Denver vegetarian guide: Vegan and vegetarian restaurants

Here’s the most complete (yet still useful) list of Denver vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

staff photo
Vital Root vegetarian restaurant, pictured here just after opening in the summer of 2016. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

Vital Root vegetarian restaurant, pictured here just after opening in the summer of 2016. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

UPDATE, Jan. 28, 2018: Hi! This post got a lot of sudden mileage on social media and we need to update it! We’ll do that shortly. In the meantime, if you have favorite vegetarian-friendly spots (and maybe a specific favorite dish), shoot me an email at dave@denverite.com. Thanks!  

When I lived in Boulder, I was always surprised at how much better the Denver vegetarian dining scene was. (Growing up here, I ate meat and took no notice of vegetarian options.) Now I’m back in Denver and it’s gotten even better. If you don’t eat meat, you have a couple of options — you can go to a place that doesn’t serve meat at all, or you can go to a place that does better than simply offering one vegetarian option.

All-vegetarian options

Beet Box

beetbox.com
1030 E. 22nd Ave.
303-861-0017

I’ve encountered Beet Box more often at the farmers market at East High than at their brick-and-mortar location, but in either place, you’ll find their distinctive purplish beet brownies and other vegan pastries. They also offer the ubiquitous tofu banh mi, a chickpea of the sea and other sandwiches.

Try: The beet brownies.

City O City
City O City in Denver. (Owen Allen/Flickr)

City O City in Denver. (Owen Allen/Flickr)

cityocitydenver.com
206 E. 13th Ave., Denver
303-831-6443

I’ve seen square government types here (it’s down the street from the Colorado Department of Revenue and the State Capitol), I’ve seen hip-as-hell millennials here, and I’ve personally brought my kid here. It’s not health food — it’s just vegetarian.

Full bar: Yes.
Meat substitutes: Yes. Small touches like seitan sausage as an ingredient, all the way up to barbecue tofu and seitan wings.
Cost: Large entrees $12-14.

Try: The chilaquiles or seitan sausage, peppers and cheddar jack omelet for breakfast; for lunch or dinner, cauliflower chorizo tacos or the more-than-filling el jefe burger with cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, onion rings, hot sauce aioli and a fried egg or scrambled tofu.

You can also pop by in the morning for a coffee and a vegan treat. The “ho-hos?” Delicious. Big enough to share with someone you love. Do not share with someone you don’t love; your acquaintances are not worth it.

Govinda’s Garden

govindasdenver.com
1400 Cherry Street, Denver
303-333-4000

All vegan. Crunchiest place you can find. Buckle up for “happytizers,” not appetizers. Open only for weekend dinner and Wed.-Fri. lunch, like a Hare Krishna Brigadoon buffet which, by the way, Govinda’s is part of the Denver Hare Krishna temple. Largely Indian cuisine. Closed for the week of Labor Day. 

Full bar: No.
Meat substitutes: Sometimes. Mock fish sticks, for example.
Cost: Buffet $12.95.

Try: It’s a buffet with rotating featured entrees. Try it all. Happytizers, like pakoras and samosas, and desserts, like cakes and cookies, cost extra.

Native Foods

nativefoods.com
680 S. Colorado Blvd.
303-758-3440

There were briefly three Native Foods locations in Denver — the 16th Street Mall spot, the one on Colorado at Evans, and this one in Glendale. Only the Glendale location has survived.

This is fast-casual vegetarian food, with burgers, bowls, sandwiches and salads. You can eat reasonably healthy or you can get something fried and top it off with a peanut butter parfait.

Full bar: Beer and wine only.
Meat substitutes: Yes. Chicken and bacon substitutes in addition to different seitan and tempeh treatments.
Cost: Large entrees $9-10.59

Try: The soul bowl, with kale, fried “chicken,” red beans, steamed veggies, ranch and BBQ sauce with cornbread on the side, the Thai meatball bowl, with seitan meatballs covered in mango-lime chili sauce, roasted red peppers on quinoa with slaw, or the southwestern burger with salsa, guacamole and jalapeños and a side of fries or potato salad.

Vital Root

vitalrootdenver.com
3915 Tennyson St., Denver
303-474-4131

Hippest and newest. Usually, you can’t have those words together without adding expensive-est. A quick glance at the ol’ menu PDF (hnnnngh) returns $9 “legit” smoothies, $11 sandwiches, $13 bowls, which is in line with City and Watercourse. Portions at Vital Root are a bit smaller.

Ordering food at Vital Root's counter. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

Ordering food at Vital Root's counter. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

Feels most like new Denver out of any of these places, which fits with its location — food is presented attractively, and in forms that are a bit unfamiliar. You’ll see words like “burrito” and “ravioli,” but these terms are interpreted pretty loosely; buy entrees here based on the listed ingredients.

There's almost as much outdoor seating at Vital Root as there is indoor seating. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

There's almost as much outdoor seating at Vital Root as there is indoor seating. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

Full bar: Beer, wine and select cocktails.
Meat substitutes: Yes. “Coconut bacon.”
Cost: Large entrees $11-15.

Try: My dining companion enjoyed the hijiki salad, pictured here.

The hijiki salad at Vital Root in Denver. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

The hijiki salad at Vital Root in Denver. (Dave Burdick/Denverite)

Watercourse

watercoursefoods.com
837 E. 17th Ave., Denver
303-832-7313

This one’s all-vegan. Was a sister restaurant to City O City, now it isn’t. Best brunch vibes for my money, but I’ll get some pushback from Vital Root fans (see below). Full bar.

Full bar: Yes.
Meat substitutes: Yes. Smoky tofu bacon, beer-battered “tofish” and more.
Cost: Large entrees $12-16.

Try: At breakfast, the Big Rig, which is country-fried seitan steak with gravy, scrambled tofu and the usual breakfast sides; at lunch or dinner, I’d lean toward the baja tacos platter with crispy tofish and black beans, but I’ve also never tried the beet wellington — “Whole roasted beet with mushroom duxelles, wrapped in phyllo pastry and served with roasted vegetables and a red wine and Earl Grey reduction” — and I am curious.

What did I miss?

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Dave Burdick can be reached via email at dburdick@denverite.com or twitter.com/daveburdick.

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