Follow the Leaders: Zeal

There is no such thing in life as a guarantee, but when it comes to where and and what to eat, advice from a chef is the next best thing. We let four south suburban cuisiniers take us on a tour of their favorite eateries— starting with a sit-down at Zeal. Hope you’re hungry.

THE FARE: Comfort Health Food
GIVE US YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH: “Guided by nutrition, not tradition”

Zeal dishes
DISHES CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Quinoa Black Bean Salad, Juice Flight, Mighty Bowl, Vegan G.F. not so Mac & Cheese, Rainbow Curry. Photo: Chad Chisholm, Custom Creations

How does Zeal fit into the food scene here?
“We don’t see a lot of vegan options in the Denver Tech Center; we’re a vegan place that gives omnivores options as well,” says head chef Fernando Espino de la Cruz and general manager Paul Loupe. “We’re compared to places like City, O’ City or True Food Kitchen, but we take a different, more open approach than those restaurants. Everyone can eat well here.”

What would you say to someone who says they are averse to health food?
“We would give them the old ‘Pepsi challenge.’ Give our burger a taste, which we think matches up with any other burger in the city. We house-ferment our pickles and have a burger-specific sauce.”

What dish most defines Zeal?
“The Mighty Bowl, with our house-sprouted lentils, kale, chickpea sauté and some of our house-fermented sauerkraut. The bowl represents little pieces of everything we do. People really like it because you can taste a lot of different flavors, and it has really sound nutrition. Order it vegan or with steak and bacon.”

What is the best drink and entrée pairing at Zeal?
“Kombucha with the lamb meatballs. The green tea honey kombucha is kind of simple, but it has a fermented bite to it. And the lamb meatballs are very unique. You have eggplant and then the meatballs with a spicy white bean base and a little bit of drizzled sauce on each. The peppers in the dish are also house-pickled.”

Have you ever served anyone famous?
“Ed McCaffrey and his family. The boys came first and then sent their dad. We also get comedians—Norm Macdonald and David Spade have come through.”

What makes your juice cleanse unique?
“We always have three juices that are cold pressed: Green, Red and a Not So Orange carrot pineapple juice. Then, we have a fourth seasonal juice. We don’t use any filler—no water, nothing. You’re getting like ten pieces of celery, eight huge chunks of kale and all this cucumber in one little juice. For the cleanse, we communicate with the individual on their specific dietary preference and give them seven to nine juices.”

What is one of your favorite area restaurants and what do you order there?
YaYa’s Euro Bistro. We really like the variety they offer. We like their stuff, too, because they don’t have the limitations that we do in trying to stay nutritious. We’re sure the crab cakes are absolutely chock-full of butter, but they’re so good!”

Greenwood Village

Two more healthyish spots

THE FARE: Mostly organic pizzas and salads
YELP RATING: 4.5 stars from 229 reviews
TRY IT: Greenwood Village, 720.669.8082

THE FARE: Seasonal ingredients featured in delicious, well-balanced dishes
YELP RATING: 4.5 stars from 636 reviews
TRY IT: Lone Tree, 303.799.0252

NEXT: YaYa’s Euro Bistro