Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ask Before Ordering at Rocky Mountain Diner

Rocky Mountain Diner promises food just like Grandma's. Apparently, "Grandma" used a lot of meat in her cooking. Enchiladas? Stuffed with roast duck. Tacos? Filled with steak. Each sandwich and plate listed on the menu is meat-based (Buffalo Meatloaf, Chicken Fried Steak, Vaquero Cheese Steak...), and even the salads (apart from the house salad and, depending on how you interpret "vegetarian," the caesar salad) have some type of meat component.

The only two dishes on the lunch menu which do not list meat among their ingredients are the chili rellenos and the huevos rancheros. I ordered the chili rellenos during a recent visit. While, in retrospect, the meat-heavy menu should have been a warning, I didn't bother to ask whether the green chili atop the chili rellenos (and huevos rancheros) contains meat. However, a few bites in, it became clear that the green chili does contain meat - giant chunks of pork which seemed to permeate the entire dish.

Although it may be a meat-lover's delight, Rocky Mountain Diner is a difficult place to eat as a vegetarian. It's a shame, because the restaurant appears to use fresh ingredients and to prepare its dishes from scratch. It's been a long time since I've been to a restaurant which didn't include any vegetarian options on its menu - even in meat-intensive south Texas, I was able to order cheese enchiladas or a grilled cheese sandwich. Although it has a great location (in the historic Ghost building downtown) and a nice patio, I will probably not return to the Diner in the future. For vegetarians who do find themselves at the Diner, I recommend telling the server that you don't eat meat, and then asking what items on the menu can be prepared without meat.

Rocky Mountain Diner
800 18th Street
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 293-8383

From Claire at Culinary Colorado: News that the Asian restaurants and markets at Alameda Square are slated to be replaced by yet another modern shopping mall.


Dine With Donna said...

Our youngest daughter is a vegan. I understand your plight. Wanting to follow a choice which is done for healthy living is not always understood by restauranteers.

Her classmate and three daughters came for a visit and could not believe they ate for two weeks and didn't miss meat with her wonderful recipes.

I think telling a waiter or waitress is maybe not the great communicator to the chef / owner. Many are happy with their tips and really aren't concerned that a customer wasn't happy with the menu choices. Vegetarians are not a rare bunch of people. Many, many people have made that choice and try very hard to follow that diet. Don't give up getting the word to the chefs.

Beatrice said...

You are right that vegetarians and vegans face similar challenges, although I think its even more challenging for vegans. My two stand-bys (grilled cheese and cheese enchiladas) wouldn't work for a vegan, for one. Second, while some people have interesting interpretations of "vegetarian" ("it's not meat, it's lamb!"), I think vegetarian-ism is still more mainstream than vegan-ism.

With regard to communicating with the owner/chef, I get the sense that you are referring to more than a particular order - you are saying that restaurants need to know that their customer base includes vegetarians and vegans. Is that right?


Anonymous said...

I was excited to take my family to the Rocky Mountain diner shortly after we moved here. Love the idea of a saddle as a bar stool, & I like diners in general, coming from the Midwest.

However, we were all disappointed. Two of us had the hot sandwich w/mashed potatoes & gravy(two different varieties, can't remember which ones right now as this was awhile ago). My husband had some soup, think it was chili - it wasn't too bad. But no one really like their meal. Admittedly, nobody ordered their Fried Chicken, which I've heard is good.

I usually try a place TWICE before making a judgment; but honestly, none of us have wanted to go back. Please help us to know what we should've ordered? As many people say this place is good, I'd really like to know what to order to have a good experience. Thanks!!

Beatrice said...

Hi, Anonymous. I'm not in the best position to recommend a dish at the Diner, as their menu is pretty meat-intensive. You might want to check out some of the other sites that cover Denver restaurants, for example: