Herbivores, rejoice! Denver’s vegetarian and vegan dining choices are better than ever. Maybe you’re new to plant-based eating or maybe you said goodbye to meat years ago — either way, Denver’s vegetarian and vegan restaurants will delight you with fare that ranges from light-and-crisp creations to sumptuous comfort foods.
What makes Vital Root a standout vegetarian option is its inventive menu (take your time to peruse it all) and the fabulous back patio, walled in by vertical gardens. Vital prides itself on the fact that 99 percent of its food can be prepared vegan or gluten-free, and all of it is prepared fresh in its from-scratch kitchen. Just step up to the café counter to order (from staff who are patient with any dietary questions or requests for recommendations), then grab a seat for quick service.
Extra Yummy: The Devils on Unicorn (dates with goat cheese, coconut “bacon” and smoked almonds) are a favorite, as is the Sunflower Seed Risotto, which packs a healthy (and flavorful) punch. “Portlandia” fans: order the Safe Word Cacao smoothie, once you regain your composure.
“Ahhh, home.” That’s what WaterCourse Foods feels like if you’re a vegan or vegetarian. Close your eyes, point to the menu and rest assured that anything your finger lands on will be vegan and delicious. Fortunately, WaterCourse is just as welcoming to omnivores, too, with its cheery, sunny interior, gleaming bar and seriously satisfying dishes. On a recent visit, there were folks from all walks dining happily: a business lunch, a pair of hipsters, a table of what appeared to be Phish fans, and a police officer. Breakfast is served all day (yesssss!), there’s an ambitious craft coffee program, kombucha is on tap, and a full beer, wine and cocktail menu sweetens the deal. Serving an all-vegan menu since 1998, WaterCourse simply has it down pat, and Denver loves it.
Extra Yummy: Start with finger-lickin’ cauliflower or seitan wings and move onto the Macro Plate — the miso-glazed tofu is terrific.
City, O’ City
Sister restaurant to WaterCourse Foods, City, O’ City isn’t strictly vegan (though you’ll find plenty of vegan choices on the menu), but it is most certainly meatless and tasty. City O’ City emits an effortless artist/poet/punk-rock vibe. It’s not pretentious or put-on, and for that reason, it is beloved by Denverites. Sidle up to the weathered, wooden bar in the back, or sit below an illuminated icicle-like light installation in the front, and let the experienced wait staff point you to the right pizzas, sandwiches and entrees on the extensive menu.
Extra Yummy: The sinfully good savory waffle is topped with seasonal veggies and a gooey cheese fondue, while the udon noodle bowl, with its carrot-ginger broth, has been called “one of the best veggie bowls in Denver” by Westword.
True Food Kitchen
The entire concept of True Food Kitchen is to make “clean,” or “anti-inflammatory,” foods burst with flavor. And we’d say mission accomplished. While much of the menu does feature meat and fish, lots of herbivore options are clearly labeled as either vegan or vegetarian (and gluten-free, too). The large, bright and modern interior at this buzzing Cherry Creek location matches the vibrancy and freshness of its dishes.
Extra Yummy: Make it a strong start with the roasted Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts, then try the glazed sweet potato over ancient grains. Be sure to wash it down with a Thai grapefruit martini.
With a dozen or so choices on the “Toast” side of the menu (choose from options like beet butter or goat cheese, fig and jam) to daily soups and pressed juices, Corner Beet is always fresh, easy and gratifying, with a focus on all-organic produce. A soothing space in the Capitol Hill neighborhood is framed in exposed brick and wood walls with well-patinaed hardwood floors — a warm, contemporary ambiance.
Extra Yummy: Your avocado toast addiction will only be fueled by the Capitol Toast, and when it’s a salad you’re after, you can bet the crunchy Super Seed is just the ticket.
This new addition (opened May 2019) to Olde Town Arvada is about 15 minutes from downtown Denver and has people talking even though it had a low-key opening. The food is fresh, exceptionally flavorful and reasonably priced. Even carnivores are raving about it. What's unique is the ever-changing menu, allowing the chef to unleash his full creativity. It's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Extra Yummy: Start your day with a bottle of fresh juice prepared by hand.
And let's not forget dessert
While this isn’t a dinner spot (at least for most of us), Snowlab deserves mention for their unique Taiwanese-style shaved ice (or xue hua bing) — every flavor of which is vegan-friendly and naturally flavored. Choose from green tea, black sesame, coconut, coffee, pistachio, lychee, avocado, chocolate or Thai tea snow, and just ask the staff to point out which toppings are vegan or vegetarian. If you want the scoop on off-menu “secret” flavors to order, then follow Snowlab on social media.
Extra Yummy: Try the Thai tea-flavored snow drizzled with vegan condensed milk and topped with mango mocha. But part of the joy of this place is getting creative with combos that intrigue you.