First look: Fresh Thymes Eatery opens in Boulder

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Fresh Thymes Eatery is an anomaly in the dining scene: a community restaurant that had its community baked in before the doors even opened. "We expected to have 100 people in for our soft opening on Tuesday night, and 168 people came," says Christine Ruch, owner and chef of the new restaurant. "What do they say -- straight from the frying pan into the fire?"

Fresh Thymes, which had its grand opening this past Saturday in Boulder's Steel Yards development, is a CSR, or Community-Supported Restaurant. Ruch raised the money to open the new concept through donations on her website. It's something of a culinary Kickstarter, where "founders" who donated get free food and other perks. "I was looking for a way to fund-raise, and it was so hard to find conventional investors for a new restaurant concept," Ruch says. "But I felt like I knew so many people who needed this type of food that I would be able to raise money faster if I could go directly to the people."

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And what did the founders buy with their money? The Eatery is styled as a grab-and-go, counter-service restaurant, where each menu item is healthy and made with local ingredients if possible. And everything in the restaurant is gluten-free. "I just felt like Boulder doesn't have a lot of healthy dining options for people who are pressed for time," says Ruch, who suffers from celiac disease and other food allergies.

Customers can choose from proteins like tamarind garlic lime flank steak and braised local pork shoulder to top their salads, or pick up a sandwich or burger from the kitchen. Much of the produce comes from local farms like Munson Farms and Red Wagon Farms, and the restaurant's forthcoming grab-and-go section will feature local products that may not have made it onto store shelves yet.

"We have a handful of small emerging food businesses that we're going to feature, which we're really excited about," Ruch says. "I wanted to use as much local products as possible. I knew I wanted to not just use local produce, but also be sort of an incubator for small food businesses that are trying to launch."

The current board features an eclectic and multinational spread of convenience foods, including zucchini hummus and a Romesco chicken sandwich. "Things that don't seem like they're super-healthy, but are prepared in a way that is really 'clean,'" Ruch adds, meaning free of allergens, GMOs and other nasty ingredients.

if you'd like to become a founder and get your name on Fresh Thymes's wall, you can still donate to Ruch's campaign, which she says she plans to run through December. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Read on for more photos of Fresh Thymes' fresh new space.

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