Ten Best Vegan Dishes in Broward and Palm Beach Counties

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Across the country, vegan eating has taken off in recent years. Meatless Monday movement is now an official thing, added to people's growing desire to eat lower on the food chain out of concern for the environment, animal welfare, and — of course — health.

But it's still hard to find good vegetarian food — let alone vegan fare — at South Florida restaurants. Some days, you'd hardly suspect it's become a growing and popular dining trend when meat and cheese seem to dominate every menu from Palm Beach to Hollywood. 

When vegans dine out they want to enjoy and savor their meals too, not be served some sad animal-free entree, a chef's afterthought. Fortunately, more places are popping up in recent months, realizing it's good business to create vegan entrees that have just as much creative sizzle as the rest of their menus. 

This lis is homage to that movement, a snapshot selection that includes everything from an award-winning veggie burger, to a rich and creamy dairy-free ice cream. If we missed your favorite vegan spots and dishes, let us know in the comments section. We're always on the hunt for more good (and meat- or dairy-free) things to eat.

10. Vegan Ice Cream (of the week) at Wilton Creamery
2301 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors. Call 954-565-1183, or visit wiltoncreamery.com.
If it's one thing almost any vegan will complain about, it's that dessert options suck. Going animal-free means giving up things like cream, butter, and milk. All the ingredients that make pies, cakes, and ice cream taste yummy. If you're in the mood for a solid scoop, and are tired of freezing fruit for a downright disappointing alternative, then look no further than Wilton Creamery. Here, owner and pastry chef DJ Colby offers a rainbow of flavors you won't find at your average scoop spot. For vegans, the real treat is the dairy-free options, creamy-dreamy selections that don't skimp of flavor or texture just because they're milk-free. Try the sinfully rich coconut-cream-based nondairy alternative, a recipe that calls for whole coconuts in both his butter pecan and vanilla flavors. Likewise, sorbets are made using specially sourced ingredients, such as the white elderberries he purchased from a farm in Oregon that collects the elderberry juice to make a potent, tangy liqueur that adds an extra layer of flavor to the delicate fruit and ice-based flavor.

9. Vegetable Chettinad at Ruchi Indian Restaurant
17085 Pines Blvd., Hollywood. Call 954-862-2264, ruchipembrokepines.com.
When it comes to dining out, Indian cuisine is the vegan's best friend. An extremely popular choice among the animal-adverse, these restaurants are not on the "no-go zone" for practicing vegans. Rather, Indian restaurants are some of the best places to find vegetable-based dishes that are also free of animal by-products. And one-year-old Ruchi Indian Restaurant in Hollywood is one such place. There are seven vegan dishes on the menu to choose from, all-vegetable based selections that ensure no dairy, meat, or animal-based ingredients are present. That includes the South Indian speciality vegetable chettinad, a parade of tender vegetables served in a thick, spicy sauce. The heated blast at first bite will leave a cool sheen of sweat across your cheeks, compliments of a pepper-based sauce made with India's prized repertoire of spices, including sizable flecks of the country's indigenous black peppercorns and powder from dried red chilies.

8. The Dragon Bowl at Raw Juce
197 S Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Call 561-609-2871, or visit rawjuce.com.
When it comes to eating clean and green (and raw or vegan), there's no better spot to go for an on-the-go fix than your local juice bar. If that's your idea of a good pit stop, look no further than the South Florida-based Raw Juce chain, which recently expanded to include several new retails stores from Palm Beach Gardens to Miami. In addition to their varied list of cold-pressed fruit and veggie juices, Raw Juce also offers several organic take-and-go snacks, including raw oatmeal parfaits, quinoa or kale-based salads, and several raw desserts like cashew butter cups (think peanut butter cups made with cashew butter, coconut oil, and cacao). The most popular menu item, however, is their açaí bowls, a dish served for breakfast and lunch at most juice and smoothie bars. The purple-hued Brazilian super fruit is blended into a thick, ice-cream-like consistency and served in a bowl topped with fruit, oatmeal, granola, honey, or peanut butter. There are six different açaí bowls on the Raw Juce menu, including the best-selling Dragon Bowl made with pitaya (also known as dragon fruit) and topped with gogi berries and bee pollen.

7. The Rachel on Rye at Atlas Meat-Free Delicatessen
1940 N 30th Rd., Hollywood. Call 305-323-6661, or visit AtlasMeatFreeDeli.com.
Vegans don't get too many options when it comes to sandwiches. There's veggie sandwiches, avocado sandwiches, and veggie burgers. But at Atlas Meat-Free Deli, if you remember the sandwiches from your meat-eating days, here you can enjoy a number of classic deli favorites turned vegan. There's the Caprese, a combination of tomatoes and vegan mozzarella drizzled with a balsamic glaze and topped with a mix of fresh herbs, served on a toasted baguette. Or go for the Sausage Marinara, Italian-style fennel sausage topped with shredded vegan mozzarella. Love a good reuben sandwich? Look no further than the Rachel on Rye, six-ounces of vegan pastrami and cheese topped with traditional German sauerkraut and served between two slices of rye bread slathered with mustard.

