7 Restaurants in Boulder Every Culinary Student Should Visit

Indulge in Boulder's finest dining against a backdrop of Rocky Mountain vistas. Discover the don’t-miss restaurants to inspire your culinary creativity.

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May 23, 2024 9 min read

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Nestled right up to the edge of where the Rocky Mountains suddenly emerge from the Great Plains, Boulder, Colorado is a mid-sized city with a big culinary scene. Many also know Boulder as a place with an environmental haven for the health conscious, with its easy access to miles of trails, world-class rock climbing spots, and ample yoga studios. But don’t let its crunchy, progressive exterior fool you into thinking everything is laid-back and casual. The city is also home to several high-end restaurants that serve world-class cuisine, in addition to a ground campus of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

From farm-to-table eateries to chic modern bistros with views of the local Flatirons, Boulder’s fine dining restaurants offer creative and inspiring options for anyone interested in culinary arts. In fact, the Michelin Guide published its first assessment of Boulder’s dining scene in 2023, listing several local restaurants for their outstanding cuisine and hospitality.

If you’re an aspiring chef or culinary student who is passionate about quality food, Boulder has ample opportunities to inspire you with creative, refreshing, and in some cases, downright masterful presentations of unique food.

Here are 7 restaurants you might enjoy experiencing for the pure enjoyment of the art of food and for inspiration of what’s possible.

1. Flagstaff House

Flagstaff House is located at 6,000 feet atop Flagstaff Mountain, overlooking Boulder. This unique, remote location features New American cuisine, primarily served as a tasting menu. Flagstaff House also prides itself on exquisite hospitality and a mind-blowing 16,000-bottle wine cellar.

Executive chef Chris Royster is passionate about responsible sourcing, creativity, and truly fine dining. He co-owns Flagstaff with his business partner, Adam Monette. Flagstaff has won multiple awards, including 42 Forbes Travel Guide 4-star ratings, 33 AAA four-diamond ratings, as well as multiple Best of Boulder awards in 2023.

A recent tasting menu included chef’s choice dishes such as Crisp Maine Belon Oyster, Perigord Truffle, Wisconsin Pheasant, and a dark chocolate torte featuring white miso, chestnuts, and cocoa pâté brisée. Rated as one of the most romantic restaurants, Flagstaff House won’t disappoint. Reservations are required so plan ahead.

Details: Flagstaff House, 1138 Flagstaff Road, Boulder, CO 80302, 303-442-4640, https://flagstaffhouse.com/

2. Bramble and Hare

Located just outside the city of Boulder, Black Cat Farm-Table-Bistro is a living commitment to a farm-to-table ethic and sustainable cuisine. Its sister restaurant, Bramble and Hare, is currently open regularly just off the Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder.

It features a three-course prix fixe menu, highlighting their locally grown meats, produce, and wild-foraged ingredients. Dishes like braised rabbit leg with farm-grown polenta or pan-seared salmon served with farm-grown quinoa and roasted vegetables are examples of what you’ll find on the menu. In addition, Bramble and Hare offers seasonal “Dirt Dinners” that showcase one particular vegetable at its peak of freshness.

Bramble and Hare was awarded a Michelin Guide Green Star Rating in 2023, which is reserved for restaurants that demonstrate an extreme commitment to sustainability. If you’re interested in the farm-to-table connection, be sure to put Bramble and Hare on your list by securing your reservation.

Owners and farmers Jill and Chef Eric Skokan grow more than 250 heritage cultivars (including their own grains and meat) on their 425-acre organic farm. They provide produce to restaurants, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture membership), farmer’s markets, and their Black Cat and Bramble and Hare restaurants.

Details: Bramble and Hare Restaurant, 1964 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302, 303-444-9110, https://brambleandhare.com/

3. Oak at 14th

An aerial view of a brick pedestrian mall, lined with shops and streetlamps.

Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall hosts a foot-traffic-only area of shops and restaurants, like Oak at 14th.

One of the delightful parts of living in Boulder is spending time in the historic, pedestrian-only part of downtown called the Pearl Street Mall. Oak at 14th is located on the Pearl Street Mall and gets its name from its focus on oak-wood-fired American cuisine. The menu evolves seasonally, incorporating locally grown ingredients and fusing comfort food with the unique regional flavors of Colorado.

Their menu may feature dishes like oak-roasted duck breast, oak-braised short rib, and an eye-popping 24-ounce mushroom-rubbed, dry-aged ribeye steak. They also provide a unique menu of signature cocktails incorporating interesting seasonal flavors and ingredients. Oak at 14th was listed in the Michelin Guide as a restaurant of note.

