Ten Must-Have Vegan Dishes — as Selected by Plant-Based Business Owners

Vegan Van's plant-based take on a Taco Bell classic.
Vegan Van's plant-based take on a Taco Bell classic. Vegan Van
When it comes down to it, nobody knows Denver's plant-based dining scene like the folks making the food and living the vegan lifestyle every day in the metro area. Along with innovative and delicious vegan cuisine being served by a growing number of restaurants and mobile vendors, there's also a groundswell of camaraderie and support the purveyors share. We talked to vegan chefs and business owners to find out their favorites; here are ten great dishes they came up with — and that you should seek out soon.

click to enlarge WONG WAY VEG
Wong Way Veg

Banana Blossom Fish & Chips from WongWayVeg
Selected by the Ben Como of Veggie Yeti

Ben Como and Jared Simpson, who run the Veggie Yeti food truck, want to break stereotypes that vegan food is boring and bland. Como’s pick is the banana blossom fish and chips from fellow food truck WongWayVeg that truly sums up his mission. WongWayVeg presents a large banana blossom prepared in a manner similar to chile rellenos; the blossom is stuffed with a filling (free of meat, dairy and eggs) and then battered and fried. “They are so tender, and taste just like fish,” Como says. “They are, hands down, the most creative, best-tasting vegan or not-vegan food truck in Denver.”

Vegetarian Pho at Tony Pho Vietnamese Restaurant

1002 South Federal Boulevard
Selected by Kris Carino of Hella Herbivore

Kris Carino, founder of Denver vegan pop-up experience Hella Herbivore, creates flavorful Asian dishes with a twist. He's eaten his way around town as part of his research, and when it comes to flavorful meat-free pho, his go-to is the vegetarian noodle bowl at Tony Pho. “Their broth is clean but packs full flavor, which is exactly what I look for when eating pho,” Carino explains. “They also give huge amounts of veggies like broccoli, carrots, onions and huge chunks of tofu.” Carino likes to squeeze a little lime in when he’s halfway through, adding that “it’s almost like eating a different bowl of soup.”

click to enlarge MARK ANTONATION
Mark Antonation

Poki Salad at Turtle Boat

2231 South Broadway
Selected by Sarah Eastin of Veganizer DEN

Sarah Eastin is the plant-based consultant at Veganizer DEN, helping Denver restaurants curate vegan menu options. The poki (Turtle Boat's spelling, to match the typical Colorado pronunciation) salad from Turtle Boat is one of her favorite lunches in Denver. “The best part about the vegan dishes at Turtle Boat is that they use a housemade protein called Alma, which is made from ancient grains,” she notes. Other menu perks that Eastin loves include locally sourced fresh produce, a variety of vegan sides, and unique salad toppings such as nori dust, fried garlic, roasted coconut and wasabi peas.

Vegan Reuben at Ivy on 7th

410 East Seventh Avenue
Selected by Natalie Gilbert of WongWayVeg

Natalie Gilbert of WongWayVeg, Denver’s quintessential vegan food truck, has been dreaming about the vegan Reuben at Ivy on 7th ever since she tried it. “We can't stop telling everyone we know to go try it,” Gilbert admits. “It was perfection in a sandwich." Ivy's Reuben is made with thin-sliced eggplant pastrami, housemade red cabbage kraut and a creamy sauce on buttery marbled rye bread.

click to enlarge Blue Sushi Sake Grill - DANIELLE LIRETTE
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Danielle Lirette

Shojin Roll at Blue Sushi Sake Grill

1616 16th Street Mall
Selected by Michael Reeves of Meta Burger

Meta Burger’s goal is offering affordable, quick traditional fast food free of cheese, eggs and meat — burgers, hot dogs, fries, shakes and other craveable fare. But when co-owner Michael Reeves is in the mood for something different, he hits up Blue Sushi for the Shojin Roll, packed with barbecue seitan, grilled asparagus, pineapple, shallot, Bibb lettuce, nori, brown rice, soy paper and sweet soy sauce. “Imagine a vegan Hawaiian pizza as a sushi roll,” Reeves states. “It just works. We all love this roll and love Blue Sushi.”

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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.