Where to Eat If You’re a Vegan in Orlando
Just as in other big cities around the country, Orlando has experienced a renaissance of vegan, aka plant-based, food of late. Whatever its name, the City Beautiful’s kitchens are indeed turning out some beautiful, animal-free food. Here are a few of our favorites.
Ethos Vegan Kitchen
One of the oldest vegan restaurants in Orlando—Winter Park to be more specific—Ethos Vegan Kitchen is a classic that never seems to disappoint. In addition to a dinner menu featuring pastas, sandwiches, salads, and mains like the pecan-crusted eggplant, there’s a line out the door every Saturday and Sunday for brunch. Try the breakfast burrito, stuffed with potatoes, tofu scramble, and seitan sausage, with a side of “sausage” gravy, and you’ll swear you’re chowing down in a Southern grandma’s kitchen. You’ll want to order a side of the chocolate chip pancakes for the table too, if they’re available.
Dandelion Communitea Café
Another standard-bearer for vegan food in Orlando, this Thornton Park gem occupies a cozy old bungalow and features one of Orlando’s nicest patios for a cold beer or glass of wine. The Dandelion menu is heavy on whole foods, and guests can build their own bowl or wrap featuring grains and greens. Sides include some of the city’s best hummus and a daily rotating homemade soup. If you’re going by the book, choose the FLT, or “Fakin’,” Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich, with perfectly spiced and marinated strips of tempeh, lettuce, and tomato sandwiched between two pieces of sourdough bread, slathered with basil aioli.
The Sanctum Café
Occupying an unlikely spot in a small strip mall just off Colonial Drive, this newcomer opened to a splash and hasn’t looked back since. Small tables line the wall and there’s a large, rustic farmhouse-style community table up front, creating a congenial atmosphere. Like Dandelion Café, Sanctum takes a whole-foods approach to vegan cuisine, and forgoes any fake meats or substitute products for flavorful bowls featuring greens, grains, or pasta. With a little bit of everything, the DiPaolo pasta bowl features brown rice pasta tossed in homemade pesto, spiralized zucchini noodles, crimini mushrooms, and roasted eggplant. It’s finished with a tempeh “meetball,” crispy baked polenta, and greens. A few items here do contain dairy or eggs, so be sure to ask ahead, especially if you come in for breakfast.
Market on South/Valhalla Bakery
If you want to impress your non-vegan friends with just how tasty and “like regular food” vegan food can be, bring them to Market on South. In fact, don’t tell them that it’s vegan and watch with amusement as they tuck into a Carolina BBQ sandwich, blissfully unaware that they’re actually eating pulled jackfruit, which has a consistency much like pulled pork. And the glorious dessert case by the checkout counter? All vegan as well, although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s low-cal. A YOLO (a chocolate chip cookie sandwich filled with rich buttercream) is big enough to share, although that doesn’t mean you’ll want to.
Also in Winter Park, upscale Daya is a new entry to the vegan dining scene and the perfect place to bring a veg or veg-curious date. Your black-clad server will approach your table with an iPad—the restaurant strives to cut down on paper waste by emailing receipts and providing straws only upon request, among other things—and you can begin your meal with a heart of palm cake or cauliflower tempura bowl. Mains include an all-veggie take on classics such as enchiladas and lasagna, and don’t overlook sides like truffle fries or decadent desserts including a warm chocolate cake.
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