Food Three-and-a-half of four stars
Service Three of four stars
Ambience Three of four stars
Address: 5378 Gunbarrel Center Court #2, Boulder
Contact: 303-954-9990, raglinmarket.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Sunday
Fare: Soup, salad, sandwiches and market plates with an emphasis on fresh produce, along with a respectable selection of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.
Noise Level: High at lunchtime, which can make it hard to carry on a low-key conversation.
The march of new eateries in Gunbarrel continues unabated, with one of the latest entries being Raglin Market. This casual-dining venue comes courtesy of Matthew Jansen, best known as the driving force behind Boulder's popular and long-running Mateo.
Situated on the ground floor of a mixed-use development, Raglin Market boasts a bright and airy vibe. The setup here is akin to most fast-casual places, namely that it's an order-at-the-counter spot, although staff does bring meals to the table. There's also an intriguing selection of $3 Tractor Beverage Company self-serve carbonated and non-carbonated fountain drinks, including a peppy ginger beer and a smooth coconut soda.
There are lots of hard surfaces here, including expansive glass picture windows, so it did get a little noisy during the lunch hour. It's also worth noting that Raglin has already become a popular lunch destination, and we needed to scramble for seating.
Built on a foundation of soup, salads and sandwiches, the menu is straightforward, and also spotlights a selection of sides ranging from house-cured olives to roasted beets. If you're seeking strong beverage to accompany your meal, you'll find a small selection of local craft beers, cider, wine and cocktails. For small fries, there's a $6 kids menu, offering a choice of grilled cheese or chicken tenders.
My lunch companion, who adheres to a gluten-free diet, and I started off with a $6 bowl of tomato soup. In this instance, the key ingredients are cream and San Marzano tomatoes, blended in such a way to make for a bright, but balanced soup. The flavor profile expertly split the difference between the tomato's acidity and suave cream. As an added bonus, there was a surprising hint of peppery spice that built up over time, which contributed interesting depth to this comforting standby.
A $12 garlic shrimp sandwich showcased two optional slices of top-notch toasted gluten-free bread that was tough to distinguish from a regular loaf. Stuffed with large and meaty shrimp that certainly lived up to its garlicky billing, the filling was equally laudatory. Arugula, cucumber, radish and a lemon aioli added both spring-like freshness and lightness, making for an unquestionably satisfying sandwich that didn't seem overly heavy.
Surprising heartiness also characterized my choice of a protein plate. This $13 option enables the diner to choose either tuna, steak, pulled pork, jerk chicken, shrimp, or a cauliflower "steak" along with two sides. Perhaps motivated by some vaguely delusional New Year's resolution to eat better, I opted for the cauliflower. Although this cruciferous veggie was cooked to a greater degree of doneness than I prefer, I'd order it again. It also would have benefited from more of the green romesco sauce drizzled on top as its mix of acidic and herbal tones helped to enliven this otherwise mild vegetable.
On the side came a crisp and colorful spicy slaw, accompanied by salad greens and eye-catching heirloom beet. Like the soup, this side's spice quotient became more heated over time, making for an intriguing mix of pep and freshness that is very welcoming in these wintry months. The other side, fingerling potatoes, made for a familiar and comforting option, nicely prepared with an appropriately soft interior and adorned with a dusting of Parmesan and herbs.
Our meal concluded with the $5 gluten-free walnut apple crisp. The spices in the Bhakti chai-braised apples were so mild as to be nearly discernible, and an assertive hit of cinnamon or similar warming element would have been welcome. Of course, one would always wish for more of the Chantilly cream, but the dollop on top was still respectable. The gluten-free topping of oat and coconut, essentially granola, was a fine alternative to crumbly coverings, and the subtly sweet taste of the fruit was also hard to argue with.
The fare certainly lives up to this eatery's stated promise of serving up farmer-fresh meals with an emphasis on local ingredients. Granted, my initial response to the pricing was that it was a little high for what it was. However, post-meal consideration of quality of preparation, produce and above-average gluten-free elements made me revisit this assessment.
The next Raglin Market is scheduled to open in the Five Points neighborhood in Denver in the upcoming months, so it appears that the Gunbarrel venue is prototype for future locations. From first impressions, this inaugural eatery provides a most promising blueprint.