Being vegan or vegetarian used to be considered an alternative lifestyle. Not anymore. In response to a broad shift toward more plant-based diets—for personal and environmental health reasons—almost every restaurant you visit these days has some sort of vegan or vegetarian or dairy-free or gluten-free offering. Of course, that’s not a new idea here in Denver: Watercourse Foods and City, O’ City—the city’s OG vegan spots—were founded way back in 1998. Since then, plenty of other plant-focused eateries have opened. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites so you can expand your options next time the hunger pangs hit.

Editor’s Note: This is a living list of plant-based restaurants that was last updated on August 15, 2022. Did we miss your favorite? Email us at dining@5280.com

Bang Up to the Elephant

Now that’s an entrance. Photo courtesy of Bang Up to the Elephant!

Capitol Hill is an eccentric neighborhood, yet Bang Up to the Elephant still manages to stand out. The tiki theme starts at the mural-covered front entrance and continues past the eight-foot-tall fountain to the back wall covered in hundreds of tropical plants and onto the Calypso menu. But first: the cocktails. There are the classics, naturally—the piña coladas and rum punches of the world—but there’s so much more worth exploring, including a tequila and cream of coconut concoction and the coffee liqueur-spiked Dirty Banana. The food is an enticing blend of Caribbean, African, Chinese, Indian, and Southern American influences, so expect the unexpected. To wit: Plantains, jerk spices, and a curry share space with a quesadilla and a lo mein. Just go with it. It’s all part of the fun at one of the city’s most playful eateries. 1310 N. Pearl St.

The Corner Beet

Corner Beet
You might need a knife and fork for this one. Photo courtesy of Corner Beet

We’ve long relied on the Corner Beet for a caffeine boost, healthy bite, and comfortable place to catch up with a friend (or our email). Its bountiful vegetarian menu is full of scratch-made eats, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and açai bowls, and vegans will be happy to see the enticing selection of fresh-baked pastries. The casual corner spot is simultaneously trendy—as evidenced by its superfood lattes and immunity shots—and homey, with its chalkboard signs of varying sizes and copious plants. Though it’s previously only been open for breakfast and lunch, a recent Instagram announcement hails a coming-soon bar program. 1401 N. Ogden St.

The Easy Vegan

The Easy Vegan’s heirloom carrot osso bucco is (almost) too pretty to eat. Photo courtesy of the Easy Vegan

We’ve been singing this queer-owned pop-up kitchen’s praises for a while now. Back in October, we included its addictive loaded elote baked potato on our list of the ‘the Best 45 Dishes to Eat in Denver Right Now.’ Not much has changed—except, in the interim, we’ve also fallen for owners Alexi Mandolini and Taylor Herbert’s granola-topped carrot budino and yuba (tofu skin) sandwich. Next time we taste them, it might be indoors: The pair is looking to open their brick-and-mortar bar and restaurant by spring 2023; Herbert is part of a new Denver Restaurant-Up Restaurant Accelerator Program for first-time restaurateurs. Don’t worry: The seasonal farmers’ market pop-up kitchen will continue on. Find the monthly schedule here—including weekly visits to the City Park and South Pearl Street farmers’ markets.

Fellow Traveler

A perfect bar snack: chili-garlic cauliflower. Photo courtesy of Fellow Traveler

Fellow Traveler didn’t need long to make an impression: The bar and vegan food spot opened in late January, and we were immediately taken by the laid-back vibe and off-the-beaten-path location. Then we saw the menu of global spirits, and we were hooked. This is a spot to try something new—singani, aguardiente, or zwack, anyone? (The menu explains what each is, and the bar staff will help you out, too.) Of course, there’s also a list of more familiar cocktails including trendy spritzes and zero-proof selections. To wash it down, check out the concise menu of about dozen vegan dishes, including creamy fried avocado tacos, chilaquiles, and a chocolate cake that’s on our list for our next visit. Don’t miss weekend brunch… or owner Joe Phillips’ limoncello. 3487 S. Broadway, Englewood

Gladys

Root vegetable Reuben sandwich at Gladys. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison
Root vegetable Reuben sandwich at Gladys. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison

The motto at Gladys, a food stall inside Edgewater Public Market, is “plants forever.” The fine dining quality of chefs Rocky Hunter and Dave Grant’s food certainly has us agreeing with the sentiment. The menu reflects the current growing season, and the team grows many of the ingredients themselves. What does that mean for your lunch? A charred Caesar salad with spiced sesame seeds and miso Parmesan. Mushroom risotto with leek pesto. A play on a Reuben sandwich in which celery root is treated like pastrami. Fresh cookies. You really can’t go wrong. Plus, the menu is small enough that you can try everything if you bring a couple of friends along. 5505 W. 20th Ave., Edgewater

Masalaa

Indian cuisine provides an abundance of options for vegans and vegetarians, but Masalaa takes the options to new heights with an entirely vegetarian menu. The strip mall spot’s menu can be overwhelming with its sheer number of offerings. Good news: You can’t go wrong with the dosas (crispy, but chewy, crêpes made from rice and lentil or semolina flour and rolled with your choice of fillings), masalaas, or saags. Start your meal with oversize samosas, and wash it all down with a mango lassi. (Tip: Aurora is home to a second vegetarian Indian restaurant—the Madras Cafe.) 3140 S. Parker Road, Aurora 

Natuur

Say hello to the new kid on the block. Natuur opened its first two locations—in Highlands Square and by Sloan’s Lake Park—within the past couple of months. There are just nine items on the menu, but what we dig about this smoothie and smoothie bowl spot is the ability to customize. For the bowls, you get to choose your base (açai, protein-amped cherry, dragon fruit, mango-ginger, or super green—or a mix of two), three fruit and two dry (like hemp seeds or cacao nibs) topping, and a drizzle (peanut butter, honey, you get the idea). Our advice: Let the base melt a little before you dig in for optimum flavor. 3712 W. 32nd Ave.; 1525 Raleigh St.

