Veggie Girl: Racines

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One of my strongest dining memories from childhood is dining at the café in the Broadway department store in Albuquerque. Strangely, I don't remember the food -- it was probably a grilled cheese sandwich or chicken noodle soup or some other kid-friendly dish -- but I remember the ambience. The dimly lit dining room was the essence of sophistication to me when I was seven, and whenever I walk into Racines Restaurant, 650 Sherman Street, I'm overcome with nostalgia. Something about the lighting and the heavy, leather chairs.

For a long time, this convinced me that the dining room at Racines had a very retro 80s feel, but really the room is quite modern and nice. The place is always packed, and given that the menu is so eclectically diverse, it's easy to see how the place could appeal to a wide range of tastes.

I'm not often a fan of places that mash so many different types of food together -- I guess I always just assume that I'll get a better Greek salad at a Greek place or tastier huevos rancheros at a Mexican place -- but I've always had decent versions of every type of regional cuisine that I've tried there, and happily they have enough options to keep vegetarians and carnivores happy.

I stopped by for lunch with a friend yesterday, craving the nice dining environment and, of course, their huge mound of nachos -- appropriately named Mile High Nachos ($9.99). I've often stopped by Racines for nachos and drink at the bar, and I'm still convinced that their nachos could comfortably feed at least 4 people (which would make for a heck of a deal at $2.50 a person for a meal).

Not only are the nachos huge, but they are good -- a huge stack of homemade tortilla chips piled high with black or refried beans and topped with a generous amount of white cheddar cheese, jalapenos, black olives, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. Sure, it's not the healthiest meal, but it's great for an occasional splurge or a late night snack, since Racines serves it's full menu until midnight Wednesday through Saturday and until 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday.

If you're looking for something a bit healthier, the Nutty Cheese Salad comes highly recommended. For $9.99 you get mixed organic greens topped with white cheddar and fontina cheeses, sliced bananas, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, avocado and tomatoes. Oh, and did I mention it's also huge. Portions are big here, so sharing is a good idea.

Racines may never have the best huevos, fajitas or fish and chips in Denver, but their large portions and even larger menu make them a good bet when you have a lot of picky eaters to please. Or when you want to eat your weight in nachos.

-- Aubrey Shoe

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