Opening in December 2011 after a fire shut it down in its first incarnation (it was open for a short spell the year before), OAK is one of the best and most social eating spots in Boulder. Grab a table on one of the best people-watching patios on the Pearl Street Mall, or eat inside at the long bar along the open kitchen, where the chefs prepare fare from the menu of the week. After a salad or a small plate, pick from Italian and comfort-food standbys like braised meatballs on grits, alongside creative dishes that are largely based on what's fresh, what's local, and what's in season. Colorado lamb and local chicken are often on the menu. The bartenders take their cocktails seriously here; the wait staff is professional but casual, in white shirts and jeans.