September 24, 2014

Gluten-Free Breakfast in Boulder at Dot’s Dinner

By Evan Sandsmark -  

There are two Dot’s Diners in Boulder, and both places offer plenty of gluten-free options and call attention to this fact. The Dot’s Diner menu has a text box that reports that “gluten-free options [are] available at no extra charge,” and this is one of the few pieces of information featured on the restaurant’s otherwise simple and austere website. We recently went to the 28th Street location (the other one is on of the Hill) to try something ourselves, to see if the quantity of the gluten-free choices affirmed or belied their quality.

Regardless of which Dot’s Diner you go to, it will likely be busy, at least if you visit on a weekend morning, as we did. Dot’s is definitely a Boulder institution, and has been “serving Boulder’s best breakfast for over thirty years,” in their words. The seating procedure at Dot’s is like the one at the Village Coffee Shop: a line forms outside the restaurant, and people are seated as spots become available. (In other words, there is no list to put your name on.) Generally, you can expect to get a table fairly quickly at Dot’s – within 10 minutes, say – even if the line outside looks big, but of course this depends on the size of your party. A table of five is harder to accommodate than a table of two, obviously.

In any case, we didn’t wait very long for a table and were seated at a booth ordering coffee before we knew it. As we nursed ourselves toward consciousness with coffee – quality organic coffee, we might add – we took in the scene. Like so many busy breakfast places, Dot’s seemed infused with something like good-natured panic. The kitchen was alive with frenzied activity, and servers buzzed around quickly, especially the guy on the roller skates. (We couldn’t tell if the wheels helped or hindered his activities.) In short, Dot’s is anything but a subdued environment.

It was, as we have emphasized, pretty hectic when we visited on a recent Sunday morning, so we didn’t ask the server to detail every dish that could be rendered gluten-free. However, it was emphasized to us that the range of GF options is broad. Basically, you say what you feel like eating, and if it is possible to make it gluten-free, they will. So, for instance, if you want to get the huevos rancheros, as we did, just ask for it and the appropriate substitution will be made, with corn tortillas replacing the flour tortillas that come in the regular version. (One good thing about a substitution like this is that flour tortillas aren’t necessarily preferable to corn tortillas. Indeed, a more traditional rendition of the dish would have likely featured corn tortillas over flour tortillas.) Similar substitutions can be made with other meals, and at no extra charge, just as the menu promises.

Although everyone in the restaurant was clearly busy, this didn’t compromise the service we received. Our server was with us shortly after we were seated, and throughout the rest of the meal she was attentive, but not annoyingly so. Our coffee cups and water glasses were always filled, and our food came out within a reasonable time frame. Overall, we applaud the service, especially given how packed the restaurant was.

Dot's Diner Huevos Rancheros

When the huevos rancheros arrived, we were initially alarmed at the quantity, thinking we had gravely erred in ordering the large version of the dish. (Several menu items can be ordered either small or large, with the latter costing around a couple of dollars more.) However, our original concern proved to be unfounded. We certainly got plenty of food, but the portion size was somewhat misleading in that it was spread thinly over a large plate. Obviously, this wasn’t a problem, and in fact it was some ways a feature because it made it easy to eat with a fork and knife, which in turn enabled measured bites that included every ingredient in the dish. Everything was piled on top of each other: the green chili and crisped cheese on top, then the thin layer of scrambled egg over the black beans, and finally a layer of corn tortillas lining the plate. With the addition of a little hot sauce (the green chili isn’t really spicy), it was great, or in any case it satisfied us during our recent visit. We would favorably compare our dish at Dot’s to the huevos rancherhos we’ve had at the Walnut Cafe, even though the two are made differently at each place.

If you feel like a tasty, substantial breakfast that also has to be gluten-free, we recommend giving Dot’s a try. They are accommodating enough to make something you’ll like, and the servers should take good care of you. Moreover, it is a well-run local business, and thus is worth supporting for reasons unrelated to gluten-free food.

For more information about the restaurant and a full copy of their menu, check out the Dot’s Diner website.

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