Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

Eating out gluten free can be scary when you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or another medical reason to eat gluten free, so when I find a restaurant that does gluten free food right, I like to spread the word. So imagine my surprise when I realized that almost a year has passed since I visited Five On Black, and I still hadn’t published a proper gluten free restaurant review.

Well, that’s changing if you love finding new gluten free restaurants to eat it, live near Denver, Colorado (or their other locations in Colorado and Montana) or just enjoy some good foodporn, keep reading for a celiac’s thoughts on Five On Black!

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

First, a bit of background. I have family in Colorado Springs, so Denver and I aren’t total strangers but I haven’t had many opportunities to explore the city yet. (Hopefully that will change this summer!). So when more family flew down to Denver for my cousin’s college graduation and wanted to go out to eat together, I turned to handy dandy google for gluten free restaurant recommendations...and Five On Black kept coming up.

So what is Five On Black? (And what the heck does their name even mean?). We'll start with the basics: Five On Black is a Brazilian grill that's also 100% gluten free, even the bread. If I had to compare Five On Black to another mainstream restaurant, it would probably be Chipotle. Like in Chipotle, customers' meals are made in an assembly-line fashion as people select whatever options they like.

In particular, Five On Black's bowls each feature:
  • One base: brown rice, white rice, greens or rice and greens
  • One protein, ranging from chicken to fish to roasted veggies
  • One side: sweet potatoes, collard greens or black beans
  • One sauce, with customers choosing between Mango BBQ and Spicy Coconut
  • Up to three toppings, which range from a lime wedge to fresh cilantro
  • PLUS optional upgrades like avocado, extra toppings or sides and their infamous cheesy bread (more on that later)
Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

Customers can order a small bowl (which costs $6.45) or a regular bowl (for $8.45) and, according to a mural on one of the restaurant's walls, there are over 70,560 different ways to order a bowl at Five On Black. They also claim it would take 193 years to try all of those it's a good thing I ordered a pretty epic bowl my first time.

So what did I get? I ended up ordering a regular bowl with greens + brown rice, chicken, half sweet potatoes and half black beans, their mango BBQ sauce, a lime wedge, avocado (which does cost extra...but was totally worth it and super fresh) and their pao de queijo, which is a gluten free bread made of tapioca flour and cheeses I don't typically eat dairy and I didn't end up being a big fan of the bread, but when I have the chance to try a new kind of gluten free bread, I rarely turn it down!

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

Now for the really important part: the taste. Overall, I would give Five On Black a solid A-. The chicken was extremely tender and juicy, and I love how small they diced it. All of the sides and toppings also tasted very fresh (especially compared to Chipotle, which has been a miss more than a hit for me lately), and the cheesy bread tasted soft and fluffy. The pao de queijo is very cheesy, so if you aren't a big dairy fan, I'd pass. Also, if you do order the mango BBQ sauce like I did, order it on the side. Because I had them pour the sauce over my bowl, the sweetness got a little overpowering, especially with my side of sweet potatoes. (Unfortunately, mango also appears to be a major high fodmap trigger for me in big doses, so I also ended up pretty bloated after scarfing down the whole bowl).

Nonetheless, I was impressed that eight very diverse eaters (me, my parents, my aunt and her four boys) all ended up enjoying their lunch at Five On Black, even though none of us had tried any Brazilian food before. My parents are usually very meat-and-potatoes-esque eaters, but my dad loved the tender chicken. Everyone also enjoyed being able to order very different meals (some of my cousins were brave enough to try the spicy chimichurri, and were fans) in the same restaurant.

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

We were lucky enough to hit the restaurant during a non-peak time, so only a couple of minutes separated us from our hot bowls. However, given the assembly-line setup, I imagine that it rarely takes very long to receive food at Five On Black. I can also attest that the bowl tastes just as good as leftovers as it does fresh, with the only exception being the pao de queijo, which my dad said got a bit hard and chewy over time.

As for the restaurant's name...well, we asked the staff, and even they weren't sure about the name's origins! However, according to this interview, the name apparently stands for black beans (a common Brazilian ingredient...and a love that Five On Black and I definitely share) and the five steps in ordering a bowl. Whatever the name's exact origins, though, the restaurant's goal of giving customers "something that feels familiar but isn't" was definitely met.

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Eating Out Gluten Free at Five On Black

Overall, I'd give Five On Black a solid 9/10. This isn't a restaurant that I would want to eat at every time I'm in Denver, mainly because the flavors can be a little too much for my sensitive stomach. However, the quality and variety of food - plus the fact that the entire restaurant is gluten free - makes Five On Black a safe and delicious option for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or the need to follow a gluten free diet...

Like this post? Tweet me some love by clicking here: "Love Brazilian food, #glutenfreefood or just tasty but #healthy grub? Check out this #celiac's review of @FiveonBlack. Even their homemade cheesy bread is #glutenfree! Read what I ordered here --> #healthyeating #healthyfood"

...and considering how much the rest of my family raved over the food (with several of them liking it even more than I did), Five On Black is also a great choice when you want to wow foodie friends or dive into a fresh meal that's different from most other restaurants around town!

Have you ever tried Five On Black or Brazilian food? What bowl would you make? Tell me in the comments!


  1. Rocking review! I am here for the foodporn LOL. Lovely breakdown though; you can feel the positive vibes from the folks at Five On Black through your post.



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