April 16, 2014

Fresh Thymes Eatery, Boulder’s Entirely Gluten-Free Restaurant

By Evan Sandsmark -  

Fresh Thymes Eatery of Boulder is kind of a big deal. Ever since it opened, it’s been much discussed and, as far as we can tell, wildly successful. Indeed, on our recent trip there, the entirely gluten-free restaurant was packed from wall to wall, and in fact the crowd spilled outside, where people ate in not particularly warm weather. Fresh Thymes (sometimes mistakenly written as “fresh times” for reasons of pronunciation) does have excellent food by any standard, gluten-free or otherwise, so the hype is understandable. If you are looking for a wide selection of high-quality, professionally-prepared food that happens to be gluten-free, Fresh Thymes is definitely worth a visit.

Fresh Thymes Eatery

Located on 30th Street, Fresh Thymes is placed in that fairly new development that also houses Pekoe Sip House. In fact, the two are side by side and appear to share outside tables. (Either that, or customers at Fresh Thymes had merely commandeered a few tables from Pekoe.) When we arrived to the store in early afternoon, we could hardly even figure out where to place our order. Every table was full, and lots of people milled around either waiting for food or waiting to order food.

After a minute of trying to mimic the patterns of the crowd, which we thought might lead us to the correct place to order, we finally secured a menu, found the ordering line, and selected our dish. We ordered it to go because there was no open seat in sight. Thus, we obviously didn’t eat in the restaurant, but we should note that it’s a nice place decorated with pleasant earthy tones. The tables, chairs, and even some of the walls are made of wood, and green and orange are tastefully scattered about. It’s probably a pretty nice place for a leisurely lunch, and we presume there are more spots available when one doesn’t visit the restaurant in the heart of the Friday lunch rush.

Choosing what to order was no easy task. Normally when we go to a restaurant, we are confined to the few gluten-free options available, but since the entire Fresh Thymes menu is gluten-free (besides the “gluten menu” section, which consists of a few beers), we had a lot of options to consider. The way the menu works is fairly self-explanatory, but the basic decision you have to make is whether you want to pick one of the restaurant’s established entrees or create your own plate. The established entrees include a few pizzas, several salads, and the so-called “big bites,” which are primarily sandwiches, although there are also a couple of pasta dishes, like the popular mac and cheese. What is cool about this selection of entrees is that the majority of these dishes would in normal circumstances contain gluten. At Fresh Thymes, though, gluten doesn’t even have to factor into your thinking.

Despite all these delicious-sounding dishes that are generally unavailable to us, we decided to create our own plate, which you can do by selecting three sides ($10), one protein and two sides ($12), or two proteins and one side ($14). We decided for the second option, thinking this would allow us to try as much of the menu as possible in a single meal. (For the record, there is also an a la carte section of the menu, so you could create your own meal using that as well, but there aren’t a ton of options to choose from.) For our protein we chose the pastured green chili braised pork, a bean and pork soup (one of the two available), and the flatbread, which we tried primarily on the grounds that gluten-free bread is always worth eating when it’s available.

If we had to describe our meal in one phrase, it would be “intensely flavorful.” The various tastes of our dish were as subtle as the comedy style of Lewis Black. The bean and pork soup was very good – it basically tasted like a good, homemade black bean soup, but with a slight kick and some pieces of shredded pork thrown in. (We suspect the two are related, as the pork added to the soup is presumably also green chili braised pork, although we didn’t confirm this.) The pork by itself – the protein we selected – was delicious and was probably the highlight of the meal. It was perfectly spiced with green chili and was extremely tender. It was served in large pieces, but these quickly fell apart, so we were essentially eating a bowl of juicy pulled pork that was packed with the spice of green chili.

The flatbread we got was interesting – it wasn’t at all bad, but it did have a very strong sourdough taste, which we weren’t expecting. (The flatbread is listed only as “flatbread” in the “sides” part of the menu, but is listed as “sourdough flat bread” in the a la carte section. We thought that this meant that there were two types of flatbread, but evidently this isn’t the case. We also thought that the restaurant had trouble figuring out how to write out “flatbread,” with one or two words, but that doesn’t concern us at the moment.) The fact that we weren’t expecting sourdough might have skewed our perception, but it really was quite pungent. It also had an incredibly unique texture for bread, one that we don’t think we’ve ever come across before. It had the density of pumpkin pie filling, but it wasn’t as soft, and despite its firmness, it was actually kind of spongy. We ended up eating it with a fork and knife because on top of everything else, it was essentially wet. (Part of this might have had to do with the spilled oil in our to-go box, but the oil alone couldn’t account for the moisture.) Again, though, this merely made the bread unique and unexpected, but not bad. In fact, it was pretty good, and we always like trying new things.

So, overall, we had an excellent meal at Fresh Thymes, and we’ll almost certainly be going back in the future. The food was delicious and at times gustatorily challenging, and everything in the restaurant is fresh and sourced locally whenever possible, so there is a lot admire about the restaurant. We encourage our readers to check out Fresh Thymes. With a large menu filled exclusively with gluten-free items, you’ll almost certainly find something that appeals to you.

As always, if you would like us to review a particular establishment with gluten-free options, send an email to info@glutenfreeinboulder.com. We’ll try our best to check it out!

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