Vegetarian

The Ten Best Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Denver in 2021

Vital Root uses cauliflower and broccoli for its Korean-style "wings."
Vital Root uses cauliflower and broccoli for its Korean-style "wings." Vital Root
If you prefer tofu over top sirloin, seitan over steaks, the Denver dining scene is full of good (and tasty news): The metro area has a growing number of meatless eateries, many of them completely committed to plant-based menus, with no eggs or dairy in sight. Whether you're craving fast food or want to dine out in style, there's a meat-free option for you.

Here are Denver's ten best vegan and vegetarian restaurants:

click to enlarge Enjoy the island theme and plant-based cuisine at Bang Up to the Elephant. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Enjoy the island theme and plant-based cuisine at Bang Up to the Elephant.
Danielle Lirette

Bang Up to the Elephant

1310 Pearl Street
303-792-4949

This bright and lively eatery has been serving Caribbean cuisine in Capitol Hill since 2018, but last year it went entirely vegan, so you can now get two uncommon dining experiences under one roof. Housemade seitan, jackfruit, curried chickpeas and tofu stand in for meat on plates of wings, Jamaican jerk, lo mein noodles and hefty sandwiches (some made on the house fry bread), while other dishes play off of Caribbean classics with little need for substitutions. Fried plantains, mofongo (minus pork), coconut bread and peas and rice give a taste of the islands. For Asian flavors, Bang Up also launched a plant-based takeout menu called Unofficial Translation, available here and from sibling restaurant Beatrice + Woodsley.

City, O' City

206 East 13th Avenue, 303-831-6443
Watercourse Foods
837 East 17th Avenue, 303-832-7313

Plant-based eaters were thrilled when vegetarian mainstay Watercourse Foods went entirely vegan a few years ago, making it easier to read through the menu without stumbling over eggs or dairy. Watercourse has a little something for everyone, whether you're craving pasta, burgers, salad or brunch. Just a few blocks away, younger sibling City, O' City is a little more relaxed with the rules, which just lets you choose dairy-based or vegan cheese on your pizza, or scrambled eggs or tofu in your breakfast burrito.


click to enlarge Corner Beet is a cozy vegetarian cafe in Capitol Hill. - RILEY COWING
Corner Beet is a cozy vegetarian cafe in Capitol Hill.
Riley Cowing

The Corner Beet

1401 Ogden Street
720-295-4447

At the Corner Beet, you'll get something beyond a great breakfast or lunch: homestyle comfort. The warm, inviting coffeehouse serves as a spot for a morning pick-me-up with an espresso drink or a superfood latte, or a stop for a full breakfast. Pressed juices and acai bowls invigorate, but there are also daily soups and fresh-baked vegan and gluten-free baked goods. Some menu items contain eggs or dairy, but it's also pretty easy to go entirely vegan here.

The Madras Cafe

5422 South Parker Road, Aurora

720-541-7293

Much of India's culinary offerings evolved without the use of meat, so there's often no need for substitutions to get a delicious and balanced meal. The kitchen does use dairy (with paneer cheese in several dishes), so ask first before you order if you want to go entirely plant-based. Appetizers include savory lentil doughnuts called vadai (there's a sweet version, too), samosas and Indo-Chinese specialties, and entrees are divided into North and South Indian curries, so you can choose from familiar favorites like vindaloo or masala from the north, or something new from Chettinad or Kerala. Beyond the familiar vegetables, you'll find curries made with ivy gourd and tiny pea eggplants that are also called turkey berries (which are entirely turkey-free!).

click to enlarge Meta Burger does American classics without the meat. - AMY BOLDEN
Meta Burger does American classics without the meat.
Amy Bolden

Meta Burger

7950 East Mississippi Avenue, 720-535-9707
5505 West 20th Avenue, Edgewater, 720-897-8222

Meta Burger's east Denver location has been a favorite for classic American fast food, only without the meat, dairy or eggs, since it opened in 2018. A long list of burgers is the main attraction, supplemented with fried "chicken" sandwiches, a Philly cheesesteak, waffle fries and even shakes. Last year, a second Meta Burger opened at Edgewater Public Market, giving west-side vegans — and even just the veg-curious — something new.

