Five best vegetarian restaurants in Denver
Denver's vegetarian food scene is getting stronger all the time. All but the most vehemently meat-centric establishments in town have something besides salad to offer veggie-lovers, and ambitious, exclusively vegetarian eateries are opening all the time -- including Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, which we review this week. When you want to impress a carnivore with the versatility and tastiness of plant-based food, these are the five best places (in no particular order) to take them.
5) Native Foods Cafe
680 South Colorado Boulevard
Yes, it's a chain restaurant -- and an import from California, no less! But when it comes to plant-based food that'll knock the socks off of anyone who tries it, vegan or carnivore alike, Native Foods is as good as it gets in Denver right now. The menu encompasses American, Asian, Mediterranean and more, spanning cuisines with dishes categorized into bowls, hand-helds, salads and "chefs favorite" plates. Native Foods makes its own meat substitutes, all of which are amazing -- the seitan is formed into shaved corned "beef" for Native's Reuben and spicy, juicy "meatballs" for the meatball sandwich above), and they've got the taste and texture to charm even the most hard-core meat-eaters. The dessert menu is just as good, if cupcake-heavy, with light, fluffy cakes paired with sweet, creamy icings. The first Native Foods in Colorado is in Boulder, and there's another opening soon at Colorado and Evans -- but judging from the crowds at the CitySet location, this city could use three or four more.
4) Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant
1015 South Federal Boulevard
Thuy Pham, who opened Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant with her husband last fall in the former home of the award-winning Vietnam Grill, remembers cooking at her mother's side in Vietnam, but it wasn't until she moved to California fifteen years ago and began spending time at a Buddhist temple that she developed a passion for food. "I had a monk, the master, and he was a very good cook," she recalls. "He was very experienced in picking out healthy food, and he taught me." After years of preparing vegetarian food for the monks and nuns there, Pham and her husband decided to move to Denver, and they opened Lotus, which focuses on Vietnamese cuisine -- but all vegetarian versions, prepared with compassion and care.
3) Nectar House
1947 South Broadway
Nectar House opened late last year in the lobby of a yoga studio -- an outside-the-box setting for a raw, vegan restaurant with an extravagant drink menu. But customers are continually wowed by the delicious food created within the constraints of both the setting and the milieu. The superfood salad is among the best salads in the city, and Nectar House also makes a remarkable raw, vegan version of pad Thai as well as Reuben sandwich. There are brunch offerings, too, as well as decadent desserts that will melt in your mouth.