Root Down

So much of the food at Root Down (Justin Cucci's popular LoHi eatery that just marked its tenth birthday) is gluten-free that the offerings marked GF on the menu seem to almost outnumber those that aren't, making it easy to avoid gluten and putting those who need or want to at ease. GF options range from diver scallops with brown butter and quinoa, to three-chili chicken with vegetables, to a delicious carrot Thai red-curry soup. There are even a number of desserts on the gluten-free roster, which changes regularly but usually includes things like tiramisu rice pudding, fruit cobbler and chocolate truffles.

Readers' Choice: Whole Sol Blend Bar

Azitra
Mark Manger

Not only does Azitra have a dedicated vegan menu, but this unassuming spot also has one of the top-rated wine selections in the state. First-course options include fried chickpea-battered veggies, potato samosas, a seasoned pulled jackfruit on naan wedges, and customer favorite gobhi Manchurian, cauliflower florets in a flavorful tomato glaze. The menu lists seventeen completely vegan traditional entrees, among them tofu makhni, eggplant bhartha and vegetable korma, all served with basmati rice. Azitra has also perfected dairy-free recipes for naan and garlic naan, and offers rotating sorbets, ice creams and a vegan dessert of the day to wrap up your meal.

Readers' Choice: Watercourse Foods

Watercourse Foods
Danielle Lirette

Watercourse takes the guesswork out of vegan eating by offering an entirely meat- and dairy-free menu that completely bursts the stereotype of what the uninformed think plant-based food is all about. At breakfast, go for the loaded breakfast burrito stuffed with tempeh chorizo and covered in green chile or country gravy, or the Big Rig, a platter of country-fried seitan, scrambled tofu and a biscuit smothered in gravy. The comfort food continues at dinner with farfalle Alfredo, mac and cheese with bacon, nachos topped with cauliflower chorizo and cheddar cheese sauce, and the crowd-pleasing seitan buffalo wings with blue cheese.

Meta Burger
Meta Burger

The goal of Meta Burger was to redefine vegan food in Denver, giving people the chance to grab an affordable, fast meal with the classic flavors they grew up with — and it succeeded. The menu is simple: burgers, hot dogs and a few essential sandwiches (buffalo chicken and Philly cheesesteak) along with the expected sides, such as waffle fries, chili cheese fries, mac and cheese and (soy-based) shakes. Burgers come in a variety of styles, including the Supernova, with habanero jam and pickled red onions; the Godfather, with pesto and giardiniera; the Texan, with chopped BBQ pieces and coleslaw; and the Classic, with pickles, lettuce, tomato and cheese.

Hops & Pie
Mark Manger

Hops & Pie is known for two staples: pizza and beer. Ditching cheese and meat sounds like it could mean the end of a good pizza, but that's not that case with the vegan pizza here. Start by choosing the crust — either a traditional, slightly thicker pan pie, or the square, deep-dish Detroit style. Vegan meat alternatives include a spicy Sicilian sausage made in-house or house-smoked tofu, and veggie options range from the standard — mushroom, onion, pepper, olives and spinach — to more unique options such as sun-dried tomatoes, banana peppers, roasted garlic cloves, caramelized onions, jalapeños, broccoli and pineapple.

All of the beautiful pastries at Beet Box are made without eggs and dairy, and some are gluten-free, too. While offerings change with the seasons, you can expect classic sweets such as turtle brownies, almond croissants, cinnamon rolls, chocolate doughnuts, lemon-poppyseed muffins, and chocolate-chunk scones. Savory baked goods include country loaf bread, a tomato-pesto tart, a spinach-mushroom croissant and a mushroom-green onion tart. Freshly made breads are the basis of vegan sandwiches, which range from a tofu banh mi to tuna salad made with chickpeas instead of fish and an avocado melt with cashew cream cheese.

Wong Way Veg, a bright-orange food truck, circulates around Denver serving inventive scratch-made vegan food that takes its inspiration from around the world. One of the most popular options is the Boulder Philly, a twist on a Philly cheesesteak with marinated portabellos and housemade cashew cream. But you'll also find surprises on Wong Way's rotating menu, like the thinly sliced seitan gyro topped with tzatziki sauce in a warm pita, or the barbecued-jackfruit burrito stuffed with mac and cheese. Don't miss the brunch special, which could be banana bread pancakes or a tofu scramble with maple sweet potatoes.

wongwayveg.com

The Urban Egg restaurant chain is a Colorado original founded in Colorado Springs, with seven sunny spots in Denver, Fort Collins and other Front Range towns. Breakfast is the name of the game here, so start your day off early with something smothered in the house green chile, always made without meat. The tangy chile is packed with peppers, making an eye-opening addition to breakfast burritos, blue-corn huevos rancheros (ask for yours "Christmas" style so you can taste the Egg's red chile, too) or even the Southwest eggs Benedict. You won't even need coffee: This green chile is potent enough to kick-start your morning.

Readers' Choice: Adelitas Cocina y Cantina

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
Danielle Lirette

Boulder is one of the best cities in the country for vegetarians, and Leaf Vegetarian is a major factor in that equation. The restaurant boasts a cozy atmosphere along with its meat-free menu; a majority of the dishes can easily be made vegan. A sophisticated avocado tartare, spicy buffalo tacos and calamari-style oyster mushrooms kick off the lineup. The vegan crab cake sandwich, mushroom burger and beet hummus with grilled flatbread make excellent lunch choices. For dinner, mushroom Bolognese, Jamaican jerk tempeh, and udon noodles with crispy tofu are just a few of the eclectic options. On the weekend, Leaf packs in diners for brunch, with offerings like huevos rancheros, vegan French toast, and biscuits and gravy.

Readers' Choice: City, O' City

City, O' City
Hunter Stevens

In this era of meat-impersonating burgers, the City, O' City team opted to stick with a traditional veggie burger made of actual vegetables. The City, O' Burger gets an extra protein-packed boost from walnuts and sunflower seeds, and is served on a kaiser bun with melted dairy-free cheese and a special sauce alongside onion rings, fries, mixed greens or another side. The kitchen does a variation on the basic burger, such as the Chophouse topped with grilled onions, crispy shallots and housemade steak sauce. The popular restaurant also offers other meat-free comfort foods, including seitan pastrami, a crispy to'fish sandwich, and "chicken" and waffles.

Readers' Choice: Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

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