February 10, 2012

A Gluten-Free Breakfast at The Buff in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

The Buff is one of Boulder’s most popular breakfast eateries, and it is easy to see why: the prices are modest, the food is excellent, and it is right in the heart of town, slightly south of 28th and Canyon. Fortunately, The Buff’s menu abounds with gluten-free options, including gluten-free pancakes and gluten-free bread, which can replace the non-GF bread served with a number of dishes, and this opens up this superb restaurant to the gluten-intolerant crowd. On a recent snowy day, we decided to stop by The Buff for a gluten-free breakfast.

The Buff, as we mentioned, is extremely popular. We went there during a non-peak hour, thinking that we wouldn’t have any trouble getting a table for two at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon. It wasn’t exactly hard to get a table, but there was still a 15-minute wait. Of course, this isn’t The Buff’s fault; it is merely a testament to how packed the restaurant is on any given day, and this is no small business achievement, as The Buff is quite large. There is a coffee bar at the front with a number of spots to eat, and in this same room there are several booths. Off to the right of the entrance, near the coffee bar, is an auxiliary dining area with several tables. Neither of these spots are even part of the main dining room, where we ate, which is an expansive room located at the back of the restaurant.

Once we were seated, we ordered coffee and considered our gluten-free options. The restaurant was particularly packed with students because CU had canceled classes on the day of our visit, but there are always tons of students, not only because the restaurant is in an area where lots of students live, but also because The Buff sells mimosas and bloody marys for a mere 99 cents. (In general, The Buff is relatively inexpensive, with most dishes falling within the $7-11 range.) The Buff also has fairly obvious ties to the university crowd – the restaurant’s name is, after all, The Buff, and its logo is a profile of a Buffalo. We overheard some rather boisterous students behind us talking about how they were going to dedicate their snow day to drinking, and by the sound of it, they had already taken steps to this end. Ah, the misspent days of youth, infused as always with folly and freedom.

When reviewing the Walnut Cafe, another excellent Boulder restaurant for a gluten-free breakfast, we tried the huevos rancheros and noted our general fondness for this dish. It was not our intention to repeat this selection at The Buff, but somehow we ended up getting it anyway. The server insisted it was one of the best and most popular gluten-free options on the menu, and this endorsement, coupled with our enthusiasm for southwest cuisine, forced our hand. Besides, we think that huevos rancheros is a good dish to judge a restaurant by because it incorporates so many different ingredients. The huevos rancheros are not by default gluten-free, so if you happen to order them, make sure to get the vegetarian verde (as opposed to the pork green chile) and corn tortillas (instead of the flour tortilla).

Other gluten-free dishes that our server called attention to include the corn beef hash skillet, a medley of red-onions and tri-colored peppers (along with corn beef hash, obviously) topped with two eggs, and the gluten-free pancakes. There are a number of other gluten-free options available, either because the dish doesn’t have gluten naturally or because it can be modified (like switching out regular bread with GF bread for a dollar extra), and your server should be happy to point them out. (At least our server was happy to point them out.) As we said, The Buff has a coffee bar, so you can order several caffeinated (and some decaffeinated) beverages other than plain coffee if you are so inclined. We were not so inclined, and stuck with coffee – rather good coffee, we might add – of course capitalizing on the free refills, as our shaking hands can attest to.

The huevos rancheros, like every dish we’ve ever had at The Buff, were delicious and hearty, making it a perfect meal for a hungry person looking for a tasty breakfast. The plate was nicely presented, with Spanish rice, shredded lettuce, and chopped tomatoes off to the side, and a skillet-like dish in the center layered with the many excellent ingredients that compose most renditions of huevos rancheros. On the bottom of the pile were two soft (which is to say not dry) corn tortillas, which were buried under a mix of black beans, chilies, onions, and cheddar cheese. On top of all this were two eggs, cooked to our preference – in this case, scrambled. With only these ingredients, the dish isn’t very spicy, but it is served with an excellent side of salsa that includes chopped jalapenos. If you judicially spread the salsa around, a faint spice lingers in every bite. (The salsa is also mildly sweet, as it includes small pieces of pineapple.) Overall, the meal was immensely satisfying, and so we highly recommend the huevos rancheros if you get a chance to check out The Buff, not that we would discourage you from trying something else. On past visits, we’ve tried the omelets and standard breakfast combos (with eggs, bacon, etc.), and everything has always been great and filling.

We’ve been saying all along that The Buff is a breakfast restaurant, but it is worth mentioning that they offer lunch options as well. We haven’t tried any of these, so we don’t have much to say about them other than that they exist, and also that many of them could be made gluten-free.

As we have hopefully made clear, The Buff is definitely worth trying. The food is always delicious, and there are plenty of good gluten-free options from which to choose. It’s also easy to get to, even if the parking situation is a little bizarre (because it shares the lot with a Best Western hotel). If you stop by, let us know how you like it by leaving a comment below.

The Buff can be found here:

1725 28th St
Boulder, CO 80301

And the online menu here:

The Buff menu

(The Buff’s menu isn’t the greatest from the standpoint of figuring out what is gluten-free, but you can still get a sense for what the restaurant offers by looking over the menu. As always, let your server be your guide when it comes to figuring out a good gluten-free option for you.)

Note: Many of the places we visit merely offer gluten-free options, and hence are not necessarily 100% gluten-free facilities, so if proximal cross-contamination is an issue, call ahead. If you would like us to review a particular restaurant with gluten-free options, send an email to info@glutenfreeinboulder.com. We’ll try our best to check it out!

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