café is an ideal place to spend an afternoon with a book, a friend, or simply with a stellar cup of coffee. When you want a great cup of coffee to start your early, early day or a delicious latte to keep your afternoon going, stop by Vic’s. And if you’re on Walnut Street or North Broadway, swing by Amante for a quick pick-me-up and some European soccer on the TV.


The Mediterranean Restaurant
1002 Walnut St., 303-444-5335
Runner-up: Boulder Café

Why do they call it Happy Hour? Because the workday is over, of course, leaving you time to do what you want to do — drink and eat with your friends. Boulder has named The Mediterranean Restaurant as the top place to go for our favorite hour of the day. From 3 to 6:30 p.m., The Med offers half off all of the tapas, a huge selection of hot and cold appetizers. They have great drink deals during happy hour seven days a week. The popularity of The Med caused them to expand the restaurant to almost twice its original size and it is still packed during happy hour. Known for the great fondue and oysters, the Boulder Café is another great place to spend happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. (3 to 7 at the bar) every day with half-priced beer and house wine, as well as half off all appetizers and raw bar.

The Laughing Goat
1709 Pearl St., 303-440-4628 Also in Norlin Library on the CU campus
Runner-up: Amante
Honorable Mention: Vic’s

A popular lap-toppers destination within a stone’s throw of the Pearl Street Mall, The Laughing Goat is also a choice spot for local art displays, stage performances, even occasional comedy and poetry. Hearkening back to Boulder’s venerable coffee house traditions, the Goat not only serves as a downtown meeting place, but also offers a variety of java beverages, crafted with care. This is where the latte gets its due and propers. “The coffees we proudly offer you,” states the Goat’s promo literature, “are the finest single origin varietals, organically certified, fairly traded premium coffees of distinction roasted to their optimal flavor profile by the Kaladi Brothers of Denver, one of the finest small batch boutique roasters anywhere.” If that isn’t reason enough to bring your coffee drinking business to the Laughing Goat, just try their vanilla latte. You’ll be back, we promise you. With two locations, Amante brings a taste of Italian chic to downtown Boulder and North Broadway with its coffees and outdoor patios.

Vic’s, and Vic’s Expresso, are sprinkled around the city like little havens of java and jazz, with interesting wall decor created by local artists. Vic’s is a great place to meet, read the paper and pop open that laptop.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant 1101 Walnut St., 303-444-3690
Runner-up: Zolo Grill Honorable Mentions: Tahona, Efrain’s

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila … floor. This common phrase is what makes the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant limit their customers to three margaritas per visit. And, no, you can’t walk out the door, walk right back in and order more. Take our word for it — you might want to do that, but it’s not a good idea. The Rio Grande’s best keep secret is what consistently makes them No. 1 on our list for the Best Margarita in Boulder. With salt or not, the margs at the Rio are legendary. The Rio offers a variety of other refreshing bebidas as well, from an assortment of tequilas to beer or martinis. When it comes to tequila, no other restaurant has more knowledge than Zolo Grill. With 150 tequilas to choose from, their margaritas are for tequila connoisseurs and go well with the restaurant’s unique Mexican cuisine. Both Tahona and Efrain’s get honorable mentions, evidence that the county’s cup runneth over when it comes to margs.


Jax Fish House
928 Pearl St., 303-444-1811
Runner-up: The Kitchen

Anyone who glances above the bar at Jax Fish House in Boulder can spot a number of thick glass urns filled with colored liquids and slices of fresh fruit. Order an infused martini and you’ll realize those urns are the source of the deliciously flavorful infused vodkas the award-winning restaurant makes in-house. Flavors range from watermelon to orange-mango to coffee, and make a tasty, minimalist alternative to the classic cocktail. Other cocktails are equally unique, such as the Wonka Cocktail, a candy-reminiscent mix of blueberry-infused vodka and pineapple juice, and the St. Germaine Bubbly, a sophisticated combination of Grey Goose La Poire, St. Germaine liquor, gently carbonated with champagne. The bustling bar is run by mixologist Jesse Klinker and is a great spot to enjoy good conversation, a fun atmosphere and, of course, a great martini. And while you’re downtown enjoying The Kitchen’s awesome appetizers, take a sip of one of their excellent martinis as well.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
1770 13th St., 303-442-4993
Runner-up: Pekoe Sip House

When Maksud Ikramov, mayor of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, visited Boulder in 1987, he announced that his city planned to donate a teahouse in celebration of the establishment of sister city ties between Boulder and Dushanbe. For the next three years, more than 40 artisans set to work creating the intricate decorations visitors see in the Dushanbe Teahouse today. The handcarved, hand-painted ceiling was created without power tools, crafted with patterns of traditional Persian art. A fountain in the center of the restaurant displays seven copper statues, based on the 12th century poem, “The Seven Beauties,” and offers diners a pleasant background sound, as well as the company of fish in the pool below. The teas offered at Dushanbe Teahouse provide a vast, tantalizing selection. Choose from hundreds of teas from India, China, Sri Lanka, Japan and other tea-producing locations. Parties of all sizes are welcome for afternoon tea from 3 to 5 p.m., with reservations required 24 hours in advance to allow for fresh baked goods that day. Boulder-based Pekoe Sip House imports the highest quality teas from around the world.


