Former Food Truck Owners Open Vegan Restaurant

This barbecue sandwich with a beer-infused sauce and sweet potato fries is now being served at Derive.
This barbecue sandwich with a beer-infused sauce and sweet potato fries is now being served at Derive. Derive Bistro
Golden received its first all-vegan restaurant when Derive Bistro opened its doors at 1224 Washington Avenue on July 5. Co-owners of the new plant-based spot — Sean Kelley and his wife, Samantha — are not new to Denver’s vegan scene, though. The pair got their start a few years back operating the popular food truck SOS Catering.

Transitioning from a food truck to a restaurant has its own set of challenges, says Kelley, from expanding the menu and managing a larger staff to small details, such as soap in the bathroom. “It seems well worth it now that we’re there,” Kelley notes.
click to enlarge Mac and cheese is the suggested side for Derive's Reuben sandwich. - DERIVE BISTRO
Mac and cheese is the suggested side for Derive's Reuben sandwich.
Derive Bistro
He’s happy to settle in Golden, since vegan options were limited before the restaurant opened. “Places may have had a vegan option or two, but not the whole vegan atmosphere,” he points out.

Similar to the former SOS Catering’s menu, Kelley describes offerings as vegan comfort food. One truck favorite that has made a way on the menu is Sam’s Reuben — thinly sliced seitan, Thousand Island dressing, sauerkraut and melted Swiss on marble rye. Kelley makes the seitan from scratch, as well as the dressing and sauerkraut,  specifically for this sandwich. “I was a huge Reuben fan before I switched to eating vegan. If there was one on the menu, I was ordering it,” he explains. “I wanted to make the seitan in a way that would duplicate that flavor.”

Another food-truck staple that made the jump to the brick-and-mortar eatery is the pulled beer-B-Q sandwich, which smothers a combination of shredded jackfruit and seitan in beer-infused barbecue sauce and tops it with crispy fried onions and garlic aioli. Kelley says these two sandwiches have been the top dishes so far, along with a cashew-based, spicy Buffalo mac and cheese and the fried Asian roll appetizer, filled with a cabbage mix, mung bean noodles and teriyaki sauce.

click to enlarge Inside Golden's first and only vegan restaurant. - COURTESY DERIVE BISTRO
Inside Golden's first and only vegan restaurant.
Courtesy Derive Bistro

Starters include fresh chips and salsa, crispy green chile fries, cauliflower wings and nachos covered in sweet-potato queso, black beans and sour cream. For a main course, the burger is made with black beans and seitan and topped with coleslaw. Fries, potato salad and cucumber salad are a few of the side options, which are all gluten-free.

Feedback so far has been positive, including from fellow plant-based businesses, which Kelley calls his friends. “We don’t look at any sort of vegan business as competition,” he says. “Vegan businesses grow together.”

The dining room seats about sixty guests, with additional room at the bar and outside on the patio. Kelley plans to add a happy-hour menu; Sunday brunch featuring waffles, breakfast burritos and pancakes; and more menu items, including a mac and cheese-topped burger, a cheesesteak sandwich and a twist on a Caesar salad with grilled tofu and cavatappi noodles.

Derive Bistro is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. For more information, visit Derive's website or call 303-271-0730.
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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.