Plant-based dining is growing in popularity and Colorado Springs restaurants are responding. From healthy, plant-based meals to down and dirty vegan comfort food, we've got you covered.
THE REAL-DEAL VEGAN EXPERIENCE
THE BURROWING OWL
1791 S. 8th St., 434-3864, burrowingowllounge.com
The first vegan dive bar in Colorado Springs - OK, the only one - opened one year ago and is going strong because the beer comes in cans ($3-$7), the wine in boxes ($4-$5), and the food is all-vegan and all-comfort. TVP - a plant-based version of ground meat - is the name of the game: Try the spicy version in the taco salad ($7) or the smoky version in the messy sloppy ($8). Craft cocktails start with well liquor but become special with the addition of house-made ginger beer (Masked Owl, $6) or fresh watermelon juice (Watermelon Situation, $5).
ADAM'S MOUNTAIN CAFE
26 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1430, adamsmountain.com
THE BLUE STAR LOUNGE
1645 S Tejon St., 632-1086, thebluestar.net
These two decidedly notvegan restaurants prepare tofu like pros. At Adam's Mountain Café, the sesame seeds are patted into thin slices of tofu before being sautéed in rice bran oil - a zero trans-fat oil with a nutty flavor. The result is a delicate crunch with a chewy texture. Served atop the Senegalese vegetables ($14; add $4 for the tofu) - cauliflower, potatoes and onions simmered in coconut milk with fresh ginger - the result is a warm, tangy broth, which makes for succulent and fragrant fare. Ginger is warming in the winter and cooling in the summer. At The Blue Star Cocktail Lounge, the crispy tofu ($13.95) is breaded and served atop a creamy risotto prepared with shiitake mushrooms and a sweet sesame seed sauce with a nod to Asian influences.
6523 N. Academy Blvd., 594-9343, bestsilverpondchinese.com
975 Academy Blvd., 597-2422, eatattomo.com
And speaking of Asian food, this is almost always the right choice for finding vegan food (don't get tripped up on fish sauce, though - always ask!). For Chinese, Silverpond offers seven vegetable entrees and 20 tofu dishes; I go for the vegetarian chicken and duck ($11.25). Yes, vegetarian meat. The vegetarian duck, served over crispy steamed broccoli and sautéed with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots and peppers, is succulent and a filling, familiar option for new or transitioning vegans (or omnivore dining companions). From China to Japan, you can almost always find vegetable sushi rolls. Tomo Sushi's cucumber avocado roll ($4.75), with added tofu, is fresh and particularly light. The sweet potato roll with eel sauce ($6.95) - yes, the eel sauce is vegan - is richer and makes for a filling meal.
ALL HEALTHY, ALL THE TIME
OLA JUICE BAR
27 E. Kiowa St., 633-3111, olajuicebar.com
NOURISH ORGANIC JUICE
303 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 634-5686, nourishorganicjuice.com
Juices and smoothies abound at both Springs juice bars. Break out of that box at Nourish Organic Juice and eat your smoothie. The Acai bowl ($7.95), pronounced ah-sah-ee), is massive. Beginning with the namesake palm fruit blended with bananas, strawberries and coconut milk, the purple berry base is topped with granola, hemp seeds, Gogi berries and banana slices; it's delightfully reminiscent of an ice cream sundae. At Ola Juice Bar, Nissa's Rice Bowl ($7.50), named after the owner, is everything perfect and right about eating healthy and plant-based: beans, greens and grains are the star. Peanut sauce, arugula, avocado, pickled carrots and daikon, cashews, black beans smother freshly cooked brown rice for a nutrient dense bowl delivers layers of flavor.
520 S. Tejon St., 633-3300, mccabestavern.com
1466 Garden of the Gods Road, 634-0029, trinitybrew.com
To find the greasy yin to the juice bar yang, go to an actual bar for tacos and corn dogs. Yep, they're vegan. McCabe's offers up crispy, tempura-battered fried avocado tacos as bites ($3 each) or as a meal ($12), which includes spicy black beans. The creamy cilantro lime aioli is vegan as is. And for proof that veganism isn't a diet, get the vegan corndogs ($10) at Trinity Brewing. The lightly breaded tofu version of a hot dog is reminiscent of fair food: nice and greasy. The two corn dogs, nested in a cone of Belgian fries, are served with your choice of a dipping sauce. The stinging Flo beer mustard and savory curry ketchup make the playful treat tastily adult.