Nestled between Papa John's Pizza and Play It Again Sports, SOBO American Bistro, an upscale yet friendly restaurant, is taking a chance on a strip mall location in South Boulder.
Despite the arrivals of South Side Walnut Cafe and Southern Sun brewpub in the same center, residents have been starving for a higher-end restaurant since Rudi's closed. Add to the insult of even our Table Mesa McDonald's closing, and longtime South Boulderites such as myself were nearly doomed to the soup and salad bar at King Sooper's. A little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.
The guy with the guts and the idea is Stephan Frye, who has run the successful Murphy's in Boulder for about six years. For Sobo, he's hired Scott Claggett, a former chef for Boulder's 15 Degrees who was looking for a new opportunity.
Three couples, including a rambunctious 3-year-old, visited Sobo for the first time, and even my out-of-town guests were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant's warm atmosphere, impressive wine selection and interesting menu.
The topping on the cake, of course, is the huge Table Mesa Shopping Center parking lot, and the ability to completely escape the typical weekend parking hassles of downtown Boulder.
Sobo's open kitchen design and large glass wine cellar, which separates the bar from the main restaurant,
immediately takes you in with an atmosphere similar to other notable Boulder restaurants such as the Kitchen or the Med.
Everyone's entries, which included salmon, short ribs and a delicious Hawaiin fish, were satisfying and delicious. Prices range from about $18 to $28. A tasty selection of appetizers, $6 to $12, and salads, $6 to $10, make it tough to keep the final tab per person under $50. We shared just one bottle of an Australian Sauvignaun Blanc in the $45 range, and if there was one complaint, it was the high prices for wine, including single glass prices. Sobo also offers a selection of some tempting specialty cocktails, but at $9 a pop, a night out here with a bit too much drinking will hit your wallet pretty hard.
I'm looking forward to stopping in one day after work for a glass of wine at the bar, and to see if the typical Boulder "happy hour" appetizers may be part of SOBO, too. I suspect they will.
Of course at least one in our group had to try the small hot, sugary doughnuts and coffee dessert -- a tasty treat to cap a fun night out.
Service was as good as it gets, and owner Stephen walked over at one point, asking us how we were doing. A personal touch like that typically separates who will make it or not make it in the competitive Boulder restaurant market.
My bet is SOBO has filled a real niche in a part of town "under-served" by quality restaurants. With a little luck, maybe a few more will follow.