Build your own Tokyo Joe's bowl for a made-to-order, veggie special

There are 26 Tokyo Joe's location in Colorado -- a state that may pump out more fast-casual chain stores per capita than any other (see: Chipotle, Garbanzo, Qdoba, Smashburger, etc.). Although the menu includes a vegetarian sushi roll that's not bad (it has cream cheese, which is bad news for vegans), Joe's really delivers the goods with its bowls, which you can build from scratch with as many veggies as you like, grilled fresh and served with tofu, your choice of brown or white rice and your desired sauce.

See also: Okinawa brings Japanese veggie options to the southwest suburbs

Like most fast-casual restaurants, Tokyo Joe's really isn't suitable for long, intimate lunches or dinners with close companions. But with its efficient service and streamlined environment, it's perfect for swooping in to grab a quick lunch -- whether you eat in or take it to-go. The black-and-chrome interior is modern, and there's a decent tea list if you like a little caffeine with your meal. In the Dry Creek store on a recent weekday, we found the tables filled with office-mates grabbing a table for a fast sit-down lunch; meanwhile, a line formed at the counter for takeaway orders.

Pictured above is a build-your-own bowl with grilled tofu, brown rice, peanut sauce, edamame, sugar snap peas, green onions, broccoli and carrots. After picking your protein (the tofu is vegan-friendly), rice (brown or white) and one of seven sauces (five of which are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly), you can choose five different veggies from among Joe's options -- other choices include zucchini, mushrooms, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, spinach and red onion. Even if the bowls won't win any culinary competitions, the sauces are flavorful, the ingredients fresh, and the resulting meal pretty healthy -- especially compared with a lot of the fast-food, grab-and-go options that pepper strip malls and drive-throughs across the nation.

If you're not quite so hungry, the vegetable gyoza -- veggie dumpings with lemongrass basil sauce, also vegan-friendly -- is a good, quick option. Again, these dumpings won't win any awards, but they're served up hot and savory and are filling enough to satisfy mild hunger pangs if you just need something to tide you over for an hour or two.

Visit tokyojoes.com for location information and a full list of nutritional background (including an allergen list).

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