Celery root Reubens, blackened carrot tacos — at Denver’s newest vegan restaurant, you won’t miss the meat on any of your favorite menu items.
“By using something familiar as a jumping-off point, diners can find something delicious and comforting to latch onto, re-envisioned through our perspective,” said Rocky Hunter, co-owner of Gladys at Edgewater Public Market.
Last month, Hunter — and business partner and fellow chef Dave Grant — opened their “entirely animal-free, vegetable-focused concept” at the West Denver food hall. They named it Gladys after Hunter’s grandmother, hoping to “invoke the spirit of grandma-style hospitality,” according to the restaurant’s website.
Before opening their own counter, Hunter was chef at Fruition, while Grant was culinary director for Watercourse Foods and City, O’ City in Denver.
“We’ve both felt that vegetable-focused food has been riding shotgun, or worse, in the back seat entirely at most ‘fine-dining’ restaurants, and we would like that to change,” Hunter said.
“It was important to us to make vegetables the ‘star’ of the cuisine and not just an addition to (it),” Grant added.
And star these veggies do, in dishes such as the Reuben, with savory celery root piled deceptively in place of corned beef, topped with chicory kraut and horseradish dairy-free “crème fraîche.” A complex and hearty Beans and Grains bowl combines pan-roasted squash with Rancho Gordo frijoles charros, freekah grains, “sour cream” and herbs (both dishes cost $12).
On the side, Colcannon potatoes layer olive-oil whipped spuds with kale, Brussels sprouts and smoked cabbage, and are served with an onion soubise sauce, pickled mustard seed and crisped onion ($8). Mushroom bravas come fried crisp with almond romesco sauce, saffron aioli, garlic chips and herbs ($10).
A big chocolate chip cookie is also crisped on the outside but perfectly chewy within ($3). Here, Hunter says he replaces butter with sunflower oil and really just finesses through the process and bake time. And it all points to a level of precision with plant-based foods that draw on both chefs’ experience in the finer dining world.
“I love the attention to detail and standard of those type of restaurants, but not some of the stuffiness that can often accompany the service,” Hunter said. “We’re excited to explore a concept that has some of those details but is packaged into something approachable.”
Of course, Gladys in the form of a food stall is likely not the last word from these rising Denver chefs.
“We like to think this new platform for our food is just the beginning,” Hunter said.
If you go
Gladys is located inside Edgewater Public Market; 5505 W. 20th Ave.; 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, until 7 p.m. Sunday and closed Monday; gladysrestaurant.com
More vegan menus to try around town
Rocky Hunter’s favorite local vegan menus: Yak & Yeti, Thai Pot, Wakano Asian Bistro and Somebody People for spicy, flavorful and fun cuisines.
Dave Grant’s favorites: “(For anyone) looking for a few good spots to try (who isn’t) too familiar with plant-based cuisine, two great restaurants to start out with would be Watercourse Foods and City, O’ City! Denver also has a great vegan food truck scene, (including) Best One Yet, Wong Way Veg, mu Denver and Vegan Van!”
And two new Denver businesses are serving vegan food in creative ways: The Easy Vegan is a regular pop-up restaurant founded by two restaurant industry veterans who also identify as queer women; and Wellness Sushi is a plant-based roll and ramen counter started by a longtime local sushi chef.
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