The Culinary Experience of Fresh Food and Family

At the Cork, the menu has stood the test of time. But its reputation extends far beyond food. The Cork is the place where everyone knows each other by first name and the staff is part of the dining experience.

Over the past 50 years, the Cork has built a clientele that truly appreciates its unique culinary offerings. Boulder residents find themselves drawn there, knowing they’re going to receive a dining experience unlike any other.

To start, the staff isn’t just here to serve; they play a crucial role in shaping the overall experience. Loyal regulars often have their favorite servers, and it’s not uncommon for them to request specific team members. Caitlin Cocco, General Manager at Cork shares, “The longevity of the staff tenure is a testament to the genuine connections they form with patrons. They’ve found a way to create an environment where guests have fun and make lifelong memories while dining.”

Fresh Start with Fresh Seafood

One piece of the Cork’s culinary success lies in the remarkable freshness of its seafood. Mussels sourced from Salt Spring in British Columbia and New Zealand King Salmon are just a couple examples of the high-quality ingredients getting stirred up in the kitchen. Even a retiring chef couldn’t stay away, drawn back by the allure of crafting exceptional dishes.

One of the Cork’s culinary highlights is the King Salmon, complemented by a Colorado peach BBQ sauce that’s become a fan favorite. For regular patrons, it’s a cherished dish that remains true to its origins. In fact, the consistency and quality of the Cork’s menu have earned the loyalty of “nearly 80% ‘regular’ customers,” shared Caitlin. 

Traditions and Treats

While the Cork’s staff won’t break into song, it celebrates milestones in its own special way. One tradition involves taking a photo with the famous Mud Pie. Afterwards the entire staff will sign a card for guests to take as a memento. It’s a small gesture that adds to charm of the dining experience.

The Secret Sauce

What regulars, staff, and even first-timers can attest to is the sense of community and family connection the restaurant emulates. At one time, Kelsey, the owner’s daughter, worked alongside Caitlin while they were both expecting children. It’s that sense of dedication and family spirit to not only serve with a smile, but also share life’s cherished moments. In their tight-knit community, Caitlin’s husband is also a talented chef on the team and creates each dish with flair. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Cork eagerly anticipates the return of many families to come together, make new memories, and celebrate traditions.

The Cork is more than a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey where fresh seafood meets cherished traditions. The dedication to quality, commitment to customer service, and sense of community make it a cherished institution in Boulder, and a place where every visit feels like home.

Touchdowns and Traditions: Colorado Buffs, CU Football, and the Cork

Touchdowns and Traditions: Colorado Buffs, CU Football, and the Cork

When it comes to blending history with vibrant energy, look no further than the Cork. Known for its rich heritage and culinary favorites, our restaurant has become a focal point for students, families, and fans–especially during this electrifying CU Football season.

Where Black and Gold Unite and Hearts are Captivated

Saturdays can have special meaning for Colorado residents: football. Black and gold resonate throughout Boulder and beyond. Fans, students, and families, whether winding up or down, know they’ll feel the spirit of the game at the Cork. 

But celebrating CU games is only a part of what makes the Cork a beloved gem of Boulder.  The Cork has built a reputation for being more than just a restaurant; it’s a place to celebrate life’s moments; be it birthdays, holidays, or other significant milestones. The Cork offers a unique experience, whether you’re in flip-flops savoring green chili cheeseburgers or dressed to the nines for a wedding celebration.

Reviving the Town’s Spirit

“This year there’s been a noticeable change in the town’s energy,” shares Caitlin Cocco, general manager at Cork. After a challenging few years, the resurgence of the Buffaloes has brought a newfound buzz.” The community is rallying around the football team, finding unity through food, and savoring the thrill of game days.

The Cork has had the honor of welcoming Coach Prime multiple times already. The leader responsible for turning the Colorado Buffaloes outlook around—while attracting an uproar of national T.V. coverage, frequently orders a Prime NY-strip. “The patrons often break into applause as he walks through the aisles,” shared Caitlin. “It’s truly an honor and you can feel the excitement from the entire staff as he warmly greets everyone,” adds Caitlin. 

