By Camille Liptak, reporter
Many PPCC students (and even President Bolton) believe that a vegan diet is the most beneficial and healthy choice for people.
New vegans are often unfamiliar with where to go to find vegan fare or what to cook for meals and snacks.
If you are a vegan veteran or an intrigued newbie, here’s a survival guide/review of vegan spots around Colorado Springs that have one or more items sure to convert your taste buds to the plant-based side without going broke.
The word vegan simply means void of animal products. “In dietary terms, [veganism] refers to the practice of dispensing with all animal produce, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, animal milks, honey, and their derivatives,” writes The Vegan Peace.
With those restrictions comes a fear of feeling underfed. If you’re the only vegan in a group of meat eaters, you can feel left out when your friends dine together and you’re stuck eating carrot sticks and peanut butter in the corner.
Fear not! With the help of HappyCow.net –a site dedicated to helping vegan and vegetarians find plant-based / vegan options– I’ve located prime picks near PPCC campuses that offer mouth-watering menus for veg-heads. From grocery stores to juice bars, restaurants (and at-home recipes), there are ways to eat vegan on the cheap.
Whole Foods Market, 7635 Academy Blvd N – WFM carries a hefty selection of vegan products, both boxed and freshly prepared. It is the one-stop shop to satisfy your vegan sweet tooth, with aisles of vegan chocolate bars and candies, vegan ice cream, and other frozen treats that are frequently on sale. The best sweet item at WFM is their Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies, found in the bakery. These cookies –dubbed by WFM staff as, “crack cookies”, because of how addictively delicious they are– are sure to convince your non-vegan pals that dairy-free doesn’t mean taste-free. Plus, they’re only $1 each! The one downside is the location. WFM is only convenient for students near Rampart Range Campus, so students at Downtown and Centennial have to do some driving to get these goods.
Natural Grocers, 7298 Academy Blvd N and 1604 S Nevada Ave – NG is the go-to grocery store for pragmatic vegan food items, including protein and energy bars, snacks like chips and crackers, chocolates and candies, drinks, and fresh organic produce. It is a great place to go to when you’re short on time and cash, but need a quick vegan snack or refreshment to take with you to class. NG stocks items similar to WFM, but most of their products cost a fraction of the price. Plus, NG earns double points for its dual pit stop locations, conveniently located between all 3 PPCC campuses. Both Natural Grocers and Whole Foods earned 4/5 stars from Happy Cow.
In the realm of vegan eating, it impossible to make a survival guide without mentioning one (or two) smoothie joints. Smoothies are a vegan lifesaver, because they pack plenty of food into one 12 oz. plastic cup, and have near-unlimited flavor combinations, so you’ll never get bored. Plus, you’re carnivorous comrades can enjoy them too.
At-Home Vegan hack: Simple Green Smoothie
Ingredients: heaping handful of spinach, 2 stalks of celery (chopped), 2 leaves of Romaine, pinch of parsley, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp. ground turmeric, 1 packet of vanilla flavor Vega Protein and Greens (from Whole Foods), 24oz. water. Directions: add spinach, romaine lettuce, protein, spices, and water in blender; pulse, then blend for 20-30 seconds; add celery and parsley; blend until smooth and bright green
Ola Juice Bar, 27 E Kiowa St. – The beauty of Ola is its proximity to the DTSC, however, it is such a small space that is always packed with people. It can take some time to place your order. What Ola lacks in expediency, it makes up for in selection. The menu is chock full of plant-based options, most of which are organic and gluten-free. Ola lets you build your own food bowl from a sundry selection of greens, beans, veggies, and seeds. The juices are good, but the smoothies are better. Ola has standard and superfood smoothies, always with the option of adding boosters like energizers or extra protein. This places centers on athletic nutrition, and the price range is around $10. The best all-around smoothie is the MEGA GREEN, made with wheatgrass, chlorella, greens, banana, vanilla, rice milk, and agave. Added bonus: Ola lets you order online. Ola Juice Bar won the Independent’s Best Of Colorado Springs for Smoothie/Juice Bar, and it received 5/5 stars from Happy Cow.
Nourish Organic Juice, 303 E Pikes Peak Ave. – NOJ serves vegan juices, smoothies, and salads, with pre-made grab-and-go food items, and plenty of space to sit. It is a great space to study and chow down, and you can feel good while doing so, because NOJ uses sustainable packaging. What makes NOJ unique is their cold-press hydraulic juicer, which prevents the juices from oxidizing (which nixes the nutrients), so the juices here are smoother and more flavorful than other juices. The menu is entirely vegan, gluten free, and low allergen (no dairy, soy, sugar, or additives), which means any type of eater can dine there. The juice to choose is Perky Pants, a bright orange mix of carrots, apple, ginger, and lemon. Nourish earned 4/5 stars on Happy Cow.
Poor Richard’s, 320 N Tejon St. – the Colorado Springs landmark restaurant/café/toy store/bookstore deserved to be mentioned because both Poor Richard’s restaurant and Rico’s Café offer a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options. Pizza, veggies burgers, salads, and soups, with two tofu and hummus food plates are the scope of the vegan menu at PR. While Rico’s has great vegan options for the avid coffee drinker, including agave sweetener and coconut milk creamer. The vegan soup choices change daily, so there is always a new flavor to try. PR is a great place for you to enjoy a vegan meal without feeling left out. Plus, both vegans and non-vegans have food and beverage choices here, which makes it a standout hybrid eating place. The downside is, there aren’t any vegan desserts, and it can be a bit costly (ex: $8 for a bowl of soup, ouch!). Poor Richard’s earned 3/5 stars on Happy Cow probably because they cater towards vegetarians more than vegans.
The Burrowing Owl Lounge, 1791 S. Eighth St. – a vegan dive bar that specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine (including nachos) prepared so well, even non-vegans love to nosh here. There are plenty of other unexpected food choices at the Owl: veggie appetizers, hearty soups, fresh salads, sandwiches, mac & cheese, and even vegan cheesecake. The top (secret) menu item is the Stoner Nachos, traditional nachos topped with mac & cheese. Other satiating picks are the Taco Salad and the House Mac & Cheese (both are about $8 each). One downside to the dive bar: it has traditional bar hours (4pm – 2am), and the location may be tricky to get to in a snap when you’re craving nachos after class. It’s right in the middle of Centennial and Downtown campuses. The Burrowing Owl won the Independent’s Best Of Colorado Springs for vegetarian restaurant, and received 4.5/5 stars on Happy Cow.
At-Home Vegan Hack: Simple Vegan Chili
Ingredients: Black beans (2 – 216oz. cans), Kidney beans (2 –16 oz. cans), 2 cups Vegetable broth, ½ cauliflower, ½ red onion, 3 tbs. hot chili powder mix (from Natural Grocers), 1 tsp. salt and pepper. Directions: finely chop onion and cauliflower (or use a food processor), combine with beans, vegetable broth, and seasoning in crock pot; cook on high for 5-6 hours.
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