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Thursday, May 8,2014

The Protein Bar out-Boulders Boulder

By Josh Gross
Susan France

The PR and marketing department for the newly-opened The Protein Bar has been lobbying BW for its approval, sending over a catered lunch and emailing this reporter offers to set up an official tasting, as if there existed some alternate universe in which the grizzled old cynics I report to would let gushing journalistic about a place that tossed me a freebee slide as a legitimate review.

But the fitcats running this small health food chain literally have nothing to worry about as The Protein Bar is arguably the most Boulder restaurant in Boulder.

The clean, modernist design is warm earth-tones and desertesque geometric patterns, with several of the walls boasting sans-serif font proclamations of health and wellness. “So proudly we kale,” the wall by the agave syrup soda machine boasts.

There is even a stunning view of The Flatirons from either the raised patio or the large picture windows in its west-facing Twenty-Ninth Street mall location. The only thing that view needs to be more quintessentially Colorado is a group of thousand-feet-tall folks in swimwear playing volleyball.

Then there’s the food. The menu is a mix of wraps, bowls and salads, most based around quinoa and averaging 400-600 calories, counts which are marked on the menu along with their grams of fat, carbs, fiber and protein.

The Buffalo Bar-rito ($7.29 and 580 calories) is a combo of chicken, greens mix, quinoa and blue cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla with a vegan buffalo sauce, a sauce that is typically made with butter.

Like most of the bar-ritos, it’s also available as a bowl or salad, though by going that route you would miss out on the earthy grit of the whole wheat tortilla that says to your tongue, “This isn’t Buffalo, this is Boulder. We just, you know, have a team called The Buffaloes.” You’d also get that from the dish not being quite as spicy as one expects from sauces labeled “buffalo,” but it’s got just enough zip to get by, and the quality of the chicken is top-notch.

Another standout choice is the Capone ($7.29 and 510 calories), which wraps quinoa, chicken and spinach up with a rich marinara. Like nearly everything on the menu, it can be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting tofu.

Also on the menu is a variety of raw juices, smoothies with your choice of dairy or a wide variety of dairy substitutes and several yogurt and egg white-based breakfast bowls. This reporter’s fave is the Pikes Peeled, with chocolate, peanut butter and banana blended up into a frothy delight.

With a menu thats loaded with stylish, rapidly-prepared health food, it’s a mystery how The Protein Bar is based out of Chicago — spiritual home of the nacho — and is just now making its way to Boulder, the land of soy milk and local honey.

Whether or not you have been to The Protein Bar or are a consummate Boulderite who attaches the word “conscious” to everything and prefers to only eat carrots that are served with their biography, know that this place’s food, decor and overall spirit already exists in your heart. The only way it could be out-Bouldered would be if a café opened up in which one had to scale a rock-climbing wall to place their order. Which, just in case any budding restaurateurs are reading this, would be a totally fun way to order spaghetti.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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Are the tortillas whole wheat *and* flax? I remember seeing flax somewhere in there.



So far the Ivy (chicken/spinach/pesto) is my favorite Bar-rito.  Protein Bar came to my health club one day with free tastes.  I was surprised at how good it is.  I also find the smoothies delicious and not-too-sweet.

One quibble:  While they post signs about how they recycle, there is no place for compost collection.  Not even for the napkins.  I invite the Protein Bar folks to visit our Farmers' Market and see how zero waste is done!




You can indeed substitute tofu for chicken, but beware: the substitution comes with a $2 upcharge (which is over 25% of the initial dish cost)!  Super disappointing, since tofu is less expensive than chicken.  



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