Firedough heats up the dining scene in southeast Denver

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The odd name of Firedough Mediterranean Grill, Bakery & Pies says it all. This new outpost in Centennial specializes in savory pies (known as "manoushi"), but it also offers marinated and char-grilled meats, fresh bread and salads and other Mediterranean specialties, many from family recipes handed down for decades by the owners' relatives. All the vegetarian and gluten-free options are clearly marked -- and there are plenty of them.

See also: - Damascus Grill offers a spread of Moroccan (plant-based) favorites, old and new - Sahara is a veggie-friendly oasis in the Tech Center desert - Ali Baba Grill vegetarian spread brings the Middle East to Golden

Lunchtime sees many diners heading into Firedough, stopping by for pickup or sitting down for a meal. Still, this is a quick-service joint that will get you in and out in time to punch back in on time, which has made it popular with the cubicle warriors who populate this area. And the smell of baked goods wafting through the restaurant is tempered this time of year by a blast of air conditioning that's close to heaven when it's hot outside. For colder days, there's a fire pit out on the patio that should be popular during autumn happy hours.

Pictured above is the vegetarian combination platter, which comes with three pieces of falafel, three grape leaves stuffed with rice, baba ghanouj, chopped salad and a ramekin of tahini sauce to top everything off. All-falafel and all-grape leaf platters are also available, with your choice of either baba ghanouj or hummus. The baba ghanouj isn't as flavorful as many other restaurants offer, but the hummus and falafel are both better than you might expect from a restaurant that turns orders around so quickly. The falafel is especially good: perfectly golden-brown and crispy on the outside with the exact right amounts of herbs and spices flavoring the little nuggets of fried joy. If you're a fan of dolmades, you'll enjoy the grape leaves encasing spiced rice; we'll stick with the all-falafel.

And there are so many pies at Firedough -- all made with special dough and cooked inside an open-flame, firedough brick oven -- that it's hard to choose. This little spinach-pie side is just $1.99 for a three-bite side, and there's no cheese wrapped up in that crust, just chopped spinach, tomatoes, lemon juice and spices. Other vegetarian-friendly Firedough pie offerings include entree-sized pies made with a number of stuffings -- thyme, cheese, dried yogurt and a catch-all vegetarian mix with cheese, corn, mushrooms and green peppers.

Firedough is located at 10639 East Briarwood Avenue in Centennial; call 303-799-0003 or visit firedough.com.

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