April 22, 2011

Tres Pupusas, Creator of Gluten-Free Latin Food, Opens Café in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

We recently reported that Tres Pupusas plans to open a café in Boulder that sells their increasingly popular gluten-free pupusas, frozen packages of which are now available at a dozen Front Range locations (mostly Whole Foods Markets). A few weeks ago, Tres Pupusas Latin Café officially opened, so, naturally, we had to pay them a visit to try a couple of gluten-free items.

Tres Pupusas’ new café is tucked away in a business district off Valmont Road (address listed below), behind the Boulder Beer Company. We’re not going to lie: it’s a little hard to find, but your efforts will be amply rewarded once you get there. The trick is to turn south off Valmont onto Wilderness Place, and then drive as if you were going to Boulder Beer (which you should be able to see). However, instead of turning into the Boulder Beer parking lot, keep driving along Wilderness, which loops around the brewery. Although it will annoy whoever is driving behind you, you’ll have to basically inch along Wilderness as you pass Boulder Beer, scanning the buildings on your right for a “Tres Pupusas” sign. For what it’s worth, the café is in suite 500, but it’s probably easier to look for the sign.

Once we found the café, we walked inside to find a counter and a very small dining area to our right. There are eight purple chairs that face each other in a circle and three small tables in the center – this is all. The arrangement is fluid, though, as the chairs and tables can be moved around to fit the needs of your party. During our visit, we noticed that a lot of people, some of which worked in the surrounding buildings, ordered their food to go, so the relative lack of seating isn’t much of a problem, as far as we can tell. And besides that, the café is merely a small part of a large production facility that makes pupusas for wholesale. A large dining area that can accommodate crowds of people clearly isn’t the purpose of the building.

At the center of the menu are of course the gluten-free pupusas, which are simple but delicious. This Salvadoran staple is made with a corn dough that envelopes whatever ingredients you choose to put in it. The final dish looks a bit like a stuffed pancake. At the café, there are currently five pupusas listed on the menu. There are two vegetarian options – zucchini or spinach, both of which come with cheese – as well as a vegan pupusa with black beans. The café also offers a chicken and cheese pupusa and a carnitas and cheese pupusa.

We ordered the spinach and cheese pupusa, and we enjoyed every bite. The outside of it was slightly crispy, supplying the pupusa with a nice texture, but the inside was soft and moist. Melted white cheese, along with spinach and some shredded carrot, filled the inside, turning our pupusa into a surprisingly filling entrée. A dish couldn’t be any more basic, but it was very tasty and satisfying. Our meal was a testament to just how simple good food can be.

In addition to the options listed above, Tres Pupusas incorporates other ingredients into their pupusas as well, including pinto beans, mushrooms, and leeks, although these were not listed on the menu during our visit. If you don’t like corn-based pupusas, rice pupusas can also be made on request. This is notable, as Tres Pupusas is the only restaurant along the Front Range that offers pupusas made with rice.

Finally, if you aren’t interested in pupusas at all, corn, rice, or otherwise, there is a chicken tamale that is gluten-free too. The tamales are made with the same corn dough as the pupusas, although it was slightly softer in the tamale we were served. Inside the corn exterior was chicken, a few pieces of potato, and a couple of green beans. Despite its small size (as tamales tend to be), the dish struck as hearty, reminding us of a home-cooked meal that just so happens to be wrapped up in a single tamale.

Overall, Tres Pupusas has some excellent food and it’s worth a trip if you like gluten-free Latin food. For now, the café is only open for lunch (11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) on Monday-Friday, so if you can’t stop by the café itself, you can always buy a four pack of frozen pupusas at several locations around Boulder (linked to below). And finally, Tres Pupusas is a vendor at the Boulder Farmers’ Market – you can check them out there on Saturdays (8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and Wednesdays (4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) from April to November.

The Tres Pupusas website:

Where to buy Tres Pupusas products:

Tres Pupusas Latin Café is located at:
2825 Wilderness Place Suite 500
Boulder, CO 80305

Note: This is the sixteenth 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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