Something for Everyone

The football players aren’t the only ones gearing up for big events this time of year. CU Parents Week, scheduled from October 12th to the 15th, offers a perfect opportunity for parents to savor delicious cuisine while visiting family. Then, the much-anticipated “First Bite” of Boulder promises to tantalize taste buds from the 20th – 29th of October. Finally, as the autumn leaves begin to fall, the Cork will also gear up for its famous Thanksgiving feast. Locals and visitors who make a reservation between 12 – 7 pm can expect a memorable holiday celebration with dishes to be extra thankful for!

Connection and Community

The Cork isn’t just a restaurant; it’s a symbol of connection and community. Whether you’re a Buffs fan, a prime rib lover, or simply someone looking to savor the spirit of Colorado in the Fall, the Cork welcomes you with open arms and a warm, celebratory atmosphere.

Yes, We’re Open!

Your health and well-being are always top of mind for us, and especially so during this public health crisis. But if you’re thinking of grabbing a delicious meal at the Cork and find yourself hesitating, I’d like to offer you a little peace of mind.

For more than 50 years, the Cork has adhered to the highest standards of cleanliness, and we will continue to do so, always, and our restaurant has never failed a health inspection. Below are just some of the everyday hygienic protocols Cork employees follow:

  • We have taken out some tables and are spacing the seating in the dining room
  • All Cork managers, waitstaff and bartenders adhere to a strict handwashing regimen
  • We regularly sanitize all surfaces throughout our dining room and bar
  • Employees feeling sick are always encouraged to stay home, or sent home
  • We have a regular cleaning schedule for our restrooms
  • Our glassware, flatware and dishes are sanitized with hot water after every use
Yes, We're Open!

As world health authorities work to slow the spread of COVID-19, we will continue to follow the CDC website for news and recommendations. In the meantime, I encourage you all to come visit the Cork and enjoy our signature food, drink and atmosphere. If you’re not comfortable coming inside, feel free to call ahead and we’ll bring the food out to you. Either way, we hope to see you soon!

The Management and Staff

For Foodies, Colorado’s Restaurant Weeks Kick Open Culinary Doors

The Boulder Cork is again bringing its signature bold flavors, creative compositions and gourmet flair to Colorado’s popular restaurant weeks in Denver and Boulder County, both stalwart highlights of the state’s culinary calendar.

As part of the 16th annual Denver Restaurant Week, taking place Friday, February 21 through Sunday, March 1, 2020, the Cork will be among 230+ restaurants throughout the Denver metro area offering local foodies exclusive multi-course menus at special prices.

“Denver Restaurant Week and First Bite: Boulder County Restaurant Week originally helped increase sales during our slow months, November and February,” said Cork Head Chef Jim Smailer, who has led the Cork kitchen for the past 38 years. “And honestly, we aren’t that slow during those months anymore, but I still like to run these specials. And we always offer our special restaurant week menu to every customer who comes in. I think some restaurants wait for people to ask about the special menu.”

Organized by Visit Denver, Denver Restaurant Week offers customers with a variety of budgets the chance to try local dining spots they might not otherwise consider, while also giving metro Denver restaurants a much-needed boost during what is typically a slow season for most restaurants.

For Foodies, Colorado’s Restaurant Weeks Kick Open Culinary Doors

At this year’s Denver Restaurant Week event, the Cork’s sixth or seventh year taking part, Smailer said, diners can enjoy the Cork’s prix fixe menu, a first course, entrée and dessert choice, for only $35. This year’s exclusive menu features king crab ceviche with avocado and coconut and tortilla soup with jack cheese among its first course options; a choice of four entrees including the Cork’s signature prime rib dish with smoked mashed potatoes and sake salmon with jasmine rice and stir-fry vegetables; and a choice of desserts including Vermont maple cheesecake and the Corks’ signature, crème brûlée.