So Radish

At So Radish, country-fried “steak” isn’t just a weekend indulgence. Photo courtesy of So Radish

We love salads and veggie bowls as much as the next person (truly), but sometimes you just want to indulge in good old comfort food. On that front, So Radish delivers. Whether you’re dining on plant-based food by choice or because your body prefers it, this Olde Town Arvada restaurant has a menu chock-full of dishes you actually want to eat: bananas foster French toast, green chile “cheeze” fries, mushroom cheesesteak, kale pesto gnocchi. (For the record, they have salads too.) It’s all served in a totally rad space where no detail was overlooked; the walls are covered in murals, and the booze for the delicious lineup of cocktails sits on neon shelves designed like sunglasses. Heads up: The eatery is about to get even cooler courtesy of “Secret Level” a new arcade where guests can order off the regular menu or test out the secret menu of food and booze only available in the back room. 5711 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada

Somebody People

Somebody People’s cocktails set the space’s tropical vibe. Photo by Chelsea Chorpenning

From the teal and pink beachy decor to the brightly hued cocktails to the seasonal, Mediterranean-influenced menu, Somebody People is a place people want to hang out—whether they’re vegan or not. We can pretty much guarantee that herbivores and omnivores alike will dig the menu, though. It’s fun and creative (for example: Sunday Supper, a $35, five-course meal is developed around whatever ingredients the kitchen has at week’s end) and, most importantly, delicious. You won’t find any of those “faux meats” here. Instead, nosh on the can’t-miss house-made pastas and whatever of-the-moment, fruit- or vegetable-forward appetizers are on the lineup. Oh, and save room for dessert; Somebody People swirls its own ice cream (and makes ice cream sandwiches out of it). 1165 S. Broadway, Unit 104

Superfood Bar

Platte Street is hip these days, with plenty of new restaurants and shops to check out. But you’d be remiss to overlook Superfood Bar. The small eatery takes a “whole food approach” to its menu, relying on all organic and plant-based ingredients to fuel its impressive array of smoothies, filling bowls, refreshing salads, and grilled wraps. The gluten-free Viet Wrap is a particular favorite thanks to its mix of black bean patty, shredded veggies, chili-spike mango sauce, and cashew-coconut “cheese;” we suggest swiping it through the accompanying sunflower seed “sour cream.” If the weather’s cooperating, enjoy your meal on the small patio. 1541 Platte St.

V Revolution

Hello, beautiful baos. Photo courtesy of V Revolution

You may have missed the news of V Revolution’s opening back in October 2020 amid the daily onslaught of breaking news. But it’s time you make your way to Englewood to taste chef/owner Howard Wang’s vegetarian and vegan Asian cuisine. It’ll take multiple trips to try everything that sounds good on the lengthy menu, but we suggest you start with the mushroom dumplings (careful with your chopsticks—they’re slippery), spring roll noodle bowl, or hearty drunken noodles. Having trouble making a decision? Check out the chalkboard near the register that lists the chef’s favorites and staff picks. Better yet: Bring a few friends so you can enjoy your meal family-style. 3570 S. Logan St., Englewood

Vital Root

Why choose just one thing at Vital Root? Photo courtesy of Vital Root

Vital Root is one of Denver’s most loved plant-based eateries. The lush, all-day space sits on the popular Tennyson Street drag, and its fast-casual menu sprouts from the imaginative brain of Justin Cucci (the restaurateur behind Linger and El Five). Here, you’ll find cashew-based queso dip, fava bean falafels, “chicken” and waffles, and banh mi tacos made with an edamame pâté (our personal favorite). There’s a kids’ menu, too. Smoothies, coffee, teas, and CBD juices are all available, as is a small selection of boozy options. If you manage to walk out the door without a peanut butter-tahini cookie, you’ve got more will power than we do. 3915 Tennyson St. 

Wellness Sushi

You won’t even notice there’s no fish in these rolls. Photo courtesy of Wellness Sushi

Have a hankering for sushi? You won’t miss the fish with the inventive—and tasty—lineup of rolls at Wellness Sushi that feature a range of ingredients like purple Okinawa sweet potatoes, faux crab salad, eggplant “eel,” and tempura squash (the star in our top recommendation, the Dancing Green Roll). The menu also includes an array of other classic Japanese dishes, such as ramen, donburi, and onigiri (a sushi-like sandwich made with OmniPork Spam and Just Egg tamagoyaki). The restaurant is currently operating out of a temporary kitchen at Taw Win in Aurora. But Wellness’ flagship spot is expected to open around the end of August on East Colfax Avenue in Congress Park. Temporary kitchen: 1120 Yosemite St., Aurora; New restaurant: 2504 E. Colfax Ave.

Whole Sōl Blend Bar

Treat your taste buds to a tropical vacation with Whole Sol’s smoothie bowls. Photo courtesy of Whole Sol Blend Bar

With five locations, plus two more opening this fall (in Longmont and Fort Collins), Whole Sol makes it easy to satisfy your açai craving. We’ll admit: We do so often. The menu is robust enough that there’s something for any mood—a matcha-based green smoothie bowl when we need a pick-me-up; the summer-hued Sunshine Bōl when it hits 80 degrees before breakfast; a tofu scramble or white truffle avocado toast when our stomachs are growling. The cold-pressed juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls, hot bowls, and toasts are all 100 percent organic, gluten- and dairy-free, and made from real ingredients. There’s also an array of coffees, cold brews, and lattes. Multiple locations

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Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer

Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.