Sunday, April 27, 2008

Avenue Grill Has a Secret (Vegetarian Menu)

The Avenue Grill has a secret. You wouldn't know it from looking at the lunch and dinner menus posted outside the restaurant's entrance, which list a number of meat-based entries. And, you would never guess from the menu provided by the server, which is also predominately meat-based. But if you utter the secret password, and ask your server if the kitchen can prepare some of the entrées on the menu without meat, he or she will bring you a second, vegetarian menu. (In fairness, the vegetarian menu is also available on the restaurant's website).

It's unclear why the Avenue Grill has created a separate vegetarian menu, much less why it only provides the vegetarian menu upon request. The dishes on the vegetarian menu -- which include Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes, an Artichoke, Feta and Calamata Olive salad, Crispy Butternut Squash Ravioli, and a Sautéed Vegetable Lavosh sandwich -- seem like they would appeal to meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

While the Avenue Grill relegates almost all of its vegetarian offerings to a separate menu, it doesn't appear to put any less thought or effort into its vegetarian fare. I'm reluctant to order sautéed vegetable sandwiches at restaurants, after encountering one too many unappetizing heaps of greasy vegetable chunks. Too often, these sandwiches seem to be created with the goal of getting a vegetarian option on the menu, rather than creating a flavorful and interesting meal. The Avenue Grill's Sautéed Vegetable Lavosh sandwich, with its warm chevre cheese and colorful blend of thinly sliced and grilled vegetables stacked between slices of sesame flat bread, was a pleasant exception to this trend. The fresh-cut fries which accompanied the sandwich were perfect.

I also enjoyed the Crispy Butternut Squash Ravioli, served with a soy ginger sauce and accompanied by red mashed potatoes and a fennel-artichoke salad. I'd like to try the Avenue Grill's Wild Mushroom and Chevre Ravioli, but unfortunately they are served with beef rib eye steak tips on the restaurant's standard lunch and dinner menus, and are not yet offered on the vegetarian menu.

If you can, save room for the Jack Daniel's Chocolate Bread Pudding. I'm not a bread pudding fan, but this was amazing. The Chilled Belgian Chocolate Cake, a dense and intensely chocolatey creation, is also very good.

Service at the Avenue Grill, while friendly, can be a little slow. Give yourself a little extra time if you need to be somewhere after your meal.

The Avenue Grill is a Colorado Proud restaurant, which means it uses local agricultural products whenever possible.

The Avenue Grill
630 E. 17th Ave
Denver, CO 80203

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