It sure seems like we've been doing a lot of bacon and beef worshiping lately. And for a state where you can find a farmers' market every day of the week, year-round, with local farms delivering seasonal organic produce each month, it often feels like finding a perfectly prepared vegetarian (or vegan) meal is a lot more trouble than it's worth.
While it's no Los Angeles or New York City, South Florida is lucky enough to have a number of fully dedicated raw, vegetarian, and vegan restaurants in its two-county lay of the land (think places like Sublime, Christopher's Table, and Darbster).
But what about the places that cater to both the meat and veggie lovers out there? After all, there's nothing more confounding than listening to a cow-loving gal and vegetable-only dude arguing over where they'll be able to dine out in blissful unison.
To help those of you torn between the animal and the plant, we've combed through the city's eateries, from ethnic to high-brow, to find ten of the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
10. Tap 42
When you think of Tap 42, the first thing that comes to mind is beer. Lots and lots of craft beer. And with all that beer comes plenty of bar food, everything from pulled-pork sliders and craft burgers topped with bacon and short rib to fresh-catch sandwiches and a tower of crispy Asian-style fried calamari. Luckily, the meat-free crowd has just as much to salivate over (and it's not another pint of pumpkin ale). A number of dishes are clearly marked for vegans and vegetarians alike. Think vegetable-focused fare like whipped goat cheese-stuffed dates; superfood lettuce wraps with golden quinoa, asparagus, avocado, sprouts, roasted almonds, and pomegranate-plum sauce; a French onion veggie burger; and those corn-bread cupcakes with avocado cream frosting, candied jalapeño relish, and sea salt.
Snappers has been serving fresh seafood and fine-dining fare to hungry Boynton Beach patrons for close to two decades. A few years ago, owner Sally Stilley decided to put a vegetarian section on the menu. A vegetarian at the time, it was her way of catering to patrons desiring a fish- and meat-free option. Today, several dishes help make it easier for others facing the same troubling dilemma she herself struggled with when dining out: what to order? Stilley is now a full-blown vegan, and the restaurant serves eight meat-free dishes. A favorite is Stilley's own vegan nut loaf, made with a special blend of three nuts (blanched peanuts, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds) mixed with barley, brown rice, lentils, beans, and a medley of fresh vegetables. It arrives in a heaping portion served with mashed potatoes, sage mushroom gravy, and a side of broccoli. Of course, meat eaters will rejoice with all the meat and fish-based items off the full menu. By far the most popular dish is Snapper's cedar plank halibut, given a touch of mayo and fresh tarragon and a bread-crumb coating, it's broiled along with the side of mashed potatoes so both come out with a flavorful, crusty finish.
There are a number of reasons to love this long-standing Oakland Park-based Mexican joint. Here, you can get up to 50 types of tequila, plus Dos Equis amber on tap. And, of course, you'll also find the standard assortment of Tex-Mex favorites including some of the best chile rellenos around. You'll also find a few offerings you don't find on many Mexican menus (blue crab enchiladas, nachos, and chimichangas, for instance). Another uncommon option at joints of this type? A section dedicated to vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options. That includes vegan enchiladas (two corn tortillas rolled with peas, corn mushrooms, and onions and smothered in verde tomatillo sauce and topped with red chili hummus); a vegan wrap (a whole wheat wrap stuffed with a grilled vegetarian burger, lettuce, fresh salsa, and a spicy-sweet vinaigrette); a veggie burrito (peas, corn, mushrooms, and onions rolled into a flour tortilla and topped with cheese and a poblano-cilantro cream sauce); veggie fajitas and chimichangas; and a refried bean Mexican pizza topped with black beans, cheese, tomato, onion, mushroom, and fresh cilantro.
The mother-daughter team behind Delray Beach's DIG (the name stands for "doing it green") is all about healthy, natural, clean eating. Part of that mission is to provide flavorful food by that uses seasonal, organic, and naturally-fed -- as well as ethically-procured products -- whenever possible. Even though that includes meat and fish, it's still a great place to find vegetable-forward starters like maple sweet potato soup with an allspice crème fraiche next to lamb lollipops dressed in lemon zest vinaigrette. Or bison and Wagyu burgers listed alongside DIG's own vegetable and portobello mushroom burgers. And chicken and meatball flatbreads on the same page as the specialty wild organic forest mushroom number with goat cheese, gorgonzola, truffle oil, and a fresh pomodoro sauce. Yeah, you get the idea: something for everyone.
Owned by hotelier Mitchell Robbins and chef Joey Giannuzzi, the Farmer's Table delivers what both consider "conscious, affordable fare" to Boca Raton. And both are passionate about clean-eating, with a goal to create a more mindful health and wellness community through their food. The fare is composed of fresh ingredients and whole foods, many of them grown locally. Excess salt, fats, antibiotics, and hormones are avoided; no butter, cream, deep-frying, or microwaving is used in any dish -- there isn't even a fryer in the kitchen. Here, land lubbers can still find seafood and meats (of course, sustainable) while everything on the menu (minus dishes with cheese) is dairy-free. The restaurant also accommodates gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, and low-glycemic diets. Take the whole grain flour and flaxseed pizza crusts that are perfect for a veggie-loaded pie; and you vegans out there can substitute Daiya vegan cheese anywhere you like.
