Linger's small plates have room for vegetarian (and vegan) cuisine

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Linger is known for its rooftop patio, its stellar cocktail menu and its location inside of the old Olinger mortuary space -- not necessarily for its vegetarian and vegan options. And that's a shame, because Linger caters to plant-based eaters the same way it does everything else: with style and a certain flair that you don't see everywhere in this city.

See also: - Gaia Bistro wraps up a veggie-friendly brunch, French-style - Empanada Express Grill is stuffed with vegetarian options - The tofu dishes at Szechuan Chinese are as good as the pork dumplings

The dining room can be noisy, so if you've got a choice, opt for a patio spot -- which will also give you the opportunity to gaze upon the beautiful plates that Linger puts together in the full light of the sun. If you can snag a seat close to the edge, the patio is also unparalleled for people-watching, both on the deck and in the neighborhood. You'll find tables full of hipsters and yuppies sipping on cocktails and catching up on the latest gossip, wearing their best out-for-dinner garb and enjoying the atmosphere. Soak up that sunshine while it lasts!

Of course, you might be distracted by the food, and that would be perfectly permissible. Pictured above is the carrot and lentil falafel, a fried patty made of garbanzo beans, cashews and Turkish chile, wrapped up in butter lettuce with scallions, zucchini pickles, tomatoes, herbs and a lemon-tahini yogurt. You can get this dish vegan, too. It's one of the more traditional-seeming items on Linger's eclectic menu -- but it's still delicious for all of that; the tang of the lemon with the tahini dressing and the crunch of that falafel patty wrapped up in crispy lettuce is what summertime dining is all about.

The red-beet hummus is a twist on another Middle Eastern favorite. You'd expect this version to taste much more beet-like than it does, given the color, but it's still a pretty basic hummus recipe (with a little added sweetness from the beets), topped with pistachios and served up with dill, goat cheese and crumbled hard-boiled egg to mix in. There are housemade chips and pita bread for dipping. Order it without the cheese or egg for a vegan plate. The popper "breakdown" is a lot like you'd imagine a chef's version of a deconstructed jalapeno popper, but instead of jalapenos, you'll find shishito peppers and deep-fried cheddar curds served with orange-habanero jam. The peppers are a lot spicier than the jam, which adds a cooling sweetness to the dish, and the cheddar curds are definitely worth a try if you'll allow cheese into your diet. The chili paneer is another tasty choice if you eat dairy; the Indian-style cheese is cooked up with a spicy chili sauce, avocado, cilantro and naan. It's on the hot side for those spice snobs out there, and the cheese maintains its creamy, soft nature for a delightful balance of flavors and textures.

Linger is open for lunch, brunch and dinner; visit lingerdenver.com or call 303-933-3120.

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