WaterCourse Foods Becomes Vegan
by Kaylee Dolan
While not new to Denver’s food scene by any means, WaterCourse Foods, located just to the east of downtown, recently made waves by becoming 100 percent vegan.
Led by owner Dan Landes, Chef de Cuisine/ Executive Chef Melanie Minard and General Manager Shelly Waters, WaterCourse lives out its mission daily to “eat the path of least resistance.” What exactly does it mean to eat the path of least resistance?
“I try to bring myself as low as I can” on the totem pole of life, says Minard. “Be as compassionate as you can.”
WaterCourse opened its doors 1998, serving just breakfast and lunch five days a week. The spot quickly became a community gathering place, and 16 years later, it is open seven days a week serving breakfast (served all day), lunch and dinner. WaterCourse officially became all-vegan on April 28, 2014, during a transition that took only one and-a-half weeks.
Landes noted that it “sends huge ripples” for a restaurant to become vegan. “Ninety-five percent of people were extremely happy [with the switch to veganism].” After 16 years of evolving, an entirely plantbased menu was just the next evolution.
“It was the only option,” and for Landes, it was “life changing, life affirming.”
WaterCourse is a from scratch, all non-GMO kitchen, with many gluten-free options, that strives to use local ingredients whenever possible. It has its own garden plot in Elizabeth, Colo., as well as its own bakery. WaterCourse prides itself on being a stocked vegan pantry.
“Comfort food is the core of what we do…appealing to people who miss their cheesy mac and cheese,” Waters said.
From dressed-up versions of tried-and-true Southern favorites, like the “chicken” and waffles and po’ boy, to new staples such as the black bean and sweet potato street tacos and The Atlas—baked maple tempeh served with avocado, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and fried green tomatoes—WaterCourse offers something for every palate, vegan and omnivorous alike.
“We’re trying to get away from the stereotype of vegans being militant,” Waters said.
The master behind the menu is Minard, who is transitioning into the executive chef role. She recalls visiting WaterCourse when it first opened and how it completely changed the way she viewed food. She fondly recalls her first meal at WaterCourse—a bagel with tofu scramble and caramelized onions. Minard collaborates with Landes, Waters and the entire WaterCourse team to craft the menu. Items are critiqued extensively and often run as specials before being moved onto the main menu. As for the menu options, Landes says that they often consider “what is going to pop into someone’s mind that they have to have that day.”
The trio offered up some must-have item suggestions for first-timers at WaterCourse, including the sweet potato cinnamon rolls, cauliflower wings, and the biscuits and gravy with barley sausage.
You can also gobble up BBQ jackfruit sliders, smoky-sweet mac ‘n’ cheese, and decadent banana bread French toast. The restaurant offers juice blends or on-tap kombucha, as well as 100 percent vegan wine and beer. Be sure to save room for dessert, too. WaterCourse has milkshakes in classic flavors and new favorites, such as bananas foster or orange popsicle. There are also reimagined HoHo cupcakes, Twinkies, and a Reese’s Cake. In addition to doing good for the taste buds, WaterCourse is also doing good in the community.
The restaurant hosts Nonprofit Mondays, where local organizations can receive a portion of sales from the night. Staff also make an appearance at the Broadway Farmer’s Market on Wednesday nights from 5 to 9 p.m. to sell goods from their bakery, and they often support local vegetarian and vegan events. In the future, the WaterCourse team sees the restaurant expanding. Melanie believes that Denver’s vegan community is getting “bigger, better and more positive.”
After a 16-year journey into the delicious research and development of vegan food, it’s hard to imagine any better restaurant to share its mission and knowledge with the Denver community than WaterCourse Foods.