February 16, 2011

Great Gluten-Free Fried Chicken and Other GF Items Available at The Pinyon in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

Happy hour is great. There’s really no other way to put it. It allows you to go to restaurants that may otherwise be out of your price range, opening the door to a variety of different foods and drinks at a low price. A case in point is The Pinyon on Pearl Street in Boulder, which offers cheap gluten-free food – items like gluten-free wings, gluten-free fried chicken, and gluten-free fries – seven days a week from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. (The same specials are also available “late night,” from 10:00 to close, and many of them, like the gluten-free fried chicken, are on the regular menu as well.) Following up on a tip sent to our email – info@glutenfreeinboulder.com; write us any time! – we decided to go there this afternoon.

The Pinyon is located on the southern side of Pearl Street, a score or so feet east of 17th Street. This places it on the eastern end of Pearl Street; this is technically inaccurate, as Pearl Street actually extends as far east as 30th Street, but the restaurants, bars, and other businesses – the core of Pearl Street proper, if you will – quickly taper off after about 18th Street.

The interior of The Pinyon is composed primarily of a large rectangular dining room. Along one side are large windows that look out onto Pearl Street, and along the other there is a long, L-shaped bar. The bar is rather unique in that behind one side of the “L” there is a traditional bar setup, and behind the other side is the kitchen.

Our first impulse was to order the fried chicken, which is gluten-free because it’s made with potato flour. It’s been recommended to us before, and it appears to be their signature gluten-free dish. Moreover, there was a couple by us at the bar thoroughly enjoying their fried chicken, thanking the bartender for her recommendation. The fried chicken is clearly a popular and well-liked dish, but since one more (likely) endorsement from us probably isn’t all that helpful, we decided to go with something else.

Although we passed on the fried chicken, we still felt like chicken, so we ordered the whiskey-cured wings and some fries. (To be sure, these items are often gluten-free, but wings can be breaded or marinated in a sauce with gluten, so it’s always good to check.) There were a couple of other options too, like a burger without the bun and a daily terrine (minus the grilled bread that is served with it). So, there aren’t tons of options, but we were only there for happy hour, and we’re told that all but one dish on the dinner menu can be made gluten-free (a complete menu is linked to below).

The fries were served in a decent-sized bowl, one that might hold about a breakfast’s worth of cereal. This is actually a rather substantial portion, as the bowl held more fries than you would get if they were served as a mere side. Cut from whole potatoes, the fries were crispy, perfectly-seasoned, and delicious. They were also surprisingly light, as if they had tons of tiny air bubbles inside them, in contrast to the denseness of a lot of potato dishes.

The six substantial wings we were served were also great. They were meatier than your average wing, which was nice because the chicken was tender and juicy. Sometimes juiciness comes at the expense of a crisp exterior, but not so with The Pinyon’s wings. The outside was plenty crispy, and that’s one of the great virtues a wing can possess.

The flavor of the wings is a little harder to describe. They had a superbly middle-of-the road spice – enough hotness to placate us lovers of spice, but not so much as to overwhelm those who are inclined in the opposite direction – and a hint of sweetness that can probably be traced back to the whiskey used to make the wings. Complimenting the flavor of the wings was a side dish of blue cheese dressing that was, somewhat ironically, not dominated by the flavor of blue cheese – in fact, it struck us as vaguely sweet. Blue cheese has a very pungent flavor, so it can easily overpower the food your eating, but this fortunately wasn’t the case with the dressing that came with our wings. Unless you live and die by blue cheese, temerariously insisting that more is always better than less, you should enjoy this dressing very much.

If you’re looking for tasty, cheap, gluten-free food on an any given afternoon in Boulder, we encourage your to stop by The Pinyon for happy hour.

The Pinyon’s full menus can be found here:

The Pinyon’s address:
1710 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302

Note: This is the twelfth 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. However, 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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  1. Maxx says:

    Hello it’s great to see a site like this , where you actually dine there and give a review. I only have one comment so far . I have celiac and been gluten free for over 8 years now. As far as I am aware blue cheese is not safe for celiacs. The mold part is made on bread. There might be ones now maybe made using gf bread. I just wanted to clarify? Keep up the good work.

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