For many people young and old – eating healthy means eating boring and unseasoned food. Plain veggies, grains and meats with no cheese or sauce come to mind.
Luckily, over the past few years — vegan, gluten-free and other alternative diets have become huge in many cities. Eating healthy, delicious dishes has never been easier than it is today. You don’t have to live in a cave to see that Denver’s food scene has been booming — and healthy food is definitely a part of that. In any given neighborhood, you can find green smoothies, big salads and gluten-free donuts.
In commemoration of the New Year and the many New Year’s resolutions to be healthier – here are just a few dishes and drinks out of the many this city has to offer to keep your resolution going without staying in every meal.
Build Your Own Bowl — Quickfish Poke Bar
Where: 3200 N. Pecos St., Suite 100 (Avanti F&B), Denver
When: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
All the way from Portland, Quickfish focuses on sustainable seafood. And when poke/sushi is sustainably raised or caught, it’s generally better for you and the environment.
The menu at Quickfish consists of five signature Poke Bowls and Poke Nachos – chips, spicy tuna, MSC krab and shrimp salad, yuzu guac, crispy shallot and garlic (G), cilantro, creamy habanero, masago and sweet soy.
We would suggest building your own Poke Bowl ($10-$13) for the fun and customized taste. First, you choose a base — seasoned white rice, organic mixed greens, medicine rice or locally made tortilla chips. Second, pick a fish — tuna, bay scallop, Kodiak sockeye, MSC Oregon albacore, MSC Oregon bay shrimp or fried tofu. Third, add all the toppings and a sauce: cilantro, radish, edamame, nori, kale, green onion, etc. For a $1 add-on, you can get toppings like avocado, spicy tuna, seaweed salad, yuzu guac, crispy shallots, etc. The sauces include Bamboo poke, classic Hawaiian, creamy habanero masago, Green Machine and Sweet Heat.
The King Tut — Green Seed Market
Where: 2669 Larimer St. (Denver Central Market), Denver
When: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: The Denver Central Market is a great place to have lunch because there are many vendors and options for everyone to sit in the same area and enjoy a pizza, sandwich, oysters, salad, coffee or cocktail.
Green Seed Market is the healthy hub of Denver Central. So if you and your friend are on that healthy New Year’s resolution fad, you’ll want to choose Green Seed during your next RiNo lunch date. The menu includes seven signature salads, a build your own option and a daily special.
A particularly pretty salad is the King Tut ($10.95) with arugula, farro, pears, pomegranate, feta, almonds, cranberry and thyme vinaigrette. If you want to build your own, the menu is packed with an abundance of ingredients like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Beluga lentils, candied pecans, Soba noodles and Enoki mushrooms to name a few.
There are also three grain-based bowls if you’re feeling you need something more filling than a salad. The K-Leo Bowl ($10.95) might suit you, with sauteed kale, quinoa, seasonal vegetables, sliced almonds, green onion and white apple balsamic.
While you’re at it, grab some of the in-season produce to take home and one of the made daily fresh juices.
All the Juices — The Corner Beet
Where: 1401 N. Ogden St., Denver
When: Monday-Wednesday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Thursday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday, Closed
The Lowdown: The beauty of coffee shops is that they are quaint and relaxing to hang in for a few hours. The Corner Beet has the vibe of a chill coffee shop – yet its focus is on fresh-pressed juice rather than coffee. The team makes small-batch cold-pressed juices (8 ounce (in-house only) $6.50 | 12oz $9 | 16oz $12) daily on a Norwalk Juicer. The juices change from time to time, but there’s always some kind of green juice, beet juice — all the good stuff. A fan favorite is the sweet Carrot Cake – carrot juice, coconut milk and house-made Vanilla-Cinnamon-Honey syrup. Common ingredients include kale, spinach, apple, ginger, beets, wheatgrass and more. You can get all the nutrients from many fruits and veggies in one cup — kind of the best invention ever.
And every week they do events ranging from Spoken Word poetry and musical acts at night – to Saturday morning Yoga.
Overnight Oats — Vital Root
Where: 3915 Tennyson St., Denver
When: Monday, Closed; Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Lowdown: First off, Vital Root is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city, with herb plants nestled on the walls and lots of sunlight coming in. During the summer, the garage doors open to the street, and the menu reflects that same modern and earthy aesthetic — focusing on real ingredients using organic oils, unrefined sugars and organic flours.
This popular vegetarian spot has a versatile, multi-cultural menu using Korean, Indian, Japanese and other influences — including soups, salads, small plates, woks, sandwiches and more. While the team serves a colorful lunch and dinner menu, they also serve a small breakfast menu every day until 3 p.m.
Oatmeal isn’t always the most exciting meal ever, but it’s heart-healthy, and Vital Root does it well with its Overnight Oats ($6) with coconut almond milk, cashews, vanilla, maple, five-seed mix and fruit. It is also available on the weekend brunch menu, which includes egg dishes like the “Everything Bagel” avocado toast ($6) with sunflower seed bread, soft boiled egg, goat cheese, smoked almonds & chili crunch.
