Half Fast Subs is a student-oriented sandwich shop in a student-oriented part of Boulder: the Hill. It is also a great restaurant that serves a notoriously wide array of excellent sandwiches, some of which are now available gluten-free, as we just learned. Half Fast is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to get a sandwich in a town with no shortage of sandwich shops, so it's excellent that it offers gluten-free options that are just as delicious as the original items, or at least this is our judgement after a visit to Half Fast on a recent afternoon.
Half Fast Subs is a student-oriented sandwich shop in a student-oriented part of Boulder: the Hill. It is also a great restaurant that serves a notoriously wide array of excellent sandwiches, some of which are now available gluten-free, as we just learned. Half Fast is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to get a sandwich in a town with no shortage of sandwich shops, so it’s excellent that it offers gluten-free options that are just as delicious as the original items, or at least this is our judgement after a visit to Half Fast on a recent afternoon.
When we arrived to Half Fast, we were greeted, as usual, with a rather long line, and you will almost certainly confront the same unless you visit on a weekday during an off hour (like Tuesday at 2:30 PM or something like that). You can’t really hold this against Half Fast, though – they can’t help that their sandwiches are very popular, and the employees appear to be working as quickly as they can. In addition to a fairly long line, you’ll also notice an extremely expansive menu with scores of sandwich options written across several black boards. Indeed, Half Fast boasts of having the largest sandwich selection in Boulder, and, according to their website, possibly even the largest in the entire United States. (We presume the “possibly” is added to acknowledge the impossibility to knowing what every restaurant in the U.S. offers. “Size of sandwich selection” isn’t the type of information collected on the census form.)
However, the gluten-free options are vastly fewer, but there are still a decent number of sandwiches to choose from, probably somewhere in the ballpark of a baker’s dozen. Clearly, “vastly fewer” is a relative term. There are several gluten-free sandwiches featuring turkey, like the Turkey Pesto and the Turkey Jack, some chicken options, like the Chicken Philly and Chicken Club, and a few other offerings like the BLT and the Ham and Cheese. All of these sandwiches come with everything listed on the menu, sans anything with gluten (like Half Fast’s mayo, evidently), on a gluten-free hoagie roll, which comes in both of the regular sizes, seven inches and fourteen inches, costing an extra $1.75 or $3.50, respectively. There is also a gluten-free vegetarian sandwich, The Caprese, which comes with fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, tomato, black pepper, olive oil, and romaine lettuce. So, there are definitely options to choose from, and fortunately they are rather classic sandwiches (like turkey clubs) that only the most picky eaters would object to.
Even so, the gluten-free eater is cut off from some of Half Fasts more exotic offerings, of which there are many. No N’Awlin’s Shrimp Po-Boys, made with crispy Louisiana shrimp, for us, and the same applies to the Meatloaf, a full-dinner-in-a-sandwich option that features meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and ketchup. It wouldn’t be fair to object to the more limited selection of GF options, however, because Half Fast offers so many different sandwiches that it’s simply not realistic to expect them to have a gluten-free version of everything. Half Fast would have a truly staggering number of ingredients, and would likely require a far larger kitchen, if it had gluten-free counterparts for every standard sandwich topping.
As we waited for our Turkey Avocado, which comes with Brussels sprouts, mozzarella, and tomatoes (along with turkey and avocado, naturally), we distracted ourselves with the TVs hung high on the brick wall above the dining area. CNN was on one screen, so our idle time was made profitable by a quick review of the days major news stories, and when the broadcast inevitably turned to a more trivial matter, as American TV news is famous for doing, Sports Center was on another screen to absorb our attention (better to know sports scores than celebrity gossip, as far as we’re concerned). It was also fun to count the number of people ordering alcohol; the percentage of patrons getting a drink on Monday at noon is perhaps a good way to track the progress of our nation’s younger citizens. (The numbers might have been slightly inflated today, though – it was Margarita Mondays, featuring margarita pitchers for only $5.00.)
When our sandwich was delivered, we grabbed a table on Half Fast’s patio, which offers a nice view of Pennsylvania Street, one of the central streets of the Hill. At virtually any hour, there are lots of people walking around this part of Boulder, creating a pleasant atmosphere of activity that you can participate in or observe, but not altogether ignore.
With the atmosphere, television options, and the state of youth culture covered, you might be wondering how our sandwich was. Well, about exactly as we expected from the inveterate Boulder favorite: delicious. Half Fast is generous with the main ingredients on your sandwich, in our case turkey and avocado, both of which were great, meaning they don’t fill their menu items with the less premium stuff, like, say, shredded lettuce. In fact, there was no lettuce at all. Instead, as we said above, there were Brussels sprouts, one of the most demonized foods (along with lima beans) that actually makes a great addition to sandwiches, in part because they have a nice crunchy texture. The bottom of the sandwich was lined with slices of tomato and mozzarella – this arrangement had a structural advantage (nothing was falling off the sandwich), but it also seemed to enhance the taste because tomatoes and mozzarella go very well together independently. The naturally complimentary flavors were tasted at once because they were layered one on top of the other.
Of course, all of these ingredients were between gluten-free bread, which for the most part didn’t have too distinct of a flavor because it was fairly thin. It was also light and slightly chewy, a characteristic of many gluten-free breads we’ve tried, but overall is was good, and regardless the relative tastiness of the bread is somewhat beside the point. Taste is important, to be sure, but it’s also just good and convenient to have a place like Half Fast offer gluten-free options. It’s a nearly iconic part of the Hill, a place where every CU student (and a lot of other people, too) will go for drinks and a sandwich at one point or another, and its good that those with a gluten sensitivity can fully join in the revelry.
Half Fast’s website (with tabs to the menu located on the right side of the page) can be found here:
Half Fast Subs is located at:
1215 13th St.
Boulder, CO 80302
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll try our best to check it out!