The Cork also participates in another popular annual restaurant week event each year, this one a bit closer to home. Founded in 2005, the annual First Bite: Boulder County Restaurant Week, highlights restaurant gems from across the county during nine days of culinary creativity in November, another slow season for most restaurants. At this annual non-ticketed event, the top restaurants in Boulder County offer $29 and $49-per-person three-course, prix-fixe meals for curious diners. In 2019, participation in First Bite had grown to more than 50 restaurants in all.

According to Smailer, the Cork has been involved in First Bite for even longer than Denver Restaurant Week, but both have been a boon to the restaurant, as they encourage diners to fall back in love with old standby spots while discovering new favorites. Smailer said he likes that, in addition to the Cork’s regular customers looking for a great experience and an interesting menu, these annual events bring in new customers who have never dined at the Cork before.

“I really do enjoy these special weeks,” said Smailer. “It gets people in the restaurant who might not usually visit, and we’re a big restaurant, so it’s really great for us.”

For Assistant Manager Kate Gill, the Cork is One Big Family

After working at the Cork for close to eight years, Kate Gill considers her colleagues to be like family, and we feel the same. Here, the Maryland native shares her thoughts about the Cork’s incredible longevity, how her love of travel helps her at work, and why she often chooses to work on her birthday. Come get to know a member of our Cork family.

Q: How did you start working at the Cork and what are some of your job duties?

KATE: I was hired when my husband and I moved to Boulder in August of 2012. I started out as a server and a couple of years into it they asked me if I would like to join the management team. When I first started, I’d call it substitute managing, because I basically acted as a fill-in when other managers were sick or on vacation, Now more full-time, I do a couple of evening shifts each week. I’m the one who makes the schedule for all the employees, too, which helps to take some things off the other managers’ plates.

Q: What do you like best about working here?

KATE: The best part about working at the Cork is that it’s a family-run business, and it’s well-run. I’ve worked at different corporate places before, and Alan, the owner, runs his business with all the good things about corporate business and none of the bad. Everything runs smoothly, and yet it’s not overly strict about things like in a corporate environment, and there isn’t a lot of micromanaging. We tend to trust our staff to do the right things.

It really is just a big family. People always laugh because I tend to work on my birthdays and I just say, well, my friends are here. As a workplace it feels small, even though we have a decent-sized staff. And we all depend on each other and love working with each other, which is really what you need to be happy in your job.

Q: What did you do before joining the Cork team?

KATE: I bounced around a lot. My husband and I got the travel bug because we both studied abroad in college (I was in France and we both studied for a year in Prague), so we’re always looking for new trips. Immediately after we graduated, we went to Taiwan and taught English for a year. Then we lived in Baltimore for a little bit working in restaurants, then in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands for a year working on boats. After that, we moved back to Pittsburgh to be closer to family, then we went backpacking in South America for three months. And after that we moved to Boulder.

My husband and I have always been in the restaurant industry, or in the service industry. Even in the Islands when we were on boats, the job was about service and entertaining people. All of the travel I have done has definitely extended to how I am when I work. It’s a lot about being able to meet new people and travel definitely helps with that.

Q: What do you think makes the Cork a unique venue for fine dining?

KATE: I would say it’s our history. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary. We’ve always been out here in Boulder, same location and everything, and everyone who comes in all the time is like oh, we had our wedding reception here, or oh, we celebrated our first anniversary here and now we’re celebrating our 40th. The other thing that makes the Cork unique is our consistency. It’s the service we provide and the delicious food that is always great

Q: What’s your favorite thing to eat at the Cork?

KATE: That’s a difficult question! Well, if I want a good steak, I eat it here, for sure. But I also really love our Southwestern dishes. We have a delicious Niman Ranch pork-stuffed chile. I’m eating some chiles for lunch right now actually.

Q: What’s something customers may be surprised to learn about you?

