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Mountain Vibes on the Bricks

High Country Serves Up Comfort Cuisine and Community Spirit

Article by Tony Firestine

Photography by Branded Beet

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

With its debut this past April on the bricks of Pearl Street, High Country is quickly becoming Boulder’s latest spot for those seeking elevated comfort cuisine and welcoming vibes. This new venture comes from the dynamic team behind Gemini, a celebrated Spanish tapas-focused local favorite, which is conveniently located right next door. The concept for High Country was born out of a desire to create a space that resonates with the lifestyle and energy of Colorado.

Executive chef and Colorado native Brian Pierce, along with managing partner Michael Mehiel, executive pastry chef Catherine Neckes, and business jack-of-all-trades Elizabeth Neckes, sought to design a restaurant that not only reflected their culinary passion but also the community spirit of Boulder and beyond. The two ladies also happen to be identical twins who are married to their respective fellow partners, providing the partnership with a unique, enduring and family-based bond.

The journey to High Country’s partnership began years ago in New York City, where the founders met and honed their skills in various culinary settings. The couples eventually moved away from each other, but the desire to create something special in Boulder brought them back together. When Hapa Sushi relocated, leaving a prime spot available on Pearl Street, the team jumped at the opportunity.

High Country encompasses a unique blend of mountain vibes, innovative comfort food and a welcoming atmosphere, making it a must-visit destination. Michael explains that the goal was to liken the restaurant to everyone’s favorite ski town joint, minus the powder and the often requisite wagon wheels and spurs. “The mountains, the people, the high energy, the fun,” Michael explains. “We wanted to do something adjacent to that and leverage that feeling.”

High Country aims to provide an inclusive and modern space with fare that caters to a wide range of tastes and diets. The menu is a celebration of comfort food with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. The selection stays the same from lunch to dinner and features juicy burgers and sandwiches, innovative vegetarian and vegan options, bright bowls and salads that feature fresh and locally sourced produce and hearty mains with your choice of side. There’s literally something for everyone. The gluten-free and veg options that are called out on the menu aren’t just there for those who need them. The thought and execution that goes into everything grants permission for any veg-based dish to be just as crave-able for a seasoned omnivore as the decadent mile-high burger (two smash patties loaded with all the fixings including bacon, pepper jack, and both pickled and frizzled onions).

A recent dinner visit started on the tail end of their killer Golden Hour (2-5 pm, Monday-Friday: half-priced apps and snacks, $10 craft cocktails, $4 all draft beer, $6 all wine by the glass). The diverse cocktail list is intriguing and well-crafted by bar manager Francis Verrall. The tropical Disco in Frisco is the perfect pairing for a prime patio spot in the Colorado sun. One can also opt for something equally festive from the zero-zero mocktail menu, like the pineapple and coconut-inspired Last Call.

The novel hippie dip app—luxurious, spicy roasted carrot and sunflower seed hummus paired with fresher-than-fresh veggies—is the perfect beginning, showcasing crisp raw turnips, radishes and snap peas from the Boulder Farmer’s Market. Every wing aficionado will also gravitate toward the dedicated section of the menu that offers four different rub/sauce options for the brined, confited and fried stunners. There are piquant pepper heat options, but don’t miss the mildest of the bunch, the zesty ranch rub. Chef Brian explains that the rub isn’t just a mixture of dried seasonings. The kitchen goes so far as to dehydrate herbs and spices and fry up fresh garlic and shallots for the umami-laden powder. The proof is evident in the deep and intensified flavor.

The hospitality is genuine and heartfelt, and the kitchen’s timing forges a splendid path between dishes. The main course summit bowl showcases a generous portion of roasted seasonal veggies over a mélange of quinoa, chickpeas and vibrant green goddess dressing, studded with pepitas and sunflower seeds. The flavors are distinct from the vegan app, but just as gratifying. The selection of mains also runs the gamut, but the well-versed team mentions not to miss the BBQ.

Yes, the ultimate highlight of the menu is the BBQ. Chef Brian chooses a straightforward cabinet smoker; the kitchen doesn’t have the luxury of an ancient, seasoned, wood-burning BBQ pit. Regardless, the team is able to blow away expectations by creating a level of smoked meat magic that you can put up against the most accomplished pitmaster. The bonanza brisket is fork-tender and dripping with flavor, paired with a red-eye BBQ sauce that provides the perfect amount of heat. The smokehouse ribs, a meaty St. Louis-cut half-rack paired with mustard and vinegar-spiked gold rush BBQ sauce, showcases the perfect “bark”—that rich and darkened surface on a slow-and-low-cooked cut. While the sides are all equally enticing (fries, mac and cheese, Spanish rice), the perfect combo of sweet and savory is the buttery skillet cornbread, including a side of strawberry fresno chili jam.

The dessert menu tips its hat to throwback classics featuring executive pastry chef Catherine’s take on the lemon bar, carrot cake and your option of a chocolate malted or creamsicle milkshake. The standard chocolate sundae is elevated through the roof with rye whiskey caramel and crunchy candied pecans, all atop a luscious brownie.

Only a few months in, High Country is already collaborating with Boulder organizations like Cultural Caravan and Street Wise Arts. The plan is to build on the restaurant the best that they can within the community at large, continuing to focus on the High Country vibe and lifestyle. Thursdays at High Country "Sparkle, Smoke and Shine" with a weekly event that started in June featuring tacos and quesadillas with fresh house-made tortillas, DV8’s Sparkle glitter liqueur and Bear Creek Distillery’s white whiskey.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, High Country invites you to join in on the relaxed mountain mood they create with their all-encompassing and satisfying fare, their inclusive atmosphere and their natural hospitality. This already beloved spot on Pearl Street was built with community in mind, making it built to last.

To learn more or make a reservation, visit