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Other than abundant free parking, Alba’s location in a shopping center isn’t much to crow about, but the northern Italian fare is among Boulder’s best. You can go for small plates or epicurean pizzas or for a full-on feast at this Boulder restaurant. Risotto, gnocchi, lasagna and other items on the primi menu are offered in appetizer or entrée portions. Second are entrée-size only and feature with exceptional, Italian-accented seared Harris Ranch hanger steak, herb-roasted duck breast or wild-caught salmon. Chef Alexander Feldman immersed himself in the foods of Piedmont, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna and brought the refined, related cuisines to the casually elegant Alba, which offers frequent wine dinners, half-price bottles of wine on Monday evenings and a well-priced happy hour.
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The capital of Tajikistan, one of Boulder’s several sister cities, donated this elaborate ceremonial teahouse to Boulder. The city deliberated for years over the most suitable location, and downtown was finally selected. This exquisite example of classic central Asian teahouse is ornamented with brilliant polychrome tiles and carved wood. Restaurateurs Lenny and Sara Martinelli, who also own nearby Aji and Leaf, were selected to operate the teahouse. It serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and early dinner. Tajik lamb skewers, Persian sumac salmon and curry chicken wrap are oyster mushroom polenta, cappelini a la fresca but so are Indian masala dosa in this vegan-friendly restaurant. With such varied culinary traditions, moderate portions, a gurgling fountain, large windows that let in abundant natural light and lush indoor plants, it is an exotic restaurant—one that fans of dark, wood-paneled steakhouses may find a tad precious.
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Owner Bradford Heap, a well-regarded Boulder chef, took over the space once occupied by a burger joint called Tom’s Tavern, gutted it, expanded it and turned it into a lively bar and modern American restaurant called SALT. Despite uneven service that took months to iron out, SALT became an instant downtown hit. The eclectic lunch and dinner menu includes individual brick-oven pizza and flatbread, an upscale version of the old Tom’s Tavern burger pan-roasted ono from Hawaii, halibut from Alaska, rotisserie Colorado lamb and Long Farm pork from down the road. Food and drinks are served at lunch and dinner in the bar area, the restaurant area, at a few choice seats looking into the kitchen, a downstairs dining room and a fine patio.
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This tandem establishment is the hippest of owner David Query’s Big Red F Restaurant Group. The front of this restaurant is a casual Asian-inspired eatery, with a happening bar in the back. In the late afternoon, they serve an inexpensive combo of a pork Banh Mi sandwich and a beer. Happy’s short happy hour called “happy time” features small plates at small prices—nothing except the combo platter is over $4. The scene transitions from budget-conscious happy-hour patrons to families whose kids have sophisticated tastes to young Boulderites out on the town. The crispy chicken American-inspired cornbread and Asian-accented bean sprout salad alongside is a local favorite. The sophisticated Bitter Bar’s award-winning mixologists shake and muddle, stir and pour into the wee hours.
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Pemba Sherpa, who grew up in the Everest region of Nepal, has been building bridges between his native Nepal and Colorado since immigrating to the U.S. He operates a travel agency called Sherpa Ascent International that organizes both mountaineering expeditions and spiritual journeys, and a restaurant called Sherpa’s Adventurers Restaurant & Bar. The Boulder restaurant rambles through the small rooms of an old Victorian home and spills over to one of Boulder’s most pleasant patios. Don’t miss the house-made steamed dumplings called momos, the soul-satisfying, Popeye-pleasing spiced creamed spinach called saag and the Sherpa stew, a rich mélange of potatoes, dumpling and veggies in a flavorful broth. In addition to the interrelated cuisines of Tibet, Nepal and India, Sherpa’s offers Americanized items for picky eaters of all ages.
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The Mountain Sun and its sister establishment, Southern Sun on South Broadway (plus Denver’s Vine Street Pub), brew more than a dozen beers, ales and stouts from girly-girly Blackberry Wheat to rich, manly-man Isadora Java Porter. The kitchen turns out commendable versions of such standard pub fare as nachos, burgers, sandwiches and wraps. Patrons either love or hate the service at this Boulder restaurant. With the “team system,” every employee does every job, from busing each others’ tables, running food, washing dishes, pulling beer at the bar or working the host stand. The result is that you might get good service, poor service or no service for a long time.
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Tucked away next to a highway exit and behind a strip shopping center and a hotel, the Dark Horse still attracts hordes of loyalists. Décor runs to movie posters, props and memorabilia. There’s stuff on the windowless walls, more stuff hanging from the ceiling and two dozen or so TV screens. Add the frequent crowds, and it’s not a place for the claustrophobic—except for the pleasant patio where you’ll find light and air. The Dark Horse is a student hangout, a nostalgia mecca and a popular sports bar. They have some sort of event going on just about every evening. Well-priced burgers, sandwiches, entrees, salads and liquid refreshment dominate.
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