I’m gonna be honest: when I’m traveling, I rarely opt to dine at raw vegan restaurants. If given the choice between biscuits and gravy and loaded fries or zucchini noodles and beet salad, I will almost always take the former. Unless we’re talking about desserts, in which case, I will almost always choose raw cheesecake or ganache cake over baked goods. Because yum. Fortunately for me, when passing through Durango, Colorado, there were no vegan restaurants that offered chicken and waffles or mac and cheese. There was only Turtle Lake Refuge.
However, we had been on the road for a week and a half, and much of that time was spent camping and eating terrible food like ramen that is really only palatable when you’re dirty and tired and starving. So I guess it was the perfect time for a meal that had some actual nutrition. My body was craving some green, for sure.
And I had to say, the reviews on Happy Cow were impressive. They were also intriguing. They told of a cafe that was actually a farm and wild food education center, of a place where you could pay what you could afford and where the founder spent more of her days tending sprouts and educating school children than in the kitchen. I perused the website, got the gist of the origin story, and did a happy dance when I realized we would be in Durango on one of the two days a week the Turtle Lake Refuge cafe was open.
Huzzah! So we gave the founder, Katrina Blair, a call and went in to see how she was making the connection between personal health and wild lands. After we savored every bite of our raw tacos, homemade salad dressing, and cattail truffles, that is. Check out our interview with her below!
Turtle Lake Refuge restaurant is open Tuesdays and Fridays (and since they offer locally harvested honey, they are technically only vegetarian). The rest of the week is all about the CSA, educating the public about wild foods, and the working the farm where Katrina grows those wild foods. The set menu is different every day, but is always several courses (soup, salad, a main and dessert, plus fresh green juice). Personally, I loved not having to choose from a lengthy menu. As a chronically indecisive individual, It felt great to just sit back and let the staff bring me whatever the kitchen crew decided to whip up that day.
Lunch is served in what looks like your grandmother’s garden (aka not pretentious) between 11:11-2:22 and is a suggested donation of $15. And if you want to take home some of those unique truffles, you can do that, too. Just don’t be the person who skips it all together because they’d rather eat fried pickles.
Know an awesome vegan or vegetarian restaurant with a unique story? Share it! We want to go to there! Wander on!
Alisha is a freelance outdoor journalist and photographer based in Ogden, UT. She loves backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and snowboarding (even though she’s terrible at it). She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com