Boulder Cork opened in an iconic year: 1969. Despite 50 years of cultural change it seems that one thing never goes out of style: fine American dining. Chef Jim Smailer has been serving up steak and seafood favorites for 38 years and Sous Chef Greg Larson is going 34 years strong. Manager Donna Karmeris, who has been at the restaurant three decades, says consistency and good service have kept Boulder Cork popping for so many years. With luxury cut prime rib, fresh sea scallops and a nationally recognized wine list, Boulder Cork is a special place to celebrate everything from engagements to graduations to private parties. To celebrate any day, try happy hour. It features $5 wine and well drinks, plus simple selections from the kitchen, many under $10. 3295 30th St., Boulder, 303.443.9505, bouldercork.com.
Runner Up: The Sink, 1165 13th St., Boulder, 303.444.7465, thesink.com.
A 10-year winner in this category, China Gourmet is hands-down the local favorite for every Asian palette and every budget. With more than 100 dishes on the menu, diners can always find classic combinations such as sweet and sour chicken, kung pao beef, cashew shrimp and egg foo young. Or feel free to explore the wild side with interesting entrees like Ants Climbing on a Tree (beans and pork), Chinese Eggplant Hot Pot and Firecracker Chicken, heated with red pepper and jalapenos. The best lunch deal is just $8.95 for the meal of your choice, plus an appetizer, rice and soup. For the more health-conscious, China Gourmet offers selections made with no sugar, salt, cornstarch or vegetable oil, plus gluten-free options upon request. 3970 N. Broadway, #102, Boulder, 303.440.3500, chinagourmetmenu.com.
Runner Up: Flower Pepper, 2655 Broadway, Boulder, 720.381.1594, flowerpeppereats.com.
Brasserie Ten Ten
What a run: This year Brasserie Ten Ten marks 11 years for the best French food in Boulder County. The cozy café consistently churns out decadent dishes like the popular Poulet en Brigue (brick chicken) and the unexpected Canard Confit (duck leg). “The ambiance and size help give that feeling that you get when at the Brasserie,” says Joe Romano, who owns the hopping spot with his wife Peggy. But a solid staff is what makes it all come together each day. “They do a great job and have for over 16 years,” he says. “We have a large number of people who work together to create a great atmosphere, with great food. I think that we are incredibly fortunate to have a community that embraces our efforts so wonderfully.” 1011 Walnut St., Boulder, 303.998.1010, brasserietenten.com.
Runner Up: Le French Café, 2525 Arapahoe Ave., #C1, Boulder, 303.284.2265, lefrenchcafeboulder.com.
Curry -n- Kebob
Curry rhymes with hurry. That’s good, because when you’re in one but still want authentic Indian food, Curry-n-Kebob is the place to call in an order to go. Of course you’re welcome to dine in, too. And if you do you’ll be treated to a diverse menu of flavors from Northern India, the Kahn family’s home country of Bangladesh, and even some British influences from when the owners operated curry houses overseas. Everything is made to order, so diners don’t even need to stick to the menu if they have special requests. Daily lunch specials are a bargain: eight different dishes — half of them vegetarian/vegan — to choose from, plus basmati rice, naan, fried onion fritters, side of tamarind chutney dipping sauce and dessert for under $10. 3050 28th St., Boulder, 720.328.4696, currynkebob.com.
Runner Up for Best Indian: Tandoori Grill, 619 S. Broadway St., Boulder, 303.543.7339, tandoorigrillboulder.com.
Carelli’s of Boulder
Warmth. That word defines the steaming pasta, roaring fire, glowing lights, and the people taking care of you at Carelli’s. This fine Italian establishment oozes luxury, but is made for lingering. What started as an Italian sub shop in William’s Village Shopping Center is far from it nearly three decades later. Winning a design award from the American Institute of Architects, Carelli’s gorgeous dining space features three fireplaces, rich slate and copper, and calming birchwood accents. “Our architecture is timeless,” says Owner Greg Carelli. But ambiance is only part of the appeal here. Regulars return for the artisan pizzas, fresh-daily seafood dishes and an emphasis on gluten-free foods like a crispy crust made with tapioca and rice. “Gluten-free works for us because we’re a scratch kitchen, so changing out the starch is easy for us,” Carelli says. “We do a lot of rice, polenta, gnocchi and grilled dishes.” 645 30th St., Boulder, 303.938.9300, carellis.com.
Runner Up for Best Italian: Via Perla, 901 Pearl St., Boulder, 720.669.0100, viaperla.com.
Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina
No one who’s had the pleasure of eating at Efrain’s would dispute the mainstay’s 18 wins for the best Mexican in Boulder. “Our recipes have been in our family for generations,” says General Manager Cristian Pinon. “And we deliver consistently delicious North Mexican cuisine, which comes with a spice and flare that is incomparable.” The home-cooked Northern Chihuahua cuisine is loaded with complex flavors that make a mouth go “wow.” Speaking of that wow factor, the classic Efrain Burrito has just that. “It’s a burrito that comes with a variety of our ‘delectables’ and who knows what else. The decision is made exclusively by the chef,” Pinion says of the no-refunds, no-exceptions surprise bundle. “It’s a large and awesome burrito which rarely fails to please.” 1630 N. 63rd St., Boulder, 303.440.4045, efrainsrestaurant.com.
Runner Up: Rio Grande, Mexican Restaurant, 1101 Walnut St., Boulder, 303.444.3690, riograndemexican.com.
Aloy Thai has been referred to as a “Thai oasis in the city.” And that feels just about right. With a contemporary atmosphere and a focus on health-conscious creations that don’t sacrifice ethnic authenticity, Aloy Thai is a favorite among choosy diners. Light and appetizing offerings range from fresh spring rolls and spicy salads to wok-fried veggies over steamed rice and rice noodles finished in homemade sweet Thai sauce. Owner Kim Naka immigrated to Boulder in 2006 and brought all her family recipes along. Favorites include Pad Thai, Khoa Soi, Crying Tiger and Thai BBQ Chicken. “There are so many more dishes that my customers give a try for the first time and love them!” says General Manager Tess Portfolio. The only question we have is … when’s dinner? 2720 Canyon Blvd., Boulder, 303.440.2903, aloythai.com.
Runner Up: Buddha Thai, 2719 Iris Ave., Boulder, 720.565.0506, buddhathaicuisine.com.
Serving fine Vietnamese food since 1993, Chez Thuy has clearly made an impact in the Boulder County community. This year the rarified establishment, known for its eclectic Asian dishes featuring French, Thai, Chinese, and Indonesian influences, marks 18 wins for its famous pho, curries, stir-fries and more. Premium meats and fresh veggies have always made Chez Thuy stand apart from the competition, as have original Chef Thuy’s (“Twee”) piquant blends of herbs and spices like cilantro, basil, lemongrass and ginger. With warming soups, fried favorites, hot pots, plus lots of vegetarian dishes, gluten-free foods, kids menu and a full bar, the range of delectable offerings are as rich as the flavors that have made Chez Thuy tops in town. 2655 28th St., Boulder, 303.442.1700, chezthuy.com.
Runner Up: Black Pepper Pho, 2770 Pearl St., Boulder, 303.440.1948.