Il Pastaio, Bramble and Hare, and Flower Child reveal that homegrown and fresh flavors triumph.
Boulder residents expect a lot from their restaurants. We prefer to eat foods that are healthy, homegrown, and freshly made—and sometimes restaurants fall short on these requirements. But three places stood out when we began our search for the best Boulder restaurant to serve authentic and fresh dishes that were packed full of flavor. Il Pastaio, a classic Italian-American restaurant, produces their pasta daily; Bramble and Hare serves farm-to-table entrees for late-night guests; and Flower Child, a newly opened restaurant in town, is making healthy food crave-worthy. Read more about these three restaurants and the foods that got us hooked.
Il Pastaio is Boulder’s best-kept secret. This family-owned restaurant has been operating since 2000 and uses traditional Italian methods to make the most delicious pasta ever tasted. Tucked away in a shopping plaza on Arapahoe, Il Pastaio offers quick, but hearty lunches from over-the-counter as well as table service for dinner.
On the dinner menu, we order a pollo scarpariello, a classic pasta dish of chicken and sausage pappardelle and the tilapia alla vongole, a sauteed fish fillet with clams in a garlic, lemon sauce that comes with a side of linguini pasta. Plus, a doughy, sweet and soft roll that tastes fresh from the oven comes out before the meal.
With every bite of the three dishes, flavors of butter and garlic fill your taste buds and satisfy your cravings for true comfort food. The pollo scarpariello was a simple dish prepared to perfection and had little kicks of spice from the peppers and the sausage. The tilapia was nicely prepared, and the clams were sweet and buttery. The side of linguini pasta revealed how something as basic as some noodles and sauce, can be an explosion of flavor and delight.
Il Pastaio makes their pasta fresh and daily, and from traditional machines sent over from Italy. (You can buy the fresh pasta in bulk, too!) Their craftsmanship toward the art of authentic Italian food is unlike anything else in the Boulder area and something worth trying for yourself.
3075 Arapahoe Ave
Bramble and Hare
Bramble and Hare opened their doors in 2012 as an extension of their neighbor and sister restaurant, The Black Cat, as a place to have farm-to-table dishes and craft cocktails in a late-night, but casual setting. The restaurant is rustic and hip, with acoustic, folky music playing and their servers don white shirts and vests.
We started our meal with two custom cocktails. A bartender’s choice with carrot and celery leaf, rum, and honey juice; and a drink fondly named “I Thought You’d Be Taller” with mezcal, dolin dry, falernum, and fennel. Both cocktails were strong, clean, and fresh.
First out was a beet salad with blue cheese, radishes and an apple cider vinaigrette and seared farm carrots with a pistachio tarator. Both vegetable dishes tasted as if they were freshly picked that day, and the sauces helped to enhance their hearty flavors.
A beer-braised beef ragu with carrots, spinach, and cheddar polenta was served as the main entree. This dish hit the spot with the right amount of flavor, texture, and comfort. Lastly, dessert was a lemon bar that perfectly combined sweet and sour.
Bramble and Hare use ingredients from the owner’s 1925 farmstead, Bramble Hill to provide fresh and flavor-packed dishes that leave you feeling satisfied, and contently full.
Bramble and Hare
1970 13th St
Flower Child is an Instagram influencer’s dream-come-true: the newly-opened restaurant is clean and modern, and their food reflects the same mentality. Although new to Boulder, the restaurant has other chains across the United States, particularly in Arizona and Texas. Flower Child’s mission is to serve healthy food that tastes good—even if you suffer from allergies, food intolerances or stick to a restrictive diet like gluten-free or veganism.
Flower Child has a fast-food-style set-up where you order at the counter, take a number and have your food served to you shortly after. We order the mother earth bowl that had shaved beef, ancient grains, sweet potato, portobello mushroom, avocado, cucumber, broccoli pesto, charred onion, leafy greens, red pepper miso vinaigrette, and hemp seed; a chopped vegetable salad with organic greens, avocado, heirloom carrot, snap pea, radish, baby tomato, cucumber, toasted sesame seed, and a ginger miso vinaigrette; and a salmon entree with a side of gluten-free mac and cheese.
These classic dishes were light and had a great amount of flavor for such “healthy” food, and there was no problem when I asked them to exclude the sesame seed from the salad due to an allergy.
Flower Child fits perfectly into the Boulder atmosphere of food and diet-consciousness and will quickly become a classic restaurant option with a modern twist.
2580 Arapahoe Ave #110