Garden of Vegan Brings Raw Cuisine to Downtown Delray Beach

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Garden of Vegan is not only the best explanation of the new, vegan restaurant located in Delray Beach but the sayings written on the window of the entrance may be just as clever: "Juice Bar: Home of the no ice, no water smoothie" and "*No GMO, *No Dairy, *No Wheat, *No Soy, *No Gluten - No Kidding."

The restaurant is very small, comfortably seating about 18, but it has had as many as 28 guests at one time. The owners are an uncle, Nebar Exist, and the chef is his nephew, Rahein Jones, who are both vegan themselves. Exist has been a vegan for 30 years, and Jones, while not a classically trained chef, has been the apprentice to Dr. Aris Lathum of Sun Fired Foods.

The ambiance is warm and inviting. A few blocks off the main drag of downtown Delray Beach, the little out-of-the-way spot has been open only a few months, but guests were consistently coming in and ordering while we dined. The place hasn't done any advertising, yet local athletes, rolling up in Bentleys, have still managed to find this healthy little haven. There is even a raw foodist on staff, Melanie, greeting and waiting on patrons as well as preparing the fresh juices and smoothies.

The food is delicious -- actually one of the tastiest dishes I have experienced in South Florida. That's saying a lot, because I have spent the last year and a half getting to know the culinary scene here quite well. As a healthy foodie, I am a strict critic to eating healthy food out. The items we selected were presently beautifully, tasted amazing, and filled me up for hours, because they were filled with plant-based ingredients (organic and locally sourced when available).

We started out with a sample of the green smoothie. It was prepared in a Vita-Mixer and composed of organic apple juice, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, lemon, strawberries, and ginger.

Then, we moved on to a tasting of the soup, made from black and kidney beans and coconut milk, created by the chef's wife. It was warm and creamy, also made in the Vita-Mixer. Next came the broccoli couscous, which did not contain the pearl or any grain, as a matter of fact.

The main bite came from finely chopped almonds. It was actually like a summer-afternoon party in the mouth. The zestiness from the lemon was a great accompaniment. Then there was the chickpea sandwich -- crispy, moist, and tangy from the Vegenaise and, surprisingly, a pickle.

Last but certainly not least was the dehydrated cauliflower nugget, which was sweet and spicy at the same time. The presentations of most of the dishes were beautifully accompanied by the house carrot, tomato, pepper purée that not only kept the dishes bright but also added a dynamic of flavor to the items.

This little restaurant has big plans that include home delivery meals and school lunch programs. The ambitious duo is bringing a healthy venture to the Delray restaurant scene, and I look forward to dining there again soon, for breakfast.

Garden of Vegan is located at 528 NE Second St. in Delray Beach. Call 561-404-5301, or visit togovegan.com.

-- Coco Frey, EatTheTruth.com

Eat The Truth(r) is a food and nutrition education company on a mission to help people understand how to "eat with an open mind" with real nutrition through real food for real lives in a fun, interactive, and educational way. Coco Frey, founder with more than 15 years' experience in the industry, offers nutrition chats, healthy cooking, restaurant and business consulting, and special event projects.

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