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October, 2010

  1. October 30, 2010 by Danielle

    I recently embarked on an impromptu vacation to Miami Beach, FL. Who knew the area was so veg-friendly? Below, a showcase of a few of the gems we discovered.

    D’vine Hookah Bar & Lounge.
    445 Lincoln Rd.
    Miami Beach, FL 33139

    Our plane got in pretty late and while most places in Miami are open well past 2am, finding vegan fare at this hour is still a challenge. A quick google search for hookah (which is almost always guaranteed to be served alongside some supa fly Mediterreanean cuisine) revealed D’vine to my [vegetarian] travelling buddy and I. Best of all it was open til 2am, “or later if requested.” On our walk to find it, we heard this place before we ever laid eyes on it; the booming of familiar Mediterreanean techno resonated for blocks in either direction. Most people were sitting outside, where several patio tables, arm chairs, and couches were scattered about beaneath a massive canopy. We ordered a slew of appetizers: a marinated olive mix, falafel platter, and sampler of taboule, baba ganoush, hummus, grape leaves, toasted pita. Our server assured us everything was completely vegan.  All of our food was delicious and fresh, with the baba ganoush being the best I’ve ever had! My only gripes were that the stuffed leaves were kind of mushy and lacking in spice, and for being listed as an “appetizer” it was odd that the falafel platter was actually in a pita and seved with fries. While it was still really good, this setup made it kind of hard to split with another person and fries were an unneccessary, overly American temptation. It was also a nice surprise that the sampler also came with olives as it wasn’t listed on the menu as such, however if we had known this we wouldn’t have ordered a huge bowl of them for $4! The hookah here seems to run between $25 and $30, $70 for a fruit base and head (e.g. watermelon base with tobacco placed in half a coconut shell), although no prices are actually listed on the menu.They offer over 40 flavors, with special add-ins such as beer, milk, hard alcohol, etc. We recommend citrus or lemon mint.

    Sweat Records.
    5505 Northeast 2nd Avenue
    Miami, FL 33137

    This. Place. Has. EVERYTHING! Coffee shop, vegan snack pitstop, record store, music venue, Sunday vegan brunch… I. Die. Upon first entering, it appears more a record shop than anything, with the “coffee shop” part taking up about 5% of the whole place and seeming more of an after thought. In fact, the first time we went here I almost felt “touristy” coming in for just a coffee and not to peruse the music, but I have to admit that the staff here are SO personable and don’t make you feel so lame that you’re borderline unfit for life (cough, Brooklyn). The espresso here is amazing, and I love that it is a 100% vegan store (they offer only non-dairy milks, and what a variety at that!). If you’re lucky you’ll stumble in when they are recently stocked with Earth Cakes vegan cupcakes or coconut macaroons, which are the only fresh baked goods they offer (everything else is pre-packaged, cookies, seitan jerky etc). They also have dub step nights and offer a vegan brunch every other Sunday, hosted by Earth Cakes. Follow them @sweatrecords for shows they promote, often held at what seems to be their sister venue, The Vagabond. Our only issue with this place (and I mean ONLY) was that it was a little hard to find the first time around; it is almost literally a hole in the wall and lacks a true sign. That being said, let your landmark be the supposedly legendary Churchill’s Pub attached next door.

    Vegetarian by Hakin.
    73 NE 167th St
    North Miami Beach, FL 33162-3402

    This is one of those places where, even if the food tasted like literal shit (and it definitely didn’t), I would still come back just because the owner is so freakin awesome. He speaks to you as if you are not only the only customers in the restaurant, but maybe even a long lost friend of kindred soul. Hakin helps this place feel like “home.” Here, the food appears to run in ever-changing “specials,” written on a white board and displayed through example platters of each dish in a glass case. Desserts and drinks were available in a small cooler. Here, we enjoyed curried seitan empanadas, philly cheesesteak with Tease-brand cheese, and rice & beans. I also indulged in a slice of their pineapple cake (not made there, but from a local vegan bakery) and my friend tried a reishi mushroom coffee. Only complaint was that the “side” of salad had absolutely no dressing on it, but I’m sure if we weren’t so busy being pigs and inhaling our food we could have requested some. The atmosphere is also very self-serve/fast-foodish, with the decor being stark and basic. Also some of the pre-packaged granola bars they were selling contained honey, but this is something only the most neurotic vegan would check for/notice (ahem).

