Veg-head, plant-based, vegan, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, flexitarian, chegan (cheating vegan)...whatever you call yourself, you'll fit right in in Boulder, where every breed of vegetarian has been proudly shaping the dining scene for decades. Really, just about every restaurant in Boulder will happily accommodate vegetarians. But for some of the very best vegetarian and vegan meals in Boulder, start with the five below.
The vibe: This upscale-casual spot has a loyal fan following and owners who source some of the ingredients from their own farm. At Leaf, veg-heads can choose from anything on the menu — much of which can be made vegan, too.
The dish: The spaghetti squash peanut noodle dish is saucy and satisfying, but you might not be able to resist the buffalo “wings”-style cauliflower tacos.
The vibe: Warm woods, industrial metals and chalkboards, and chic subway tiles set the tone at this simple, elegant and homey restaurant that was slinging farm-to-table cuisine long before it was even called that.
The dish: Be brave and try Next Door's universally raved-about kale chips, then bite into the juicy beet burger. If you want choices and like to plan ahead, their online menu has “vegetarian” and “vegan” toggle buttons, so you can find exactly what suits you.
The dish: Try the Bistro "Steak" Sandwich, made with the restaurant’s proprietary seitan, thinly sliced, seared and topped with house made tofu bleu cheese on a toasted baguette.
The vibe: Thrive is one of those wonderfully crunchy, colorful Boulder spots that totally “gets” plant-based eating and harnesses the powerful enzymes in raw foods to delicious effect. You’ll likely see ingredients on the menu that you won’t recognize (shilajit, anyone?), but learning about the health benefits of foods is part of the fun here.
The dish: Stop in for a refreshing superfood smoothie or the yummy Holy Pesto salad — and not miss the liquid nitrogen chocolate ice cream. A rotating board of specials has heartier (but no less healthy) fare.
The vibe: A plush elegance dominates Jill's, just as you'd expect of a restaurant inside a Forbes Four-Star hotel (the St Julien Hotel and Spa). Rich woods, silk upholstery, warm lighting — and a view right into the contemporary kitchen where the freshest ingredients are turned masterfully into great dishes.
The dish: Jill's not only has several vegetarian and vegan-friendly items on their regular menus, but they also have a vegan night every Monday, with a four-course, entirely plant-based prix-fixe dinner. And on Fridays, the restaurant's famed Ooh La La! lunch buffet goes completely vegan!
Top photo by Eli Akerstein.