What’s super cool is the grab & go menu which includes soup, kale salad, chia pudding and more. You can order the cold-pressed juices, smoothies and all of the menu items to-go. No matter what time of day, you can leave Vital Root feeling light and healthy.
Seasonal Grains & Veggies — Watercourse Foods
Where: 837 E. 17th Ave., Denver
When: Sunday-Wednesday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
The Lowdown: If you’re a vegan, then you probably already know about or have been to Watercourse Foods. This spot throws away the notion that all vegan-minded restaurants have to have a hipster vibe with show flyers on the walls and underground punk blasting. It can actually be kind of fancy. It’s open and airy with a nice, small patio that’s set up bar stool style.
They serve up what the team calls ‘vegan comfort food’ and it shows with dishes like the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit ($13) — house-smoked and pulled jackfruit with house-made BBQ sauce, broccoli slaw and pickles on a Kaiser roll. There’s even a gluten-free option available.
But if you want a nutritiously jam-packed vegan meal – try the Seasonal Grain & Veggies ($14) — a blend of wild rice, barley and quinoa, topped with Miso-glazed sweet potatoes, roasted mushroom, kale salad and a mustard molasses sauce. You can add tofu, seitan or tempeh for $3.
Breakfast is served all day, too — featuring lots of scrambled tofu, tofu bacon, vegan ‘eggs’, sweet waffles and French toast.
As for drinks, try a fancy mocktail like the grapefruit rosemary tonic ($7) with grapefruit juice, rosemary-tarragon syrup and tonic. You can add liquor to any mocktail for $3.
Coconut Sofrito — City O’ City
Where: 206 E. 13th Ave., Denver
When: Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. – 2 a.m.
The Lowdown: City O’ City is a place that every Denver resident needs to experience because of its atmosphere — the graffiti on the walls outside, the patio — it’s not just a dine-in restaurant, it’s a cafe, too. They feature a different artist every month or so, showcasing their art on the walls, making the experience different every time. They do an art show once a month as well.
They open at 7 a.m. for the on-the-go coffee drinkers (cappuccino, drip coffee – kombucha, too) and close late at 2 a.m. for the craft beer drinkers (wine and cocktails, too). But the food is the real deal.
Its specialty is putting a twist on traditional meaty dishes – and making them vegan or vegetarian. For instance, the pastrami sandwich ($13) with seitan pastrami on marble rye, topped with sauerkraut, gruyere and special sauce — replacing pastrami with seitan.
And every week they feature two specials. Currently, it’s the Coconut Sofrito ($13) — a savory waffle topped with a coconut sofrito, blackened tofu, black bean and Hatch chile salsa and pickled red onion, served daily until 11 p.m.
Kombucha Mimosa — Just Be Kitchen
Where: 2364 15th St., Denver
When: Monday-Sunday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The Lowdown: The new Paleo concept Just Be Kitchen in LoHi is breaking new ground, serving up counter style. The menu consists of brunch items, sandwiches, soup, salads and the drink options are perhaps the most impressive. Did somebody say paleo cocktails? The drinks have grain-free tequila, vodka and gin, as well as zero refined sugar. Its Kombucha mimosa ($6.50) is made with Health-Aide brand Kombucha for a unique twist on the fizzy favorite. One of the other many unique creations is the Paleo Boat Drink ($7) — an Island concoction of coconut cream, vodka, lime juice, agave and pineapple.
A non-alcoholic favorite is the Bullet Coffee ($6.50) which is a blended coffee made with Copper Door beans, grass-fed butter, and healthy fatty acids called MCT oil. It comes in several varieties like chai and maple.
For food, the bone broth soup (mug $6/ pint $8/ 32oz. $12) is truly something you can’t find anywhere else. Each bowl comes with a choice of two toppings: garlic, ginger, cayenne, turmeric, jalapeno, butter, sea salt or scallions. You might also want to try their Fulfilled Breakfast Burrito with a paleo tortilla ($13).
Curry Bowl @ Biju’s Little Curry Shop
Where: 4279 Tennyson St., Denver
When: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The Lowdown: With two locations, it’s easy for anyone within the Denver city limits to experience this place. The concept is Indian fast-casual, which isn’t very common. Indian is a rather healthy cuisine because they use a lot of spices and vegetables instead of fatty meats or heavy sauces.
They serve curry bowls with different meat options, though, including coconut curry chicken ($10.95), X-Hot vindaloo chicken ($10.95) and masala beef ($12.45).
Then there’s the vegetarian combo ($9.95) – Biriyani with spiced lentils, pan-fried potatoes, sauteed cabbage and the featured vegetable — finished with shallot & ginger yogurt and chutney. There’s also the Nadaan Bowl ($13.45) dubbed ‘a bit of everything’ – full of steamed basmati rice with curry lentils, your choice of coconut or Vindaloo chicken, beef, potatoes and sauteed cabbage, finished with yogurt, your favorite chutney and a warm chapati.