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Moxie shows great vegan food doesn’t need to flaunt fakery 

click to enlarge Call if “faux-lafel” or just call it a delicious meal. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Call if “faux-lafel” or just call it a delicious meal.
I never pictured Eighth Street as vegan row, but with Moxie joining the Burrowing Owl, plant-based eaters (and omnivores) now have both a neighborhood-bar and quasi-fine dining/bistro option within a mile.

Moxie, occupying the former Estela’s Mexican spot, comes courtesy Nissa and Mike Buth, Ola Juice Bar’s owners. The couple’s done what they can under low ceilings to sharpen the space, a mix of white-washed brick with spare accent walls and warm, dim lighting built around a central open bar. More importantly, they’ve hired experienced hands, from Principal’s Office/Rabbit Hole alum Katie Toth, bar manager, to former Blue Star sous chef Ruthie Poole, chef.

That means the cocktails smack smart and the food doesn’t feel like concession fare for folks on limited diets. Banish worries of cutesy Pinterest plates that are overly synthetic or ostentatiously vegan (for the sake of elevating chia seeds or worshiping jackfruit). Poole, not a vegan herself, says her primary goal is to avoid processed items like faux meats and cheeses, to make everything fresh and approachable; plates run roughly $9 to $13, cocktails $9 to $11.

The Chez Moxie sings with maple-laced bourbon, introducing us to aquafaba, actually chickpea brine, which acts like egg whites when shaken into a drink (and can make vegan meringues). A full aromatic sprig garnishes a boozy rosemary margarita, Cadillac-like with Leopold Bros. orange liqueur sweetness. A rye hot toddy with chamomile shows smooth and citrusy, while a basil-cucumber Gimlet’s all easy herbaceousness.
Location Details Moxie
925 S. Eighth St.
Cheyenne Mountain
Colorado Springs, CO
465-3595
Juice bar
Tempura Brussels sprouts hold big crunch and mild garlic bite with balsamic vinegar’s acid offset, and spring-roll-like cabbage dumplings bathe in salty ginger miso broth that highlights luxurious mushroom wedges (vegans’ steak). Rosemary oil really makes a starchy, velvety parsnip bisque pop. A pickled beet salad arrives tangled on half a plate (vegans love negative space) in a sappy citrus glaze with orange rind and fennel shavings and sweet onions for a bright bite. Only a dense garbanzo “socca,” a French garbanzo flour flat bread, leaves us wanting olive oil or more moistening to combat dryness that a fine romesco (red pepper-nut sauce) can’t handle alone.

Though garam masala tomato sauce makes a fine base for polenta cakes, the potent curried seitan impresses more with veggies and jasmine rice; both are simple plates that let the ingredients speak. But if you’re going for only two plates, get the sage gnocchi, sweet with apple, dried cherry and sweet potato and a cashew cream, and the fabulous lentil fritters, a falafel spin, well seasoned and texturally close, with an addictive tahini vinaigrette drizzle.

Dessert looks like a lovely blueberry-Earl Grey sorbet, with more than a hint of black tea astringency. Or a ginger-pear crisp with a salty-sweet pungency from caramelized oat crunch and vanilla coconut ice cream wearing a rich red wine reduction. Pair with turmeric-strong coconut golden milk or a Loyal Coffee latte, creme d’orange flavored, like candy, or spicy from cinnamon and cayenne (the Moxie Latte).

In the end, you won’t think you were deprived or forced to abstain from anything. You’ll still be relishing in full flavors that land plenty gourmet. Perhaps the best compliment to pay good vegan fare is to say it never showed its cards; the vegan-ness is an afterthought.

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