March 6, 2012

The Gluten-Free Options at The Louisville Rex, 15 Minutes from Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

On a recent journey from Denver to Boulder, we decided to stop in Louisville for lunch. Having been informed that The Louisville Rex has some gluten-free options, we decided to stop in to check it out. In terms of percentage of menu, The Rex doesn’t have a particularly large gluten-free selection, but this is only because their general offerings are extensive. Overall, there are plenty of GF options, including gluten-free appetizers, gluten-free pizzas, and gluten-free entrees. Our server was nice and the food was good, so we recommend stopping by if you’re ever in Louisville.

Located in one of Louisville’s oldest buildings, The Rex is right in the heart of downtown Louisville, an area that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. There are a number of well-established restaurants along Main Street, which has a friendly and intimate feel. We would compare this part of Louisville favorably to some of those small towns up in the mountains, a bit like, say, Georgetown. Many years ago, The Rex, which is a large place with a huge patio on its roof, used to be a movie theater, and the restaurant makes extensive use of this fact. For example, the front is a movie-theater facade, and the inside is lined with classic movie posters. (We were seated below posters for a couple of the greats: Animal House and Saturday Night Fever.) According to the menu, Wednesday night is “movie night,” although no mention is made of this fact on The Rex’s online calender. (Movie night is one of a few events at The Rex. They currently have a Texas Holdem’ tournament every Tuesday, and a few weeks hence, near the end of March, a trivia night will begin.)

The movie theme is for the most part used to good effect, but we have some reservations about how it was applied to the menu, which is organized around film terminology. Appetizers are known as “previews,” main entrees are “features,” desserts are “ending credits,” and so on. In principle, this isn’t a bad idea, but the execution is a little clumsy. For one, several parts of the menu are left out of this scheme, so there are sections titled “salads,” “soups,” “sandwiches,” and “burgers” that are right along side the more inspired headers. More problematically, several menu items also involve film-driven “word play,” leading to such triumphs of cleverness as “Jurassic Fried Pickles” (the name aside, these do sound pretty good, although they aren’t gluten-free because the pickles are breaded). There are some items with names that approach meaningful word play, like the pizza called “Conan the Vegetarian.” This doesn’t exactly soar to Shakespearean heights, but at least “vegetarian” sounds like “barbarian,” whereas “fried pickles” is utterly disconnected from “park.” Basically, the film theme is randomly distributed across the menu, and signs of genuine linguistic ingenuity are few and far between.

On the plus side, we really liked our food, so we were more than happy to forgive the menu’s shortcomings, which, to be sure, are only shortcomings to our critical eyes. When you do a lot of crossword puzzles, you develop a heightened sense of word play, and we don’t want the restaurant to develop an inferiority comprex when it comes to their ability to make puns. (See, we’re not very good at it either.)

Anyway, about our meal: since the most thoroughly gluten-free part of the menu is the pizza section (actually it’s the “Mystic Pizzas” section – you know, like the forgettable movie with Julia Roberts from the 80′s), we focused our attention on this. Any pizza can be made gluten-free at no extra charge, although only the ten-inch size is available. Coincidentally, we almost ordered the Conan the Vegetarian, which is made with roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized Bermuda onions, vine-ripened tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, but we recently had a similar pizza, so we decided to go with something totally different: the L.A. Story. The L.A. Story – named, of course, after the movie L.A. Story – is a unique creation. There is no tomato sauce, so the mozzarella cheese is melted directly onto the gluten-free crust. Chicken and bacon are scattered on top of the cheese, and on top of this is basically a salad of shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and large slices of avocado. Ranch dressing is drizzled on top of all of this.

The pizza, if indeed it can even be called a pizza, looked excellent when it was brought to us. The vegetables on top were fresh, and the avocados looked the perfect shade of green. With all the toppings, it was hard to pick up a slice of pizza with our hands, so we used a fork and knife more than we normally would when eating pizza. One of the first things we noticed when we took a bite was the crispness of the crust. When we’ve had gluten-free pizzas in the past (at, for example, Proto’s), the crust wasn’t quite as crisp. This isn’t a problem with the other pizzas we’ve tried, but we do have an abnormal predilection for very crispy crust, so we especially enjoyed this component of our pizza. The lettuce and bacon also added an additional crunch, which went well with the soft slices of avocado. The substantial pieces of avocado played an outsized role in the taste of the pizza, and of course we welcomed this because we are devout avocado enthusiasts, as we have mentioned at least a few times before.

Overall, the pizza was really tasty, and we’re happy that we have some leftovers to eat later today. Our one issue with the pizza is that the cooks went a little heavy with the ranch dressing. The pizza is fairly decadent to begin with, so a lot of ranch dressing made it a tad too rich for our taste. Of course, this is the type of thing that could easily be modified. You could always ask for a lighter amount of dressing, or you could get the dressing on the side.

Between the pizzas and the other gluten-free offerings, which we have listed below, The Rex has plenty of GF choices. It’s a solid restaurant with good food and a unique theme (one that they perhaps take slightly too far in the case of the menu, rather like our criticism of the menu), and it is therefore worth stopping by if you are in or around the area.

That said, you can check out the Rex’s menu here:

The Rex’s Menu

In the restaurant, the items that are gluten-free have a symbol by them that is explained on the menu. (The same is true of the vegetarian options, of which there are several. Unfortunately for those with multiple dietary restrictions, there aren’t too many items that are both gluten-free and vegetarian, although at least a couple of pizzas are, as is one of the salads.) The online menu, however, does not indicated which items are gluten-free (or vegetarian), and that’s the place in which we come, to phrase a sentence awkwardly as to not violate the mythological rule that you can’t end a sentence with a preposition (you can – the idea that you can’t is a misapplication of Latin grammar to English grammar, for the record). All of the gluten-free dishes, which you will find on the online menu, are as follows:

“Previews” (appetizers) – Chips & Salsa, Rex Chips, Basket of Fries
“Short Films” (basically more substantial appetizers) – St. Louis Ribs, Chicken Wings
“Salads” (salads) – Baby Spinach & Strawberry Salad, South By Southwest Chicken Salad, Black & White Ahi Tuna Salad, Ty Cobb Salad
“Mystic Pizzas” (literal pizzas) – Every pizza listed, although only in the 10-inch size
“Featured Attractions” (entrees) – Cool Hand Luke Ribeye, Ariel’s Salmon With Sweet Chili Sauce

A lot of different sections of the menu have gluten-free options, so there is decent variety. Also, for happy hour, which is from 3-6 daily and all day Sunday, three items are gluten-free: the Chips & Salsa, Half-Dozen Wings, and Basket of Sweet Potato Fries.

The Rex is located here:
817 Main St.
Louisville, CO 80027

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 info@glutenfreeinboulder.com. We’ll try our best to check it out!

Read Next Article » Leaf’s Spring Equinox Dinner – Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free
Previous Article « A Gluten-Free Coffee Break at Red Rock Coffeehouse in Boulder

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