Details: 1400 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO, 80302, 303-444-3622, https://www.oakatfourteenth.com/

4. Leaf

Leaf is Boulder’s premier vegetarian restaurant. As you might imagine, the focus of their menu is plant-based foods, and much of what they serve is grown on their nearby Three Leaf Farm, which is also a botanical sanctuary and education center.

But just because meat isn’t on the menu at Leaf doesn’t mean the menu lacks flavor or interest. Leaf’s chefs create a fusion-based menu, showcasing a variety of world cuisine that puts plant-based ingredients front and center. Thai green curries, udon noodle bowls, Rigatoni with roasted beet pesto, Jamaican jerk tempeh, and of course, salads fill their plates!

Leaf also caters events with an extensive menu including many vegan options, and hosts farm dinners during the year at Three Leaf Farm. If you have an interest in plant-based eating, Leaf is the place to experience the range of creative culinary possibilities where you won’t miss the meat!

Details: 1710 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO, 80302, 303-442-1485, https://www.leafvegetarianrestaurant.com/

A vegetarian charcuterie plate features blueberries, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, tempura potato wedges, sliced figs, toast, fruit compote, and cheese.

Vegetarian cuisine doesn’t have to lack flavor and fun. A plant-based charcuterie board offers savory and sweet textures to prepare the palate for entrees.

5. Frasca Food and Wine

Frasca Food and Wine is a restaurant that makes a statement for exceptional quality and regional Italian cuisine. A fine dining experience through and through, Frasca serves traditional food from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy in a “quattro piatti” (four-course) menu, or the “Friulano” tasting menu served with carefully curated wine selections.

Frasca has been granted one Michelin star, recognized for its outstanding service, and has won multiple James Beard awards for outstanding restaurant, outstanding service, and outstanding wine program.

Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Peter Hoglund own Frasca, which is under the direction of executive chef Ian Palazzola.

With beautifully plated dishes and creative use of ingredients such as ash, red-tail deer, 36-month-aged Parmigiano reggiano, day boat scallop, and ossetra caviar, dining at Frasca is an adventure for the mouth. Reservations with a deposit are required.

Details: 1738 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO, 80302, 303-442-6966, https://www.frascafoodandwine.com/

6. Corrida Boulder

Owned by Bryan Dayton, Corrida focuses on regenerative beef, which is typically pasture-raised, grass-fed and grass-finished. Corrida provides delicious food and a stunning view of the Flatirons, the unusual slabs of exposed rock in the nearby mountains, from their 4th-floor restaurant in downtown Boulder.

Corrida’s primary focus is on wood-fired steak and seafood. There is a tapas menu and a full range of high-end steak options like American Wagyu ribeye or 22-day dry-aged NY strip steak. Other dishes of note include dry-cured Iberian ham, pulpo (octopus), and hamachi (yellowtail tuna) with cherry blossoms, coconut, fennel, and shiso. Creative combinations of sides seem equally interesting.

Details: 1023 Walnut Street #400, Boulder, CO 80302, 303-444-1333, https://www.corridaboulder.com/

Forested mountains with rock slabs poking through on a blue sky day.

The Flatirons, slabs of rock, emerge from Green Mountain, just west of Boulder, CO.

7. Stella’s

A newcomer to Boulder, Stella’s was opened in 2023 by Stella Spanu. Stella’s aims to “have a dining experience that stimulates all senses by incorporating visual art, design, music, premier service, comfortable seating, and fresh, authentic Italian cuisine.” An art deco interior brings all these intentions to life.

Chef Fillipo Piccini has curated and designed a menu that highlights traditions from all over Italy. Risotto al funghi porcini, bruschette misti, Ribollita Tuscan soup, ravioli with sage butter, and house-made gnocchi with white veal and pork ragú are just a few of the menu items to tempt your palate.

Stella’s is recommended by the Michelin guide.

Details: 1123 Walnut Street Boulder, CO 80302, 303-943-1000, https://www.stellascucina.com/

Get Started with Your Culinary Career

Boulder Campus of Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts

Though it may seem like the lofty menus of Flagstaff House or Frasca Food and Wine are out of reach to us mere mortals, every chef starts with the basics. Strong technical foundations and basic skills are the tools the best chefs in the world use to provide magical flavors and experiences for their guests.

At Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts, we take training future chefs in the essential skills of the trade seriously, so they can be competitive and creative assets in the food world. Our students each participate in an industry externship as a requirement for graduation, as well, which can put them right in the middle of restaurants just like the ones in this article!

The journey of 10,000 miles begins with the first step! If you’re inspired by what these restaurants offer their customers and hope to see yourself in that role someday, reach out to our admissions team to learn more about our degree and diploma programs in Culinary Arts, as well as available programs in Food Entrepreneurship, Baking & Pastry, and more.


*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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