Vegan and Vegetarian
There aren’t all that many vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Orlando, but the few that do exist are truly exceptional. Ethos Vegan Kitchen (1235 N. Orange Ave., 407/228-3898, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun., main courses from $8) has a comfort-food vibe, with lots of fresh and steamed vegetables, hearty soups, and mashed potatoes that are really just a starch bowl for the decadent gravy. Entrées like “sheep’s pie” and pecan-crusted eggplant are joined on the menu by pasta dishes, sandwiches, and pizza, all of which are 100 percent vegan.
Dandelion Communitea Cafe (618 N Thornton Ave., 407/362-1864, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Mon., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–6 p.m. Sun., main courses from $8) isn’t completely vegan, but it’s close, and all of their sandwiches, soups, salads, and starters are vegetarian and built out of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Add to that a selection of all-organic teas and a palpable commitment to the local community and ecological causes, and it would be easy to assume that the vibe in Dandelion might be preachy or didactic. In fact, the opposite is true, and the environment is both welcoming and homey; in fact, it’s in a gaily painted repurposed house.
A frequent complaint of vegetarians is “fake-out food,” those odd-tasting and unsatisfying dishes that purport to be meatless analogs of fleshy entrées. Garden Cafe (810 W. Colonial Dr., 407/999-9799, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Tues.–Fri., noon–10 p.m. Sat.–Sun., main courses from $10) is the sort of place that should silence such complaints. The Chinese menu is completely meatless, from the pepper steak to the sesame chicken. Of course, the trick here is the exceptional sauces used by the kitchen, but hey, that’s the way it is in any Chinese restaurant, right? While the atmosphere is somewhat lacking (it’s in a reconstituted Pizza Hut), the succulent guilt-free dishes more than make up for such minor shortcomings and will appeal to meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition