Vegan Challenge: Top 4 Restaurant Adventures

A sign explaining their “meats”

1. Native Foods 

I stumbled upon this vegan gem totally by chance one day. I went with a friend who thought it was simply an organic, all-natural fast-food restaurant so it’d be easy for me to find something to eat. It was my first time dining out during the challenge and I sensed a bit of dread. I was afraid to read an amazing menu and have to settle for a boring salad. Instead of picking up a menu, I went straight to the counter and asked what a vegan like me could order for lunch. The guy looked at me a little warily and said hesitantly, “everything” while handing me the menu. He wasn’t kidding. They make all of their own meat and dairy substitutes from scratch, even their tempeh (fermented soy beans) and “cheese”. They don’t even put quotations around their alternatives because everything on the menu is 100% plant-based. Everything!

I ordered the Baja Blackened Tacos made with tempeh and a spicy, “creamy chipotle surfer sauce.” It was really delicious. The tempeh was sliced very thin, and soft, almost the texture of a scrambled egg. The crunchy vegetables piled high on top with a warm, homemade corn tortilla wrapped around we’re enough to complete the dish, but the surfer sauce’s heat was what brought it all home.

Baja Blackened Tacos

2. Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant 

I came here after sampling their vegan crab cakes at a local event in downtown Boulder. They were so good! They actually tasted like seafood which came from the wakame seaweed mixed inside.

I came for happy hour so ordered a couple small plates: the raw peanut salad with veggies sliced thinly to resemble noodles, and a raw beet ravioli. I LOVE beets so I was a fan of the ravioli, very fresh and simple, and still tasty.

The best part about this restaurant is their produce comes from their own personal farm located about 30 minutes away. They don’t use any pesticides and new fruits and vegetables are brought in each morning to be used that day.

I left a little hungry because I tried to save money ordering tiny raw appetizers, and I regretted not trying their famous Jamaican Jerk Tempeh, so I will definitely be going back, even if it means a splurge of the wallet.

Clockwise from top left: the cool atmosphere of Leaf; raw beet ravioli; raw peanut salad.

3. Cantina Laredo

I came here for happy hour with some girlfriends for their giant margaritas, but also some dinner. Alas, as with most American-Mexican joints, the happy hour menu was completely meat- and cheese-centric. Now, I’m not going to rave about the food here; it was good, but pretty standard. I am, however, going to acclaim the service. When I explained to our server that I was vegan, he immediately pulled out their full menu and said they could make me something from there in a happy hour size. I went with the avocado and artichoke enchiladas smothered with a tomatillo salsa. It even came with rice and beans and he still only charged me half price. 

Avocado and artichoke enchiladas

4. Nepal Cuisine 

On Mondays, this place (only a stone’s throw away from my house) has a vegan buffet. No questions or explaining myself here, I could eat everything!  I love curry, so everything was delicious, but my favorite part was the rice pudding. I wasn’t a fan the last time I tried rice pudding, but topped with some cinnamon and fruit, it was amazing!        

My loaded plate from the vegan buffet and delicious rice pudding!

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