In anticipation of the upcoming Democratic convention, the New York Times recently featured Denver in its "36 Hours In. . ." travel series. As I perused the article this weekend, I was surprised to read that, "There's no getting around Denver's culinary specialty, red meat, the starring attraction at Old West-themed barbecue joints all over town."
For those who would prefer to "get around" red meat during their time in Denver, Ginger Beat humbly offers its own, vegetarian version of 36 Hours in downtown Denver:
1) Watercourse Yes, it's a bit of a walk from downtown. But, how often do you have the opportunity to dine at a completely vegetarian restaurant? (If you're feeling the altitude, consider taking a bike taxi from the 16th Street Mall.) I'm especially fond of the Andalusian Pasta (butternut squash, green olives, cannellini beans, fresh sage, and parmesan cheese tossed with fettuccine and lots of garlic...), the Sampler Plate (tapenade, hummus, basil, and cilantro pistachio pestos served with pita bread) and the Polenta Encrusted Portobello Cap (also available on a Po Boy sandwich). The related City o City serves up a limited version of the same menu, along with pizza, in an atmosphere that's a cross between a coffee shop and a bar.
2) Ahimsa Footwear Once you've made it to Watercourse, you're just a few blocks from Ahimsa Footwear, which sells shoes, purses and bags that appear to be made of leather - but aren't. That's right - vegetarian shoes!
3) Mad Greens No, it's not a gathering of riled-up Ralph Nader fans. Mad Greens is a local restaurant chain specializing in greens and other vegetables - basically anything that can be tossed into a salad or grilled in a sandwich. Veg salads include the Van Gogh (spinach, carrots, tomatoes, couscous, currants and dried apricots), Nobo Seagaru (romaine, asian slaw, edamame and tomatoes), and the Don Quixote (baby greens, mango, avocado, roasted corn and jack cheese). If you haven't got time for a sit-down meal, but want something quick and reasonably healthy, there's a Mad Greens on the 16th Street Mall (16 & Stout).
4) The Mercury Café A short walk from downtown, the Mercury Café serves up locally grown and organic fare. Although not exclusively vegetarian, the Mercury Café offers a range of vegetarian options. The building itself has a number of environmentally-friendly features and runs entirely on wind-power, some of which is created by wind turbines housed on the restaurant's roof. The Mercury Café is also home to a bar and a dance hall.
5) Tea at the Brown Palace After a few days of convention-eering, protesting or just plain old fashioned sight-seeing, wouldn't it be nice to sit down and relax a bit? Tea at the historic Brown Palace Hotel is one way to do that. Tea-goers choose between the classic tea (classic tea pastries, scones, and tea sandwiches), the Chocolate Sensation tea (chocolate tea pastries, scones, and tea sandwiches) and the Royale Palace Tea (a combination of classic and chocolate pastries, scones and tea sandwiches, also served with Kir Royale). While the tea sandwiches normally include some meat, vegetarian sandwiches can be prepared upon request.
6) Vitamin Cottage Want some soy milk for your hotel room fridge? Need a natural sleep aid? Searching for some organic fruit to carry as a snack? Denver has a number of natural grocers, but the closest one to the downtown area is the Vitamin Cottage at 15th and Platte Street, just across the river from downtown. Walk there by heading west on 15th Street, or use the Millennium Bridge to cross from the 16th Street Mall to Riverfront Park, and then head south to 15th Street on the bike path.