KATE: Well, I tell people when they ask, but I’m kind of from a Brady Bunch family. I have four sisters and four brothers, so it’s a big, big family. The restaurant industry is great for me because I love being around tons of people. What some people would find to be noise and chaos I’m fine with. We used to say we were like the Brady Bunch without the maid; we kids were the maids.

Q: What is a personal goal of yours?

KATE: For me, that’s kind of like when people ask you what your main fault is. I’m just not all that goal-oriented, so I have to push myself. Making all the staff happy, putting out the schedule in a timely manner, and making all the guests happy is the main goal, I guess. Being easily contented is considered kind of a fault in the business world, but I don’t find it to be a fault in my own life.

The Cork’s Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe

The Cork’s Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe

If you’re looking for an easy and impressive dessert, look no further. Crème brûlée is a classic dessert everyone can enjoy and, even better, it brings a little theater into your dining experience with a torched sugar top. What’s nice about this dish is that you can prepare it days in advance, so you’re not left scrambling last minute to get a dessert together.

The earliest known recipe for crème brûlée dates back hundreds of years, although its exact origins are hotly debated. Regardless, this sweet custard dessert is enjoyed by people around the world, including patrons at The Cork. We’ve offered crème brûlée on our menu for decades—both classic vanilla and other seasonal flavors, like pumpkin!

Try making it at home with this simple yet decadent recipe:

The Cork’s Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée (serves 8)

Prep time: 15 – 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 – 60 minutes


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cups half and half
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the half and half with the heavy cream in a large saucepot until hot, but not boiling.
3. Separate the eggs and combine the yolks with the sugar and vanilla.
4. Slowly mix your egg, sugar and vanilla mixture with the hot cream mixture.

TIP: Be sure to do this slowly and carefully to avoid cooking the eggs. The goal is to bring everything up to temperature without scrambling your eggs!

5. Place 8 ramekins in a baking dish, then add room temperature or warm water to the baking dish until its ramekins are about halfway submerged.
6. Pour the custard mixture into the ramekins, leaving about ¼ inch at the top.

TIP: For the best presentation, wipe up any spills or drops on the side of the ramekins.

7. Cover each ramekin with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cooking varies, you’ll need to keep an eye on them.

TIP: Custard is done when there is a slight area in the middle size of a quarter that isn’t quite done. The custard will still be a little jiggly and the color will be pale with no browning.

8. Remove and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours until set.

When ready to serve:

1. Remove from the fridge just before serving and spread a tablespoon of sugar on each while still cold.

TIP: any granulated sugar will work, although we recommend turbinado or raw sugar for taste.

2. Caramelize the sugar top with a blow torch. Hold the torch a few inches above the crème brûlée and only torch until it’s lightly brown.

TIP: If you’re less familiar with using a blow torch, try practicing beforehand—or, make it an interactive dining experience by letting your guests torch their own!

The Art of Dessert

What do you think of when you hear the word “dessert?” Is it a moment in time, like your first-ever banana split after T-ball? Or is it a recipe your grandmother had bookmarked in her favorite cookbook? Regardless of what comes to mind, many of us have at least one fond memory when it comes to dessert—and we think that’s a special thing.

Whether you’ve been to The Cork once or you’ve been dining with us for decades, you’re probably familiar with our Famous Mudpie—but do you know what makes it such an outstanding dessert? Our philosophy. When it comes to crafting a great dish, we believe that, sometimes, simpler is better. A classic crème brûlée, a decadent slice of cheesecake, a refreshing chocolate mousse—these are a few staples on our menu, thanks to Chef Kirsten.

Chef Kirsten has been crafting desserts at The Cork for more than three decades, fine-tuning every recipe to help us satisfy Boulder’s sweet tooth. Her menus offer a well-rounded selection that gives every guest something they can enjoy: a dessert that stirs up a fond memory and creates a very special experience.

…and we’d like you to get to know her better…


So, you’ve been at The Cork for 31 years—what’s kept you here so long?

