Think sticking to a gluten-free, paleo or vegan diet means you're stuck making your own meals while your friends are out feasting in Boulder's restaurants? Think again.
In a town like Boulder, you have all kinds of options.
Most places now will make accommodations, swapping a hamburger bun for lettuce for those avoiding carbs or the beef patty for a veggie one for those who don't eat flesh. But Boulder also offers restaurants that cater specifically to those who follow special diets, whether that means no animal products, no nuts or no gluten. Want to eat hyper local? Boulder's got you covered there, too.
Native Foods Cafe
1675 29th St. #1272, Boulder
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
You're used to looking for the special menu items, those with a little carrot or star next to them to signal vegetarian dishes, but forget about that at Native Foods. Every single thing on the menu is 100 percent plant-based. Nothing is out of bounds, which can be incredibly refreshing for those used to limiting themselves.
Indulge in traditional French fries or their sweet-potato cousins without worrying about what's in the oil. Don't worry about the tempeh in your Baja Blackened Tacos even sharing a grill with meat products.
And speaking of that tempeh, Native Foods has the biggest range of soy-protein nonanimal products in town, with house-made tempeh, seitan, "chicken," "bacon" and nut cheeses. That means vegetarians can savor American classics like chicken wings or a BBQ sandwich without sacrificing their dedication to their health or that of animals.
Blooming Beets Kitchen
3303 30th St., Boulder
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Faithfully following the paleo philosophy, this spot boasts a menu free of refined sugars, GMOs, grains and, by extension, gluten.
Cooking fats include avocado and coconut oils, as well as butter and ghee. There's also an emphasis on local ingredients from farms that eschew pesticides and fertilizers.
The menu spotlights such clean proteins as grass-fed, wild-caught and pastured meats. Cauliflower rice, brussels sprouts and beets are common sides.
For vegetarians, there are separate brunch and dinner menus with highlights like chocolate maple waffles, a veggie hash scramble and a veggie platter with crispy sweet potato, citrus beet bisque, brussels sprouts and roasted beet salad.
1100 13th St., Boulder
7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Slotted somewhere between sit-down dining establishments and less expensive grab-and-go spots common to the Hill, The Corner describes itself as a "healthy choice." Vegetarians, carnivores and those eating gluten-free will find something to their liking among the assortment of salads, sandwiches available with or without gluten-free bread, and one-dish meal bowls.
The "best paleo bowl in town" gives you a heap of grilled chicken and flank steak, fresh spring greens, quinoa, avocado, sauteed peppers and onions, and chimichurri sauce. Or try the coconut curry bowl with tofu on a bed of quinoa.
Another star on the menu is the blackened fish sandwich, which features mahi-mahi or salmon. Addictive sweet potato fries are the side of choice with this nautical nosh.
Breakfast is served all day, including the (more decadent than healthy) chorizo breakfast burrito and various bagel breakfast sammies.
Fresh Thymes Eatery
2500 30th St., Unit 101, Boulder
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday
This casual restaurant is a safe space for those with allergies. The diverse menu is totally gluten-free, including the beer, and there are items for both herbivores and carnivores. Plus, peanuts and GMOs are banished from the menu, and many ingredients are sourced locally.
Signature fresh flavors appeal to nearly every dietary need, making this the perfect spot for couples that follow different diets or a big group of friends with a mix of dietary requirements.
Choose from seasonal counter options or a made-to-order menu. For the carnivores, options include local pastured ancho chili pork and chicken wings. To tempt the herbivores, there's Yucatan grilled tempeh and falafel burgers.
There's even a marketplace of grab-and-go lunch and dinner fare and tasty sides — plus quarts of bone broth in flavors that include ginger garlic beef, naked beef, traditional chicken and turmeric chicken.
Happy hour, from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, lets you snag dragon tacos and chicken or tempeh wings on the cheap, plus $1 off those gluten-free beers.
Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
2010 16th St., Boulder
Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, dinner 5 p.m. to close daily; afternoon tea 3 to 5 p.m. Saturdays
Expect to spend more green at The Leaf, where the produce is supplied whenever possible by Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette. But this artful, gourmet vegetarian haven is worth every penny.
There's an artistry to the food at this special-occasion venue, which really shines at brunch with their biscuits and wild mushroom vegan gravy and vegan French toast — with banana bread pudding, Boulder breakfast tea anglaise and seasonal berries.
The best deals are at the weekday-only lunches, with $10 or $11 sandwiches. Vegan crab cakes, ruebens and mushroom burgers are some of the sandwich options. Or try bargain-priced small bites during the 3 to 6 p.m. daily happy hour, including buffalo cauliflower tacos, samosa potato cakes and grilled flatbread with beet hummus, pickled carrots and fava beans.
Amy Bounds: twitter.com/boundsa