Mecca Grill a central destination for vegetarian dining

Mecca Grill, 270 South Downing Street, won a Best of Denver award in 2010 for "Best Lamb That Mary Would Have Liked" -- but lamb is far from all that's on the menu at this mini-mall storefront. As that award noted, the music choice is a little bizarre (when we stopped in, wildly improvisational jazz flooded the speakers), and the service can take a while, but the food is undeniably worth it.

There were only two other tables in the building during our entire meal, and the interior is nothing special: Warm pink walls adorned with rugs and swords surround the small dining area. The menu offers a sizable array of meat options, including lamb, chicken and beef, while the vegetarian entrees are slightly sparser (there are three sandwiches and two platters that are veggie-friendly). Although it might not have a wide selection, what the grill does offer is absolutely delicious.

Pictured above is the vegetarian combo platter ($11.45), comprising falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, tabouleh, fatoush salad, stuffed grape leaves (dolmas) and rice. Everything was fresh (apart from the dolmas) and delicious; we especially savored the baba ghanouj, among the best we've had in Denver. The eggplant paste had a fruity undertone -- we suspect pomegranate is included, and it's amazing.

The vegetable kabob was a decent appetizer; cuts of carrot, squash and mushroom are grilled and served over a bed of romaine lettuce. The squash was especially tasty, but if you like grilled mushrooms, order up the mushroom kabob instead (or as well).

We're not sure why these mushrooms are so different from the mushrooms on the vegetable kabob, but they are. They're larger, to start with, and have clearly been marinated in some olive oil/vinegar combination; the result is a succulent mushroom that will have your table fighting over the last bite. (So maybe order two!)

For information, visit http://meccagrilldenver.com.

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