Boulder Ranks Third in the Top Ten American Cities for Vegetarians

Next Door's beet burger is one of many meatless offerings to be found in Boulder.
Next Door's beet burger is one of many meatless offerings to be found in Boulder. Courtesy Next Door American Eatery
America is starting to find out what the rest of us already knew about Boulder: that it's a great place to dine out if you don't eat meat. Boulder recently ranked third in a list of the ten best cities for vegetarians, compiled by  Apartment Guide. The ten cities were selected base on the most vegetarian, vegan and organic dining options per capita.

The article reports that the People's Republic is home to one vegetarian-related business for every 2,329 people. And while the rest of Colorado didn't fare as well on the list, Fort Collins and Denver still ranked among the top fifty, with Fort Collins, at number 26, offering one veg business per 3,930 people and Denver, number 29, with one per 4,097.

Helping Boulder achieve its meat-free status are eateries that offer either completely vegan or vegetarian menus or serve a significant number of plant-based dishes, including Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar, Native Foods, Jill’s Restaurant, Fresh Thymes Eatery, Thrive and Leaf Vegetarian, just to name a handful of popular spots.

Sara Stewart Martinelli, owner of Leaf, says she couldn’t ask for a better community in which to run a vegetarian restaurant than Boulder. “We love the lifestyle of the community and the way that people are active, healthy and eco-savvy,” she says. 

Martinelli says Boulder is probably one of the most health-conscious spots in the U.S., and most people are concerned with what they put into their bodies. “People in Boulder also tend to be environmentally conscious, so they consider the effect of their diet on the environment and how eating a meatless meal can help,” she says.

click to enlarge The vegan roasted-veggie bowl is one of the most popular options on the menu at Next Door. - NEXT DOOR
The vegan roasted-veggie bowl is one of the most popular options on the menu at Next Door.
Next Door
Don Degnan, president and CEO of Next Door American Eatery, a restaurant that offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options on its standard menu, says that Next Door's roasted-veggie bowl is one of the top-selling dishes. The hearty dish is made with roasted crimini mushrooms, charred broccolini, bell pepper, cauliflower, caramelized onion, organic local tri-color quinoa, sunflower seeds and vegan cilantro tahini dressing. Other popular veg options include the beet burger with arugula, balsamic onion and feta, and a vegan-friendly Impossible Burger topped with mushrooms, roasted onion and Thousand Island dressing.

click to enlarge Flower Child opened in Boulder on August 22, 2018. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Flower Child opened in Boulder on August 22, 2018.
Linnea Covington
Sam Fox, owner of Flower Child and the Fox Restaurant Group, says that Boulder was a likely choice for their veg-friendly restaurant. “What we found, while unsurprising due to its accessibility to nature, [is that] Boulder is a haven for health-conscious individuals and families seeking a community that supports like-minded brands,” Fox says. Flower Child offers healthy customizable options for not only vegetarians and vegans, but for those eating paleo or gluten-free, a feature that Fox says makes the restaurant thrive in a city like Boulder.

Boulder’s healthy lifestyle and geographic location present just the right combination for vegan culture, according to Jill's general manager Philippe Antoine. "Since we started offering our vegan lunch buffet every Friday as well as our Monday night vegan tasting menus, we have received great feedback from our guests," Antoine says. "Monday and Friday are completely sold out most of the time, and the clientele keeps growing.”

As far as what’s next for the Boulder vegetarian scene, Martinelli says it’s hard to predict. “One thing we're planning to focus on is expanding the global flavors of vegetarian food so that we can explore the many cultures that have embraced meatless cuisine,” she says.

Other cities that made the top ten include Richmond, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; Orlando, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; Savannah, Georgia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The only cities to beat out Boulder were Charleston, South Carolina, and Berkeley, California, which ranked first and second, respectively.
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Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering craft beer, food and travel. For Westword, she explores vegan dining and the state's artisan beverages, such as cider and mead.