The Denver restaurant scene undoubtedly has an abundance of creative fast-casual and fine dining options to choose from. However, when it comes to plant-based meals, that pool starts to dwindle. While so many restaurants offer vegan and vegetarian focused dishes, Meta Burger in Denver has dedicated its fare to 100% plant-based fast and affordable food.
Owners Matthew Coates and Michael Reeves met working at Native Foods in Boulder. They both saw a void in the market for affordable plant-based food that had the opportunity to appeal to all eaters. With a collective 25 years of restaurant familiarity, they pulled recipe inspiration from past experiences. So, in August 2018, the two friends opened Meta Burger with the desire to lure diners who wouldn’t normally choose vegan by offering familiar burgers, shakes and buffalo chicken sandwiches among other fast-food landmarks.
“We want everyone to feel like Meta Burger is a restaurant that supports them. Affordability should be inclusive,” Coates said.
The idea that many of America’s classics can’t be indulged by vegans or vegetarians is the antithesis of what Meta Burger stands for. The menu includes a western burger (barbecue sauce, crispy onions and bacon), the omega (bacon-onion jam and hash brown toppings), the Supernova (habanero jam and pickled jalapeños) and even a Philly cheesesteak. While all of these menu options appear meaty and savory, the ingredients say otherwise.
Where poultry would normally be present, it is replaced by a wheat and pea protein while the ground beef substitute is made up of an organic, non-GMO soybean accompanied by vegan bread and fresh vegetables.
While this restaurant is a comfort for plant-based eaters, it can be a bit out of the ordinary for others. The most familiar items include the Flatiron burger, buffalo chicken sandwich or any one of the many soy-based shakes from peaches and cream to Butterfinger flavored shake.
Though Meta Burger only has one location, it will be expanding to a space in the Edgewater Public Market by late October. Coates hopes to branch out to Boulder or Colorado Springs in the coming years. Currently, the restaurant only offers a combination of online ordering and curbside pickup — the new normal that was adapted after COVID-19 related closures.
“We’ve kind of changed our model because of COVID-19. It’s actually worked out a little bit better, but we are still missing the atmosphere of sitting in a restaurant. We could see a smaller square footage model because people might want to stick to delivery or pick-up. We were actually thinking of looking into a location with a drive-up for the future,” Coates said.
If the team at Meta Burger executes this idea, it could be the first plant-based drive-thru in Colorado — fully epitomizing its mission to provide an inclusive fast food restaurant.
Meta Burger is located at 7950 E. Mississippi Ave., Denver. It is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.