Out to lunch: Native Foods

While Denver/Boulder has been hailed as a rising vegan mecca, it lacks vegan restaurants (with the exception of the indomintable Vegan Van). Yes, there are wonderful places to dine where vegan fare is on offer, not the least of which, the many great Asian restaurants scattered across the Front Range. There's also Watercourse, Linger, Root Down, City, O City, the fabulous Leaf in Boulder, Whole Foods Cafes, Garbanzos, Mad Greens, Chipotle...lots of places to suck down a veg patty, salad or plate of pasta without breaking ranks.

Since I occasionally "leave the farm" for the sake of sociability, I'll also beg family and friends to vegify from time to time. Like Saturday after the Wool Market when I cajoled Mom and Ingrid to stop in Boulder at the newly opened Native Foods for lunch. (It's located in the 29th Street Mall near Pei Wei, fyi.)

Native Foods is a fast-casual dining concept, founded in 1994 by Chef Tanya Petrovna, that's growing rapidly. Plans are in the works, I was told, to open 15 stores in Colorado in coming years. (Why is it always Boulder first?)

We loved it, from Mom's veggie pizza topped with steamed kale and balsamic to my red-beans-kale-and-rice soul bowl and Ingrid's "sausage" and portobello mushroom burger (accompanied by a heap of seasoned sweet potato fries). And there's lavender lemonade, worth the drive right there.

While the food is fresh and intriguing, the brightly painted walls and sassy spirit of Native Foods' collateral all say "fun." This is the kind of place carnivores should visit in the same spirit of trying Thai, Indian, Ethiopian or other exotic cuisines.

Take a walk on the kale side and give it a try. And while you're there, tell them to open one in the Highlands, soon!

PS: Stopped at Atomic Tamale on the way home for a dozen vegan lovelies. Made a fabulous Monday night dinner with homemade guac and South-of-the-Border-inspired cole slaw.