Adorning noodles or rice with heaping portions of flavorful vegetables, sauces and marinated tofu can turn seemingly simple veggie bowls into favorite go-to meals. Among the many food trends popping up in Denver, internationally inspired bowls have made a delicious impact on the dining scene — and many are so good they won't be going away any time soon, so you’d better hop on the bowl train. Here are our favorite vegetarian bowls brought to us from cuisines around the world.
7) Chilled Noodle Bowl at Viet's
333 South Federal Boulevard
A longstanding favorite, and the Best Vietnamese Restaurant winner for 2015, Viet's serves a bún, or chilled noodle bowl, that will definitely cool you down when the temperature is on the rise. The tofu is warm when it first comes out, which by laws of heat transference, warms the first layer of noodles. But don’t be alarmed, once you dig in further, you’ll find a goldmine of cold and refreshing ingredients. The bean sprouts and onion offer great crunch and the plentiful basil is bright and fresh. Mixing everything together allows you to optimize the flavor of each bite. The lemongrass tofu is the kind that’s hard to come by — pan fried to give it some texture and sliced thin so each bite retains its crisp throughout, without so much as a hint of sogginess. This tofu is a worthy protein and truly makes the dish.
6) Mexican Bowl at Bubu
1430 Larimer Street
Although the menu at Bubu isn't tied to one specific culture or nationality, the restaurant's motto is “fresh revolution” — a concept carried through a variety of different culinary influences. The Mexican Bowl is no exception. Black beans, cherry tomatoes, charred corn, jicama and pumpkin seeds are generously scattered atop your choice of a base: rice, noodles or salad. Then cilantro and a side of house-made Mexican dressing top your choice of protein — tofu if you’re taking the veggie route. This dish is clear-your-sinuses spicy, with the house Bubu spice — a mixture of togarashi chili powder, sugar, salt and pepper — sprinkled atop the tofu, but the cool jicama helps temper the fire while adding a nice crunch. The warm brown rice juxtaposes the cool yet spicy tofu and the corn lends a tiny surprise of sweetness amidst the whirlwind of spice. Overall, this dish is a kickass blend of healthy sustenance and fiery flavor. If you’re intimidated by the spice, ask the counter clerk to go light on the Bubu and add avocado.
5) Udon Noodle Bowl at City, O’ City
206 E. 13th Ave.
City, O’ City is a 13th Avenue haven for vegetarians and as such offers multiple noteworthy meatless dishes. The udon noodle bowl, though, stands out as one of the best items on the menu — and one of the best veggie bowls in Denver. Fresh noodles are accompanied by mushrooms, bok choy, fennel, shallot, jalapeño, thai basil, pickled carrot, sprouts and an optional soft egg all cozied up in a unique carrot-ginger broth. This bowl has some kick to it and helps earn City, O' City our Best Vegetarian Restaurant award this year.
4) Vegetarian Curry Bowl at Biju’s Little Curry Shop
1441 26th St.
After half a year on the Denver food scene, Biju’s is still dishing up vibrant curry bowls in a fast casual setting to a waiting throng. To begin, choose between jasmine rice or cashew and date biriyani. The vegetarian option offers a portion of lentils ladled over the rice followed by a mixture of cooked vegetables. Spice-laden potatoes are then added before the dish gets a dousing of yogurt moor and/or your choice of sauce or spice blend. The roasted mint and tomato chutney is the mildest of the condiments but still has a good kick to it and, well, we prefer not to cry in public when we’re eating. After the sauce comes a colorful topping of cabbage and citrus slaw to add a vibrant top note to the delicious mess beneath.
3. Bibimbap at Ace
501 East 17th Avenue
Bedded with a layer of Jasmine rice and honey-gochujang sauce, Ace's signature Korean dish is a mouth-watering combination of kimchi, grilled marinated king trumpet mushrooms, marinated mung bean sprouts and sautéed tofu. Topped with a fried egg, sesame seeds and green onion, the presentation strikes a memory note with a Japanese bento box, where each ingredient nestles in its own little section but is traditionally mixed together and eaten with chop sticks, however elegant or clumsy that may be.
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2) Veggie Pho at Saigon Bowl
Often, the vegetarian option gets overlooked in a pho restaurant; if you’re lucky, a few diced carrots and a stalk of broccoli or two are added to a vast sea of broth and noodles, leaving you to fill up mostly on liquid. That’s not the case at Saigon Bowl. Snap peas, bok choy, carrots, onions, broccoli, celery and baby corn accompany the tofu, creating a shield of nutrients to tackle before diving into the rice noodles. Perfect for curing a cold or a hangover, we don’t judge anyone eating pho the love of noodles.
1) Veggie Ramen at Uncle
2215 W. 32nd Ave.
After one slurp, it’s easy to see why Uncle is the 2015 winner of Best Vegetarian Ramen. Take a dive into this verdant bowl of vegan miso broth swimming with wild mushrooms, snap peas, kale and a soft egg and topped with enokitake mushrooms and dusted with sesame seeds. Forgo the egg and the meal is vegan, keep the egg and it’s an emulsified delight. The snap peas are cooked al dente, adding the perfect crunch alongside tender kale and mushrooms that go just right with the noodles. But those noodles… custom-made for Uncle and nearly impossible to eat gracefully, these tasty little strings of love are what keep the ramen loyalists coming back again and again.