A carnivore's guide to five great vegetarian dishes

We love meat. Love it. But recently, we've found ourselves ordering vegetarian dishes and, well, enjoying them. Maybe it's the summer heat, or maybe we're being subconsciously swayed by cute vegetarian campaigns.

Whatever the reason for our recent decision to lay off the animal protein, we've amassed a list of five great vegetarian dishes in the city, that, despite our carnivorous tendencies, we heartily enjoy.

Watermelon gazpacho, StreatChefs, various locations. This cold soup is tangy and surprisingly savory, despite the quantity of sweet fruit that builds its base. We ordered it as a side to the rest of our lunch, but the portion was large enough to be the main event. We wish this seasonal treat were available year round.

Queso a la plancha taco, Pinche Tacos, various locations. Possibly our favorite taco from the mobile truck is the one without meat. The vendor fries up cotija cheese until it's brown and crispy, then puts it in a corn tortilla and tops it with slices of avocado and tomatillo salsa.

Mom's macaroni and cheese, Tarbell's, 6955 South York Street. Macaroni and cheese is often a good vegetarian option, but the version at Tarbell's is one of our favorite things at the restaurant. Made with fontina, manchego, white cheddar and white American cheeses, it's sharp, rich and creamy. We'll pair it with the chef's seasonal vegetable if we need something more than dairy and starch.

Beet burgers, Colt & Gray, 1553 Platte Street. One of our favorite vegetarian dishes comes from a restaurant that serves a lot of meat. And while we love Colt & Gray's beef burger, we also can't get enough of the beet burgers, which are comprised of roasted beets and basil goat cheese atop a crumbly olive oil biscuit.

Vegan rice pudding, Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, 1770 13th Street. Admittedly, we probably wouldn't have ordered this had a member of our party not sung its praises, but this creamy rice pudding, sweet and spicy, and made with coconut milk, is a pleasant end to a meal -- vegetarian or not.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk