Why Native Foods Cafe is the Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Denver
As the longtime author of Veggie Girl, I ate a lot of green on my way to helping choose the winner of Best Vegetarian Restaurant for the Best of Denver 2014. And there was a lot of discussion over our ultimate choice: Native Foods Cafe, which came to Glendale last year. Denver is lucky to have some great homegrown vegetarian restaurants that have helped to cultivate this town's cultural scene -- but Native Foods upped the ante in the kitchen.
See also: Five best vegetarian restaurants in Denver
First things first: Yes, Native Foods is part of a California-based chain. But although we typically don't bestow Best Of awards on chain restaurants, there were plenty of reasons to do so in 2014. I visited Native Cafe multiple times, tasting something from every section of the menu, and everything I tried was delicious. I'm not the only fan of the place; it's so popular that there's usually a line forming at the door when this location opens for lunch. (There's a Native Foods in Boulder, too, and the company will open a third metro location on South Colorado Boulevard later this year.)
Native Foods creates a high hurdle for its kitchen by operating as an entirely plant-based (aka vegan) restaurant -- so there's no egg or dairy in any of the recipes. But the menu is still full of ambitious, well-executed dishes. I've taken more than one meat-eater to Native Foods, and on my most recent visit, a meat-eating relative proclaimed that her meal was the best she'd had for as long as she could remember -- and then she said she'd eat every meal at Native Foods if she could. I've never heard such an endorsement for any other vegetarian restaurant from a carnivore.
Not only is the food consistently delicious, but the service shines: You hardly have to look up at Native Foods before someone will bring you a drink refill or ask if there's anything else you need. Combined with the dishes coming out of the kitchen, that service pushed Native Foods over the top.
It's possible that the all-new, all-vegan Native Foods looks all bright and shiny now, but with time the service will slow and the kitchen will get tired. We'll be watching -- and eating. As for all the other vegetarian spots in town, there's always next year.