One of the challenges of being a vegetarian is finding a place where you can kick back and relax with old friends, maybe make some new friends. Carnivorous folks take their hospitable hangouts for granted; we don't have that option.
While WaterCourse and City, O' City are great spots for grabbing a bite to eat and maybe a drink, they don't fit the bill if you want to hang out for hours on end, alternating brews with billiards. Fortunately, Wynkoop Brewing Company not only has a fabulous (and relaxed) vibe, but it serves up seriously tasty vegetarian food, too.
While the bar at the Wynkoop can be loud and rowdy -- especially during happy hour -- the dining room is another scene entirely. The recessed alcoves and big tables give diners plenty of room and are much more conducive to private conversation. Then again, a seat at the bar can be a lot of fun if you're looking for company and community.
Upstairs, the billiard hall has pool tables stretching almost as far as the eye can see, as well as two private rooms, dart games and another bar (so you don't have to run downstairs for your beer). On the loudspeakers, you'll hear everything from Widespread Panic to Tom Petty to Robert Plant with Alison Krause -- good music that's a backdrop for good times.
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Not only does the Wynkoop offer a variety of settings -- boisterous or mellow, pool sharks or barflies -- but it also offers vegetarians and vegans a variety of menu options. The appetizer roster includes hummus, beer-battered onion rings, queso dip, pretzels (served with beer mustard) and artichoke-parmesan dip, pictured above. The dip is served with handmade beer bread roasted with melted garlic butter; the sweetness of the bread contrasts nicely with the tangy dip.
The only meat-free salad is the spinach salad, but it's a good one: baby spinach, dried cranberries, fried onions, blue-cheese crumbles, toasted walnuts and poached pears, all in a maple vinaigrette. And for vegetarians who aren't concerned with their waistlines, there's a three-cheese mac-and-cheese with seasoned beer-bread crumbs on top. The Wynkoop really serves vegetarian interests with its sandwich lineup, which includes two vegan options. The curried vegan "chicken" wrap puts grapes, almonds and a light curry dressing inside a wheat tortilla; it comes with a choice of sides. But the real standout is the vegan sloppy joe, served with a choice of sides (thick, salty fries pair well with the sandwich) and a pickle slice. The sandwich isn't vegan in the photo above -- that's a slice of pepper Jack cheese added -- but most diners wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the vegan version and the lunchroom classic made with beef.
The $4 happy-hour menu also has vegetarian items, including black-bean cakes, queso dip and veggie sliders (with portabello mushrooms and grilled squash). As with all the other items on the Wynkoop menu, each has a recommended chef's choice of brew to consider imbibing. But for now, you can't go wrong with Tut's Royal Gold, a smooth, sweet brew that will only be available for a limited time.
Wynkoop Brewing Company is located at 1634 18th Street; for information, call 303-297-2700 or visit www.wynkoop.com.