Local restaurants will debut plant-based menu options through October 15

Vegan Chef Challenge is making its inaugural stop in Denver this year.
3 min. read
The Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro on Colfax Avenue in Congress Park. Sept. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In the dining area of Congress Park's Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro, Kal Pant swivels his laptop around to display a menu featuring specially curated plant-based options for the inaugural Denver Vegan Chef Challenge. His hope is to showcase the magic of Indian cuisine to anyone who has yet to step foot inside of this wood-decorated oasis.

"We don't think about it as vegan because this is our natural way of eating," Pant said. "It's easier for us to switch back and forth."

Traditional Indian cuisine often emphasizes a plant-based diet and seven Indian foods were most recently considered to be some of the best vegan dishes in the world. For Pant, vegan options that try to imitate meat confuse him. When he heard about the Vegan Chef Challenge coming to Denver, he knew it would be a great opportunity to show off the Spice Room's cuisine.

Kal Pant, owner of the Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro, in his Colfax Avenue location in Congress Park. Sept. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"I don't know why vegans want to have a burger, that's weird to me," Pant joked. "If you like curry, you're going to love this."

On Spice Room's Vegan Chef Challenge menu includes a Kathal Curry, a raw green jackfruit native to South India, an Indian-style potato salad with turmeric and green peas, and Kurkuri Bhindi, which are crispy vegan okra fries.

Spice Room is one of nine food establishments competing in the month-long event that invites local chefs to come up with creative plant-based dishes that customers can then vote for.

"The goal in the end is for restaurants to keep offering these vegan options or to keep adding in more options as they go," said Victor Flores, community outreach specialist for Vegan Outreach, an international animal rights non-profit organization that aims to dispel myths about vegan food. "This is not a challenge just for vegans. We want everybody to go try this out. It's good for [local restaurants] to see that there is a demand for vegan options."

According to Flores, the challenge began more than a decade ago in North Carolina and is now making its first stop in Denver through October 15.

The Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro on Colfax Avenue in Congress Park. Sept. 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"Plant-based eating is definitely coming. If you don't have vegan options, you're missing out," Flores said.

Participating establishments include:

  • The Savage Beet Food Truck
  • The Spice Room Neighborhood Indian Bistro
  • African Grill and Bar LLC
  • Vital Root
  • Alpine Eatery
  • 626 on Rood (Grand Junction)
  • Sullivan Scrap Kitchen
  • V Revolution
  • The Cake Bar

Patrons will be able to vote for their favorite dishes on the website or via QR codes that each place will display throughout the month. Those interested in bringing plant-based eating home can also check out a free 10-week program by Vegan Outreach that helps guide anyone interested in making the transition.

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