DIA Goes Vegan!

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Happy New Year! However you celebrate this time of year, I hope it was joyful and wonderful. I had planned to have a very quiet and relaxing December and for the most part I did. But at the last minute I decided to fly home to Northern Michigan to be a part of my Grandma Hogue’s surprise 85th birthday party. You have to understand that I left my much loved family and friends and moved away from Northern Michigan twenty years ago because I could not stand being cold any longer! I always promised myself that I would NEVER visit in the winter. Northern Michigan is stunning in the spring and summer so why visit any other time of year, right?  And yet here I was…flying (literally) into the eye of the storm! That is how excited I was about seeing my large, extended family all in one place and celebrating my Grandma’s wonderful time on this planet!

My flight took me from Sacramento through Denver International Airport and finally into Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Being a vegan, the first thing I did before my journey began was to find dining options at DIA. I want to thank Cadry’s Kitchen for an amazingly comprehensive list of the vegan-friendly food available at the airport. When I flew into Terminal C, I had a list of restaurants to choose from including Einstein Bros. Bagels, which used to be one of my favorite spots when I lived in gorgeous Boulder, Colorado; Tamales by La Casita; TCBY Frozen Yogurt and Root Down. Root Down was clearly her unanimous favorite so I really looked forward to trying it! I don’t know about you but I have never looked forward to a meal in an airport before this trip – vegan or otherwise! To reach my flight from Sacramento, I left my home in Napa at about 2 a.m. so I wasn’t really in the mood for breakfast before my journey began. Although I arrived in Denver around 9 a.m., I had been up for so long it felt like lunch was in order instead of breakfast so I grabbed my bags and headed to Root Down.

Root Down in the center of Terminal C!
Root Down in the center of Terminal C!

In addition to the rave reviews I found about Root Down’s food, I was also thrilled to spend my money with a restaurant that is also known for its “field to fork” mentality and stays as local, sustainable and organic as possible. In addition to being vegan-friendly, they also label the many delicious gluten-free options. Please remember though that the Gluten-free and Vegan choices are by request only so be sure you mention that when you order. They have a friendly hostess who offered to seat me and also suggested the bar as an option if I did not want to wait. Since I was on my own, I headed over to the bar to join the other solo travelers.

You've got to stay hydrated in this arid, high altitude!
You’ve got to stay hydrated in this arid, high altitude!

The menu offered a wonderful array of choices and even at 9 a.m. they were happy to serve me lunch instead of breakfast! Their menu is “globally influenced” which essentially means they are not tied to one genre or style and really go wherever the chef’s inspiration takes them. My soup and salad options included the Colorado Green Chili served with grilled corn, sour cream, cilantro and tortilla chips (V, GF); the House salad with arugula and romaine, cherry tomatoes, pickled red onions, beet-sunflower pesto and basil vinaigrette (V, GF). Country-fried tofu can be requested vegan and gluten-free and added to the salad. The share options included Sweet potato waffle fries (V, GF) or Edamame Hummus which is served with sesame seeds, medjool dates, olives, radish, chili oil and naan (V, GF). The sandwich options include the NY Reuben which is veganized with the elimination of pastrami and the addition of the country-fried tofu and the Root Down veggie burger served with avocado, arugula, jalapeno jam, curry lime sauce and sweet potato fries (V). Before I eliminated meat from my diet 7 years ago, I really enjoyed getting a burger and fries once in a while so I was excited to give the veggie burger a try. I rationalized that I was on vacation so a burger instead of the delicious and healthy salad was totally acceptable! My server/bartender was friendly, busy and very efficient and I asked her to please make the meal vegan when I placed my order. When the burger was served, I was so glad that is what I ordered! Instead of serving it on the pretzel roll, they put it on a delicious ciabatta bun. It tasted fresh and housemade and was a meal large enough for two people. Along with the tasty, crispy sweet potato fries, I was in food bliss! And I don’t think that was just the altitude talking! I had plenty of leftovers so was able to stay satisfied for the rest of my trip to Michigan without having to compromise on my food choices!

The Root Down Veggie Burger - made-to-order vegan!
The Root Down Veggie Burger – made-to-order vegan!

If you happen to be traveling to Napa Valley and the Bay Area and fly through Denver, you must give Root Down a try. If you plan to spend some time in Denver on your way to Northern California, Root Down also has a restaurant located in the historic Highland neighborhood. From everything I have read and the amazing food they offer at Denver’s airport, it will be an unforgettable gastronomic experience. The place is always full so be sure to book reservations and don’t worry about parking – they offer complimentary valet service.

Thanks for following this leg of my food journey from sunny Northern California to frigid Northern Michigan! And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

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