Denver is definitely a city of meat-eaters. The city is chock-full of steakhouses, burger joints, and fusion restaurants finding creative ways to incorporate elk, bison, and the infamous Rocky Mountain Oysters into their menus.
That said, vegetarians need not despair. Denver has a sizable vegetarian and vegan community and most restaurants have at least one or two items on their menus that cater to the meat-averse. There are also a good number of vegetarian-only and vegetarian-friendly restaurants around town.
Any discussion of vegetarian food in Denver begins and ends with Watercourse Foods. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, organic, locally grown, and delicious. The Seitan Buffalo Wings are the stuff of local legend. The same owners also run City O’ City, a more relaxed, loungey place that serves mostly sandwiches, pizza, beer, and mixed drinks.
Two places close to downtown that have a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options are the Mercury Café and the Vine Street Pub. Fans of restaurant reviews that use the word “eclectic” would do better at The Merc, as they’re famous for serving up locally sourced food, hosting poetry and salsa nights, and aiming to be the last place in America that doesn’t accept credit cards. If you’re looking for vegetarian takes on bar food – like, say, a vegetarian reuben – and an excellent array of microbrews (the pub is an offshoot of the Boulder’s Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery) then the Vine Street Pub is more your style.
For Indian food, a veggie’s best bet is to make the short hop over to Aurora’s Masalaa. The whole menu is vegetarian and nearly everything is under $10. There’s even a section titled, “From the beaches of Mumbai,” which has to count for something. If you’d rather not make the trip out of town, Govinda’s is just east of City Park but only open on Fridays and Saturdays. If that name sounds vaguely familiar it’s because it’s one of many Hare Krishna-run buffets around the world. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, then all we’ll mention is that Hare Krishna cuisine doesn’t use onions or garlic and leave it to you to figure out the rest.
Finally, there’s vegetarian food for those who spend their time secretly yearning after forbidden hot dogs and other greasy Americana dishes. On Colfax, there’s Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs, which can accommodate any bizarre regional hot dog topping proclivities you may have. If you’re down in the south side of Denver, only a few blocks north of the University of Denver is Mustard’s Last Stand. They bill themselves as a Chicago-style hot dog stand but also produce veggie burgers, veggie dogs, and yet another vegetarian reuben.
This isn’t the final word on vegetarian Denver. In fact, it’s far from it – the city is spotted with more than its fair share of Vietnamese, Thai, and Ethiopian restaurants with menus that are primarily vegetarian. You may have to dig a little and ask a few questions, but you certainly won’t run out of options.
[Photos courtesy of Flickr/luvsickmedia]