According to WalletHub, Denver is the eighth-best city in the US when it comes to keeping New Year’s Health Resolutions. And why is that? Well, the endless nature nearby for outdoor activities — and easily accessible healthy grocery stores and restaurants. Luckily, our city’s chefs know how to take local, organic ingredients and turn them into flavorful provisions. Being healthy doesn’t have to suck — check out our round-up of healthy spots in Denver broken down by breakfast (brunch), lunch and dinner.
Breakfast & Brunch
Where: 1030 E. 22nd Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Desperately craving a doughnut? Beet Box is an all-vegan haven with an array of pastries, and most importantly, the vegan/gluten-free donuts. You can get them with gluten, but in our opinion, the gluten-free ones are actually better. Flavors come in vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin and apple with icing flavors like blackberry and raspberry. Other fares include veggie-packed sandwiches for lunch, coffee and tea drinks.
Where: 2630 W. 38th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: If you’re trying to kick the coffee or booze, kombucha is a great replacement — it’s a fermented tea that gives you a jolt of energy and is full of antioxidants and probiotics. American Cultures is a kombucha taproom with 14 rotating varieties from around Colorado with flavors ranging from ginger peach to orange basil. As for healthy food options — pair some oatmeal, a vegan Beet Box pastry or a veggie breakfast burrito with your kombucha.
Rivers & Roads Coffee
Where: 2539 Bruce Randolph Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: The cozy, community-driven coffee shop, Rivers & Roads in the Clayton neighborhood is all about scratch-made food. If you have a food allergy or dietary restriction or regimen — this place is perfect. Everything on the menu lists if it is vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free or dairy-free. The employees are accommodating if you need to make substitutions or have any questions about ingredients. Overall, it’s a great place for breakfast and lunch — plus the coffee is of high quality and roasted in-house.
Where: 1725 E. 17th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: Weathervane Cafe has a ’70s mountain cabin vibe with lots of space serving coffee, tea, breakfast and lunch. The oatmeal and yogurt here are anything but ordinary — the pumpkin chia pudding ($4.50) is absolutely delicious. The menu also has a breakfast sandwich and burrito made with local eggs and greens. Sandwiches for lunch are served with dill and pepper seasoned cucumbers — a much healthier side than the average fries or chips.
Where: 1201 E. 13th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: If you love avocado toast, this is your spot. Thump Coffee is serving up all the thick toast with avocado smash, red pepper and a poached egg to satisfy your millennial cravings. Other brunch offerings are almond butter blueberry toast ($8), a fruit and chia bowl ($8), breakfast bowls with greens, avocado, poached egg and toast ($10) — and for a more lunch-inspired dish — kale and quinoa salad with blood orange ($8). If you’re avoiding caffeine, choose instead from a huge list of teas.
Where: 1735 Chestnut Pl., Denver
The Lowdown: Acai bowls have been all the rage for the past few years due to the health benefits of berries used in them. Whole Sol opened downtown last year serving smoothie acai bowls. A sample bowl is the I Like You Matcha ($10) which has a supercharged green base topped with coconut, blueberries, banana and granola. You can upgrade your bowl with vegan plant protein or almond butter for $1. Other good options are cold-pressed juices and savory and sweet toasts.
Where: 2528 Walnut St., Denver
The Lowdown: Stowaway is everything that epitomizes attention to detail — ingredients, dish concepts and ambiance. All of the menu items are creative and made with local and seasonal produce and meats. A lite breakfast option is the chai spiced porridge with earl grey prunes ($9) and a more filling plate is the Japanese Asa-Gohan ($15) — a bowl of grilled salted salmon, avocado, carrot + ginger slaw, toasted nori, poached eggs and rice with black sesame seeds. The coffee program is carefully sourced and several teas and other drinks are available as well.
Where: 704 S. Pearl St., Denver
The Lowdown: Vert Kitchen focuses on slow food and French cooking techniques. The menu changes with the season and is full of healthy sandwiches, salads and soups. Several vegan options are available like the vegan lentil bisque ($6/$10) and the vegan de la saison sandwich ($11) — made with golden beet hummus, ginger pear compote and roasted squash. Any sandwich can be made as a salad for $1 or subbed with gluten-free bread.
Comal Heritage Food Incubator
Where: 3455 Ringsby Court #105, Denver
The Lowdown: If you’re an adventurous eater, Comal is a lunch spot featuring several women chefs from all ethnic backgrounds. The food consists of traditional dishes passed down from generations — therefore it’s all about fresh ingredients and scratch-made. The menu changes almost daily — one day it may be Middle Eastern, the other Mexican. And there is always a special of the day which could be anything from an Ethiopian plate or a chicken mole plate.
Just BE Kitchen
Where: 2364 15th St., Denver
The Lowdown: Paleo counter-style restaurant, Just BE Kitchen is 100 percent gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free — the ultimate spot for the extremely food conscious. In addition, the menu changes with the season using seasonal produce. Many menu items are nut-free and the meat is 100 percent grass-fed. Some winter dishes include spicy parsnip soup ($7) with chia yogurt and a chicken and dumplings entree ($8) made with bone broth. And if you need a little coffee, you can get a latte blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil.
Where: 1300 Pennsylvania St., Denver
The Lowdown: Sometimes, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big sub (and we’re not talking Subway). Sub-Culture has about 60 sub-combinations — some hot, some cold. This Capitol Hill spot is famous for their subs made with local Colorado meats and their vegetarian subs which you can make vegan when you take off the cheese. You can even upgrade to gluten-free bread — $2 for a seven inch and $4 for a 12 inch. If you don’t want a sub, they have salads made with scratch in-house dressings and house-made soups.
