Last week I escaped the Polar Vortex and flew to Los Angeles to soak up some sunshine and spend time with friends. As so much of the country was grappling with weather issues, it wasn’t a huge surprise when I was delayed at the Denver Airport while trying to catch my connecting flight.
Even though I was disappointed I wouldn’t arrive in Southern California in time to have dinner with friends as planned, for the first time ever in the course of airport history I thought, “Well, the silver lining is that I get to try an airport restaurant I’ve been wanting to check out.”
Root Down – Denver Airport
Root Down opened last summer at DIA. There is another location of Root Down in Denver itself and a sister restaurant, Linger in Denver’s Lower Highlands neighborhood, which I was able to visit last year.
Root Down is known for its local, sustainable, and organic cuisine with a plethora of creative vegan options.
Root Down is located in the C terminal, just at the top of the escalator from the tram.
(My flights were going out of the B gates, and it took about 8 minutes to get there including walking and using the train.)
When I got to the restaurant, I knew right away it was going to be a different kind of airport dining experience. There was a host standing at the entrance, who asked how many in my party, and after a very brief wait I was seated.
Just like at the bar area of Linger, the tables appear to be made from repurposed bowling lanes.
Many times when dining at the airport, it becomes stressful trying to figure out where to put luggage, so that you can keep an eye on it but that it won’t get in the way of other passengers. At Root Down, the tables for one are built like desks.
Luggage can be tucked underneath, allowing you to forget about traveling for a while and not worry about it.
All of the menu items that can be veganized have a “V” next to them.
The current (2018) vegan or veganizable options at the Denver Airport Root Down include:
- Sweet potato fries (with no yogurt)
- House salad
- Roasted beets (with no goat cheese)
- Harissa roasted carrot salad (with no feta)
- Edamame hummus
- Shoyu ramen (with no egg)
- Veggie burger
- Country fried tofu bento box
During the brunch hour they also have a breakfast burrito and tofu scramble that can be prepared vegan. In addition, they have a lengthy wine, beer, and cocktail list.
As a major reuben enthusiast, I had no choice but to order the reuben. (This sandwich is no longer available at the DIA Root Down.)
The rye bread it typically comes on isn’t vegan, and so they put it on ciabatta instead. The vegan reuben has country-fried tofu inside of it with what tasted like a cornmeal coating.
The tofu was dense and toothsome, in the way that tofu is when it is frozen and then thawed before cooking. The thin layer of sauerkraut tasted homemade, as the flavor was very mild. Then there was a smear of dressing made from Vegenaise.
Because of the cornmeal crusted tofu, light layering of sauerkraut, and lack of rye, it didn’t really taste like a reuben.
It was more reminiscent of a vegan filet o’fish sandwich. However, it was a delicious vegan filet o’fish sandwich, and so I have no complaints. On the side, it was served with potato chips.
I was seated near the kitchen, and so I could hear servers placing orders to the cooks. It seemed like every other word was “vegan” with a peppering of the word “Vegenaise.”
It was really exciting to hear so many people choosing the vegan options, and it felt like the demand for vegan fare is growing.
I hope that other restaurants see that there is a need for vegan options at airports and restaurants. There are obviously people looking for vegan options, and it’s very cool to see Root Down jumping in to fill that need, especially in airports where the food can be uninspiring at best.
If you should find yourself at the Denver Airport on your travels with time for a leisurely dinner, I definitely recommend checking out Root Down. (They also have a take-away area for people in a hurry, but the vegan options may be more limited there.)
For more DIA options, check out this thorough post on the Denver Airport.