Author: Mary Willson
Erica Wilson, junior environmental engineering and international studies major talks to diners at Tasty Harmony after they finished their meal. Located between Mason and Oak, the restaurant won Best of CSU for Best Vegetarian Restaurant. Photo by Mary Wilson
Agave nectar, cashew cheese, goji berries, irish moss and jackfruit may seem like foreign and non-edible fantasies out of a story book, yet between Oak and Mason, Tasty Harmony brings out true magic through creating healthy yet delicious meals using these unique foods.
â€œWe really cater to any tricky diet,â€ said Erica Wilson, junior environmental engineering and international studies student. â€œYou could call it vegan comfort food.â€ Wilson has been a server at the restaurant since last spring.
Through a plant-based menu, Tasty Harmony provides a positive eating experience to vegetarians, vegans, health conscious eaters and individuals whom have unique dietary restrictions.
â€œI love the atmosphere, and the food too,â€ Willson said. She is allergic to whey protein, which means she has to stick to a non-dairy diet. â€œI find myself only eating here sometimes it seems like. Iâ€™ve learned what I can supplement with. Its inspired me to experience within my own cooking at home.â€
Through Tasty Harmony, she has discovered cashew milk, which is also created as a cheese substitute, used in many meals, such as nachos and the stuffed burrito on the menu.
â€œI was a vegetarian for six years and found it to be very challenging at times when I would go out to eat with friends or family and had limited choice on the menu,â€ said Taryn Gawronski, junior social work student. â€œTasty Harmony brings relief to this problem because I could eat vegetarian while the people I was dining with also enjoyed their meal. Even people who arenâ€™t vegetarian can appreciate it.â€
LeAnn Knutson, senior environmental communication major, fills water glasses in anticipation for the dinner rush at Tasty Harmony. Photo by Mary Wilson.
With menu items like the Pulled BBQ Jack Fruit Sandwichâ€”a natural spin on the original pulled BBQ sandwich, the Kentucky Fried Freedomâ€”mock fried chicken with mashed potatoes, or the Bigboy Burgerâ€”a black bean and rice patty made into vegetarian-burger perfection, Tasty Harmony creates natural alternatives to many traditionally non-natural, meat-focused or dairy-filled meals.
â€œIts nice to know the food they are making back there has a passion and a purpose,â€ said LeAnn Knutson, senior environmental communication major. â€œThe menu is being created with health and well being in mind and not just a bun slapped down to make money.â€ Knutson has been a server at the restaurant for a year and a half.
Along with serving food that is positive for the body, Tasty Harmony supports mainly local businesses for their ingredients. From vegetables from Grant Family Farms, the wellington-based organic farm, organic chai from Fort Collins based CafÃ© Richesse, and only local bakeries for their breads, cookies and desserts; the profit made at the restaurant is readily circulated back into Northern Colorado, according to Knutson. For all of the over-21 restaurant guests, the beer on tap includes only local Fort Collins beers in addition to Asher Brewery in Boulder, which is the only organic brewery in Colorado. In accordance to wine, the selection is purely from organic and sustainable vineyards. All of the supported businesses are featured in the restaurants menu.
â€œI think to be a successful restaurant in Fort Collins, you have to know and understand the community,â€ Gawronski said. â€œFort Collins is big on organic and local support, Tasty Harmony is as well. When you have a restaurant that understands the community it serves, then it can be successful.â€
Through healthy options, organic support and a vegetarian menuâ€”some traditional diners may wonder what the draw is to alternative ingredients compared to a standard meat-and-milk meal experience.
â€œWe get grown men coming in here kicking and screaming being brought in with their wives or girlfriends. They make awkward comments,â€ Knutson said. â€œThen they order the Jackfruit BBQ Sandwich or something and they are in heaven and are sold because they are more than just a vegetarian plate.â€
For those budget crunching students, the lunch specials everyday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. give a way for everyone to experience the menu for around $7. The restaurant is open until 9 p.m. on weekdays, and until 10 p.m. on weekends. A special winter menu is in the works, complete with winter-available vegetables bringing in additional items such as a loaded stuffed yam, said Knutson.
The next time Saturday night rolls around and microwavable mac-and-cheese just doesnâ€™t sound quite rightâ€”grab a little exercise walking to this great location for a healthy and satisfying meal. With no environmental and body-bearing guilt, this vegetarian dining experience wonâ€™t leave any herbivore or carnivore devourer searching for more.
â€œI think sometimes there is a stigma because someone hears vegetarian or vegan and people arenâ€™t willing to try the food,â€ Wilson said. â€œBut itâ€™s important to remember it’s good tasting at the same time. Its just good food.â€