Carelli’s, 645 30th St., Boulder, carellis.com
Carelli’s has long been one of our readers’ top choices for best Italian food come Best of Boulder time. It’s no wonder why: a large menu of pasta, salad, meat dishes, pizza and more; a vibrant bar with unique cocktails, draft Italian beer and a deep wine cellar. But the key to Carelli’s greatness is in the food, which is prepared simply and well. The pesto penne brings together small penne pasta, marinated sundried tomatoes that burst in the mouth, feta cheese and robust basil pesto. $14.95.
Idaho Rainbow Trout
Acreage, 1380 Horizon Ave., Lafayette, acreageco.com
Holy hell, Acreage at Stem Ciders. What an operation. What good food. What good cider. What a view. You have to wind through an office complex and up a hill at the eastern edge of Lafayette to get there, but once you round the corner, the barn-like warehouse that houses Acreage and Stem Ciders shines like a monument. Acreage complements Stem’s wide array of ciders — from dry to fruity to floral and everything in between — with a menu of elevated cafeteria staples. The food operation was generated by River and Woods’ Daniel Asher and Basta’s Kelly Whitaker, and the quality of those respective restaurants transfers over to Acreage. The rainbow trout comes skin-crisped on a skillet, and the meat underneath is moist, citrusy and a little sweet. There are too many menu items to point out, but trust us that the cider doughnuts are also worth a shot. $16.
Hickory Bacon Burger
World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill, 2922 Baseline Road, Boulder, darkhorsebar.com
Boy, they don’t make places like the World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill anymore. The Dark Horse is a Boulder treasure. Of all the things to like about it, the walk-up burger bar is our favorite. Probably because the burgers that come out of it are dynamite. The hickory bacon burger stacks crispy bacon, melted cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce atop a thick, fat, juicy burger. Served alongside crisp and well-seasoned curly fries, it’s as good as pub grub gets. $7.99.
Kathmandu Restaurant II, 1964 28th St., Boulder, kathmandurestaurant.us
Kathmandu is as good as ever, slinging a variety of Himalayan staples in its large 28th Street digs. We went veggie this time around and got the vegetable korma. What’s most remarkable is the substance of the dish; the thick, sweet, spicy and herbaceous korma curry makes every bite feel larger than the sum of its parts. Made with coconut and cashew, we also pick out some wild herbs and fruity peppers. Fresh, crunchy vegetables include peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. $12.