Sunrise Sunset dishes up veggie-friendly breakfasts

Breakfast can be one of the most frustrating meals of the day for a vegetarian. Although many places offer all the sausage, bacon and ham you care to eat, I have yet to find a restaurant in Denver that serves Morningstar sausage patties instead of the carnivore's version (if you know about one, please clue me in!). That leaves us herbivores with few options on the breakfast circuit -- especially if you're not particularly a pancakes-and-waffles kind of person.

And we all know there's nothing worse than waking up after a night of partying hearty and having to make your own breakfast. No one wants that.

So on mornings when a belly full of greasy food -- and maybe some hair of the dog -- are the only things on the menu, and when you don't particularly feel like driving into town and fighting through the crowds at WaterCourse or City, O' City, I'm grateful to have an outpost of Sunrise Sunset within a fifteen minute drive of my house -- 1424 South Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood.

Back when I allowed meat to pass my lips, my favorite thing to eat at this restaurant was the Lumbre Sunshine: Country potatoes topped with sauteed onion, spicy sausage and jalapeños, smothered with cheeses, baked and topped with green chili (vegetarian) and two basted eggs. A close substitute is the Enchilada Sunshine, which isn't listed on the regular menu but is a special at all restaurant locations. It features thick white corn tortillas smothered with country potatoes, onion, cheeses, black beans, tomatoes, vegetarian green chili and two basted eggs, and an English muffin on the side. Normally, this is my go-to breakfast, and it's what my husband had to eat on the Sunday morning (well, closer to early afternoon) we visited Sunrise Sunset.

Add a sprinkling of jalapeños for some heat and maybe a bloody mary or mimosa, and you've got yourself a hangover cure.

Another favorite Southwestern-style breakfast of mine is the Black Bean Benedict, comprising a toasted English muffin topped with sour cream, green onions, green chilies, black beans and cheeses, baked and then topped with two basted eggs and smothered in vegetarian green chili. Again, this dish goes well with some jalapeños to add a little spice.

I was feeling rich and decadent, though, so decided to go with something containing Sunrise Sunset's creamy hollandaise sauce: the Vegetarian Benedict.

It's a toasted English muffin topped with onions, mushrooms, zucchini and peas, cheese, sliced tomatoes, spinach, based eggs and the aforementioned hollandaise sauce, with country potatoes on the side.

The brown skillets are always hot when the servers bring them to the table, and you can see how the cheeses and sauce bubble around the edges of the skillets as they're baked to perfection.

Normally, the kitchen is really good about getting the basted eggs out perfectly every time: runny yolks and solid whites. As it should be at any breakfast place. But this time, both the Vegetarian Benedict and Enchilada Sunshine sported hard, almost fully-cooked yolks. At least I had the hollandaise sauce to moisten up my meal, but really, there's no excuse for overcooking an egg when you run a line at a breakfast kitchen. Thumbs down on those eggs.

Thumbs up on everything else, though. The tomatoes in my benedict were a rich red color that made me covet Sunrise Sunset's food provider. Thick, juicy and full of flavor, they saved the dish from the travesty of the cooked egg yolk. I like to throw my country potatoes on top of the skillet, mix up the whole mess and eat it. And despite the fact that this skillet has to be worse for me than most vegetarian dishes, it feels awfully virtuous to be eating peas, zucchini and spinach on a breakfast plate.

Sunrise Sunset offers an array of other vegetarian options, including a Vegetarian Sunshine, Mario's Sunshine, the Fiesta Grande, the Black Bean Breakfast Burrito, the Sun-Up, the Day Break, Sunbuttons, plus cinnamon rolls, hotcakes and several omelets (which you can also have made into a burrito).

My biggest complaint about the place has got to be the price, which is right around $10 per meal -- you get no break for excluding meat from your meal, which is kind of a rip-off. The meat is usually the most expensive part of any given plate, so why would they charge the same for a breakfast with sausage as for one without? And those eggs -- man, there were just no saving those eggs.

On the up-side, the service there has always been fantastic, and any other time I've had problems with my eggs, the servers have offered to have them recooked promptly. However, on this particular Sunday, I would rather have eaten the overcooked eggs than wait for the cooks to do it right. And they have "real" Coke -- from Mexico, and containing sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, plus a fantastic herbal tea selection.

There are two more Sunrise Sunset locations: 9134 West 6th Avenue in Lakewood and 7400 West 38th Avenue in Wheat Ridge. For information, visit www.sunrisebreakfast.com.

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