Al fresco paradise

Boulder County boasts epic fresh-air dining options

Courtesy: Corrida

There is just something about dining in the open air that makes the food taste better, the wine sip easier and the guests glow brighter. 

In Boulder County, we love eating outdoors on languid summer evenings. Some of us want to be under the stars and above it all on rooftop terraces. Others crave the people-watching from streetside patios, or the sunlight of a brewery backyard. 

Here’s our curated guide to some familiar and hidden gems on local rooftops, street corners, porches, gardens and lawns — all fit for an outdoor summer feast. 

Up on the rooftop

1023 Walnut St., Boulder

An elevator ride brings you to the sophisticated Spanish restaurant and patio with a pristine, unimpeded view of the Flatirons. Take a seat during Tapas Hour on the patio for small plates or splurge on pricey gems like a 56-day, dry-aged, bone-in New York strip steak. 

rx1 donovan greene Courtesy: Rosetta Hall

Rosetta Hall

1109 Walnut St., Boulder

Grab your grub before you head up to the roof for panoramic views at this food court featuring flavors from around the globe. Gracia Coffee opens at 8 a.m. daily, so morning people can enjoy a quiet latte on the rooftop patio.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant
1101 Walnut St., Boulder

The umbrella-topped tables on Rio’s rooftop have been some of Boulder’s key hideaways from the summer heat for nearly 20 years. Some come for the view of the Flatirons, other for the sizzling fajitas, but most stay for their famous margaritas. 

Avanti Food and Beverage
1401 Pearl St., Boulder

Avanti offers a spectacular western vantage overlooking the Pearl Street Mall and the Rockies from its made-for-selfies rooftop. The upper level includes its own bar and New Yorkese, a pizzeria serving foldable slices, but fare can be brought up from first-floor eateries.

West End Tavern
926 Pearl St., Boulder

The West End Tavern was one of the first Boulder eateries to feature a rooftop patio with Flatiron vistas when it opened in 1987. From lunchtime through late night, pub comfort fare rules — from skillet cornbread with honey butter to barbecue platters, fish and chips and big juicy burgers.

Courtesy: The Roost

The Roost
526 Main St., Longmont

This Longmont destination is perfectly named with its cozy rooftop oasis perched above lively Main Street. The kitchen offers palate pleasers ranging from Thai pork tacos to blistered shishitos and shrimp fritters. The bar focuses on brews crafted by award-winning local purveyors like Left Hand, Upslope, Wibby and Oskar Blues.

William Oliver’s Publick House
201 N. Public Road, Lafayette

Three things put this downtown Lafayette pub on our al fresco bucket list: aged Scotch, thick-cut bacon and bluebird skies. The shaded rooftop is the place to be at sunset, and canines are welcome on the street-level patio.  

Courtesy: La Mariposa

615 Briggs St., Erie

As Piripi’s rooftop diners laugh, savor paella and sip summer wines, they could easily imagine themselves on vacation in Spain or Italy. At Piripi, chef Hugo Meyer serves casual fare ranging from spicy red shrimp tapas to gnocchi with basil pesto. Charming rooftop meals get topped with warm churros dipped in chocolate and caramel. 

La Mariposa Restaurant & Margarita House
2033 Ken Pratt Blvd., Longmont

The recently renovated La Mariposa boasts a rooftop terrace “Botanero,” a place for tasty appetizers and cold beer or margaritas. The most Instagram-ready entrée is carnitas molcajete, a steaming cauldron lined with pork, chorizo, onions, cactus, chicharrón and roasted jalapeños. 

Gardens, yards, hilltops and porches

The views from Acreage by Stem Ciders are unmatched. Courtesy: Stem Ciders

Acreage by Stem Ciders
1380 Horizon Ave., Lafayette

Many local eateries shout about their sunset view, but Acreage is literally above them all. Situated on a two-acre hilltop, the restaurant faces west toward the Front Range panorama. The always-busy yard features a shaded deck, patio picnic tables and Adirondack chairs. 

Courtesy: Left Hand Brewing

Left Hand Brewing Company
1245 Boston Ave., Longmont

Left Hand Brewing Company upped the outdoor ante when they opened The Garden directly east of their Longmont tasting facility. This backyard and patio is served from a bar tucked inside a former shipping container, pouring Left Hand brews along with cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. Food trucks provide a changing roster of meals.