Chef Kirsten: I’ve just been here for so long and Gary, my husband, used to be the assistant general manager here. For years—I mean, decades—we worked together here. It’s just been a great place to work. Some of the employees, like the sous chef and the head chef, have been here longer than I have been—same with the general manager.

How do you come up with dessert ideas?

I’m a good recipe follower, that’s pretty key, because a lot of people aren’t. When I find recipes that I think I want to make, I tweak them a little bit. The way I put them together and plate them, I come up with my own ideas.

The Art of Dessert with Chef Kirsten - Making Biscotti
Chef Kirsten lays out biscotti dough

Is there any particular dish you’d say is your ‘favorite’ to make?

The specials are fun just because it’s a little more creativity. We have a great pecan pie recipe we’ll do, and that’s kind of a special… It’s like, ‘Wow I love pecan pie. I haven’t had it in a while, I think I’ll have a piece.’

What about your favorite to eat?

If someone has a chocolate truffle or a chocolate torte, I’d probably get something like that. I don’t know if Zolo’s still has it, but they had a banana crème pie that was one of my favorite things on the planet. I’ve never tried to make one, but it’s phenomenal. And I like cheesecake. That’s something I’ve carried on; It’s something I used to order as a kid—if cheesecake was on the menu, that’s what I got.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I went for a hike this morning, that’s my routine since I usually get in around noon. I go for a hike almost every morning.

Finally, surprise us! What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I don’t know… Since I’ve been around so long it feels like I’m an open book. But… I can’t carry a tune. I cannot carry a tune! People might not notice that I never sing.

Thank you, Kirsten!

We’re so grateful to our creative chefs who put together dishes that really “hit the spot!” With Chef Kirsten on our team, we always know we’re sending out beautiful desserts that are truly made with love. Come enjoy our favorite dishes and newest specials—join us for a great meal at lunch or dinner, or even just a few bites at happy hour… and make sure to leave room for dessert!

What Makes a Great Business Lunch

What Makes a Great Business Lunch

When you want your business lunch to go just right, every detail matters—and choosing the right restaurant to can be a stressful decision. After all, you don’t know each guest’s palate, and leading a group of colleagues from the familiarity of the office to—well, anywhere outside of the office can be intimidating. With so many people to please, it’s important to find a restaurant that can accommodate everyone’s needs and ensure no one leaves hungry. We’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind so you can focus on what’s most important—getting down to business.

Ample Parking

Arriving at the restaurant should be the least of your guests’ worries—and you certainly don’t want them driving in circles for half an hour waiting for a parking spot to open up. Walking in to lunch late because they couldn’t find parking can leave guests feeling tense and uninterested in socializing, so if a large group of people will be attending the gathering, locations with street parking only are not your friend. Instead, choose somewhere with on-site parking that has plenty of spaces available so guests can easily get where they need to be without stress.

Takes Reservations

This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many large groups don’t make reservations and expect to be seated immediately. Many restaurants seat customers on a first-come-first-serve basis and don’t accept reservations, so make sure you choose a spot that does allow you to book a table or room—and then make your reservation well in advance.

Private Rooms

A good location for a business lunch will be able to seat each member of your party together regardless of whether there are four or 40 of them. Plus, if you’ve ever been that person awkwardly nodding at someone across the table even though you couldn’t hear what they just said, then you probably know the importance of reducing extra noise at a group gathering. Many restaurants offer private rooms with multiple tables, so be sure to call ahead to reserve one. Booking a private room will give your group your own space where you can all sit together and don’t have to worry about yelling to hear each other over the bustle of the staff and other customers.

Variety of Menu Options

Maybe Susan is a vegetarian and Bob’s a pescatarian and you thought Diane didn’t like fish, but you’re pretty sure you saw her eating salmon the other day… Everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to their diets, and rather than trying to keep track of it all, simply choose a restaurant with a large and varied menu. By doing so, you won’t run into the uncomfortable situation where someone doesn’t order anything and pretends they aren’t hungry, when reality is, they just can’t find anything they can eat.

