Veg-Friendly Key West

31 Mar

Key West

Wow, what an awesome week! I spent my birthday in style with a vacation to Key West, Florida. When it comes to food, Key West, being an island, is typically known for its seafood. However, there is a nice variety of vegan food available. Ranging from Mexican, to Thai, to American, your hunger needs are covered. Though I regrettably did not take pictures of most of my food, here is a run down of some of the vegan food options available:

Salsa Loca
Salsa Loca is a nice little Mexican restaurant. Their chips and salsa were tasty and their guacamole not bad. It looked as though it was made in a food processor and didn’t have the nice avocado chunks that fresh guacamole tends to have. Though it is always great as an appetizer whether it is fresh or not! For an entrée I enjoyed the Veggie Fajitas sans rice as I was told it is prepared with chicken broth. The beans were full of flavor and the fajita vegetables themselves (green and red bell peppers, mushrooms and onions) were simple, seemingly just fried in oil. These were served with a side of ensalada (salad) and a dollop of guacamole. Also enjoyed at my table was the Veggie Sincronizada, which is described on Salsa Loca’s menu as, “grilled tortillas stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, & topped with sliced avocados”. It was ordered without cheese and was decent I’m told, though it could have had a little more flavor. I’ve also heard that at least a couple of items are available with potatoes rather than meat, though I did not see these options on the menu. Perhaps they are available by special request?

Help Yourself
Next up is Help Yourself. This cute cafe/storefront has a little farmer’s market on Mondays, which offers excellent fresh produce. There is even a man there who sells fresh coconuts. For $5 he’ll cut open the end of a coconut with his machete, leaving you with fresh coconut water straight from the source. It is recommended to squeeze fresh lime juice into the coconut before drinking the water as it provides a more palate-pleasing flavor. Afterwards you can have the man split the coconut in half, allowing you to scrape out the coconut meat and enjoy that as well. Yum!

Help Yourself prides themselves in using fresh, organic produce, and don’t use refined grains, sugars or unhealthy fats. I ordered their lasagna which is described on their menu as, “layers of zucchini, brazil nut meat, pesto, fresh tomatoes, marinara, served with a green salad.” Thinly sliced zucchini replaces the pasta in this lasagna. Creative! My sister had half of the TLT wrap (marinated tempeh, lettuce, tomato, avocado, chipotle mayonnaise and mixed greens) and the other half, the English Garden wrap (raw vegetables, garden herbs, pesto, mayonnaise and mixed greens). Help Yourself creatively makes their own mayonnaise, cream cheese, and other normally dairy-based condiments, with cashews and other natural ingredients. Now this isn’t the type of food that is laden with salt and sugar like your typical American fare. Instead, the food’s natural flavors are brought to the forefront providing a fresh, satisfying flavor. Also sampled from Help Yourself was the Fruit Parfait, and Chocolate Buzz, Tropical Green, and Purple Jungle smoothies. I enjoyed the Fruit Parfait with the exception of the yogurt they used. It tasted very strongly of coconut which is good, but it could have used a little sweetener, perhaps agave, to tone down the dominating flavor a bit. Their granola is delicious and the smoothies were very good. The Chocolate Buzz smoothie was the favorite by far.

Sugar Apple Natural Foods
A cute, well-stocked natural grocery store with an attached all-vegan kitchen (the only one I know of in Key West), Sugar Apple is my favorite vegan destination in Key West. This establishment is not to be judged by its size, but rather the delicious flavor that comes from within. The banana-peach smoothie was cold, delicious and refreshing, and the Pesto Rice with Tofu packed with flavor. Though the dish was a bit on the salty side, it was delicious and came with a nice salad, in which I opted for the Key Lime Vinaigrette dressing. Also enjoyed were the Tofurky Sub and Vegetarian Italian Sub which contained various types of vegan meat slices. The food was filling and very tasty. I would have loved to go back here and tried more of their dishes and hope to do so in the future!

Peanut Butter N’ WHAT?
This fun place features peanut butter in every menu item. Simply reading the menu will give you a good chuckle as they have some creative and funny names for some of their offerings. Peanut Butter N’ WHAT? offers a variety of items ranging from tofu squares to tacos to sandwiches to desserts, and includes some rather interesting ingredients such as jalapeños, mustard and carrots. A selection of items can be made vegan and the friendly people behind the counter are happy to answer any questions you might have. We enjoyed the Banana Surprise and Nutty Banana Nuggets. Both dishes had fresh bananas covered in warm peanut butter. The Banana Surprise also came with raisins and warm chocolate dipping sauce, and the Nutty Banana Nuggets were topped with peanut butter Captain Crunch cereal, which the friendly man behind the counter made sure was vegan. Great place to stop by even if for a snack!

The Cafe
The Cafe is a nice, hip sit-down restaurant offering many vegan options, noted by a star on their menu. I had the Curried “Chicken” Salad Sandwich which was delicious. Available on ciabatta or whole wheat bread and accompanied by a marinated bean salad, this dish contained slivered almonds and grapes along with vegan chicken slices. The curry provided a nice kick but not too much. Other items sampled were the Falafel Sandwich (also delicious) and Grilled Tofu Salad, which was good but the tofu needed more flavor. Otherwise it was fresh and satisfying. I would have loved to try their vegan carrot cake or coconut cake but unfortunately my pleasantly full belly would not allow for it.

Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour
Though obviously not a food establishment, I have to mention Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour as not only does the tour include a leisurely bicycle ride around beautiful, breezy Key West, you also get to sample fresh food along the way. Run by a guy named Lloyd who is overflowing with character, we were led through the island and allowed to sample fresh avocado with lime juice and this delicious Spike seasoning, as well as fresh coconut milk with lime and aged coconut meat (which is crunchy and tasty unlike young coconut). We also enjoyed some fresh tamarind and these deliciously sweet cherries straight from the plant. Unfortunately I do not know the name of the cherries but I can tell you that they contained three seeds in each. Very interesting and unlike your typical tart cherry.

Have You Been to Key West?
I’d love to hear about what you had there and other fun vegan findings you’ve found!

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