J ust because you don't eat meat doesn't mean you have less money to spend! The restaurant industry has definitely figured that out, and most of them now offer at least a few options for non-meat eaters.
In a town like Boulder, though, you don't have to settle for only "a few." You have all kinds of options.
Patronize a restaurant that treats vegetables and those who eat them with respect by offering variety and quality, with a decent price tag to boot. Like one of these:
Half Fast Subs
1215 13th St.
Open at 10:30 a.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. weekends, closing Mondays at midnight, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays at 1 a.m. and Sundays at 10 p.m.
Convenience and value are key at Half Fast Subs, which is right on the Hill, has free delivery and offers Happy Hour specials of $4.75 for all 7-inch subs 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. More importantly for those with carnivorous friends, no one feels they're pandering to the other with this menu, which offers 24 vegetarian cold-sandwich options alongside the loads of meaty ones.
Those aren't all only-the-toppings options, either. For instance, there's the Thai Tempeh ($5.99 7-inch/$9.49 foot-long) with homemade spicy peanut sauce and crispy Oriental noodles and the spicier Green Chili Hummus ($5.29/$8.99) to supplement classics like Eggplant Parmesan ($5.59/$9.59) and the Garden Burger ($5.99/$10.49).
One popular menu item, the Cheesesteaks, can all be made with tempeh instead of meat, still grilled with peppers and onions. A note to omnivores: The same teriyaki, jerk-style and barbecue variations are all as tasty with the soy, even if you do eat chicken or steak.
Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
2010 16th St.
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-- 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, dinner 5 p.m.-close daily
Expect to spend more green at The Leaf, where the produce is supplied whenever possible by Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette. But this artful, gourmet vegetarian haven is worth every penny.
There are few other establishments, after all, that can make a beet as rich and satisfying as beef, which they completely pull off in the Beet Steak ($16), served in a sesame crust with garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus, wakame (edible seaweed) salad and wasabi-coconut cream. Leaf also takes that most fluorescent of root vegetables and combines it with potato to create gnocchi ($7), which comes with orange butter, spinach and toasted walnuts.
There's an artistry to the food at this special-occasion venue, which really shines at brunch with their Biscuits and Vegan Gravy ($6) and Raw Pancakes (a cake of banana and flax topped with mango puree, coconut cream, pecan butter and fresh fruit, $7). The best deals are at the weekday-only lunches, though, with $9 sandwiches. Vegan crab cake, BBQ seitan and mushroom burgers are some of the sandwich options.
Native Foods Cafe
1675 29th St. #1272
11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
You're used to looking for the special menu items, those with a little carrot or star next to them to signal vegetarian dishes, but forget about that at Native Foods. Every single thing on the menu is 100-percent plant-based. Nothing is out of bounds, which can be incredibly refreshing for those used to limiting themselves.
Indulge in traditional French fries or their sweet-potato cousins ($2.95/$3.95) without worrying about what's in the oil. Don't worry about the tempeh in your Baja Blackened Tacos ($7.95) even sharing a grill with meat products.
And speaking of that tempeh, Native Foods has the biggest range of soy-protein non-animal products in town, with house-made tempeh, seitan, "chicken," "bacon" and nut cheeses. That means vegetarians can savor American classics like chicken wings ($6.95) or a bacon cheeseburger ($9.95) without sacrificing their dedication to their health or that of animals.
Gurkhas On The Hill
1310 College Ave., Suite 230
11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
Any eatery named "On the Hill" is obviously saying, "Hey students, please eat here!" But in the case of Gurkhas, it's not only students shouting their praises. The restaurant earns a whopping 95-percent approval from Urbanspoon and 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp, and as their specialty is Indian -- a nation with many, many vegetarians -- non-meat eaters can order almost everything on the menu.
The classic spinach-and-cheese Sag Paneer ($9.99) with naan bread ($1.99) is a comfort-food winner, or you can get more of your protein with the similarly traditional Channa Masala ($10.99), which features garbanzo beans, onions, tomatoes and spices. The Chow Chow noodle dish ($11.99) of stir-fried noodles and vegetables topped with cilantro is a great choice when you're looking for something fresher and lighter in flavor.
The best deals, though, are on the lunch menu, where select veggie plates -- like the Chow Chow and others -- and wraps are only $7.
The Yellow Deli
908 Pearl St.
Monday-Thursday, open 24 hours a day; Fridays from midnight until 3 p.m.; closed Saturdays; open Sundays noon-midnight
Did you think there wasn't a restaurant in Boulder that's open 24 hours a day most of the week and run by Christian organization The Twelve Tribes, where the men have beards and the women wear modest dresses and skirts? You are so weird. Of course there is. And if the strange setup doesn't bother you, the food is likely to please.
Yellow Deli serves up a vegetarian soup special every day by the cup ($5.25) or massive bowl ($8) that's usually downright delicious, especially with a hunk of the fresh baked bread for $1.75 extra. This satisfying soup is easily a meal and great for cold, cloudy days when you need warming.
For hotter days, the standout among their salads is the Cranberry Cashew ($6.25), which also includes Havarti cheese, peppers and tomatoes with your choice of dressing. Sadly, the Deli's specialty sandwiches are mostly meaty, though you can make your own ($5.75) with your choice of five different cheeses, six of those amazing fresh breads and all the toppings.