Best Vegan Burger 2012 | City, O' City | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Hunter Stevens

City, O' City got a new chef and a new interior this past year, but it wisely kept the burger known as the Maximus, a hearty quinoa-and-pinto-bean patty grilled and served up on a Kaiser with special sauce and cheddar. But not content with leaving well enough alone, Brendon Doyle devised an El Jefe option, which adds sautéed mushrooms, onion rings, hot-sauce aioli and a fried egg. Vegans can switch the cheddar out with non-dairy cheese and get rid of the egg; the result is still a righteous burger that satisfies any late-night (or midday, or dinnertime) craving.

Courtesy Virgilio's Pizzeria & Wine Bar Facebook

Although many cuisine types are easily adapted to a vegan lifestyle, the cheeses and meats so prevalent in Italian cooking make it more difficult to find vegan versions of certain Italian staples, especially pizza. But not at Virgilio's. Many of the specialty pies at this very popular place (be prepared to wait for a table) lend themselves to vegan interpretations, or you can build your own pizza with a tomato- or olive oil-based sauce, dairy-free cheese, and all the usual veggie toppings plus a few unusual options, including green olives and fresh spinach. Do yourself a favor and order an extra pie — because when you can find vegan pizza this delicious, you'll definitely want leftovers.

Readers' Choice: Jonesy's EatBar

Cassandra Kotnik

Lovers of vegetarian barbecue, prepare to meet your maker. Moe's Bar-B-Que, a homegrown chain that got its start in the Vail Valley, prepares a heavenly, melt-in-your-mouth smoked tofu. You can order it as a plate, or smothered with coleslaw and slathered in barbecue sauce as a sandwich; you can also nix the slaw for a vegan version. To balance out your meal, Moe's has mac and cheese, potato salad and fresh green salads. And if you're eating at the Englewood address, you can also bowl a lane. 'Cue the applause!

Best Vegetarian Dish in a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant

New Saigon

The book-like menu at New Saigon is dizzying, an ocean of letters and numerals with a whole bay of vegetarian options. But we always land on 10N, Bun Tau Hu Xao Sa Ot, located under the noodle bowl section and highlighted in red. Described simply as "stir-fried tofu with lemon grass noodle bowl," this peanut-topped dish is a tangle of thin rice noodles, carrots, mushrooms, snow peas and thin strips of crispy, savory tofu. While New Saigon's fried rice and cari chay curry are also good vegetarian options, 10N could be the best vegetarian dish in the city (leave the special sauce on the side; it's made with fish) -- and definitely the best vegetarian dish you'll find in a non-vegetarian restaurant.

Readers' Choice: Arada Restaurant

Danielle Lirette

In its various incarnations, Sam's has been serving up classic diner fare for close to nine decades. The current Sam's No. 3 was featured in a recent episode of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives devoted to a "Porktastic" theme, so you know that its pig (and ubiquitous pork green chile) is up to scratch. But vegetarians have their own reason to seek out Sam's: The thick, spicy vegetarian version of the green can be added to any number of dishes on Sam's extensive menu, smothering huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos or ordered as a side, cup, bowl, pint, quart or even gallon to take home. The hearty flavor and texture is enough to make even the most reluctant vegetable-eater sit up and say "Arriba!"

Readers' Choice: Illegal Pete's

Ravi Kumar and Ehmad Ansari, two strict vegetarians, opened Masalaa in an Aurora strip mall close to a decade ago, and it's still going strong — and is still meat-free. While some specialties from the north, as well as Indochinese offerings, have crept onto the list, the focus is definitely food of southern India — and not a single dish contains meat. The best time to try Masalaa is during lunch, when a hot buffet table is filled with spicy curries and bright stews featuring lentils, chickpeas, eggplant and okra. The server will also deliver plenty of hot, bready items to supplement your feast, including the best dosa we've had in town.

Best Vegetarian Meal From a Non-Vegetarian Food Truck

Quiero Arepas

The food-truck revolution in this city was kind to vegetarians and vegans, with almost every vehicle offering at least a couple of options for non-carnivores. Quiero Arepas drives down both sides of the street, catering to both meat-eaters and plant-eaters with a roster of arepas — corn-based, flatbread-style wraps — with filling choices that include beef and smoked salmon as well as eggs, roasted red-pepper hummus and creamy slices of avocado. The vegan arepa really gets our motor running, with a thick dollop of black beans, avocado slices and plantains tucked in the crispy corn blanket.

Pho 95 has been drawing pho-natics for years, especially those of the non-meat persuasion — because this strip-mall Vietnamese noodle shop serves up the best vegetarian pho in town, featuring tofu sliced into triangles and fried, then added to an incredibly flavorful vegetarian broth swimming with rice noodles, slices of carrot, broccoli, mushrooms, snow peas and thin strips of onion. The portions range from small (which is really rather large) to eye-poppingly massive (which still costs less than $10); all serving sizes include a plate heaped with Thai basil, dandelion leaves, spicy jalapeño slices, bean sprouts and lime wedges. You'll be bowled over.

Danielle Lirette

WaterCourse Foods just keeps getting better. The atmosphere has always been lovely: The open, airy space features animals and landscapes painted across the walls by Ravi Zupa, with tall stools lining the bar and comfortable booths tucked by the walls. But over the past year, WaterCourse cut out its weekday breakfast hours, allowing chef Rachel Kesley to concentrate on the meals where the kitchen really shines: lunch and dinner. In addition to a solid spread of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and other entrees, there are daily specials, including creative soups and rotating cheese boards, and the dessert tray is massive and decadent. Add to those elements a solid wine and beer list, and you've got a vegetarian restaurant that caters to any palate, every day of the week. But Kesley's penchant for rolling out multi-course spreads tied to Valentine's Day, Denver Beer Week and other blowout occasions makes this a great special-occasion spot, too.

Readers' Choice: WaterCourse

Amie Arias took to the streets with the Vegan Van last November, bringing an international menu to different points about Denver. She changes her lineup regularly, so whether her van is pulling up to Great Divide or idling at a corner for lunch, there's always something interesting to try; the rotating winter selections have included a notable take on a Caesar salad, a buffalo-tofu sandwich and beer-battered nori "fish," as well as dessert specials and flavor-infused waters. Wherever the Vegan Van cruises, plant-based eaters are certain to follow.

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