Today, the word ‘veganism’ usually comes with polarized assumptions, ranging from pretentious, against nature, and limiting to environmentally conscious, real, and healthy. Furthermore, to many non-vegans, the idea of substituting foods like meat and dairy is a useless and unappetizing option: what is the point of eating a hamburger if it’s not actually beef? The vegan community is often misunderstood at large and is frequently associated with dirty hippies and preachy liberals. The Burrowing Owl—“a neighborhood lounge”—is less than a 10-minute drive from campus and defies all previous negative assumptions and standards of veganism.
This venue takes the form of a semi-casual restaurant-lounge-bar scene, with dim, warm lighting and both intimate table setups as well as a community bar and dining table in the center. Marissa Oves ’19, a dedicated vegan, called The Burrowing Owl a really welcoming environment. “The waitress even sat down at our table and had a conversation with us,” Oves said. “The funky touches—from the vinyl covers as menus to the really cool bathroom decorations—made the place an experience rather than just somewhere with delicious food. Really, I just judge a restaurant by how fun their bathrooms are, and they were super neat.”
The vision of the lounge is to provide a community space where Colorado Springs locals, as well as visitors, can get together to share and communicate with one another. The restaurant intentionally does not have Wi-Fi so that “[customers] can actually sit and talk to each other. You don’t see anybody at any tables sitting on their phones, which is awesome,” said January Brooks, a server at The Burrowing Owl.
Their website reads, “Owls represent wisdom. A quality needed when trying to see through masks to find truth.” It continues, “Burrowing Owls are one of only two owls that are social. They inhabit prairies in Colorado, just hanging out near their home and spending time with one another.”
An environment like that of The Burrowing Owl thus stands as an opportunity for Colorado College students to branch out from the campus bubble and get to know the criticisms, discussions, and ongoing mentalities of those living just minutes away. “It’s social, it’s cute, everybody comes in and leaves happy it seems,” said Brooks.
The restaurant opened in June 2015 by Tyler and Cody Schiedel, a couple who have individually worked in the food and beverage industry in the Springs for the past 20 years or so. Both Tyler and Cody are vegan, “and found that it was difficult to work around food that they didn’t believe in—the way that it was raised, et cetera. So they wanted to start a restaurant that followed all of their beliefs,” according to Brooks.
Brooks also talked about how the owners started with a Koozie party at their house—“Kooza Palooza,” they called it—and how it eventually became an idea for a bar. At The Burrowing Owl, many of the canned beer comes with a free Koozie that changes seasonally. At this particular time, the free Koozie reads, “Vegan as Fuck.” “We hope that people will bring them back to reuse them, but they can always borrow ours if they want to,” said Brooks.
All the food on the menu is 100 percent USDA organic, Non-GMO Project certified, and plant-based only. A ‘vegan’ dinner consisting of House Mac n’ Cheese, the Messy Sloppy Sloppy Joe, the Sasquachos nacho dish, and a plate of various dips, bread, and chips, however, had the entire table fooled. “Those nachos were great—tasted like beef and cheese,” said Ivy Wappler ’18, a non-vegan. “The peanut sauce was the best thing I had, definitely. The sloppy joe was comforting and warm and beany and cheesy and good.”
While the portions of food at The Burrowing Owl are large and very filling, getting up from a meal leaves you feeling light and energized rather than full and sedated. Soy is a common supplement for the “meat” items while blended almonds and cashews substitute the cheesy flavors. Not only does the House Mac taste like real cheese, but it also holds the creamy consistency of a classic bowl of mac n’ cheese.
Alongside the wide variety of food options on the menu is a creative and extensive drink menu. Again, many assume that veganism comes with a non-alcoholic agreement and that copious amounts of kombucha and tea are consumed instead. But with a central and active bar, The Burrowing Owl defies yet another vegan critique. The menu offers anything from canned and bottled beers, ciders, and sours, to custom shots, cocktails, and heavier quality liquors. Brooks described it as “a clean dive bar, which is kind of an oxymoron.”
The first page of the menu displays a quote from Joseph Campbell: “Life has no meaning, each of us has meaning and we bring it to life.” The Burrowing Owl stands as a reminder that eating should be a shared experience and a combination of quality food and quality company.