    1311 Washington Ave.
    Miami Bch, FL 33139

    This place has so much potential to be THE “fancy Italian” vegan mecca, but sadly, it falls just short. It almost seemed as if the few raw dishes had landed themselves on the unfamiliar planet of the Escapazzo menu, considering the way the waiter still seemed to get all antsy/annoyed/confused when I started to inquire about vegan options, or the presence of an easily omittable non-vegan ingredient (butter, eggs, cream) in many otherwise vegan dishes. What was most disappointing was the chef’s failure to rise to the occassion when we requested a dish sans dairy products; rather than get creative, they simply left out that ingredient or served it on the side (for my non-vegan counterpart). This left me with a bowl of linguine (not of the homemade variety, however, as theirs contained eggs) with a pretty decent red sauce. Other notes on the meal: bread was amazing and served with olive oil (could have used a garlic infusion), roasted golden beet salad (served with ricotta on the side) was just OK, the greens in the side salad were slightly bitter and coated in a balsamic reduction that burned my mouth, the raw lasagna was actually a pile of cold vegetation & sprouts, sans red sauce, overloaded with a vegan cashew cream. The presentation of every dish was gorgeous, and the taste was better than mediocre, but I don’t know if I’d venture here again.

    NY Bagel Deli.
    6546 Collins Ave.
    Miami Beach, FL 33141

    When all is said and done,  even though they offer vegan cream cheese and soy milk I probably wouldn’t do back flips over this place. It was way overpriced ($30 for a fruit salad, 2 bagels, 2 bags of chips & 2 coffees), the service was mind numbingly slow and although the menu offered lattes, they had no idea how to do an Americano (I was handed a watered down coffee). If you do go here, cut to the chase and order yourself the most flavorful bagel they have to offer, toasted, with vegan cream cheese, avocado, tomato and sprouts. The “vegan” sandwich is simply the same thing, plus a 3 inch layer of romaine lettuce, making it bland and impossible to bite. These “sandwiches” are %9 each, granted they do come with chips or a cookie and a pickle. In a pinch, it’s a good breakfast or lunch place for a vegan staying in the north beach area, but not worth the traffic coming from the south. This time would be better spent eating a bowl of Cheerios & soymilk and using the saved time to get a headstart on your beach day.

    1431 N. Federal Hwy.
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304

    Best meal I’ve ever had in LIFE! Once I could get my jaw off the floor after seeing the place – a FULL, multi-room, fancy-shmancy restaurant.. no grunge or punk music, no fixed gear bikes parked out front, no coffee shop built in, no funky colored walls or posters, polite & well-dressed table service, a nice place you might imagine your parents going for their anniversary.. yet 100% VEGAN?! My left brain literally separated from my right and my heart almost exploded. We ordered several appetizer-type dishes, as follows: we started with a complementary basil pesto polenta, then moved on to frito misto (fried cauliflower), fried green tomatoes in a cornmeal batter with corn salsa and horseradish sauce (a special, not always available), caesar salad, florasian sushi roll (vegan mayo, cream cheese, fried avocado),  mushroom & onion pizza on a whole grain crust. Our waiter was great and offered very personalized (and sound!) reccomendations. Did I mention 100% of their profits go to AARF?

    Moshi Moshi.
    1448 Washington Ave.
    Miami Bch, FL 33139

    You’ve been to one sushi place as avegan, you’ve been to them all (save for Miya’s).  You skim the menu for “vegeatable” or, at worst, “avocado cucumber” roll, maybe a green salad with ginger dressing, shut menu. So I did some of the legwork question-asking here for you: the tempura veggies are fried in their own oil (fish and meat free), the miso soup is fish/benito flake-free, the green salad is wonderful and topped with a cute little picket fence of deep fried noodles, and the veggie roll is oversized and quite bland. However, they quite expertly obliged to my friend’s request for “avocado sashimi,” which was basically slabs of avocado laid over a wedge of rice, wrapped in seaweed. Service was slow and kind of confusing, but like I said – if you’ve been to one…

    Being a vegan immersed in the non-stop pulsing of techno and strobe lights, slipping and sliding among the uber shiny, tan men that make up Miami – I still somehow managed to scope out a few places of potential refuge. In Southpoint park, on the southernmost point of Miami Beach, one could enjoy a $7 Ashtanga/Vinyasa yoga meetup on the beach. Back on the mainland,  Coconut Grove farmer’s market offers up a tropical version of a New England favorite pasttime. On the outskirts of Miami in historic Homestead, FL, Fruit & Spice park encompasses 37 acres of over 500 species of exotic fruits, vegetables, spices etc. I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to visit any of these places, but they are definitely a good excuse for a re-visit.