Traveling Gluten-Free in Colorado

Rocky Mountain tips for eating gluten-free

For those who are willing to take on the altitude and explore a burgeoning food culture complete with health-conscious and gluten-free cuisine, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains are calling. Boulder, Colo., a college town with a hippy feel, has numerous watering holes serving gluten-free beers and cocktails, and one particular high-end establishment that’s finding its way onto the national stage.

With roughly 100,000 people, Boulder is situated at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. While it’s known for being a college town (Go CU!) it’s also known for its unique food scene that happens to have a focus on gluten-free cuisine. Most restaurants in the city have their own designated gluten-free menus. A few in particular with great options include The Kitchen, The Kitchen Next Door, and Centro.

The Kitchen Next Door has an incredibly simple and deliciously executed tomato soup with a side of gluten-free bread, and a quinoa chicken salad that awakens the taste buds and shows the rest of the world how great gluten-free and simply cooked food can be. Across the street lies Centro, a Latin restaurant with a killer brunch menu featuring items like huevos rancheros with corn tortillas and gluten-free pancakes paired with a cocktail aptly named "The Raw D-eal," with Don Julio Reposado, lime, and turbinado, cinnamon and orange peel syrup.

For those who dig coffee culture, a must-see spot is Box Car Roasters. The shop produces "cowboy style coffee" that is crafted by using a rapid coffee roaster built in Germany in 1929. Its solid construction and heavy iron castings keep the roasting temperature extremely stable. Located in the same space are Cured and Cured Wines, which offer a variety of meat, cheese, and wine that would make any food lover smile, after their freshly brewed cup of coffee, of course. 

Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place may be the gluten-free mecca of Boulder. The drink menu boasts several gluten-free beers and ciders, while their menu is 100 percent gluten-free. The restaurant uses organic local veggies, nitrate-free meats, and Grant Family Farm eggs. Lunch items like the Mediterranean salad and Aunt Barb’s Harvested Seaweed Salad (both gluten-free and vegan) showcase the fresh ingredients brought in from local farms. In the evening — or midday for that matter — guests can sip on a variety of juices, healthy cocktails, and specialty gluten-free beers. For those hanging around long enough, Shine also showcases a variety of local bands playing in the event space found in the back of the restaurant.

The town of Boulder certainly emanates the local, earthy feeling of a health-conscious college town, but many will be pleased to know if you delve a bit deeper, the fine dining scene is also alive and well. At Italian restaurant Frasca Food & Wine, mentioned in The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants, located on Pearl Street, food lovers can experience tasting menus perfectly crafted to remind one of traditional dishes found in Friuli, Italy.

In true Boulder fashion, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson champions local farmers and tries to showcase Boulder’s finest ingredients. Tasting menu items include braised Colorado beef shank with broccoli di ciccio, fingerling potato, and anchovy, as well as generous plates of salumi and cheese. Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey can guide one through the pervasive wine list, as the restaurant believes wine is integral in a sensational meal.

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The beauty of Boulder is also that no matter what price point you’re looking for, there are a variety of gluten-free options at one’s fingertips — no need to search high and low for a meal that’s healthy, safe, and masterfully crafted.