Denver’s dining scene is making a big post-pandemic comeback, and we’re hungering to get back out. With so many new ventures and old favorites to visit after more than a year of restaurant shutdowns and restrictions, the choices can be overwhelming. So we’re serving up Short Stop, with recommendations for things that should definitely be on your culinary short list. This week, head to Highland to try Nest Cafe, an eatery serving plant-based foods.
What: Nest Cafe at Nurture
Where: 2949 Federal Boulevard
When: Open Monday and Tuesday from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Happy hour is Wednesday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.
Housed in what used to be an elementary school, Nurture: A Wellness Marketplace is a maze of fitness studios, holistic health businesses, salons, physical therapy areas, masseuse rooms and even tarot reading services. But before you find any of these niche offerings, the space opens up on the ground level with a stunning cafe that’s at once cozy but not confining, and stylish with a comfortable flair.
Nest Cafe launched in May 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, and despite the year-plus of being in this space, it exudes a feeling of newness mixed with the laidback attitude of a tried-and-true coffee shop. I soaked in these vibes on a recent visit around lunchtime, when the bright cafe was filled with people working, chatting and, of course, eating and drinking.
While all those other services at Nurture may be great, I went for the food, which is mostly plant-based. For starters, there’s a great juice program, with organic, cold-pressed juices that come in flavors such as watermelon-lime-jalapeño-cilantro (aka jasper) and lavender-raw honey-lemon-ginger with activated charcoal (aka onyx). Get them solo or sign up to do one of the multi-day body cleanses that the cafe offers. There’s also an iced mushroom coffee that shouldn’t be missed: It tastes nothing like fungi and instead is akin to a liquid dessert that’s actually good for you; as a bonus, it can be made with oat milk or ORIGIN A2 whole milk. Order these drinks and any of the food to stay or to go at the long black-and-white-tiled counter.
If you decide to dine in and, say, partake in a spicy veggie burger with roasted tomato-garlic aioli and fresh greens, or a slice of gluten-free caramel apple cake, simply tell the staff you’re staying and they’ll bring the food out to your table. While waiting, enjoy the dozens of large houseplants thoughtfully placed around the space, giving it a lush, homey feel. That is, if your home was neat as a pin, with velvet-textured chairs, a lot of sunlight, and an army of sexy plants that not only make the air feel fresher, but offer a sense of privacy in certain spots.
What you’re eating:
It may be surprising to find yourself pining for most of the things you see on the menu. After all, this food is supposed to be healthy and vegetable-heavy. Yet, co-founder Kelly Campbell and Nurture culinary director Elizabeth Woodard have conceptualized a menu of craveable dishes.
On another visit, I found myself swooning over a fancy piece of toast — in this case, a tartine, topped with monk fruit-cured salmon, housemade labneh, capers and a bit of fresh onion. The key to this dish was the thick slice of sourdough baked by Reunion Bread that held all the other good stuff and gave the tartine the perfect amount of tang and chew.
While the menu at Nest features fresh greens and plant-based foods, there are animal proteins, too. The chicken masala dosa hit the right notes, with tangy pickled onions and tomato chutney cutting the richness of the meat. The thin and crispy dosa that wrapped around the chicken recalled the classic Indian dish, something I sampled many times while traveling in India.
There are numerous other options here, from salads to pastas to rich bone broth. All of the baked goods are gluten-free, vegan, contain no refined sugar, and are totally worth trying. Pair any bite with a no-ABV cocktail or a boozy drink, coffee beverages, one of those juices or a smoothie. And if you’re taking food to go, grab a container of the vegan cashew ranch dressing. It’s addictively good on anything, including salad, fries, bread and crudité.
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