Colorado vegan eats
I recently returned from a trip to Colorado, and while my time there was sadly short, it was full of many delicious vegan meals shared with the sweetest of friends. The idyllic town of Boulder is a sort of mecca for health-conscious foods, and while obtaining a legal education was my primary focus while I lived there (go buffs!), I gained a culinary education, as well. On this last little journey, I spent a day in lovely Boulder, of course, but I also had the opportunity to sample plant-based delicacies while visiting Steamboat Springs and Denver. As such, this post is dedicated to revealing some of my personal favorite culinary pleasures in these Colorado towns. Apologies for the lack of photos; bit of an odd choice for a millennial, but lately, I've just not often been feeling like photographing my food when eating with others. If you're a lucky little duckling currently living in Colorado and don't see one of your favorites on this list, please drop me a line at VLGL.firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll make sure to give it a go on my next adventure out West.
- The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is my favorite place to eat in Boulder, as much for its peaceful energy and rose-covered beauty as for its delicious, globally-inspired cuisine. On this last trip, I enjoyed a flavorful lunch of their root vegetable curry (available vegan and without the high-glycemic rice by request) with their daily iced tea, which was a refreshing strawberry-kissed infusion. On chilly days in Boulder, however, I would usually opt for their delicate snow blossom tea. If you only have time for one meal in Boulder (as was the case on my last visit), I heartily suggest the teahouse for a gastronomically, aesthetically, and energetically rich experience.
- Leaf, a vegetarian (and quite vegan-friendly) restaurant, is a place where sweet friends and I would often gather to chat about life over tofu scrambles and bubbly (or their French toast, which is definitely not low-glycemic but certainly delicious) on Sunday mornings. The menu seems to have changed a bit since my law school years, but two of my very favorite dinner items -- the Jamaican jerk tempeh and spaghetti squash peanut noodles -- are still available. With an outside patio, a soothing interior, and lovingly prepared food, Leaf is a wonderful choice both for plant-based brunches and date nights.
- Alfalfa's is technically a grocery store... one that I basically lived in as a law student... but hear me out: no matter how busy you think you are, the juice and smoothie bar is worth a stop (as is the divinely delicious Culinary section). The Connoisseur and J7 (minus the carrot) juices are fabulously nourishing, low-sugar choices, the latter tasting quite like a bloody mary (I make a similar-tasting juice here), and the Green Sweetie (formerly known as the Cool Emerald) is quite possibly my favorite smoothie I've ever sipped (though I would now omit the dates for a lower-glycemic option). If you're visiting, I highly recommend stopping in if only to experience one of the most quintessentially "Boulder" experiences available: crunchy-granola, fairly-expensive, but so-very-delicious.
- Native Foods is technically a chain, but as its Boulder location is the only fully-vegan restaurant in town (or at least used to be) and happens to be absolutely scrumptious, it deserves a shout-out here. My all-time favorite is the Soul Bowl, overflowing with nostalgic Southern flavor, though the OC Chopper makes a crunchy, light, refreshing meal, and the Oklahoma Classic is fantastic if you want to just go wild and eat all the gooey, delicious "bad vegan" things. Plus, it's counter-service, so it's a nice choice if you desire slow-tasting food on a fast-food time frame.