Biju’s Little Curry Shop
Where: RiNo, 1441 26th St., Denver; Tennyson, 4279 Tennyson St., Denver
The Lowdown: Dairy-free curry? Count us in. Biju’s Little Curry Shop has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for its famed curry bowls — and hey, they’re pretty healthy. These bowls come filled with rice, lentils, meat (chicken or beef) or veggies and other toppings like potatoes or stewed cabbage. Other fare includes potato-stuffed samosas, rolled roti and sides like crisp lentil cakes and sauteed green beans & coconut. Items are listed as being either vegetarian, gluten-free and or dairy-free. Grab a vegan chai while you’re at it.
Where: 1300 S. Pearl St.
The Lowdown: The new Chook Chicken is an Australian style charcoal rotisserie joint serving responsibly sourced chicken. You can get a quarter, half or whole of chicken with the choice of a Piri-Piri, chimichurri or gravy sauce. The salads are extremely nutritious and come in half or whole sizes and you can add pulled chicken to any for just $3. Some healthy sides include charred mixed veggies, roasted delicata squash and celery-apple slaw.
Where: 3501 Wazee St. #100, Denver
The Lowdown: Zeppelin Station is a huge food hall off the beaten path by the train tracks in RiNo. It’s home to a retail shop, two bars and eight food vendors. Indian stall, Namkeen offers dishes like curry rice bowls and samosas ($5) — a potato and pea filled pastry. Injoi Korean Kitchen serves a nourishing rice noodle bowl ($10) made with house kimchi, carrots, cucumber, red pepper and onion. And just last week, OK Poke opened up and is serving poke bowls with the choice of ahi tuna, crab, tofu or salmon. FYI — if you can’t make it in person, every food stall offers delivery through DoorDash.
Where: 3330 Brighton Blvd. #201, Denver
The Lowdown: Safta — located in the Source Hotel + Market Hall — is a restaurant that’s based around Middle Eastern flavors from countries like Israel, Bulgaria, Morroco and more. The name Safta is Hebrew for ‘grandmother,’ so you know it has to be good. The dishes are minimalistic — meaning not a lot of filler, just straight fresh ingredients that go together well. The dinner menu consists of an array of salatim which is a term for Israeli side dishes — for example, roasted beets with sumac onions, tahini and coriander. But the true delicacy of Safta is their hummus — of which there are five different kinds. A small plate example is the Morrocan carrot salad ($13) and a large plate is the whole roasted cauliflower ($24).
Where: 2005 W. 33rd Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: The newly opened Ash’Kara is of Mediterranean influence featuring hummus, snacks, dips, small plates and feasts (large plates). You’ve got your babaganoush, labneh, falafel, dolmas, Israeli salad — all the healthy, Middle Eastern goodness. Feast plates include duck tagine ($42), vegetable tagine ($34) and wood-fired whole fish ($36). And the restaurant fully encourages you to alert the server of any food allergies you may have.
Where: Various locations; see here.
The Lowdown: Think of the same concept as Chipotle and Qdoba but with a more local feel and you’ll have Illegal Pete’s. It’s a small chain with 11 stores, nine in Colorado and two in Arizona. Serving up burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, salad bowls and nachos — all with a little punk rock flair. You can make your burrito bowl or salad as healthy as you want by building it and throwing in all the veggies, beans, rice and pico de gallo — you can even put diced potatoes in there. And most importantly, if you leave off the cheese and sour cream, you can get guacamole free of charge.
Fresh Thymes Eatery
Where: 28th St, Boulder
The Lowdown: Catering to almost any dietary restriction, Fresh Thymes out of Boulder is all about eating well. The restaurant is entirely gluten-free and serves up tasty dishes like grilled cauliflower tacos ($11.75) on top of seasonally rotating goods. They even have a dessert bar, for your splurge days.
Where: 837 E. 17th Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: If you’re a vegan, then you probably already know about or have been to Watercourse Foods. They serve up what the team calls ‘vegan comfort food’ and it shows with dishes like the BBQ pulled jackfruit ($13). In addition, there are salads and wraps, breakfast is served all day, kombucha is on tap — you get the gist.
Where: 3915 Tennyson St., Denver
The Lowdown: Vital Root is a favorite among the vegan and vegetarian community here in Denver — serving flavorful dishes using organic oils, unrefined sugars and organic flours. It has a versatile, multi-cultural menu using Korean, Indian, Japanese and other influences — including soups, salads, small plates, woks, sandwiches and more. If you’re one of those queso dip lovers, try the cashew ‘queso’ dip ($9) so you can have the taste without the growing waistline.
Where: 2199 California St., Denver
The Lowdown: Mercury Cafe is known for its live music and dance lessons, but it’s also a restaurant serving up organic dishes. Entrees include grilled tempeh with black bean sauce ($18), Alamosa striped bass penne ($22), hot & spicy tofu ($16) and several others. The menu also has salads, sandwiches, soups, appetizers and enchiladas. Oh yeah, and everything is gluten-free, except for their bread. What’s better than organic food and dancing?
Where: 1600 W. 33rd Ave., Denver
The Lowdown: The sister restaurant to Vital Root, Root Down has the same healthy, local and sustainable philosophy, but it’s not vegetarian. Although there are meat dishes, you can request to it be made vegan or gluten-free. And 75 percent of the menu is sourced organically. Fun small plates include sweet potato fries ($8) with curry-lime yogurt and Dungeness crab & avocado tacos ($18). Some entrees include tofu paneer ($24) and rockfish tom kha ($29). And there’s soup, salad and good non-alcoholic drinks.