Food News

The Sugar Monkey Speaks: Five Favorite Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in South Florida

Jennifer Reed is a pastry chef based in South Florida, and owner of The Sugar Monkey. Every week, she'll share her insights about life, local food and the people who cook it.

I've been a hardcore vegetarian for two days now. What reason do I have for making this radical lifestyle change? Now that we are officially in bar-b-q season, with the smell from neighboring grills wafting over the treetops into my backyard? Now that pork in every way, shape, and form is so popular it deserves (and rightfully so) its own food group? What about that burger craze that's overtaking South Florida? How could I possibly be doing this now?

It's because of my pork chop.

The little guy comes to me every day when I sit down -- right there at the top of my waistband! Recently he's been surfacing more and more. And not always when I am sitting down.

I am a pastry chef by trade, so in the season I am very busy, constantly working, on my feet, running around. I don't have time to stand around shoving cupcakes and truffles in my mouth like some people picture pastry chefs doing. I am still amazed that people, upon seeing me, tell me I must not taste what I make because I don't weigh 200 pounds. Truth be told, after seeing chocolate mousse day after day, all it really makes me want to do is eat cheeseburgers of the rare cow kind. And cupcakes. I can eat a lot of cupcakes.

So summertime for me means idle time, which means cheeseburger/bbq/beer time. I suppose I could try to eat a little less, exercise a little more, and basically practice some self-restraint. But I think I am missing that portion of my brain. (I think I lost it at 18.) So a drastic lifestyle change is really what I decided I needed.

And since I am married, that means my husband needed it, too.

Three days ago, he got the text to let him know he was now a vegetarian and he would no longer be drinking. I lumped that last one in just because the pork chop really likes his beer. My husband's a chef, so it hit him hard. But since this whole change is on my terms, there are a couple of amendments to my whole hardcore vegetarianism. We can drink on the weekends. (Hey, it's the summertime and we're chefs!) We can also eat meat on weekends. (Come on, cold turkey while everyone around me grills their burgers and wipes sticky ribs off their fingers? Not a chance.)

Here are five vegetarian-friendly restaurants we will be frequenting:

Gratify -- 125 Datura St., West Palm Beach -- for house-made chips and dips, and an ice cold Sweaty Betty.

Middle East Bakery & Grocery -- 327 5th St., West Palm Beach -- I go here for the falafel sandwich, roasted cauliflower with tahini, and fattoush.

Hot Pie Pizza -- 123 S. Olive, West Palm Beach -- You gotta try the Johnny's New Yorker, Classic Pie with kalamata olives and broccoli rabe

Darbster Waterside Bistro -- 8020 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach -- for the Palm Cakes and Enchiladas

Shake Shack -- 1111 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach  --- My pick here is the 'Shroom Burger -- probably not the best thing for the pork chop, but I go ahead and wash it down with a Shackmeister Ale!

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Jennifer Reed