Business and life partners Tyler and Cody Schiedel love converting staunch carnivores with crafty spins on meaty classics. The couple went vegan nine years ago and opened the Burrowing Owl, Colorado Springs’ first 100 percent vegan restaurant, in 2015. Last summer, they launched Fern’s Diner and Drinkery, shaping the Cascade, Colorado restaurant menu using only plant-based ingredients.
“Getting folks to eat vegan food that is familiar is our way to change perspectives,” Cody says. “We do not want animals to continue to be raised and slaughtered. We want to show people that vegan food is delicious, affordable and accessible.”
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From its forested perch in tiny town Cascade, Fern’s Diner sits in the shadows of Pikes Peak and draws in visitors funneling down Pikes Peak Highway into Pike National Forest with its cheery blue, yellow and green hues—a water-sun-plant color palette that the husband-wife duo hopes conveys nature’s notion of life feeding life.
“To recognize the complexity of life and nature’s way, we choose to be vegan so that we practice what we preach, which is the desire to be free,” Cody says. “We would not be living to our principle if we impeded on any living being’s freedom.”
The neighborly gathering spot focuses on greasy spoon American classics. A delightful all-day breakfast menu surprises with sweet agave cream cheese French toast ($10), hearty biscuits and peppery gravy ($8), and a sizzling country skillet ($14) built around Beyond sausage links, moon eggs (an in-house creation of split mung beans and oat milk with the texture of scrambled eggs), crispy potato tots, and grilled onions and bell peppers.
Lunch refuels famished hikers and chatty regulars with gluten-free fried artichoke sandwiches ($13) and a spicy green chile ($7) locals rave about. Their patty melt ($14) constructed with pea-protein-based Beyond Burger patty, grilled onions, and nut-based provolone on grilled Texas toast has actually fooled a customer who thought it was the real red-meat deal.
The sunny garden patio beckons warm-weather diners with mismatched creekside patio furniture, gnomes in birdcages, swaying pine trees, and prayer flags. The Schiedels welcome pets with plenty of shade, bowls of water, and homemade dog treats. The restaurant’s logo and stained glass artwork honors the couple’s French bulldog, Fern, a sassy, loyal puppy mill rescue who passed away from mammary cancer two years ago.
“Being a vegan diner in a tourist destination and at the base of a famous mountain needs to carry a confident, strong voice,” Tyler says. “Like Fern, we want to lure you in with our looks and warm your soul with our hospitality.”
The next time you’re in the area topping the Manitou Incline, exploring the Cave of the Winds, or trekking a section of Pikes Peak, pop into Fern’s Diner and embrace the feel-good fare and friendly vibes.
4645 Fountain Ave., Cascade