CityRock introduced a bar concept a few years ago for post-climbing brews. Not a rock climber, I hadn’t found a reason to pop into The Ute & Yeti. That’s a shame for me, because the kitchen since was expanded to create a bona fide eatery, vegetable-forward with plenty of vegan options and several that can be modified.
Late on a Saturday afternoon, you’re sure to find a bustling pub: post-climbing folks, solos at the bar with pints, and families at tables, as well as the foodie who just wants a good beer with good food. And there are plenty of both to choose from, with nearly 100 beers (and boxed wine) and starters, sandwiches, salads, bowls, flatbread pizza and even smoothies.
Beginning with the locally made soft pretzel ($5.75), this supple baked starter makes for a great post-climb snack. Hold the beer cheese and get extra spicy mustard to make it vegan. We loved it with the It’s Not a Nicoise salad ($9.50). The clever vegan take on a traditional seafood salad has artichoke hearts that deliver a flaky texture and umami (pickled) taste that replaces any need for tuna. Don’t worry about your protein; the aromatic, colorful quinoa provides it. Finely diced sweet potatoes and crisp green beans are the perfect crunchy alternative to a crouton. The tacos ($9.50) are vegan when you opt for the sweet potatoes and black beans. It’s another plate that resembles the rainbow. You get every texture, from soft tortillas and cooked beans to crisp fresh vegetables.
The two true vegan standouts, though, are the tofu and noodle bowl ($10) and the Herbivore flatbread pizza ($10.50).
The enormous bowl, vegan as is, is filled with a cacophony of flavors: apple kimchi and tamari (soy) dressing weave together the rice noodles, greens, vegetables and hearty shitake mushrooms. The legumes — roasted tofu and peanuts — add texture variety and heart protein. This bowl is easily shared.
The Ute & Yeti keeps vegan mozzarella on hand, which makes ordering pizza far more fun than at many local joints where you have to “hold the cheese” (yawn). The Herbivore pizza is plant-based when you request the vegan cheese. But you’ll barely notice the cheese because the thin, crisp crust holds up to the abundance of vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, spinach and artichoke hearts are complemented with the basil pesto and another artichoke appearance. I’m going out on a limb here to say this is my favorite vegan pizza in Colorado Springs. No, the dough isn’t house-made, but the care in layering flavors and allowing the vegetables to sing wins.
I’m always impressed when a nonvegan restaurant tries to offer a sweet ending for their plant-based customers. Sure, you could order the vegan cherry, blueberry and beet smoothie ($5). But why, when you can get the P-Nut Butta Pie ($5.50)?
Nothing’s better than peanut butter and chocolate, but it gets even better when the fudgy filling is served in a pine nut and oat crust over a smear of wholesome nut butter. This dessert alone is worth the trip.
The Ute & Yeti, inside CityRock, opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s a great place to meet for healthy bites and drinks after work, enjoy a hearty downtown dinner or, yes, a post-climb carb-load, all in a casual, sporty spot.Rating total: 4.75 of 5 forks
Food: 4.75 of 5 forks
Ambiance: 4.5 of 5 forks
Service: 5 of 5 forks
Venue character: Sporty and outdoorsy pub
Address: 21 N. Nevada Ave.
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Non-vegan options: Dairy cheese, chicken, pork
Gluten-free options: Yes
Outdoor dining: Yes
What’s online as of Feb. 20:
• 5 of 5 based on 31 reviews on Yelp
• 5 of 5 based on 4 reviews on Trip Advisor
• 4.8 of 5 based on 41 opinions on Facebook
Good rating July 27, 2018, by El Paso County Public Health.