Lucky Pie Pizza & Taphouse + Sweet Cow
637 Front St., Louisville

The large and shaded backyard patio shared by a pizzeria and a scoop shop is a big draw for families, but it was designed as a place for adults to kick back. Lucky Pie provides artisan pies and appetizers alongside a full bar offering well-mixed cocktails. Sweet Cow perennially wins the Best of Boulder accolades for its ice cream. When in doubt, achieve bliss with a slice and a hot fudge sundae.

Courtesy: Summit Tacos

Summit Tacos
237 Collyer St., Longmont

Summit Tacos features a colorfully decorated front lawn with shaded picnic tables served from a bar trailer. Traditional street tacos filled with everything from barbacoa to rajas are available along with pambazo, a spicy grilled cheese dipped in guajillo chile salsa served with a side of pozole.

Chautauqua Dining Hall
900 Baseline Road, Boulder

The wooden wraparound porch at Chautauqua Dining Hall has been one of Boulder’s top al fresco destinations for decades. Weekend brunch reservations are obligatory. Try visiting on a Monday morning for a quiet breakfast.

Daisy Bauer Sherpa’s Adventurers Restaurant and Bar’s outdoor patio.

Sherpa’s Adventure Restaurant and Bar
825 Walnut St., Boulder

Diners can get back to the garden at Sherpa’s, where decades of landscaping, a fountain and Nepali statues create a refuge in the heart of Downtown Boulder. On a warm evening, diners can start with a platter of momo dumplings with a malty Indian beer. 

The Greenbriar Inn
8735 N. Foothills Highway, Boulder

One of Boulder’s oldest eateries hosts the best garden parties in Boulder County during the summer months. Carefully planted trees, flowering bushes, blooming flowers and herb gardens fill the grounds. The highly prized patio tables are a great place to sample wild mushroom arancini or a ground tenderloin burger with Emmethaler cheese.

Courtesy: Dushanbe Tea House

Dushanbe Tea House
1770 13th St., Boulder

The terraced patio at North America’s only authentic Persian teahouse is a dreamy place to dine on summer days. Sample an international menu in the open air fragranced by more than 80 varieties of roses blooming.   

Flagstaff House Restaurant
1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder

It’s hard to resist the romantic appeal of the expansive patio at this special-occasion favorite on the side of Flagstaff Mountain. As the sun sets behind you, the lights of Boulder come up while you linger over a fine dining menu and vintages from a 6,000-bottle wine cellar. 

Cheese Importers
103 Main St., Longmont

A soothing surprise awaits those who approach the rear entrance to the historic building housing Colorado’s premier cheese destination. Cheese Importers is not a bistro, but you can visit the huge refrigerated cooler inside to grab ripe triple crème cheese, cured meats, a baguette and a chilled beverage for a patio picnic.

Streetside patios

Tierra y Fuego Taqueria
4550 Broadway, Boulder

Taco Tuesday rules Boulder patio menus, but the real thing is quietly being dished in a true taqueria tucked away in the bustling North Broadway neighborhood. Don’t miss the mole poblano chicken at this calm, shaded NoBo patio.

Gemini’s delicious Spanish tapas can be enjoyed on their Pearl Street patio. Credit: John Lehndorff

1115 Pearl St., Boulder

With its comfy outdoor seating and attentive service, Gemini offers a street experience without feeling overly touristy, despite its location on the Pearl Street Mall. The Spanish-influenced menu offers by-the-glass wines to enjoy with diverse tapas and main plates of braised lamb or paella. 

Alpine Modern Cafe
904 College Ave., Boulder

Blocks from the hustle and limited parking on the Hill, Alpine Modern is a peaceful corner retreat. A tree-shaded wraparound patio provides an ideal meeting place for studying, meeting and dating. Pair a well-made golden chai latte with a house cinnamon roll or a toast topped with prosciutto, avocado or a soft-boiled egg. 

Pumphouse Brewery
540 Main St., Longmont

Pumphouse Brewery’s large patio (with lots of shade and cooling misters) satisfies diners on Longmont’s Main Street. The brewpub site pours a big roster of local and regional brews paired with a thirst-inducing menu of fried pickles, calamari and chicken-fried chicken.

Lulu’s BBQ

701 Main St., Louisville

This classic eatery has the best of both al fresco worlds: a street-facing patio perfect for people-gawking in Downtown Louisville, and a cozy, cool and shaded rustic backyard. Since opening 2011, Lulu’s has drawn a crowd with mouthwatering oak-smoked meats. 


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