Sahara is a veggie-friendly oasis in the Tech Center desert

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You know you've picked a good restaurant for lunch when it's already filling up at 11 a.m. That's what we found when we stepped inside Sahara. Like many restaurants in the Denver Tech Center area, Sahara is tucked inside a strip mall, but the attention paid to the decor makes you quickly forget the dime-a-dozen exterior. The warm, golden walls hold artifacts and hangings reflecting life in the Middle East; the light fixtures are exotic lanterns; and the intricately carved and painted wooden tables are covered with sheets of glass, so you can see the art below without adding your food to it.

And that attention to detail carries over into the kitchen.

Sahara's vegan and gluten-free menu items are clearly marked, which makes ordering easy for lunchers with special dietary needs.

Pictured above is the mammoth Sahara All Veggie Special, featuring falafel, hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, fattouch, dolmade, sanbousak of spinach and saffron rice. (Although it's fully vegetarian, it's not vegan -- try the couscous with vegetables or falafel with baba ghanouj or hummus instead.) Everything served up on this platter was among the best versions we've had in this city: The hummus was out-of-this-world good, as was the baba ghanouj and the dolmade. (It's hard to find a dolmade that's not completely saturated in oil; this one was blessedly low on grease.)

The falafel, tabbouleh and fattouch were all commendable. And the sanbousak of spinach is a must if you eat cheese; consider an appetizer plate if you don't want it with your meal.

See the full menu at www.sahararestaurant.net.

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