Monday, June 25, 2012

Vegan Eats in Denver

On Friday, Brian and I packed our bags and headed to Denver for the weekend to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary.  Why Denver?  We went for a special 2-night Wilco show at Red Rocks AmphitheaterIt was a package deal that included a hotel room, tickets to both shows, posters, tee shirts, shuttle rides to and from the show, and a "VERY (i.e. FREE) Happy Hour" before the show on Saturday.  

Now, the question you're asking is why Wilco?  Well, Brian is a huge fan and they're a band that have pretty much been with us throughout our relationship.  Unlike Ben Folds, however, this is not a band we both already loved - Brian introduced me to Wilco very shortly after we met when he handed me Summerteeth and held his breath while I gave it a listen.  I loved every song (huge sigh of relief from Brian).  Their subsequent albums haven't always kept me quite as awake as that one, however, and I have a tendency to get, um, sleepy at their shows.  It's a running joke that I fall asleep at every other Wilco show we go to.  (Sad but true.)  So although they are definitely more Brian's band than mine, they put on a great show and I was excited to spend the weekend in Denver with Brian.  So off we went.

First off, let me say that this isn't going to be one of my typical "Vegan Eats" posts because it was such a short stay in Denver.  We were just there for the weekend.  Plus we had weird timing issues with meals so really only ate at one actual restaurant.  But it was a good one.

1201 16th Street (16th Street Mall)

On Friday we ate a late lunch at The Mellow Mushroom. I was excited to find this place because they have a lot of salads, including a build your own option.  They also have tempeh, a variety of different tofu flavors, and gluten-free pizza.  I'm not sure if their crust is vegan -  I was going to ask but then ended up not getting pizza so I didn't find out.  Brian was just excited because they had pizza.  Period.


So, like I said I went with the Build Your Own salad option.  Oh, this is funny.  When our server came over to the table I said, "I'm so excited to be here because you have lots of salads!"  He was a little taken aback and just sort of laughed.  I think my enthusiasm about salads was not something he sees everyday.  I think it's to be commended.  He turned out to be funny and a pretty guy cool.  His name was Mike and he just completed Tough Mudder two weeks ago in Colorado.  Now that's a SERIOUS event, what with the snow and the altitude!  So we traded a few stories and he promised to check out my blog.  I promised to put up his picture and let it be known that he's the best server ever.  So hopefully he checks this out. 

Mike - our server and fellow Tough Mudder

Anyway, back to the Build Your Own salad.  Here's how it works, vegan-style: 
  1. Choose a base, either romaine, spinach, spring mix, or salad mix - or you can mix any two. 
  2. Load up on veggies
  3. Choose your cheese - they do have Daiya, if you're down with that
  4. Add protein - avocado, tempeh, tofu, or BBQ tofu
  5. Dressing - balsamic vinaigrette, oil and vinegar, herb vinaigrette
Here's a picture of my super awesome salad:

My Build Your Own Salad came out to be $12.25

My salad included the following romaine and spring mix, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, Roma tomatoes, portabello mushrooms, avocado, tempeh, and plain balsamic vinegar - no oil.  (Mike was kind enough to hunt down the balsamic for me and joked that he painstakingly separated the vinegar from the oil, just for me.  That's how awesome they are at the Mellow Mushroom.)  Even though it was pricey, it was an absolutely delicious salad with really fresh, flavorful ingredients.  And it was super filling with the mushroom, avocado, and tempeh.

Brian had the Magical Mystery Tour pizza, which was vegetarian but not vegan (it had cheese).  He loved it and I have to say that it looked and smelled amazing!  I would definitely recommend checking out the Mellow Mushroom if you're in Denver.  And be sure to ask for Mike!  He'd love to separate out some balsamic for you.  (But it is a chain so there are multiple locations across the U.S. - check the website for other cities/states.)

Like I said, our eating schedule was off so we didn't really check out any other "new" and exciting vegan places to write about.  Pretty much everything we ate is your typical "fast food" vegan fare - a Veggie Delite sandwich from Subway, oatmeal from Starbucks, a fruit bowl from Corner Bakery, and fruit and oatmeal at a restaurant at the airport (though I have a sneaking suspicion the "Irish" oats was actually from a packet and may not have been exactly vegan . . .)

Fresh fruit bowl from Corner Bakery

Despite the heat, we actually spent a lot of time outside and got in a good deal of walking up and down 16th Street Mall, which is a popular shopping area in Downtown Denver.  We didn't do much actual shopping - mostly just walked up and down and checked out the area, people-watched, etc.   

There were a lot of cool pianos on 16th Street, which were usually being used by street performers, but Brian found one unoccupied and sat down to play a tune.  He didn't play long enough for anyone to give him any money, but I think if he'd remembered to wear a hat and put that down on the ground, someone might have tossed in some change.

I mentioned that part of the Wilco package included a "VERY Happy Hour" at Rock Bottom Brewery.  We hung out with some really cool people whom we'd met at the show the night before.  Well, despite having already eaten and being what I thought was properly hydrated, I learned the hard way what drinking wine at a higher altitude can do to you when I took advantage of free drinks.  SO, upon arriving at Red Rocks, I was in desperate need of some food.  Brian quickly found a sourdough soft pretzel for me.  It was totally plain - no butter or sugar like most people order them so the girl who sold it to us thought we were a little nuts - and I just hoped to God the dough itself was vegan.  (Please don't tell me if you know otherwise.)  I really needed to eat that pretzel.  And then another one.  Damn that altitude!

Mmmmm, pretzel!

Back to Wilco.  Both shows were amazing.  The first night probably more so for me because A) we were center stage, row 2, B) the opening band - The Punch Brothers - were fantastic, and C) I stayed awake.  More than the second night at least.  Obviously, C was a huge factor in my enjoyment of the show.  Ah well.  I should most definitely stay awake the next time I see them!  Maybe even the next two times.  I don't know, though.  That just might be pushing it . . .

 View from our seats (not zoomed in) - we were actually this close!

I'd love to go back to Colorado and spend more time checking out other cities, doing some hiking, seeing some mountains, and trying to run.  Although I have to say that even just walking there nearly killed me!  Okay, slight exaggeration but when the temperature on Saturday reached 102 degrees even stepping outside you could almost feel the life get sucked out of you.  Maybe we'll go back in the spring or fall.  Anyway, I'd definitely love to return to Red Rocks for another concert and also to run the stairs there.  It would be one hell of a workout!

There are 69 rows of benches at Red Rocks - that's a lot of stairs!

Although it was just a quick weekend trip and the heat and altitude kicked our asses (mine more than Brian's thanks my wine at the Wilco party), we had a fabulous time.  We'll add Colorado to our ever-growing list of states to visit again!

Have you been to Denver or Red Rocks?


  1. Red Rocks would be worth the visit even without Wilco.

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