November 10, 2010

Modmarket in Boulder Offers Gluten-Free Sandwiches, Pizzas, Salads, and Soups

By Evan Sandsmark -  

Modmarket is in many ways a paradigmatic Boulder restaurant. It serves healthy and fresh foods that often incorporate local ingredients (depending on the season), and the interior of the Boulder restaurant – currently the only one, although an additional location is being built in Denver – is deeply trendy. It also offers tons of gluten-free options, so we decided to stop by for a meal.

When we approached the store front, which is built into one of the many chains of stores that comprise the Twenty Ninth Street Mall, we couldn’t help but assume the interior would be fairly small. This was a mistake, however, because the dining area is scandalously long. There are two long rows of tables – one with high tables and stools, the other with regular tables lined with a chair on one side and a bench along the other – that basically stretch the entire length of the restaurant. If you think that two rows couldn’t possibly accommodate a large crowd during a lunch or dinner rush, you’re not adequately grasping the extraordinary length of this restaurant.

It’s also worth noting that virtually everything in the restaurant is white, including the counters, walls, ceiling and chairs. This color scheme (if an abundance of white can indeed be called a “color scheme”) draws attention to the pink, black, and golden things that are painted on the walls. We use the word “things” deliberately, as it’s not entirely clear what these paintings depict – something like a butterfly-flower hybrid is our best guess, but our conclusion is open to modification if someone submits a more refined interpretation. The flood of whiteness that envelopes the restaurant also makes the colorful digital menus stand out. (The menus are digital, by the way, because Modmarket frequently changes its menu.)

The final prominent feature of the interior is the curved surfaces that are everywhere. The long wall behind the rows of tables slowly curves into the ceiling, and the counters, chairs, and benches are all curvy as well. Essentially, there isn’t a sharp point in the dining area of the restaurant. Who would have thought that childproofing everything could be so fashionable?

All of these ostensible characteristics – the length of the dining room, the abundance of white, the bizarre paintings on the wall, the digital menus, and the curvy surfaces – make the restaurant’s appearance undeniably futuristic. This fact, coupled with the long rows of the tables, makes the interior of Modmarket look like the type of cafeteria you might find at Elroy and Judy Jetson’s school.

While admiring all of this, the kitchen crew diligently prepared our order, which was a cup of the Green Chicken Chili and a Chipotle Steak Sandwich on gluten-free bread (modifying the sandwich with GF bread costs an extra $1.50). We were served the green chili first (in a white cup, of course), and it’s hard for me to overstate how delicious it was. Maybe our overwhelmingly positive reaction to the soup had something to do with the cold weather recently or our general enthusiasm for green chili in any form, but even if these variables are accounted for, the chili was still incredible. It was, to begin, perfectly spiced: the heat of the green chilies was immediately noticeable, but it didn’t overwhelm the rest of the ingredients, nor did it compromise our ability to taste and enjoy the sandwich we ordered. Moreover, the chili had clearly been stewing for a long time, as the potatoes and onions practicably dissolve in your mouth, and the chicken was juicy and saturated with the soup’s flavor. The chili was of course gluten-free, just like all the soups made by Modmarket. We can only hope that the other soups are as good as the chili we tried.

After finishing most of the soup, we were served the Chipotle Steak Sandwich, which was also extremely good. For a restaurant that delivers your order quickly, the quality of food was impressive. The steak on the sandwich was cut into thick, juicy slices and cooked to our liking. The steak was not, in other words, like the thinly-sliced pieces of meat you might find on something like a Philly cheesesteak – it was a quality cut of meat sliced into strips. The vegetables on the sandwich, fresh mixed greens and tomatoes, were equally impressive and tasty. (This explains why Modmarket has “Real Food” written in several prominent places in the restaurant, like above the front door and on all the employees’ shirts; while most places technically serve “real food,” Modmarket meets a higher standard, using healthy, simple, and whole ingredients in their dishes, and you can tell.) All of these sandwich fillings were dusted with parmesan, laced with a lightly-spiced chipotle aioli, and wrapped in a gluten-free flatbread.

Since the flatbread is gluten-free, it’s worth dwelling on for a moment. Even though it was really thin, the flatbread played a large role in the taste of the sandwich. It was crispy on the outside – probably the result of the time it spent cooking in the stone-hearth oven – but the inside was soft, moist, and dense. It was the density of the bread that allowed it to play a prominent role in the sandwich, which is good because it tasted much better than a lot of the GF bread we’ve come across. As you might expect, you can make any of the sandwiches gluten-free if you use this bread (although you’ll of course want to make sure that the other ingredients on the sandwich you order are also gluten-free).

Given the quality of items we tried, it stands to reason that the other GF offerings of Modmarket are delicious too. All of the salads are or can be made gluten-free (the only thing that might need modification is the dressing), and a gluten-free crust is offered for all the pizzas, although this costs $3.00 extra. The Garden Pizza – made with red peppers, broccoli, fresh mozzarella, and parm reggiano – sounds really good, as does the Mex Pizza, which features chicken, jalapenos, peppers, and onions.

We’re eager to try the pizza and salad when we go back to Modmarket, which we surely will after our pleasant trip there this afternoon.

Check out the Modmarket menu here:

Modmarket’s Boulder address:

1600 28th St #1212
Boulder, CO
(In between Canyon and Arapahoe on the East side of 28th Street)

Note: This is the fourth article in a new series presented by On a (roughly) weekly basis, we will visit a restaurant, try a dish 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 dishes worth having. If you would like us to review a particular restaurant with gluten-free options, send an email to We’ll try our best to check it out!

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