6. Veggie Poutine at Poutine Dog Cafe
17 S J St., Lake Worth. Call 561-766-2281, or visit poutinedogcafe.com.
At Poutine Dog Cafe in Lake Worth, the owner — a Canadian transplant originally from Romania — serves the dish 16 different ways in two serving sizes for a deal priced $7 to $12.50 a plate. While the most important part of the dish is the cheese curd — often a white cheddar cheese with a taste and texture very different from actual cheddar cheese — more exotic poutine platters come with ingredients like barbecue chicken, pepperoni, pastrami, bacon. The standard poutine is made with just three ingredients: fresh cheese curds served over hand-cut fries and smothered in the restaurant's own house made gravy. But for the veggie poutine, it gets a little more intense. It's served with a vegan cheese curd; sautéed mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, and onions are added to the mix; and it's all topped with a special vegan gravy that's so rich and creamy you won't even taste the difference.

5. Falafel at Rami's Pita & Grill
3000 Stirling Rd., Hollywood. Call 954-251-1799, or visit ramispita.com.
Rami's Pita & Grill may be known to Broward County, but chef-owner Achiel Rami isn't. He's been cooking up some of the area's best Israeli food for years, and now that he's opened his own restaurant, the customers are flocking to the small Hollywood eatery for a taste of everything from lamb shawarma to homemade hummus. Sure, the lines are long for the lamb gyro special sold only on Monday and Wednesday, but it's the vegan options you'll want to order here. In the short time since it opened off Sterling Road, Rami's has gained a loyal lunchtime following for its falafel gyro, sandwich, or hearty entree-sized meal that comes with romaine salad and that fresh-made hummus. Each one-inch ball of falafel has the requisite crunch that gives way to a moist interior, each bite redolent of herbs and spices. Even if it's vegan, it's quite a filling meal.

4. The Vegetable Sampler Platter at Queen of Sheeba
716 N. Sapodilla Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-514-0615, queenofsheebawpb.com.
Queen of Sheeba owners Bill and Lojo Washington opened their Ethiopian restaurant this September in a quiet residential neighborhood in West Palm Beach, and have since been serving up some of the area's best — and most unique — vegetable-based fare. Here, chef Lojo will transport you to the streets of Jimma, the large city in Southwest Ethiopia from which she hails. Many of Ethiopia's most popular dishes are made up entirely of legumes and are — by default — vegan. Among the most common are messer (a spicy lentil curry), gomen (sautéed collard greens), and shiro (a simple chickpea purée). If you're feeling adventurous, the vegetable sampler will allow you to try several dishes at once, served on a long platter with tight rolls of spongy injera, tart, crepe-like pancakes made from teff flour and form the basis of Ethiopian cuisine. Eating it is joyously communal; such a presentation gives "sharing plates" a whole new meaning, selections served in heaping piles on a single tray and plopped down at the center of a table without side plates or cutlery.

3. Fruit Infused Tea at Eat The Tea
900 NE 20th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 754-200-8355, or visit eatthetea.com.
As you can probably guess, this newly-opened tea house in Fort Lauderdale's Victoria Park neighborhood is all about tea. Even if you aren't a tea drinker — or lover — you might become one here. The quaint and cozy eatery sports a separate menu just for organic — and, as the name suggests, edible — tea drinks. Choose from white, black, red, and green teas with flavors like caramel walnut, red chai, or white pearl mango. In addition to elixirs and tonics, there's also a number of hot or cold fruit infusions that are served with spoon so you can literally "eat" the tea when you're done sipping. Of course, it would be a shame to overlook their delicious vegetable-based treats too, including the veggie chili served with a side of avocado, or the beet-based veggie burger (pictured here).

2. Raw Cheesecake at Red Yabba All Natural Cafe
12594 Pines Blvd., Hollywood. Call 954-322-1007, or visit redyabba.com.
While the cafe serves a number of vegan and raw dishes in the form of entrées, soups, salads, and sandwiches, it's the delicious pastries, and raw desserts that deserve a shout-out here. All the desserts are made with a base of unbleached flour, evaporated cane juice, dates, shredded coconut, palm sugar, and organic nut mylk. Sure, you could choose the gluten-free carrots cake, or sweet potato pudding. But the crowd favorite and best-seller seems to be the raw cheesecake made with cashews and dates, and crushed walnut, coconut, and date crust. The final touch is a choice of home made fruit sauce like blueberry-date, strawberry-date, or chocolate coconut date for a colorful (and flavorful) finishing touch.

1. The GBK Burger at Green Bar & Kitchen
1075 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-533-7507, or visit greenbarkitchen.com.
This locally-based vegetarian and vegan eatery is one of the best places in South Florida to find a healthy meal. But it's the only place you'll find an award-winning veggie burger. The restaurant recently won the "fan favorite" vote from more than 300 participants for its GBK Burger at the 2015 Seed Food & Wine Festival in Miami. The plant-based burger is one of several on the menu, but it's also the signature. The restaurant, which shapes and forms each burger by hand on a daily basis, will go through an average of 100 patties a day. The winning recipe: a combination of organic roasted vegetables, pureed garbanzo beans, and a few secret ingredients, says co-founder Elena Pezzo.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.

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