I’ve lived in Boulder for three weeks now, and each one of those weeks has been perfectly punctuated with a trip to The Kitchen Upstairs on Pearl Street. The first time was accidental. It was the Friday of our first full weekend, and we followed a crowd past a discretely marked door, and up a dimly lit flight of stairs, to one of three of “The Kitchen” Restaurants in Boulder. (There is The Kitchen, The Kitchen Next Door, and Upstairs Kitchen – each perfecting their own spin on their overall idea of “community through food.”) During our first stay, we spent the night seated at the impeccably beautiful, wonderfully serviced bar, next to a community table. On this night, though, we snagged a table near the window on the other (more private) side of the restaurant, overlooking the stunning mountains. And because of their amazing drinks, unmatched service, irresistible menu and comfortably sexy atmosphere, each time we dine here surpasses the last.
The Upstairs Kitchen opens at 5:30, and features a “Community Hour” menu from open to 6:30 that offers awesome deals on drinks and sharable plates. Enter, my new favorite cocktail of all time. (I know you’re probably tired of me using this descriptor for every drink I enjoy in Boulder – but I just can’t help the fact that THIS PLACE IS JUST AWESOME.) Anyway, it is here you can find The Maple Old Fashioned ($6!!! during CH): W.I. Weller Bourbon, Maple Syrup, Lemon Bitters. Just. Wow. This drink. It is perfection in a glass. I would not add, nor would I take away, a SINGLE element of this expertly crafted cocktail. It is strong, simple perfection. It burns in that perfect bourbony way, with an ever-so-subtle hint of maple… finished by the refreshing chill of lemon. It is not sweet; it is not fussy. IT IS PERFECT. I truly can’t imagine finding a better Old Fashioned. It is now my weekly Friday drink craving, and I look forward to every single sip of this libation.
NOW THE MUSSELS. (Just accept the fact that this is going to be a rave review during which I’ll be using the word “perfect” probably way too many times.) THESE MUSSELS OMG. Ingrid’s Mussels ($12 on the CH menu): Curry and Flatbread. This description could not have prepared us less for the perfection that was to follow. These mussels are unbelievable. Garlicky, tomatoey, curry-y, PERFECTION. And the flatbread!!! This garlic butter generously sized flatbread is delectably seasoned and perfectly cooked. Crispy and chewy in ALL the right places. We DEVOURED this dish. Each mussel was delightful.. and the tomato curry sauce they are prepared in I could eat like soup. I kind of did. I hope no one ever watches us eat these, because we do everything but lick the entire bowl. (INCREDIBLY noteworthy: During our second time here, after we finished our mussels, an amazingly kind manager approached us and let us know that our order of mussels was a little smaller than they prefer to serve. He said we could either have our order comped, OR be given a second serving! UM – WE’LL TAKE THE LATTER. Are you kidding? We didn’t even notice that our order of mussels was on the light side, but we GLADLY welcomed another order. And enjoyed them just as much. This is just one of many examples of the incredible service at Upstairs Kitchen.)
If I’m being honest (and admittedly gluttonous), I was full after these. But this menu features far too many items that I just NEED to try. (There is pizza/flatbread, meat and cheese charcuterie that can be piecemealed together, and large plates featuring pastas, steak and fish of the day, and more. I plan on eating my way through this entire menu.) Tonight we decided to get 3 small sharable plates. We went with Brussel Sprouts ($12): Chestnuts, currants and cream, Garlic Fries ($7), and Salt and Pepper Shrimp ($14) served with Smoked Paprika Aioli. Everything was incredible. The fries were actually crazy. I can’t quite describe the perfect buttery/starchy consistency. They were rich and garlicky and buttery and salty and crispy and perfect. The brussel sprouts were savory and nicely accented by the sweet currants, and the Salt and Pepper Shrimp were crispy and flavorful.
At this point I was stuffed. But, being two people who can never walk away from a meal as good as this without something sweet (and let’s be honest – don’t we all save room in the Dessert Compartment for occasions like these?), decided to order to dessert. The feature of that night, not on the menu, was their Carrot Cake. Just wow. Best carrot cake I’ve ever had. This cake was sweet, but not too sweet, and the cream cheese icing was unbelievable. I also ordered one more drink to accompany this sweet ending, the Blackberry Bourbon Sour ($10/$6 during CH): Weller Bourbon, Leopold Blackberry Liqueur, Lemon and Sugar. Although I prefer the simplicity of the Old Fashioned, this drink was the PERFECT dessert-paired night cap. The tang of the blackberry /flavor of the Bourbon pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the Carrot Cake.
This place is truly great. Whether you are looking for an after-work drink, a romantic dinner for two, or a casual night with friends with shared plates and a great atmosphere, The Kitchen Upstairs is a perfect choice. We plan on returning many, many times.
Overall Experience: 5
A few nuggets of advice:
- The prices of Community Hour can’t be beat – but if you can’t make it by 6:30, their regular prices are SO reasonable for the quality of food and service that is received.
- Upstairs Kitchen does not take reservations for parties under 8 diners, but there really is not a bad seat in the house here. So put your name on the wait list, order a drink and enjoy the vibe.
- On Sundays and Mondays, you can share some “Wisdom and Wine” with a friend with a Wood-Roasted Wisdom Farms Chicken and a bottle of their House Red or White Wine for $29.
- In addition to their amazing cocktails, Kitchen Upstairs also features EXTENSIVE wine and beer menus. I plan on trying everything. I love this place, plain and simple.
1039 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302