January 13, 2011

Delicious Gluten-Free Hamburgers and Sandwiches Available at Larkburger in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

A quick search of this site revealed an interesting fact earlier today: the word “hamburger” is never mentioned in an article, and the word “burger” only comes up in connection with one post. Evidently, we haven’t been pursuing good old-fashioned American cuisine around here enough, so we tried to remedy this deficiency this afternoon by going to the ever-popular Larkburger in Boulder, which offers a gluten-free bun that opens the entire menu (with the exception of a single item – a red chili that is made with beer) to those with a gluten intolerance.

Larkburger, which is located near the corner of Arapahoe and 28th, is a hybrid between a sit-down restaurant and a fast food place. You order at a counter, but the food takes a few minutes to prepare, and it seems like most people eat in the restaurant. The interior is nice and fairly new looking, a la Modmarket (but not nearly as elongated). The most noticeable feature is the walls, all four of which look like hardwood floors turned vertical (impressively, the wood used is reclaimed timber salvaged from urban settings). The rest of the interior is dominated by white: the ceiling, counters, and tables are all white, and even the two Spanish-speaking ladies sitting next to us had white pants on. How about that?

When deciding what to get, I considered ordering one of the more exotic dishes – the Tuna Burger, with wasabi-ginger sauce and cilantro, looked really good, as did the Amy Burger, which is a vegetarian sandwich made with a roasted portabella mushroom – but then we decided to get a classic American meal: a standard hamburger (called a Larkburger, and hence the restaurant’s name) with a side of fries. After all, we were there on assignment, hunting for gluten-free American food to shore up this website’s otherwise golden archive. Everything would have been perfectly American if we could order a cold Budweiser – but those have gluten, Coors Light is Larkburger’s only domestic offering (and we all know that Coors, whatever else may be the case about it, is not nearly as American as Budweiser, and besides that, Coors of course has gluten too), and drinking before the evening should be reserved for taking communion or watching the early NFL games.

Our food arrived a few minutes after ordering it at the counter. The first thing we noticed was the enormous pile of fries on the food tray. We ordered a side of fries for $1.95 and we were given enough to stave off the next potato famine. Not that we’re complaining – the fries, cut shoe-string style from Idaho russet potatoes, were delicious. They weren’t overly salty or greasy – the main problem that befalls fries – and they were also fairly crispy. As it turns out, they aren’t terrible for you either: their made with sea salt and cooked in pure canola oil. The result is a great side with zero trans fat, which we were relieved to learn, as anyone who had just eaten ten pounds of fries would feel.

The burger, which was prepared medium well (you choose the temperature), was also good. Apart from its taste, which we’ll come to shortly, the most notable thing about the Larkburger is that it actually resembles the pictures that advertise it. We all know that businesses depict their culinary offerings in an absurdly polished way (sorry, but we’ve never seen a hamburger as perfectly constructed as a Big Mac on TV anywhere, let alone at a McDonald’s), but Larkburger appears to be miles better than most. What you see on the Larkburger website (for example) is basically what you get. This phenomenon might have something to do with the fact that the burger is startlingly well proportioned. The plump and juicy patty fits the bun like a glove, and the pile of fresh vegetables on top were similarly well-sized. You might think this is insignificant, but that’s like thinking that symmetry has nothing to do with an attractive human face. The construction of the burger surely enhanced its great taste – the patty was cooked as requested and full of flavor, and the tomato, onion, and lettuce added nice texture and lightened the meal.

This leaves only the GF bun, and fortunately it was good too. A fairly unambitious search revealed that Sweet Escape Pastries supplies Larkburger with its GF products, which we’ve tried and enjoyed before, and what’s more, this supplier is exclusively gluten-free. This reduces the risk of cross contamination, which remains a factor because Larkburger doesn’t serve only gluten-free food (although the company’s website assures us that the risk is minimal because of the “extreme” caution they practice while making GF orders – what, is Shawn White back there?). The bun was light, fluffy, and faintly sweat, but not in a distracting way. It was also served with a small wooden stake in it, indicating that it’s gluten-free. Very charming. Overall, Larkburger makes an very good hamburger. There’s a reason why it’s constantly busy and that it always seems to come up as a possibility when discussing cheaper restaurant options.

And if all that weren’t good enough, Larkburger is very environmentally friendly. In addition to using reclaimed timber, the canola oil that is used to cook fries is reused as automotive fuel, the cups and salad containers are biodegradable, and the restaurant is 100 percent wind powered. Nice! (Larkburger actually engages in a few other eco-conscious practices, but you can check those out on their website, linked to below.)

This should give you a pretty good idea of how much we like Larkburger: our biggest complaints are that the ketchup dispenser didn’t pump ketchup particularly well, and that “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel came on the speakers as we were leaving, depriving us of a pleasant midday melody by mere minutes. So, it’s good, and you should definitely check it out next time you’re craving a burger and fries (or even when you’re craving something harder – better a burger than a barbiturate, mamma always told me).

Larkburger’s location:

2525 Arapahoe Ave.
Boulder, CO 80302

(There are also locations in Denver, Fort Collins, and Edwards. We’re also told there are more on the way.)

Larkburger’s website:

http://www.larkburger.com/

(The menu and an allergy guide can be found under the “menu” tab at the top of the page.)

Note: This is the tenth article in a new series presented by GlutenFreeInBoulder.com. On a (roughly) weekly basis, we will visit a restaurant, try a thing or two, and write about our experience. We will, of course, be sampling exclusively gluten-free food so we can report back to our readers about the items worth having. 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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