If you hear the words “vegan restaurant” and imagine a big plate of alfalfa sprouts you’re not exactly wrong, but most vegan restaurants offer far more than that, and many have meals that would satisfy all but the most carnivorous. Some use meat alternatives such as soy, wheat gluten or nuts to create meat and dairy substitutes that are delicious.
Other dishes don’t even try to replace the meat and make the vegetables the star of the dish. Either approach can produce quite satisfying meals. While my favorite vegan restaurant, Native Foods, hasn’t opened a South Florida branch yet (you’ll have to go to California, Chicago or D.C.), there are enough options from high end dining to fast food to satisfy vegan, vegetarians, or anyone wanting to eat a little healthier, even a “meat-aholic” like me. Give vegan a chance; you’d be surprised at how tasty the meals can be.
1431 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
Sublime is internationally renowned for owner Nanci Alexander’s vegan cuisine. Her goal is to show that plant-based food can indeed be sublime, and she succeeds admirably. You won’t feel as if you’re sitting on the floor in some hippie commune. Sublime is chic and elegant, with a gorgeous dining room (check out the waterfall wall!), gourmet creations and friendly and efficient service. If you need another reason to give Sublime a try, all of the restaurant's profits go to organizations that promote animal welfare and a vegan lifestyle.
We began our meal with the cashew cheese plate. I challenge you to compare this to the richest goat’s milk product. It is presented with a smear of olive tapenade and a small bowl of kim chee vegetables. The only negative I can offer is that it comes with only three small pieces of cracker (they call it crostini), not nearly enough for the amount of cheese offered. I asked for more and was told there would be an additional charge. That is ridiculous, given the $11 tab for this dish.
However, that’s the only negative I can offer. The black bean burger was among the best I’ve ever had and the hand cut fries were perfectly prepared. Priced at $15, it is no more expensive than comparable places (and it comes on a gluten-free bun!). The Thai red curry ($16) was equally successful. It featured crunchy bok choy, red peppers, broccoli, onion and ponzu marinated grilled tofu. It had just the right amount of heat and the sauce was so good I wanted to lick my plate. This dish usually comes with jasmine rice, but I subbed quinoa.
With a vegan meal you can splurge on dessert without feeling guilty. The options are just as enticing as the rest of the menu; carrot cake, key lime cheesecake, ice cream sundae or chocolate cake with Kahlua buttercream and chocolate ganache. While you may see the words, butter or cream, these dishes are still vegan; using dairy and egg alternatives.
While Sublime may be the best known vegan restaurant in the area, it certainly isn’t the only one. Here are some more casual spots to check out.
Green Wave Café
5221 W. Broward, Plantation
Recipes here are based on “raw” foods. This technique requires dishes to be prepared while conserving the food’s natural state of nutrition, theoretically allowing for optimal nutrient assimilation. Super Nachos include refried bean paté, a pepperjack style “cheese,” fresh guacamole and salsa served atop crisp chips made from compressed seeds, nuts and grains. The sushi roll is as yummy as it is beautiful. Other menu highlights include a Philly cheese-steak sandwich, burgers, tacos and burritos.
Green Bar & Kitchen
1075 SE 17th St., Ft. Lauderdale
Owners Elena Pezzo and Charlie Grippo started serving up vegan fare in their food truck Zenergy, before teaming up with health-conscious restaurateur, Blaise McMackin to open Green Bar & Kitchen. The menu features items including whole grains, nuts, seeds and veggies and includes sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, fruits, and cold-pressed juices and smoothies. All dishes, including bakery items are vegan and gluten-free. For those who prefer raw foods, the tacos offer up seasoned walnut “meat,” veggies and cheddar “cheese” in a lettuce cup. Buffalo tempeh is a healthy take on wings. There is an additional location at 3429 Galt Ocean Drive
1637 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale
4520 N Federal, Fort Lauderdale
The menu at this 100 percent gluten-free organic eatery features vegan and vegetarian dishes, including a raw BLT (flax bread layered with avocado spread, tomato, zucchini bacon and lettuce), quinoa veggie burger (served on savory waffle bread with soy cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions, lettuce and tomato), an eggless egg salad sandwich and delicious raw chocolate pudding.