Native Foods

680 South Colorado Boulevard, Glendale
303-758-3440

Native Foods is metro Denver's only vegan national chain restaurant, but it got in on the plant-based game early, debuting in California in 1994 and coming to Colorado nearly a decade ago. The restaurant offered one of the few options for a menu completely free of meat, eggs and dairy in the city at the time, and has continued to please customers with a wide range of sandwiches, salads, soups and bowls that are as filling as they are balanced.

click to enlarge So Radish gives Olde Town Arvada a plant-based destination. - COURTESY OF SO RADISH
So Radish gives Olde Town Arvada a plant-based destination.
Courtesy of So Radish

So Radish

5711 Olde Wadsworth Boulevard
303-632-8681

Scott Spears opened So Radish two years ago to fill a missing gap in the Olde Town Arvada dining scene. The plant-based menu is filled with approachable, hearty vegan options, available in a fun setting with an ’80s video game theme. You'll find meat and dairy alternatives such as Chick'n, crab, meatballs and creamy cashew-based sauces, along with standards like tofu, tempeh and pulled jackfruit. While the slate is heavy on comfort-food classics, you'll also find a red-curry noodle bowl, three-bean chili and a kale quinoa salad.

Somebody People

1165 South Broadway
720-502-5681

You won't find the words "vegan" or even "plant-based" anywhere at Tricia and Sam Maher's Mediterranean-style eatery — named for lyrics in a Davie Bowie song — that opened in 2019. Instead, you'll find what they call a "vegetable-forward dining experience," with housemade pastas and small plates built without meat, dairy or eggs. In fact, there are no animal products in the building; even the barstools are upholstered with a pineapple-based textile that emulates leather. A solid list of creative cocktails and biodynamic wines, along with a beachy decor, make Somebody People a welcome stop for anybody.

click to enlarge Whole Sol brings a modern approach to plant-based food, with smoothies, bowls, pressed juices and toasts. - COURTESY OF WHOLE SOL
Whole Sol brings a modern approach to plant-based food, with smoothies, bowls, pressed juices and toasts.
Courtesy of Whole Sol

Whole Sol Blend Bar

Multiple locations

Phil Dumontet and Alexa Squillaro opened their first Whole Sol in 2018 in LoDo and quickly spread to RiNo, Sloan's Lake and two Boulder outposts in the following years. While the premise is built on plant-based bowls (or bols, as they're called here), smoothies and juices that are refreshing and delightful, the menu also includes hot bowls and toasts, so you can fill up for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are two bowls that include eggs (which can be swapped out for vegan JUSTEgg), but otherwise, everything on the menu is 100 percent plant-based. This Saturday, March 20, the OG Bol, made with acai, banana, strawberry, granola and honey, is only $5 (that's more than half off) at all five locations in honor of MeatOut Day.

Vital Root

3915 Tennyson Street
303-474-4131

Justin Cucci's Edible Beats restaurant group (which includes Root Down, Linger, Ophelia's and El Five) turned its attentions toward the casual side of dining with this meatless eatery on Tennyson Street. All the fun and flavor of the group's previous efforts are here, plus cold-pressed juices and nut milks, a focus on health and a full complement of plates of all sizes to get you through the day. International flavors punch up dishes like an Indian breakfast dosa with sambar and mint chutney in the morning, a tofu banh mi with delicious yuca fries for lunch, and vibrant stir-fries packed with the spices of Thailand and Korea for dinner. You'll feel so good that a low-alcohol cocktail — made with those cold-pressed juices — won't induce guilt. Eggs and dairy pop up in a couple of places, but substitutes are available, and all other dishes are plant-based.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation