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Doing Good and Eating Well in Boulder

Chautauqua Park and The Flatirons

Created by Brianne Miers

If you find yourself at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the college town of Boulder, Colorado, chances are you’re going to work up an appetite at some point. Boulder is consistently named one of the fittest cities in the U.S. – it’s easy to squeeze a great workout into your day when miles of biking and running trails are right outside of your door, and the Rocky Mountains rise up just outside of downtown.

When you are ready to indulge, there are plenty of restaurants from which to choose, ranging from hole-in-the-wall to high end. You’ll also find a wide variety of international cuisines, including Argentinian, Ethiopian and Tibetan. Commonly found on menus at these diverse establishments are the words “local,” “natural” and “organic” – no surprise given the place they call home. Coloradans joke about the “People’s Republic of Boulder” given the town’s strong liberal leanings.

Here are just a few of the restaurants taking their commitment to the community and the planet to the next level:  

The Sink has been a fixture on the “the Hill,” Boulder’s college neighborhood, for close to 100 years. It serves up guilty-pleasure fare like burgers and creative pizzas – such as the “Slaughterhouse 5,” which is topped with five different kinds of meat – in a dive-bar atmosphere. While The Sink is far from a vegan paradise, it uses all grass-fed beef. In 2006, it made a commitment to run 100 percent on wind power, and over the years has started composting, and using low-flow water fixtures and energy efficient light bulbs, resulting in a significant drop in water and energy usage.

Illegal Pete’s Pearl St. location

Illegal Pete’s serves up hearty burritos both in the business district and on The Hill on Pearl St., Boulder’s pedestrian mall. Its meat is sourced from a network of independent American farmers that ensures livestock is humanely raised, never given antibiotics or added hormones, and is grass fed. In 2015 the company launched the Living Wage Initiative to boost compensation for all employees well above the minimum wage so that they can lead comfortable lives with one job – leading to a retention rate well above the industry average. And to support the Colorado and Arizona communities in which it operates, Illegal Pete’s donates to organizations that benefit local families, and funds arts and music programs.

Statue on Pearl St. Mall

Down the street from Illegal Pete’s Pearl Street location is another long-time favorite, Mountain Sun, which wants you to feel like you’re in your living room, except for one thing – you can’t watch TV. The large communal table at its center encourages diners to talk to each other, and play games and cards as they enjoy microbrews and comfort food made from fresh ingredients. Burgers are made from grass-fed Colorado beef free of antibiotics and steroids, and its additive-free, unprocessed fries are cut by hand every morning. Recently, Mountain Sun’s owner, Kevin J. Daly, has been a strong advocate for Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. He declared in a recent Daily Camera Op-Ed, “The most fundamental reason I support raising the minimum wage is I know that my success and that of our restaurants is tied to the well-being of our employees.”

Pearl St. Mall

The Kitchen’s Boulder location is a hip, sleek spot on the west end of Pearl St. that strives to be the heart of the community like the kitchen is the heart of the home. A weekly family-style dinner takes place around the community table, where diners have the unique opportunity to share a meal with some of the farmers that grew the food that’s being served, and 20 percent of proceeds are used to fund gardens in local schools. Its nonprofit, the Kitchen Community, has built hundreds of Learning Gardens across the country to help children develop a connection with the food they eat. The Kitchen also prides itself on recycling and composting at each of its locations, as well as using wind energy and eco-friendly packaging.

The goal of Blackbelly Market, which opened in East Boulder about five years ago, is to completely eliminate the “middle man.” Blackbelly Farm raises the pigs and lamb that end up on the menu, and what is not grown or raised there is sourced directly from local farms, dairies and ranches. Award-winning chef Hosea Rosenberg uses only 100 percent organic and in-season ingredients, which he combines in his kitchen laboratory to create flavorful, inventive dishes like dry-aged beef with chimmichurri, cyprus flake salt, roasted garlic, and alliums. Blackbelly even has an on-site butcher shop that sells all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free meats from Colorado livestock.

Also new on the Boulder restaurant scene is Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place, owned by triplet sisters Jill, Jessica and Jennifer Emich. Shine’s specialty is serving simple dishes made with all local and organic ingredients that are 100 percent non-GMO. And since one sister has celiac, the entire menu is gluten free, and also offers paleo, vegan and vegetarian options. Its in-house brewery, Shine Brewery – one of the only women-owned breweries in the U.S. – uses sustainable brewing practices like recycling spent grain by giving it to farmers for chicken feed. And the location features a community space that hosts both public and private workshops, music performances, dance classes, and yoga classes.

Finally, if you prefer to follow a plant-based diet, head to Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. It serves only organic fare, and its produce, herbs and eggs come from its own garden at Three Leaf Farm outside of town.

Veggie burger at Southern Sun

October 19, 2016

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