As I was plotting my move from New York to Colorado five years ago, I researched Colorado Springs restaurants known to be vegan-friendly. One of the first hits was TAPAteria, then one of the few eateries with the word "vegan" on the menu.
Today the laminated table cover listing small plates has been upgraded to a printed menu, and the "v" word is no longer there - but the vegan options are. The TAPA in TAPAteria is for tapas, Spanish for appetizers or snacks. Tapas restaurants and bars are great places to nosh on a variety of plates, ordering until full, and to mix and match glasses of wine to the food. Think of it as the theater of fare with several acts - and vegans will want to focus on the first and third acts.
First up: bocados, or bites. Eight of the 10 items are vegan, with something for everyone. Olives, $5.50, and almonds, $2.50, are fast to the table and great to nibble while sipping wine.
But the gazpacho, $3.50, and white bean hummus, $5.95, are the flavorful standouts. The chilled soup is served in a dainty cup perfect for sipping. The blended fresh vegetables and fruits offer a citrusy fragrance. The broth combines beautifully with the far heartier and dense white bean hummus.
The citrus - likely lemon juice - ties the soup and bean dip together, but the generous garlic pureed with gigande beans deepens the earthy flavor. Served with toast points and large cucumber slices, one order is plenty for lunch for one. Amp up flavor by ordering the garlic bulb, $5.25, and adding the cloves to the tiny sandwiches.
Leap over the seafood to the menu's verduras, or vegetables, section, where umami - the fifth flavor, savory - rounds out rich, plant-based bites. The mushroom toast, $4.50, is meaty, earthy and not at all for those on the fungi fence. The finely chopped mushrooms deliver a texture that borders meatless crumbles and chopped pate.
Team the toast with patatas bravas, spicy potatoes, for $4.95 - hold the nonvegan aioli - for a peppery balance to the mushrooms.
The savory cremini garlic mushrooms, $4.95, are filled with roasted garlic and lightly seasoned with truffle salt, a tasty mushroom alternative.
Most tapas restaurants offer a wine list as varied as the plates, and TAPAteria is no exception. Almost all whites and reds are available by the glass for $7.50 to $12 or by the bottle, $26 to $44. Reserve bottles range from $35 to $50. For a notable occasion, check out the special reserves, $65 to $220.
The fruity overtones of the $9 white Calcada Vinho Verde offset the depth of flavor in the umami-rich plant-based fare.
TAPAteria is a cozy Old Colorado City treasure where savory small plates and flowing wine are served for lunch, happy hour or dinner. Be sure to check out the patio for a leisurely al fresco nosh.