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Friday, February 1, 2013

BIFF Pearl Street guide: You're not in Kansas anymore

 Photo courtesy Downtown Boulder (BoulderDowntown.com)

By ADAM ROWAN
BIFF DigiComm Commando

The pedestrian Pearl Street Mall is the center of the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF). With major screenings and events held throughout the weekend of February 14-17, there's much to see and do when waiting for the next program to start.

Here's a look at Pearl Street Mall, and what visitors should know about the four blocks of Boulder institutions that BIFF calls home.

BIFF 2013 Pearl Street User's Guide: Restaurants

If you're looking to catch a bite between screenings, Pearl Street's many eateries won't disappoint. Virtually every style of restaurant and cuisine is available, from Italian to Mexican to Americana to sushi. And yes, befitting Boulder's emphasis on health and sustainable living, there are vegetarian options, too.

Need something quick and easy before the next show? Fast-casual joints like Illegal Pete's can satisfy your hunger and get you in line well before the theater lights dim. Looking to sit down and soak up the Pearl Street atmosphere? Local fine-dining restaurants like the Boulder Cafe, Trattoria on Pearl (an authentic Italian restaurant) and Japango (which specializes in sushi) have menus with a range of tasty items to entice the festival attendee with time to taste some great food and linger awhile on the Mall.

And all you vegetarians and vegans: Be sure to keep an eye out for Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. Located just two blocks east of the Boulder Theater (after the pedestrian portion ends and traffic resumes along Pearl Street), Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant offers a seasonably fresh, sustainable menu with naturally grown fruits and vegetables.

BIFF 2013 Pearl Street User's Guide: Bars

The collaborative camaraderie of a film festival wouldn't be possible without a venue to grab a drink. Whether you're looking to congregate with friends and talk film or steal some time alone before the next movie on your schedule, BIFF is blessed to be located close to a number of local watering holes.

The Boulder Theater has its own place to pick up comfort food and cocktails between screenings. Located next door to the theater, George's Food & Drink is a great bar to meet fellow BIFF attendees and unwind amid the whirlwind of events.

Other Boulder bars are perfect meeting places and relaxation spots; it all depends on what you're looking for. Authentic Irish pub Conor O'Neill's brings the best of the Old Country to Boulder, complete with Guinness, fish and chips and other Emerald Isle specials. The Lazy Dog, meanwhile, keeps the energy up with plenty of TVs to watch the game, as well as opportunities to take in some of Boulder's best bands playing live for the crowd.

BIFF 2013 Pearl Street User's Guide: Smoking Ban

As one of America's healthiest cities, it should come as no surprise that Boulder frowns upon lighting up. To combat the proliferation of the nasty habit, the Boulder City Council last year adopted a smoking ban on the Pearl Street Mall. The ban went into effect this month.

No matter how tempting it might be to get into the spirit at BIFF by reenacting your favorite Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall onscreen moments or channeling the spirit of French New Wave flicks, think twice before breaking out your lighter. Though ticketing isn't expected to begin until March, first offenses carry a fine of $500 – a hefty price to pay, and one sure to put a damper on your BIFF 2013 experience. (Editor’s note: This is Boulder, man – but you still can’t smoke ANYTHING on the Mall, dig?)

BIFF 2013 Pearl Street User's Guide: Entertainment

Though the programs at BIFF are designed to entertain, inspire and engage, the festival has to compete with an array of colorful characters lining Pearl Street Mall. When you're not in a darkened theater or crowded event, enjoy the fresh air and seize the chance to check out Boulder's finest local musicians, artists, performers and daredevils.

Music from many instruments provides a soundtrack to the hustle and bustle along the pedestrian mall, with performers playing everything from guitar to piano and singing to passersby. Other personalities entertain the crowds with different methods, opting for magic tricks, walking on stilts, juggling and feats of contortionism. Observant bystanders might even catch a seemingly innocuous bronze figure move slightly: A human statue is just one more street performer to watch out for as you stroll Pearl Street Mall.

Though it might be tempting to think of the characters along Pearl Street as free entertainment, the musicians, magicians and other performers add character to the historic sites and customer-friendly venues along the mall. A little cash is always appreciated by any entertainer; remember to tip your statue.

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