Editor’s Note: Kacy Vance and her colleagues at I Love the Burg are alert to every restaurant opening, closing and tasty new trend around. So, in keeping with the dRTB May/June issue’s Health & Happiness theme, we give you their recommendations for great vegan spots in St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Pinellas Park — plus a few vegan and veggie favorites of our own elsewhere in Hillsborough and Pinellas.
Cider Press Cafe
This award-winning vegan restaurant popped up in the Burg just a few years ago, but their loyal local customer base makes it feel like the Cider Press Cafe was always a part of the Sunshine City’s culinary ecosystem. Their selection of vegan, raw and gluten-free dishes is unparalleled. Ever had the Kale- Lemon Me Softly vegan burger? With a name that would make Bob Belcher proud, this blended burger is made with mushrooms and garlic, tangy lemon aioli, charred smoked sea salt kale, red onions and cheez on a kaiser bun. What keeps us coming back? The banana maple pancakes with cheezcake and crispy eggplant bacon. Go ahead, experience this legend for yourself. 601 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, ciderpresscafe.com.
Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli
This Gulfport deli offers made-from-scratch plant-based sandwiches, salads, fresh baked goods, local coffee and beer — and best of all, Nan’s Plant Based Ice Cream, one of our favorite local brands. 2930 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport, goldendinosaurs.com.
Leafy Greens Café
A locally owned café serving the St. Petersburg community since 2008. They pride themselves on the fact that they are a completely Non-GMO restaurant and almost everything is gluten-free. The first vegan restaurant in Pinellas, it’s also the longest-running female-owned business on Central Ave. 1626 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, @stpeteleafygreens.
Lotus Vegan Restaurant
Lotus is an entirely vegan restaurant. They have all sorts of different food, from wontons to spring rolls to paninis to tacos to burgers — in other words, something for every member of your party. On top of all those choices, every third Saturday Lotus Vegan holds social events centered around a vegan buffet with 16 different dishes. 6575 Park Blvd. N, Pinellas Park, lotusvegan.us.
Love Food Central
With their website boasting “Always Vegan. Always Gluten-Free. Always Tasty,” this restaurant caters to vegans and gluten-averse people alike. We recommend the Buffalo Tempeh Sandwich, created with seared tempeh tossed in buffalo sauce served on toasted sourdough with soy-free vegenaise, romaine, tomato slice and a drizzle of homemade cashew ranch dressing with a side of chips. Before you go, be sure to check out their cashew coconut-based ice cream. 2057 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, lovefoodcentral.com.
Plant+Love Ice Cream
Plant+Love Ice Cream is 100 percent plant-based and free of dairy, gluten, and GMO. They use organic ingredients and try to reduce their carbon footprint by using as many compostable materials as possible. While they have the traditional flavors, they also offer Wellness Blends. These special blends are crafted with herbs, spices and super-foods, promoting health, wellness and happiness. We can’t wait to try on of their latest ice cream flavors, Coconut Cold Brew. 953 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, plantloveicecream.com.
Rawk Star Cafe
Rawk Star is a gluten-free raw vegan restaurant on top of being 100 percent organic. Nothing at Rawk Star is cooked. To give the food the element of heat, dehydrators are used, but nothing gets warmed beyond 110 degrees. Anything above that could kill off the naturally occurring live enzymes and probiotics in the food. Their vegan milk is made in-house from scratch. If you’re looking for the freshest of the fresh, look no further than Rawk Star Cafe. 740 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, rawkstarcafe.com.
Consistently voted the best bakery in Orlando by customers and critics, Valhalla Bakery is now open in St. Pete in the Edge District’s Baum Avenue Market, and we couldn’t be happier. We won’t mince words here; you need to try one of their giant cinnamon rolls. It is a proverbial powder keg of flavor. The menu says it’s only available on Sundays, so we suggest you get in line this weekend. Want a taste of Canada? Of course you do. Valhalla makes the Nanaimo Bar: dark chocolate coconut crust filled with a butter custard and topped in dark chocolate. 1113 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, valhallabakery.com.
But Wait, There’s More… While Kacy Vance’s story (above) focuses on strictly vegan restaurants in St. Pete and environs, the possibilities for healthy eating range far and wide across the Bay area, including newly opened Tampa spots like Dixie Dharma, longtime St. Pete staples like Meze 119, and numerous veggie-centric restaurants whose menus also offer something for carnivores.
Dixie Dharma High-quality comfort food with a Southern spin. A 100% plant-based cuisine with fare like the Florida Fried Green Tomato (pictured below): fresh green tomatoes, breaded and deep-fried, with smoked eggplant remoulade, garlicky kale and house chow chow stuffed between two thick slices of Texas toast. Heights Public Market, Armature Works, 1910 N. Ola Ave. in Tampa. —Kacy Vance (at ThatsSoTampa.com)
Fresh Kitchen The mix-and-match lineup of tasty food items at Fresh Kitchen is a case study in the three V’s: fare that’ll satisfy vegans, vegetarians and variety-seekers alike, whether they’re looking for BBQ chicken or chia seed teriyaki tofu. 4447 4th St. N., St. Petersburg; 1350 S. Howard Ave., Tampa; 4616 W. Kennedy Ave., Tampa. eatfreshkitchen.com. —David Warner
Meze 119 This multiple award-winning “vegetarian bistro” has been deservedly popular for years now. The Middle Eastern dishes (like “chikk’n” shawarma) are at once authentic and surprising. 119 2nd St. N., St. Petersburg, meze119.com. —DW
Bamboozle Cafe Bright Vietnamese flavors abound at Bamboozle. And while you’re welcome to fill your fresh roll with shrimp and pork and your banh mi with chicken pate, lemongrass tofu is a tasty option throughout the menu. 16 N. Tampa St., Tampa; 109 N. 12th St., Tampa. bamboozlerestaurants.com. —DW
Plus, try these popular spots…
TAMPA: Cafe Hey (1540 N. Franklin St.); Zentu Cafe (5908 N. Armenia Ave.); Loving Hut (1905 E. Fletcher Ave.); Farmacy Vegan Kitchen & Bakery (803 N. Tampa St. at Duckweed); Pure Kitchen Organic Vegan (3214 W. Kennedy Blvd.); Vegan International Co. (13751 N. Nebraska Ave.).
PINELLAS: Ohana Cafe (1452 Main St., Dunedin); The Green Table (3390 Tampa Rd., Palm Harbor); Nature’s Food Patch (1225 Cleveland St., Clearwater).