Boulder Dushanbe Tea House
1770 13th St., 303-442-4993
Runner-up: Gold Hill Café

By now, one of your ultra-hip, annoyingly well-read exotic-teadrinking friends has probably told you that the term “chai tea” is redundant. Chai, after all, is the Hindi word for tea. Aren’t you glad you have such smart friends? At Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, you won’t get flak for calling a masala chai a chai tea, a roobis infusion a tea, or a spoon a fork, for that matter. What you will get is one of the best chai drinks in the county — the right blend of spices, milk and, of course, tea. And since this category is “Chai Drink,” you’re not limited to the typical latte version either. Who’s up for a Chai Russian, a tangy blend of house chai, Kahlua and Smirnoff? When it tastes this good, who cares what you call it? Let’s all shut up, raise our glasses and enjoy some of the best drinks this side of the Himalayas. Cheers to Gold Hill Café as well for serving up a great selection of Bhakti and Oregon chai teas (yeah, we said it).

Bhakti Chai
875 9th St., 303-484-8770
Runner-up: Third Street Chai

Making chai is an art that Bhakti Chai has more than mastered. Based on the masala, or spicy, variety of chai served in India, this blend of fiery spices and sweet tea began as a home operation when founder Brook Eddy couldn’t find the flavor of chai she’d come to love during her travels in India. Now jars of the concentrated mix grace grocery store shelves from Boulder to Breckenridge, and in Boulder alone you can pick up a fresh-brewed cup at more than 50 restaurants, tea shops and coffee houses. Making a decent chai is simple enough if you get your ingredients right, but Bhakti has aimed way above decent and hit the bullseye of delicious. Fresh-pressed ginger, black tea from the hills of the Himalayas and a touch of organic evaporated cane juice are just some of the hallmarks of this local favorite. For now, Bhakti is only in stores in Colorado, but fortunately for the rest of the chai-loving world, it’s also for sale through Bhakti’s website, www.bhaktichai. com. To make this spicy drink even sweeter, Bhakti donates 5 percent of its online sales to the Global Fund for Women, an international nonprofit that helps women in need.

And while most towns would be lucky enough to have one top-notch chai microbrewery, Boulder is also blessed with Third Street Chai, a homegrown operation that’s been blending some of the best chai since 1995.

Jamba Juice
4760 Baseline Rd., 303-499-4760 3053 Arapahoe Ave, 303-247-1170 1695 29th St., 720-565-0407 3325 28th St., 303-938-1271 University Memorial Center, CU campus
Runner-up: Rush
Honorable Mention: Berry Best

This year Jamba Juice is celebrating its 20th anniversary of creating and serving up all-natural smoothies to the public.

And even though the store may get the corporate chain stink-eye stare from some locals, their tasty mixes of fruits, juices, yogurts and supplements are undeniable. Plus the energy, immunity, antioxidant and other boosts that are added to the drinks make the beverages that much healthier. And in case you’re worried about calories, being the fit and healthy city that we are, Jamba Juice also offers a variety of lighter drinks like Strawberry Nirvana and Mango Mantra, which has no more than 150 calories in a 16-ounce serving. Can you get much lighter than that in a smoothie? Local favorite Rush has an eclectic mix of flavorful smoothies plus delicious fruit bowls. Honorable mention Berry Best offers up tasty smoothies at Boulder Farmers’ Market and at its shop on Arapahoe.


Mountain Sun/ Southern Sun
1535 Pearl St., 303-546- 0886 627 S. Broadway, 303-543- 0886
Runner-up: Avery Brewing

Here in Boulder we love huge pints of beer almost as much as we love the pintsized breweries that make them.

Sure, bigger is better when you’re pouring it out, but when you’re handcrafting that perfect blend of liquid gold, micro is the only way to go. That’s why Colorado has not only the most breweries per capita in the United States, but some of the best as well, many right here in Boulder County.

Even people in Denver are in love with the legendary Mountain Sun and Southern Sun, so much so that they clamored until they got their own Sun, the Vine Street Pub, which is the third location of this hop heaven. The Suns’ slogan says “Beer, Food, Music, Love,” and we’ll take all four in the biggest size they’ve got. If you’re not sure which of their award-winning beers (six gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival alone!) to indulge in, you can sample their deep amber, ultra hoppy Colorado Kind Ale, or the Belgian chocolate-infused Chocolate Stout or their other dozen or so flavors. And for you vegetarians out there, don’t worry that you’ll be on a liquid diet here: they have great garden burgers and salads to go along with their delicious microbrews.

Kudos also go out to our other hometown favorite, Avery Brewing, for making big-time flavor on a craftsman’s scale with perennial favorites like India Pale Ale and White Rascal to name just a (very) few.

Frasca Food & Wine 1738 Pearl St., 303-442-6966
Runner-up: Flagstaff House Honorable Mention: The Kitchen

To become a Master Sommelier, participants in the Court of Master Sommeliers program must complete four levels of rigorous coursework and exams.

The first Master Sommelier title was given in 1973, and since then, only 104 more have followed within the United States. Internationally, there are 169 wine professionals who’ve received the title, confirming its rare, prestigious status. Given Frasca Food & Wine’s comprehensive yet unique wine selection of more than 300 wines, perhaps it’s not surprising that Bobby Stuckey, the restaurant’s co-owner, is a Master Sommelier. Given the title in 2004, Stuckey has been in the restaurant business for 26 years and has worked in renowned restaurants including Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, where he received the James Beard Foundation’s “Outstanding Wine Service” award. Frasca’s food is dedicated to the cuisine of the northern Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and many handpicked Italian wines are featured on the menu. Other wine-producing regions are featured as well, such as Germany, California and France, and the restaurant features special wine pairing dinners each Monday night to complement seasonal flavors in the food. Wines by the glass range in price from $7 to $16, and by the bottle from $24 to upwards of $3,000 for the finest selections. Frasca’s wine list offers a vast and interesting range in price and in variety — the qualities of an ideal wine list. Flagstaff House is known not only for its culinary excellence and world-class wine list, but its breathtaking views as well. And next time you’re downtown and feel like having a glass, stop by the Kitchen on the corner of Pearl and 11th streets.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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