- Gratitude to my sweet friend, Courtney, for taking me to Watercourse Foods for the very first time... and also gratitude to angel Leann for picking up Watercourse takeout on my last Colorado evening so that I could enjoy it for a second time! Despite the menu being huge and fully vegan, I ordered the same meal twice... I loved it that much. Watercourse's menu boasts a broad spectrum of plant-based delights, from decadent all-day breakfast to fresh, healthy Thai-style curry and veggie tacos. The buffalo cauliflower makes for a delicious starter, which I heartily recommend, especially with both the bleu "cheese" and ranch dressings. I love creamy dressings, and they're typically not available in omnivorous eateries. I decided to go big with the Big Rig, perhaps one of the most savage dishes at Watercourse, featuring a huge slab of country-fried seitan with gravy, a tofu scramble, and a biscuit (the latter isn't low-glycemic, but sometimes a fluffy, buttery treat just has to happen). If you aren't into a ton of salt and gluten in one sitting, the Big Rig probably isn't for you, but I loved it; one of the biggest culinary disappointments in my life was finding out that gravy is typically made with sausage after I ate it often and with gusto while at summer camp in middle school, so I now order vegan gravy at almost every opportunity. Courtney ordered the Caesar salad, which is fantastic, featuring a satisfyingly savory, creamy dressing. It also comes as a side, which I chose to accompany my second Big Rig. In short: Watercourse is versatile, flavorful, and diverse. Loved it. Highly recommend.
- The ramen pictured at the top of this post is from Vital Root, and it won out as my favorite meal in Denver. While not completely vegan (though vegetarian with nearly every item veganizable -- such as the ramen, which I was able to get without the egg), Vital Root is a counter-service spot with two lovely patios and high-flavor, high-vibe, wellness-focused eats. Ramen is one of my favorite meals in the world, and I really appreciate that Vital Root uses low-glycemic yam (a.k.a. shirataki) noodles in its noodle dishes, making this rich, comforting culinary pleasure available without wreaking havoc on one's blood sugar. The ramen features a savory, soy milk-based broth, crisp watermelon radish, and delicate seaweed alongside the bouncy shirataki noodles for a texturally and flavorfully diverse meal. I enjoyed the ramen with the house-made lemongrass yerba maté (a slightly smoky-tasting tea) and a crispy avocado taco, a $2 delight from their happy hour menu. My husband's Korean stir-fry (also veganized) had bold, savory flavor, as well. Next time I am in Denver, I will make returning to Vital Root a priority.
- I didn't have a chance to return to City O' City on this trip, but this vegetarian (and very vegan-friendly) spot makes my favorite-ever seitan wings, so I had to give it an honorable mention here.
- Rootz is a high-vibe, art-and-crystal-covered, wellness-focused cafe in the stunningly beautiful mountain town of Steamboat Springs... my favorite kind of restaurant. While neither vegan nor vegetarian, the cafe is very friendly to substitutions, and almost all of the menu items can be made vegan by replacing the meat, fish, and/or cheese with tofu, avocado, or the flavorful house-made "chorizo" (basically just super-seasoned tofu, but quite tasty). I ate at Rootz twice during the three days spent in Steamboat. The first time, I enjoyed the Bodhi Tree with tofu and kale (ginger + tahini on a menu item = YES) as well as a special "Almond Joy Iced Coffee," which consisted of coffee blended with almond butter, coconut milk, cacao, and agave nectar; both items were scrumptious. The second time, I got a vegan burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla (substituting massaged kale for the rice) and their super-green Fauna juice (minus the apple). I highly recommend the burrito, as the hatch green chile and vegan chorizo imparted bold, delicious flavor, though I definitely understand why the celery-forward Fauna typically involves some fruit sugar. In short, I highly recommend Rootz for a body-spirit-friendly meal.
- I don't usually like to endorse restaurants that offer little beyond salads for vegan fare, but the wood-fired-peach-covered kale salad at Mountain Tap Brewery made for a flavorful meal on a yoga-filled day where light eating was appealing. I also appreciate that their beer comes in "sample" sizes; great for indecisive people who don't really drink beer like me. In short, don't come here if you're a ravenous vegan, but it is a friendly, social place with tasty, well-prepared food.
In closing, in addition to the restaurants mentioned above, I've found that even generic restaurants in these Colorado towns usually understand and are able to accommodate vegans and vegetarians, even if they do not expressly cater to us. With incredible nature, friends, and food, Colorful Colorado will always have a special place in my heart.
☼ Elizabeth at VLGL