There are lots of good veggie burgers in this city, but many of them are problematic for vegan eaters: They almost always contain some form of egg or dairy to help bind the veggie patties together. But vegan burger-lovers need not bend or break their dietary rules to get their fix: Larkburger's Amy Burger, which replaces the patty with a roasted portabella mushroom cap, is vegan-friendly.
And not only vegan-friendly, but also handy if you live in central Denver. The local chain that got its start in Edwards, then moved on to Fort Collins, Boulder and Greenwood Village, has just opened a Larkburger at 340 East Alameda Avenue.
If you've been to one of the other Larkburgers, you know what to expect here. The chain focuses on sustainability and energy efficiency, using reclaimed cypress for the interior, wind credits for the power and certified Angus beef for the burgers, which are justifiably popular. It's a typical casual setup: You order at the counter and your burgers are brought to you at your table or booth. The interior of the Wash Park spot is bright and spacious, and there's a modest patio out front for enjoying many of Colorado's sunny days.
When we stopped by to try the new place, though, we were most impressed by the behind-the-counter knowledge of the Larkburger menu. After we ordered the Amy Burger -- a roasted mushroom cap with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and Larkburger's special sauce -- the staffer asked if our dietary needs were vegetarian or vegan, and advised us accordingly. The special sauce is not vegan-friendly, and neither is the butter usually put on the bun before it's grilled, so we omitted both of those; we also opted for regular fries instead of the lauded truffle-parmesan version. And we were also warned that the mushroom cap is cooked on the same surface as the burgers -- a level of attention to detail you don't often find at casual restaurants.
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While the portabella mushroom cap seems to be the go-to meat replacement of choice for most places, when it's prepared correctly, the 'shroom is elevated to a higher plane of existence. And even though our burger was bereft of both butter and special sauce, it was still satisfyingly juicy, the portabella cap meaty and moist.
Larkburger also offers a grilled-cheese sandwich for vegetarians, and pescetarians might enjoy the tuna burger (with wasabi-ginger sauce and cilantro); you can also replace the fries on the side with in-the-pod soybeans (edamame) seasoned with sea salt.
This Saturday, the Wash Park Larkburger will be selling $2 Larkburgers all day long -- an ideal chance for meat-eaters to stop by (with or without veggies in tow) to check out the latest addition to the neighborhood.