Le Central's ever-changing menu saves room for vegetarians

Being vegetarian does not mean restricting your diet to only a handful of cuisines -- you can find dishes across every culture that accommodate non-meat-eating needs. Surprisingly, though, it's not always easy to find a vegetarian dish at a French restaurant. The cuisine is so rich and relies on such an array of meats that sometimes there might just be one or two entrees that fit vegetarian dietary needs.

Le Central, 112 East Eighth Avenue, doesn't have a huge vegetarian selection on its menu -- but what the restaurant does carry is outstanding, and best of all, you can check the weekly menus online before you ever leave the house.

Le Central is popular among families and dating couples, and that's what filled one of several dining rooms Monday night. A converted house, there's a sun room/patio dining area, several indoor upstairs rooms for sitting down and eating, and a downstairs area that's open for dining business, as well. The decor is homelike, with nods to French culture all over the place, from clever cartoons to maps on the wall. A reasonably priced wine list and accessible menu make this not just an affordable French restaurant, but an approachable one, as well.

There were several vegetarian options on the appetizer menu, including roasted chestnuts served with warm honey butter; a cheese platter; a warm wedge of brie with a roasted head of garlic; and goat cheese topped with sweet onion marmalade and bread crumbs, baked and served hot with croutons, beautifully ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, $9, pictured above. The tang of the goat cheese was offset by the sweetness of the onion, and the tomatoes and basil added just the right balance of flavors to this delicious appetizer.

This week, "Le Plat Végétarien" is a creamy risotto prepared with spinach, artichokes and Boursin cheese, $10. It's rich, decadent and utterly worth the calories, the artichoke providing an interesting texture and adding a salty overtone to the dish. There are also an array of salads on the dinner menu that are vegetarian (or can be made vegetarian), and for lunch, Le Central often offers a vegetarian crepe and omelette option.

The restaurant is also open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, which adds waffles, French toast, quiche, cinnamon rolls and other breakfast items that are vegetarian-friendly. Sadly, there's not much at all for vegans on the menu, but checking the menu regularly sometimes nets a surprise.

Call 303-863-8094 or visit www.lecentral.com.

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