This Cleveland, Ohio-based chain located in The Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale offers what the company terms fare "inspired by South and Central America, Cuba, and the Caribbean." The menu highlights dishes like short rib empanadas, slow roasted mojo pork, and feijoada stew. The bar program specializes in rum; it has a wide selection of flavored and spiced, white, gold, dark, and aged varieties. And, if you're a vegetarian or vegan -- even gluten-free -- you'll find many of the specially-marked dishes especially appealing. Ask for a menu that specifies which dishes are good for each; tiny coded circles next to various dishes let you know what's meat-, dairy-, and wheat-free. An added bonus: the menu even tells you which dishes are cooked in oven (or prepared near foods) that would irritate anyone with a severe gluten allergy. Try the vegetarians' favorite picks, the grilled sweet potato soft tacos with hearts of palm, tomatillo salsa, pinto beans, cabbage, and roasted garlic pasilla aioli, or the marinated portobello mushrooms with homemade chimichurri and crispy hearts of palm over sauteed garlic kale and sofrito rice.
Simply put, this family-owned and operated restaurant prides itself on serving natural, organic, raw food, vegan and vegetarian eats -- as well as chicken, meat, and fish. Owners Richard and Shahrooz are the husband-and-wife team behind the concept; together they offer free meditation classes, free guest lecturers, and even free samples of vegan foods. They can draw upon their vast expertise on all matters health to recommend an herbal remedy or nutrition supplement for whatever ails you, and then feed you to boot. Their Simply Natural Café boasts the area's cheapest and most truly organic menu around. The meat is grass-fed and hormone-free, and even the beer and wine are organic. Take something as simple as their tadeeg -- Iranian for "bottom of the pot" -- the crispy layer of burnt rice that is heavily flavored with caramelized saffron. It's often served alongside any of their vegetarian-friendly or meat-filled meals -- but can be a joy all by itself.
For those who know and love Whiskey Tango, they know it first as a sports bar. Since opening, it's won our very own "Best of" award for three years in a row. While the bar eats are just as good as the drink specials and atmosphere, this place gets two vegetarian thumbs up in our book for its separate vegetarian and vegan-focused menu. The restaurant is an official Gardein supplier, which means there are plenty of meat-free menu items to choose from. You can create your own burger, or choose from lettuce wraps (wok-seared, minced Gardein chicken with mushrooms, green onions, and water chestnuts served over a bed of rice noodles with cool crisp lettuce cups); a meatlesss Philly cheese steak (Gardein beef sautéed with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions with vegan cheese when available); and a specialty pasta "purse" (a round of dough gathered into a ball and stuffed with a blend of imported ricotta cheese and fresh pears, and served with a light shallot cream sauce). The house favorite: a spicy Gardein rice bowl with garlic and ginger-infused rice, sautéed with Gardein chicken and mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, and red pepper flakes, topped with soy sauce.
This Delray Beach establishment owned by Donald and Beverly Jacobs is a Caribbean-inspired cafe that delivers an experience that's not predicated on the typical restaurant script of "sit, order, eat, pay, leave." Instead, this is a meal more akin to visiting someone's home, where conversation and company is as much a part of the equation as the custom-tailored plates. The heart and soul of it all is Beverly, a charismatic woman who wears her passion for food like an Atelier Versace gown. As you sit in her tiny restaurant lined with cargo nets, souvenirs, and strips of corrugated sheet metal, she'll offer you dishes like escovitch tilapia, jerk chicken and pork, and curry golden crab, the sweet legs basking in a pool of spicy brown sauce. The laid back vibe is as much a part of the experience as the wonderful food; you'll want to soak everything in as you finish with a slice of rum cake so infused with spirits you'll be breathing fire after each bite. Of course, vegetarians find themselves right at home here, too, as many of the dishes are vegetable and fruit-based.
1. Red Yabba
New to Pembroke Pines, Red Yabba All Natural Café is an eclectic, casual dining restaurant specializing in healthy Caribbean-style cuisine. The main concept of Red Yabba is to serve delicious food that sustains not only the health of the individual, but also the planet, according to co-owner Elane Stephenson. The menu is far-ranging and caters to almost everyone -- even kids. The focus for all, however, is to provide all-natural, tasty food using ingredients that are guaranteed to be non-GMO whenever possible. Animal products are free-range, as well as antibiotic- and hormone-free, while vegetables and fruits are local, fresh, and organic. Starters, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and light bites offer a variety of options. Begin with a quesadilla, either vegetarian or meaty; you can make it with non-dairy cheese and vegetables, or cage-free jerk chicken. Meat eaters feeling extra hungry? A Jamaican escovitch offers a whole fillet of local-caught snapper or mahi mahi, while curry and jerk chicken panini offer a more lunch-able option. Meanwhile, vegetarians can fill up on falafel, avocado, hummus, and veggie wraps packed with organic produce and microgreens for powerhouse platter of nutrients. There's even small raw food section featuring Pad Thai, zucchini noodles topped with carrot, bell pepper, scallion, chopped nuts, grape tomatoes and a creamy homemade peanut sauce.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger 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 Clean Plate's Instagram.
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