When Fresh Thymes Eatery owner and chef Christine Ruch opened her 100 percent gluten-free restaurant in Boulder in August 2013, she had a vision to create a place that everyone could eat at, from the average person who orders a burger and a beer to the diner on the Whole 30 and their vegan friend.
“I just wanted it to be straight up delicious and proper-made, making everyone happy,” Christine says.
True to form, Fresh Thymes offers a menu catering not just to the almighty gluten-free diet, but has paleo-, vegetarian-, vegan- and keto-friendly menu items, too.
Christine sources all of her ingredients with incredible intention and diligence, procuring some things through relationships with local farmers and other hard-to-find things from rigorously researched online sources.
With items from Korean skirt steak to cauliflower tacos with macha salsa to chicken wings, the restaurant located in a quiet nook off 30th Street, allows Boulderites to not compromise their tastebuds or diet when eating out.
“We don’t use any conventional ingredients,” Christine says. “Everything is intentional, from the table salt we use to the olive oil. I go to great lengths to make sure the products we source are top quality.”
Before launching, Christine felt the Boulder community didn’t have any casual dining restaurants that supported one’s personal food values. While many people opt for farmer’s markets and invest in specialty foods at the grocery store, they had limited options once they left their kitchen.
While she had always been health-conscious, a Celiac Disease and Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in 2006 compelled Christine to change her diet. She turned to a natural holistic food diet to treat her issues, and it changed her life.
Like her, Fresh Thymes clientele tends to care where food comes from and see food as a vital link in their health.
When Christine was looking to launch the restaurant, a daunting task, she needed to raise money. She kept hearing “You have to show proof of concept first and then get investment.”
Inspired by the CSA membership she had and the rise of pop-funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, a light bulb went on: “If i just had $200 from everyone that cares about food,” she could make it. Good friends encouraged her. Instead of treating people who supported the restaurants as traditional investors with the promise of money in the future, what if “I gave them food instead of money?”
Akin to a CSA, in which member subscribe for local produce, Fresh Thymes offers annual memberships in its innovative community-supported restaurant model (CSR). The memberships come in three tiers (next available in summer 2020):
- $250 for a $300 credit at the restaurant and marketplace
- $500 for a $625 credit
- $1,000 for a $1,300 credit
Fresh Thymes Marketplace
Christine opened the Fresh Thymes Marketplace near the restaurant at 2690 28th Street in fall 2016 that offers healthy grab-and-go meals and small-batch treats. It also participates in the restaurant’s CSR program.
Items include sides, fermented foods and broths all made in-house. The marketplace uses seventy-five pounds of local beef bones each week to make its signature broth. The space also offers cooking classes for anyone wanting to brush up on their knife skills, holistic recipes or gluten-free baking.
One of the store’s top sellers is the indulgent vegan mac-and-cheese dish Mac Attack, made with gluten-free noodles and cashew cream sauce.
“You can spruce it up however you’d like, adding Sriracha or pork or kale, and pretty much everyone loves it unless you have a cashew or coconut allergy,” Christine says.
On the slightly healthier side, the Diva Salad provides a healthy punch with avocado, dates, house-smoked almonds, local goat cheese, grilled chicken and tangy sherry lime vinaigrette.
What’s the future hold?
Fresh Thymes is looking to grow, but faces the persistent Boulder challenge of finding affordable space. Christine says Denver offers more opportunities, based on its shear size.