Ali Baba Grill vegetarian spread brings the Middle East to Golden

Vegetarian fare plays an important role in Lebanese cuisine, and Golden's Ali Baba Grill is testament to the fact that you can get delicious (meat-free!) international cuisine as far west as the foothills.

There doesn't seem to be a downtime for this eatery; when we stopped by on Labor Day at 2:30 p.m., the dining room just past the front doors was packed, and a more intimate room further back, which has a ceiling draped in tent-like fabric and low, homey tables, even had a diner or two.

We wanted to try a little bit of everything, so we ordered the vegan-friendly Vegetarian Lovers entree, which comes with hummus, baba-ghanouj, tabbouleh, falafel, fettoush and grape leaves. The falafel was the star of the platter; the little heart-shaped fried patties were flecked with sesame seeds and delivered a hearty crunch. They were delectable wrapped up in pita bread with salad.

For starters, though, we chose the grilled mushrooms, which were marinated in olive oil, butter, saffron, lemon juice, salt and pepper before grilling. The butter isn't vegan-friendly, but if you can have dairy, these 'shrooms are so heavily flavored that they taste almost beef-like -- and we mean that in the best way possible. A falafel sandwich (with fries on the side) rounded out our order. If you're a falafel fan, you'll want to go with this or the falafel platter rather than the Vegetarian Lovers entree, because Ali Baba's falafel deserves the praise it gets across the metro area.

Ali Baba offers several other appetizers suited for vegetarians and vegans, as well as soup, salad, savory pies and entrees. Of course, there are also gyros and chicken shwarma and the usual meat offerings you'd expect to find on a Middle Eastern menu.

It's a great stop for families with mixed tastes -- or anyone who wants to inject a little more flavor into west-suburbs dining.

There are also Ali Baba Grill locations at 5380 South Greenwood Plaza Boulevard in Englewood and 8800 South Colorado Boulevard in Littleton; visit www.alibabagrill.com to learn more.

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