Appropriate Ambience

You want the mood of the restaurant to match the mood of your meeting. If you’re trying to bond with coworkers, show your colleagues how grateful you are for their hard work or close a deal, a location with loud music and unsupervised children running around probably won’t suit your needs. Look for a space where people will feel at ease and allows conversation to flow naturally. Artwork on the walls, lighting that’s not too dark or too fluorescent and music that isn’t distracting are key.


Trying the newest, trendiest restaurant may sound like a good idea… but it won’t be so fun if the service isn’t up to par yet, or portions are so small people leave hungry. By selecting a dining spot that’s been around for a while, you can feel confident that things will go well. It’s always a good idea to check out online reviews, too, to find out about other customers’ dining experiences.

If you’re still stuck trying to decide where to have your business lunch, know that you can always count on a great experience at The Cork. We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, and our restaurant has received a wide variety of awards and commendations. With multiple unique dining spaces, we can comfortably accommodate your party of up to 65 people. Give us a call or reserve a room online today.

Want to Know the Secret Ingredient to an Amazing Meal at the Cork?

It’s time we tell you our secret ingredient. For 50 years, we’ve been giving this to everyone who walks through the door and we think it’s time to clue you in to what makes The Cork so unique.

A great meal starts and ends with amazing staff.

That’s the secret ingredient, and it might be a subtle quality, but you can feel the difference when your entire team is happy and proud of the work they do. After years of working together, pranking each other and just supporting one another in hard times, we know our Cork family pretty well—and want to introduce you to those who make your meal so memorable.

In this special Uncorked Blog, we’d like to introduce you to one of our long-time servers, Lionel:

How long have you been at the Cork?

I don’t know the exact date… I could get that for you, but it was about 12 years ago.

12 years? That’s a long time. What do you think has kept you here so long?

First of all, for me I don’t consider it a job. I look forward to going to the restaurant because for me this place has treated me like family since I started. That’s why I feel so comfortable, I feel like I can be myself at this restaurant. And it’s not just the front of house and customers, it’s the energy we all generate with each other—I love walking into the kitchen because they make my job so easy.

How do you think working at The Cork compares to other restaurants?

In Europe, you don’t stay more than one or two years in the same place. It’s how people do it there, but from the start I knew this was the right place for me because it feels like family… “Family” is a powerful word, but it can be very difficult when you live overseas. When I’m here I feel a little bit closer because there are many Mexican friends who at work the Cork, they make me comfortable because they come from another country and understand.

Tell me more—where are you from in Europe? What brought you to the U.S.?

I grew up in France, in Burgundy. Ever since I was a younger kid, I always wanted to come to the U.S.; I would know who the U.S. president was and not even know the French president. [laughs] When I moved to the U.S., I said it doesn’t matter what kind of work I do, but I’m going to do it right.

So, outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or passions?

I love soccer—I’ve always been around soccer, and I’ve been around this soccer family for a long time and I see their kids coming in and growing up and it’s so beautiful. During the whole month of June, I could take days off with my daughter for soccer. She’s an amazing soccer player and I am just so proud of her. And she works here too; it makes me so happy because I see it as a great education for her in life.

I didn’t know your daughter works here! I imagine that could get interesting…

Oh, it makes me the happiest dad on earth. She understands now why I am certain ways and why I cherish this work so much. Like I said earlier, it’s not just a job. Even when she comes in… it’s the energy that’s around.

Any final thoughts on staying so positive? On keeping that ‘energy’ after all these years?

I just love life, so when I come to work my love for life doesn’t stop, I just want to keep on going. As soon as I come in the door, I love to bring some happiness around.

Lionel, long-time server at The Cork

Thank you, Lionel!

It’s an honor having such a dedicated team here at The Cork. Even after 12 years, he always wears a smile to work and knows how to keep us on our toes. He’s one of many wonderful people in our Cork family who make working and eating here so great. Get to know our whole team—Join us for a meal, happy hour or just a drink at the bar. We look forward to seeing you then!