Denver's ten best vegetarian dishes in non-vegetarian restaurants
Picking the Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant for the Best of Denver 2012 was a tough task. The owners of omnivorous restaurants have really gone above and beyond lately to cater to lacto-ovo vegetarians and totally plant-based eaters alike. In no particular order (save for number one), here are the ten best vegetarian dishes in Denver's non-vegetarian restaurants.
Sherpa House, 1518 Washington Avenue, Golden
This eatery-slash-cultural-center is decorated inside to resemble an authentic Himalayan home; one dining-room wall features a small stove, another an intricate curio cabinet, and saddles, bridles, camping equipment and other artifacts of sherpa life adorn the walls. The food is equally authentic, with yak widely available across the menu. But Sherpa House really shines when it comes to its vegetarian entrees, of which there are many. The sherpa stew is served with naan bread alongside a large bowl of vegetables and bite-sized dumplings swimming in a spiced-to-taste broth that's so delicious you'll want to tip the bowl back and drink it down -- if you can manage to finish the sizable portion the kitchen serves up in one sitting, that is.
Cafe Brazil, 4408 Lowell Boulevard
The vibrant colors and black matte plates at Cafe Brazil make the food pop just when you're looking at it -- but the flavors really pop when you take a bite. For vegetarians, there's nothing closer to the authentic feijoada tastes of Brazil within several hundred miles of this spot (at least, not any that can be obtained without meat). The meal is dished up with rice, fried banana and greens, but it's that black bean stew that ties it all together, smoky and comforting. Add in the impressive rum list and array of non-vegetarian dishes, and you've got a restaurant with international appeal across tastes.
Virgilo's Pizzeria and Wine Bar, 10025 West San Juan Way, Littleton
Although many cuisine types are easily adaptable to a vegan lifestyle, the cheeses and meats so prevalent in Italian cooking make it a little more difficult to find vegan versions of certain staples -- pizza especially. Denver has more vegan pizza options than most cities, but Virgilio's is the real jewel. The large dining room can accommodate parties of any size, but be prepared to wait for a table, because the wine program and garlic knots are just two of the draws that bring crowds through the doors. Many of Virgilio's specialty pies lend themselves to vegan interpretations, or you can build your own pizza with tomato- or olive oil- based sauces, all the regular pizza veggies plus a few specialties like green olives or fresh spinach, and dairy-free cheese. Do yourself a favor and order an extra pie, because when you can find vegan pizza this delicious, you'll definitely want leftovers.
Pho 95, 1002 South Federal Boulevard
The vegetarian pho at Pho 95 put the strip-mall Vietnamese noodle shop on the map last year when it garnered our Best Vegetarian Dish In a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant Award. And although several pho spots have popped up in the past year, many serving pho with tofu and rice noodles swimming in a vegetable broth, there was still no contest when it came time to pick our favorite rice-noodle soup. The serving sizes at Pho 95 range from that kitchen's small (which is really rather large) to eye-poppingly massive for less than $10, both served alongside heaping plates of Thai basil, dandelion leaves, spicy jalapeno slices, bean sprouts and lime wedges. The tofu is sliced into triangles and fried, then set loose in the soup with slices of carrot, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and thin strips of onion. No wonder it's been drawing pho-natics for years!
Habesha Ethiopian, 5707 East Colfax Avenue
When it's time to sit down with your loved ones and share a meal, there's nothing quite like the bonding experience that Ethiopian cuisine presents. Don't mess around with ordering single servings of the yemisir or kik wot or gomen. Instead, go straight for the vegetarian combination plate. For $11.99, it delivers generous servings of every last vegetarian dish on the menu -- and if your tablemates are also vegetarian, you can get it served family-style for a discount. As far as vegetarian cuisine is concerned, Habesha reigns over the Ethiopian Rocky Mountain empire.
10025 W. San Juan Way, Littleton, CO