It started as just a simple girl’s day out, but after a great brunch, an extended stay at the nail salon, and a chat between friends over cupcakes, it turned out to be so much more.
Cinco de Mayo 2015 will go down as the very first time that I took part in the celebration. I will admit that my celebration of the day, that at the time I had completely no idea what it represented, was a mistake. How does one celebrate Cinco de Mayo by mistake? Well, in an attempt to schedule a much needed drink outing with a friend on a dead night in downtown Orlando, I, ironically, scheduled our outing on what is probably one of the most rowdiest days in the year. Before I could even think of rescheduling, I received an email from Ethos Vegan Kitchen alerting me to their special Cinco de Mayo menu, and the rest, as they say, was vegan history.
Every morning from Monday to Friday, you can find me on Central Florida’s 408 toll road heading east for what can be between a 30 to 45 minute rush-hour drive to work. I have come to really not enjoy this drive. Because I dislike it so much, I make it a point to make this journey only when necessary, which for me is only during the weekday. However, a few weekends ago after lucking up on one of Scott Joseph’s, a famed Central Florida food critic, NPR clips I decided that I had to add one more long drive to my week to try one of Central Florida’s newest restaurants: Spoleto.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hungry! I was both hungry and, because I have been partaking in a little retail therapy over the past few weeks, a bit economically challenged. Before checking my bank account earlier that morning, I had great plans of visiting this upscale Mexican restaurant and then sharing my great meat-free findings. However, upscale anything just did not fit into my budget. So, I had to downgrade my lunch plans. Not wanting to use up too much gas and with my new $15 or under budget, I decided to finally try a restaurant that was probably no more than 10 minutes away. I was a bit skeptical until the amazing smells floating from Ocoee’s That One Spot Burgers hit my nose.
I spent a beautiful Sunday afternoon tasting a few customer favorites from downtown Orlando’s Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar. Its eclectic and funky vibe is the perfect back drop to its diverse menu. Meat eaters, vegetarians, and even vegans can find something to enjoy!
I really like grilled cheese sandwiches. Who doesn’t? It has to be one of the simplest dishes ever. It’s just bread and cheese. I especially like a great grilled cheese sandwich with a side of fries. Although my jury duty ended a day early, which meant that my meat-free food journey through downtown Orlando also had an early end, I decided to treat myself to one last day of eating out for lunch. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted, but I knew that I just wanted something quick and simple. After going through my saved list of “places to try later” on Foursquare, I decided to go ahead and give Toasted a try. It had been sitting on that list untampered with for far too long.
This past week, I participated in what many tried very hard to convince me was an honor. I was a “willing” participant in jury duty. Although I was quite happy to be doing something out of the ordinary on a random Monday, that happiness quickly turned into disappointment once my juror number was called to participate on what would become a 3-day trial. But with my ability and knack for thinking quick on my feet, I immediately had an idea that would turn my bag of lemons into a perfectly-made pitcher of lemonade. I would document my time in downtown Orlando the best way I knew how: through food! With little thought, I quickly chose Orange Avenue’s Whitewood Modern Mediterranean Grill to begin my meat-free journey through downtown Orlando, and what a great decision it was!
I lucked up on Winter Park’s Sleeping Moon Cafe through a series of unfortunate events. If things had gone as I had planned the day before I took my most recent meat-free food adventure, it would have probably been months before I even heard about the cafe. But thankfully, two locally-owned vegetarian friendly restaurants that I had visited before and was excited about sharing with you, just did not display the type of customer service that made me comfortable to dine there. So, I left. Both places. Without hesitation. After my second “walk out,” I did a quick Foursquare search and Sleeping Moon Cafe popped up in the search results, and the rest was history.
For the past 5 months, I have unknowingly been driving right by what would become a place that I would come to rave about to my friends and family. So you don’t make the same mistake as I did, allow me to introduce you to Mamak Asian Street Food. If you live in Central Florida, it is quite easy to 1. miss it on your drive down the always-busy Colonial Drive and 2. not think much of it as its street appearance is quite unassuming. Being the adventure eater that I am, after the 1,000th time of passing by wondering what on earth was going on inside, I did a bit of research, liked what I saw, and decided to call up a friend to try the place out with me. One bite in, and I knew that Mamak would be a place that I would come to again and again.
A few weeks ago, a follower of my Facebook page reached out to me and asked if we could meet up and have a chat at one of my favorite restaurants. Sure! I responded. That was the easy part. Selecting the restaurant was the hard part, because whatever place I chose would either confirm my prowess as a foodie or completely invalidate this idea that I have of myself (and that I hope others have of me). There were so many unanswered questions: would I take her to a vegan restaurant, a vegetarian restaurant, or to a regular restaurant with vegan and/or vegetarian dishes? Would we go for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner? Whatever place I chose, it had to be a great representative of me. It took some time for me to come to my senses, but when I did, Ethos Vegan Kitchen was waiting right there for me, right under my nose.
To say that I had been dying to go to Prato would be an understatement. It was probably about two years ago that I was walking with my family down Winter Park’s trendy and upscale Park Ave, when either my nephew offered or I suggested that he get me a gift card to one of the many restaurants that lined the street. Either way, he obliged and for the last few years, I have had my Prato gift card packed safely away waiting for the perfect moment to use it. This past Friday, I decided that it was time, so I took the day off from work and tried the vegan and vegetarian side of Prato, and loved every bite!
There’s just something about Dandelion Communitea Cafe. From the huge plate of vegan nachos to the overstuffed wraps and weekly poetry/comedy nights, the eclectic restaurant is one of the best places in Central Florida that mixes great vegetarian and vegan food with a great cultural experience.
Every meat lover in Central Florida is probably well-aquainted with Yellow Dog Eats. With a menu stuffed with pulled pork created into pretty much any type of arrangement imaginable, why wouldn’t they be? By the time I got wind of the amazingness that happens at YDE, I had already kicked meat from my diet, so I have only dined on their famous bbq’d meats through my nose. On the occasions that I found myself at the very quaint and homey restaurant, I would just order the smoked salmon wrap. Wanting to try something a little different this go ’round, on my recent visit I decided to see if their vegan dishes were as good as I’ve read their meat dishes were. Based on the reviews that I’ve read about their pulled pork, I can say with certainty that they give the same amount of attention to their meats as they do in preparing their vegan dishes.
Before I had even finished what would presumably be the first of many meals at Se7en Bites, I was already contemplating my next visit. It was that good. If you know me or have followed my blog for awhile, this is very telling. When it comes to eating out, I have about 2-3 places that I have on my go-to list. But for the most part, I am a stick and move kind of girl. I am happy to admit that Se7en Bites and its vegetarian friendly menu has made it onto my “go-back” list.
The moment that I received an email alerting me to Infusion Tea’s new seasonal menu, I knew that I had to go and try it, and ASAP. So, this past weekend I headed to what has become one of my favorite vegetarian/vegan eateries and ordered 2 items that I had yet to try: one from the new seasonal menu and one of the menu mainstays that I just never seemed to order.
From the first moment that I tried pad thai, I loved it. In the early days, my pad thai dish would always come topped with chicken. These days, I still love pad thai, just sans the meat. So, after hearing about how awesome Winter Park’s Thai Place was, I was really excited to try their pad thai… with tofu just for me!