Boulder’s 5 standout restaurants you may not know

Profiling some of the best, lesser-known spots to dine in Boulder

By Tatyana Sharpton Oct 14 2020

[Editor’s note: It was brought to our attention that some of the information we included about Izakaya Amu was incorrect. We have updated it with correct information.]

As we dive into Boulder’s vibrant food scene, we profile some locally-owned restaurants that take the cake in one way or another. These come from a thorough review of the local restaurant scene, conversations with restaurateurs and locals in BLDRfly editors’ network. If you have one to nominate, reach out to us at

This week, we highlight some Boulder restaurants that may not get a lot of facetime but should: traditional Japanese pub Izakaya Amu, Italian staple Basta, Spanish-inspired Corrida,  locally-sourced American cuisine in Boulder Cork, and a global blend in The North End at 4580. Plus an added bonus — AOI Sushi and Izakaya!


Izakaya Amu — 1221 Spruce Street

Izakaya Amu on a bustling Tuesday evening. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.

Founded in 2002, Izakaya Amu serves up high-quality Japanese country food from its outpost at 1221 Spruce Street.  The traditional Japenese restaurant is known for having some of the freshest and widest variety of raw fish in town, as well as a large amount of smaller, a-la-carte dishes that one could get from a Japanese grandmother’s home. It also has a selection of around 14 sakes.


Currently, Chef Ono-San heads up Izakaya Amu’s kitchen as its executive chef, while Chef Miho Tanaka heads the raw bar up front, bringing over 10 years of sushi chef experience. Staying true to its roots, Izakaya Amu requests that its guests remove their shoes before entering the back tea rooms or sitting at the counter. The restaurant also features a great variety of vegetarian and gluten free options, as well as some vegan.

Izakaya Amu’s most popular box, Beef Yakiniku, features Kobe beef in a spicy yakiniku sauce with onions, pork gyoza, ebi shumai, sweet broiled Japanese eggplant, edamame, and kinpira. Each box also comes with miso soup and rice!

Some dishes from Amu, including classic Hamachi Carpaccio, made with yellowtail, and its Goma (Sesame) Ice Cream. Images: Izakaya Amu.

Basta — 3601 Arapahoe Avenue

Basta. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.
Kelly Whitaker

With a name that stems from the Italian word for “enough,” Basta first opened its doors at 3601 Arapahoe Avenue in 2010, founded by Chef Kelly Whitaker. Sources largely from Colorado and West Coast-based farmers, fishers and ranchers, Basta keeps only dinner hours, open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., except Monday during which it’s closed.

Perhaps best known for its unique wood-fire pizzas, like its Lamb Pizza and Clam Pizza, and homemade Piada bread, baked to order and put on top of a whipped ricotta, Basta has its own stone mill of NoBo.

It also serves a popular whole wood-fired fish dish, which it rotates seasonally — a pound-and-a-half, currently striped bass, which it puts on cast iron and then sears at 800 degrees Fahrenheit in its wood-fire oven.

Basta’s Tinned Seafood Piada — its house-milled, homemade bread, its popular whole wood-fired fish and cantaloupe, prosciutto and raw honey. Images: Basta.

[Developing a local Boulder food ecosystem]

Corrida — 1023 Walnut Street, Suite 400

The view from inside Corrida. Image: Corrida Boulder.
Amos Watts

Located at 1023 Walnut Street, Spanish-style steakhouse Corrida came to life in early 2018 as a collaboration between restaurateur Bryan Dayton, co-owner of Oak at Fourteenth, and chef-partner Amos Watts.

Known for its high-quality Spanish steaks and tapas, sourced locally from Front Range ranchers and farmers, Corrida displays its high-end cuts of whole-animal meat in glass cases separating the kitchen from the dining area, and its rooftop patio has some of the best Flatiron views in Boulder.

Drawing inspiration from all over Spain, Corrida serves a wide selection of starters and entrees, from its 12 dollar Bruselas — brussels sprouts with whipped blue cheese, truffle butter, pine nut, jamón (ham) vinaigrette — to its 150 dollar American Wagyu Ribeye, and a variety of sea-food in between, including cuttlefish, octopus, and Spanish pasta featuring royal red shrimp.

Featuring Corrida’s Boneless Ribeye, Branzini Rillette with crispy sea bass skin, pickled veggies, tallow and toasted bread, and peaches and jamon! Images: Corrida Boulder.

Boulder Cork — 3295 30th Street

Boulder Cork. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.
Jim Smailer

Opened in 1969, Boulder Cork has served the valley’s fine dining community for over 50 years from its spot at 3295 30th Street. Though it has seen many changes, including ownership, Alan Teran has owned the American cuisine Boulder staple since 1981, and its head chef Jim Smailer has worked at Boulder Cork for 35 years.

It serves everything from Maine Lobster Ravioli, Boulder Cork Crabcake and Almond Crusted Brie to sandwiches, salads and steaks, including Teriyaki Sirloin and three selections of Prime Rib cuts.

Cork’s Teriyaki Sirloins, heirloom tomato salad, garden salad and its signature Cork Mudpie! Images: Cork Boulder.

The North End at 4580 — 4580 Broadway Street

4580’s street-facing facade; you’ll have to drop by to see its patio! Image: Tatyana Sharpton.
Zachary Adleman

Tucked into Boulder’s funky, semi-industrial north end, 4580 features an eclectic menu drawing inspiration from around the world, such as the Mediterranean, Portugal and Spain.

Originally opened in 2006 as Restaurant 4580, James Cimino purchased the spot at 4580 Broadway Street in 2013 and renamed it. The North End at 4580 focuses on sourcing its produce and meat locally, with Zachary Adleman as its head chef, and curates its menu to offer a variety of gluten free options.

Some of its most popular dishes include its Pan Seared Salmon, its New York Steak and the 4580 Salad, served with its champagne shallot vinaigrette, shaved carrots, cucumbers and fried capers. 4580 also has a meal combo option pairing two burgers with two beers for only $35!

Several of 4580’s culinary adventures: Braised Pork Cheeks, Ahi Tuna plate prep, and a special Butterscotch Pudding it made for First Bite Boulder 2019. Images: 4580 and Studio Q Photography.

AOI Sushi & Izakaya — (Bonus!) 3303 30th Street

AOI Sushi & Izakaya. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.
Keiko Aoi

Launched in 2019 by sushi chef Keiko Aoi, AOI Sushi & Izakaya brings Boulder a West Coast-style Japanese sushi hub tucked into a strip of buildings near Cork Boulder, at 3303 30th Street.

AOI Sushi and Izakaya serves everything from sashimi and nigiri to rolls, as well as a variety of hot and cold Japanese small places, including its Chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard dish, and Hamachi Kama, or broiled yellowtail collar, and of course its popular steamed pork gyoza.

Some of AOI’s ingredients and plates. Images: AOI Sushi and Izakaya.

Header Image: Izakaya Amu’s outdoor dining space, thanks to Boulder’s Europeanized al fresco summer. Image: Tatyana Sharpton.