October 6, 2014

Gluten-Free Fried Chicken at Yellowbelly in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

As a rule, we try not to evaluate a new gluten-free eating opportunity in Boulder when we are famished. Piercing hunger can make even the most bland food delicious; a rice cake is a gourmet meal for the starving. However, a fortuitous combination of factors led us to the doorstep of Yellowbelly (occasionally written incorrectly as “Yellow Belly”) in Boulder the other night, and we weren’t going to not review the restaurant simply because we were abnormally hungry. That would be absurd. So, we ignored our rule and ate at Yellowbelly, which has been recommended to us by multiple people as an excellent restaurant with a range of gluten-free food, including, of course, gluten-free chicken. Yellowbelly is in fact delicious – it’s gluten-free fried chicken is superb – and we are confident we’d say this regardless of the extent of our hunger.

Obviously, we weren’t actually starving when we visited Yellowbelly, but we had worked up a fierce appetite, the inevitable result of a day in which only a few carrot sticks and seltzer water were consumed. Why such minimal provisions had been made for the day’s sustenance remains unclear, but we suppose it doesn’t really matter. We were hungry when we arrived; we thought this should be noted; and we will leave the matter there.

The Boulder location of Yellowbelly (there is one other location, the original restaurant in Vail) opened about a year ago near the corner of Folsom and Arapahoe; it is part of the same strip mall that houses Larkburger, although it is on the opposite end of the chain of restaurants and stores, near Great Harvest Bread Co. On the couple of times we’ve walked by Yellowbelly, quite a few people were in the restaurant, and we suspect this is the case during more normal dining hours. However, we visited the store shortly before it closed for the night at 9:00 PM, and we had the place entirely to ourselves.

As is the case with so many new eateries, Yellowbelly is somewhere between a sit-down and fast-food restaurant, like Modmarket and Fresh Thymes Eatery. You order and pay at a counter, but your food is cooked a la minute, meaning you generally have to wait at least five or ten minutes for your order to be prepared. Also, a good portion of Yellowbelly’s menu items are proper meals – there is a featured protein that comes with two sides. The featured protein is chicken in all instances, but it is worth noting that there are a few vegetarian meals. One is the “Vegetarian Meal,” which allows you to pick four sides to create your own dish, and there are also two vegetarian salads, the Organic Baby Kale and Spinach and Goat Cheese. The food is served on a metal tray/plate, and you are given a real fork to eat with. In other words, you don’t just get a sandwich or burrito wrapped in paper at Yellowbelly – the eating experience is slightly more traditional, for lack of a better word, at least when you order certain meals.

And it was one of these meals that we ordered. Because we thought it would be one of the most representative dishes on the menu, we ordered the Fried White Plate. (The “white” part, as you might have guessed, refers to the type of chicken meat you get.) As with the rest of the “meals” on the menu, the Fried White Plate comes with two sides. There are four sides to choose from – Smashed Potato Fries, Brussel Slaw, Macaroni Pie, and Citrus Quinoa – and all but the Macaroni Pie are gluten-free. There is also one seasonal side available at any given time, and four of the five are gluten-free. (Only the Israeli Couscous contains gluten.) This ratio of GF items to non-GF items holds true for essentially the entire menu – five of the six meals are gluten-free, for instance – and the Yellowbelly menu makes all of this quite clear. In the restaurant, there is a little “GF” emblem by all of the gluten-free items, and on the website, dishes that contain gluten are marked with an asterisk. (It’s always nice when non-GF dishes are the exceptions that need to be singled out.) And just to make everything even more clear, there is an allergen chart that indicates every dish that contains gluten.

Gluten Free Yellowbelly

For our two sides, we went with Brussel Slaw and Smashed Potatoes Fries, giving us the classic protein-vegetable-starch combo. As you can see in the picture above, we got plenty of both sides, especially the potatoes, which occupied almost half the plate.

When our food was delivered to the table, we were informed that Yellowbelly makes a barbecue and hot sauce in house, both of which are gluten-free. (They also have Heinz Ketchup, which is also gluten-free.) Naturally, we tried both of the homemade sauces, which paired well with the crispy, thoroughly tender chicken. The Fried White Plate is the only dish in which the chicken comes boneless, and this made it ideal for dipping into the sauces. The BBQ sauce was sweet, but had a smokey aftertaste, as well as a faint trace of teriyaki to boot. The hot sauce was vinegary and surprisingly spicy. It had the consistency of pico de gallo and was loaded with finely chopped onions, a little carrot, and some cilantro. The chicken was the perfect juicy medium through which to revel in these sauces.

Naturally, the chicken was the main event, it being the central component of most of Yellowbelly’s dishes. However, the sides that came with the chicken were also excellent. The potatoes, like most things that are properly fried, were delicious. They were maximally crispy, just as they must be, and the pieces came in various sizes, ranging from large tatter tot-like cubes to small, crunchy flakes of potato skin. The shredded carrots, cabbage, and Brussels sprout of the Brussel Slaw were fresh and light. They provided a refreshing counterpoint to rich taste of chicken slathered in barbecue and hot sauce.

Overall, we had a well-balanced and satisfying meal at Yellowbelly’s, and the next time we want chicken, the restaurant will be high on our list. It is definitely worth checking out if you have a chance. If you want more information, including contact info and the exact address of the restaurant, visit the Yellowbelly website.

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