With a mission to “change the way people eat on-the-go,” it was a logical, albeit bold move for Protein Bar to spread to Boulder, a city which has been at the forefront of “health food” since the seventies.W
Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All plates, $11 or less. Find out more online at www.theproteinbar.com.
The location that Protein Bar chose—down the block from modMarket, Mad Greens and Native Food Cafe—emphasizes the moxie that this quasi-fast food restaurant brings to a dining league where dietary restrictions are not only welcomed, but encouraged.
Catering to those restrictions quite well is a menu that easily avoids dairy, is nearly entirely gluten free and makes fast friends with vegetarians and vegans alike. But such options are nothing new for a bill of fare in this town. What is new, or, more direct about Protein Bar, is its assertive approach to making you aware of precisely everything in your food. Contrary to what the crazy Jetsons-inspired chandelier may impress you with, this isn’t the upscale bistro that gently name-drops its locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients just enough for diners to Instagram about dinner. Rather, from the moment you step inside the earth toned restaurant, you’ll notice (slash be inundated with) the nutritional value of everything, whether you want to be or not.
Bring your to-go dishes to one of the faux wood tables (circa 1960s breakfast nooks), for a nutritional, yet basic meal. However short the ingredient list, each dish is rooted with chia or quinoa—a seed and grain respectively, that, though slow to catch on in the U.S., have been constant staples in diets around the world for millennia. The restaurant’s signature bar-ritos and protein bowls are stuffed with grains and beans and build up from there with all-natural chicken, cheeses and spices. Feel like something more substantial? The chili (heavy on tomato sauce and light on any meat) probably isn’t for you. But available sides—hard boiled eggs, high protein cookies or perhaps a side of more quinoa—might satiate any lingering hunger, more appropriately so if you’ve just returned from the gym.
Of course, there are also raw juices and blended drinks like the Aspen Acai’d (vanilla protein, yogurt, acai berry, banana), and a kids menu that makes feeding children something healthy sound like it might just be doable, if only for dish names like “the green monster.”
In a day and age where health food is more en vogue than maybe ever before, Protein Bar falls in the no man’s land between Chipotle’s style and Whole Foods’ selection. But if, at any point during your meal here you begin to think of ditching the Cliff bar dessert for ice cream somewhere else, look to one of the many signs hanging around you, reinforcing that by eating here “your body thanks you,” and pick that fork back up.