Lunch in Boulder – My Favorites

by Grace Boyle on April 23, 2012

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With my Italian heritage, I love the idea of a long, leisurely lunch that includes vino rosso, sunshine and a siesta afterward. You know, la dolce vita. I’m prone to indulgence, I can’t help it!

Listed here are some favorite places that I’ve found to be part of my culinary roadmap, particularly for lunch in Boulder. It’s a mixture of “quick” spots where I can still get a decent lunch (think sandwich or grab and go) and a few spots that offer lunch specials you can’t deny. Finally, most of these are downtown Boulder because that’s where I work and live. There are a plethora of amazing lunch spots beyond this area, so that has also chosen my parameters.

In no particular order, these are the places I love for lunch in Boulder:

  • Arabesque – Owned by Manal & Saib Jarrar (a Lebanese family) they offer my favorite Middle Eastern food. Their menu is small, consistent and their restaurant sits no more than 10 tables. When it’s nice out, there are three tables covered by umbrellas on their small patio on 17th and Walnut in an almost hidden brick house tucked behind trees. Albeit, a bit more expensive than I may choose to spend on lunch (you will likely spend $12-15) I love Manal’s joyful singing and laughing while she cooks, the kindness and heart that goes into the food and I keep going back for the chicken schwarma plate, with their pillowy, warm housemade pita. Everything is made from scratch and delectable. 1634 Walnut Street, 8 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday.
  • Georgia Boys BBQ – I recently wrote about my love for Georgia Boys BBQ. Although it’s not in Boulder (this is the one exception to this list), it’s worth the drive to Longmont in their off-the-beaten-path house, turned BBQ joint equipped with a few picnic tables for eating. Made to order and smoked to perfection, Georgia Boys BBQ opens at 11 AM and runs until they run out of food. It’s perfect for a Saturday afternoon trip. I prefer their plate which gives your choice of meat, served with two sides (try green bean casserole and Good ol’ BBQ beans) and Texas toast. Show up early, they will run out. What they lack in ambiance, absolutely stands out in authenticity, their homemade sauces and taste. You won’t be disappointed. 237 Collyer Street, 11 am to 8 pm (or sold out), Monday-Saturday, Sunday 11-4.
  • Salt the BistroSalt is on this list because of their farm-to-table special for just $9. This includes a half sandwich from their menu, a side (you can choose soup or salad) and a tiny treat, which is their dessert of the day. Salt has a focus on farm fresh and local, and typically is more upscale. The farm-to-table special is a great deal for downtown Boulder and offers a tasting variety of their menu, while not breaking the bank. I also love how I can mix this up, each time. Sit outside in their patio right on Pearl, it’s great for people watching! Often, is a good spot for business lunches. 1047 Pearl Street, Monday-Sunday (varying hours based on weekends, weekdays).
  • Pizzeria da Lupo – Sitting in a strip mall, sits Pizzeria da Lupo on 28th and Arapahoe. I love da Lupo’s casual, Italian pizzeria filled with checkered walls, modest wooden tables and photos of Italian families and Italy cover the wall with their wood-oven pizza as the focal point. They have my favorite crispy, thin pizza crust in Boulder and their daily, local specials usually knock it out of the park for me, as they cook almost everything in their oven (they don’t have a stove). My favorite pizza is the saliche and at lunch, they have a margherita or marinara pizza, tri colore salad and ice tea for $10. 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, 11 am to close, daily.
  • Illegal Pete’s – I must admit, I work around the corner from Illegal Pete’s on Pearl and 15th so when I need something fast, I pop on over. I also love the friendly crew that works there. It’s Colorado-born (from Pete Turner himself, in 1995) and one of my favorite grab and go, casual burrito spots. They have gluten-free and vegetarian options and they support all-natural, antiobiotic and hormone-free meats from Niman Ranch and fresh vegetables. I opt for the burrito bowl with chicken, tomatillo, brown rice, pinto beans, fresh cilantro, a little cheese and corn for just under $7. 1447 Pearl Street, 7 am-11 pm Mon-Wed., 7:00AM-2:30 AM, Thurs-Saturday.
  • Zoe Ma Ma – Sitting on 10th and Pearl, Zoe Ma Ma opened in 2010 by Ma Ma herself to provide authentic, wholesome Chinese food. The restaurant seating is limited and you can sit outside, facing the Flatirons and people watching when it’s nice out. There’s no MSG, they use organic all-natural meats and even wind power. They have daily specials based off each day of the week such as roast duck and wonton soup or Sichuan braised beef noodle. I love their dumplings (available gluten-free and vegan) for $1.25 and the CPR with all-natural chicken, potato and gravy stewed over rice $6.99. They get busy at lunch, but is also a great place to order to-go if you’re headed back to work. 2020 10th Street, Saturday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday 11 am-11 pm.
  • Boulder Creek MarketLunch usually isn’t complete without a sandwich joint. Boulder Creek Gourmet has gourmet sandwiches (think ostrich, buffalo and smoked salmon) while also including staples like turkey, provolone, sprouts and mustard. I like that they deliver and if you ask, they have gluten-free bread too. You can opt for a panini or wrap and their garden salad that is topped with tomatoes, onions, croutons, craisins and cucumber is only $4.99 for a whole, $2.99 for a half. It’s good for grab and go and most sandwiches, you can’t really go wrong with. Alas, please ignore their atrocious website with flashing comic sans fonts. 1801 13th Street, Suite 120. 6:30 AM-6 PM Mon-Fri, open weekends starting at 9 AM.

What about you? Who did I miss or who is on your list?

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