As a frequent flier and former New Yorker, I'm very lucky. I have dined at vegan restaurants from coast to coast, including some of the finer dining spots: Candle 79 and Blossom in New York, Millennium in San Francisco, and Crossroads and Little Pine in L.A.
I have really great news for you, Colorado Springs: One of our city's newest restaurants compares.
You didn't hear the cries of joy in December? That's when 100 percent plant-based Moxie opened on Eighth Street. And the vegans rejoiced.
Veg-motivated diners get to order anything on the menu. Even the drinks and wine are vegan. Nonvegans, get ready for a vegetable renaissance because Chef Ruthie Poole knows her way around a plant. Offering lunch and dinner menus, many favorites can be found on both, such as the tempura Brussels sprouts ($8 and $10). If you hate these tiny cruciferous veggies, that's likely because your mom or dad boiled them. (Sorry, Mom, but you know it's true.) This lightly breaded and fried version comes out with a still crisp sprout that's golden and packed with flavor. Of two soups on the menu, you can't go wrong with the parsnip bisque ($6). The cream in this soup is the actual root vegetable infused with rosemary and fennel.
The menu has three salads, and the hearty, multi-hued pomegranate salad ($11) is filled with bright orange and red fruit. The side of farro - a chewy grain ideal for soups and salads - makes this plate of greens stick to your ribs. Bonus, you can add one of four protein options to any salad: tofu, tempeh, seitan or quinoa ($3.50).
Unique to the lunch menu is the beet burger ($13) and sweet potato tacos ($11). The tacos are filled with beans, sweet potatoes and slaw and served in a corn tortilla with creme fraiche. It's served with herbed potatoes, but I often request a salad instead to avoid the potato-on- potato overload.
You'll find the quinoa bowl ($13) and lentil fritters ($13) on both menus, and they're perfect any time of day. Quinoa and lentils might sound a bit ho hum, but trust me. The quinoa bowl is a beauty. Served deconstructed, a palate of colors and textures fills the bowl: quinoa, dried fruit, roasted nuts, pickled onions and vegetables. The fried legume fritters come on a generous piece of grilled flatbread, and their crunch is matched by the fresh, crisp raw veggies that accompany the wrap.
Unique to the dinner menu are two other standouts. The curried seitan ($12) is where the chef demonstrates her understanding of uniquely vegan foods. Seitan, known as "wheat meat," is dense - a lot like bread - and too many restaurants offer massive portions, not understanding that a little of this glutinous version of meat goes a long way. Here, with just the right amount of tender seitan and subtly curried flavor, the protein on the plate is complemented by a lighter jasmine rice and colorful peas and carrots. The cauliflower mushroom polenta ($14) truly allows a feast for one's eyes. The triangles of green-specked cornmeal are rich with tomato sauce and fresh vegetables. Consider sharing this large dish.
Of the four desserts ($5 to $8), I can never resist the caramel apple tostada ($7). Crunchy, savory tortillas sandwich thick, syrupy apples. This is also easily shared.
Let us not forget that Moxie isn't just a restaurant. The craft cocktails are lovely. Try a margarita with a fresh sprig of rosemary peeping over the top ($10) or The Dude Went Vegan ($11) starring house-made coffee liqueur, vodka and coconut milk. Wine ($9 to $12), beer ($4.50 and up), and nonalcohol specialty drinks ($2.50 to $5.50) round out the clever offerings.
Fresh food restaurants keep diners on their toes, and Moxie is no exception. Translation: Get on over to Moxie now to nibble on the current menu because it will change with the seasons. And that's good news because that means our curiosity and appetites will be piqued and satisfied year round.