Vegan In Northern Florida – Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Winter Park, & Orlando + One Of The Best Days Of The Whole Trip!
From Atlanta I drove down to Jacksonville, Florida. I arrived in the evening and couldn’t find a single vegan or vegetarian restaurant in town. I ended up going to a Thai place where the server knew “vegan” and had a few recommendations. Perfect! The next morning I stopped at Native Sun Natural Foods Market to stock up on a few things, just in case. This store is AWESOME!! They have a great fresh juice bar and more ready-made vegan food stuffs than I’ve seen in any other health food store. I might have taken a few pics out of excitement. :)
Bottom line: if you ever find yourself in Jacksonville and either don’t want to go out to eat or are having a hard time finding a veg-friendly restaurant, simply hit up Native Sun. You won’t be disappointed!!
My First Televised Video Interview!
Thanks to a connection made by Kim Smith, from The Healthy Planet of Brevard, I met up with Julie Watkins, a local green reporter and meteorologist with the CBS and FOX affiliate in Jacksonville, Florida. She is also the President of The Girls Gone Green, a group focused on bringing veg awareness to Jacksonville (she also gave me the tip about Native Sun. Thanks, Julie!). The Girls Gone Green host the annual Northeast Florida VegFest, a No Meat March initiative, and have recently started a weekly installment called i Know Jax which features stories that embrace a green and healthy lifestyle. It just so happens that the timing was right and Julie put together the following clip on the trip for i Know Jax, as I was passing through Jacksonville. :)
Immediately following the interview with Julie I popped over to the nearby Farmers’ Market at Jarboe Park. Thank you for another great recommendation, Julie! :) As far as I knew there were no all-vegan anythings in Jacksonville, until I happened upon Shakti Life Kitchen at this very Farmers’ Market. How cool!
I talked to Carrie, one of the founders of Shakti, and learned that she had founded the company three and a half years ago. It’s all organic, raw, and vegan. Shakti started as a cafe but after some business analytics they decided to become wholesalers. Shakti can now be found in five different Jacksonville-area stores as well as on the menu at European Street Cafe.
“The biggest focus for us is the raw element. It’s understanding that energy matters and that energy in the food will then be translated into us. And we’ll feel wonderful, more connected to the earth, our concious will raise and everybody will vibrate beautifully,” said Carrie.
Carrie became vegan through being connected to her veg friend, Heather while also reaching an unhealthy tipping point in her life. She was thirty-three years old, exhausted, tired, and generally unhappy with her life. One day she had just finished off an ice cream cake that she had been eating every day, since Easter. She then thought of her healthy, vegan friend, Heather and decided to dump out the coffee she had been drinking, give Heather a call and they had dinner that night at Present Moment Cafe. From that moment she went completely raw. She started at seven days, which then turned into thirty, and then seven months. She felt amazing and decided to start a business in order to help spread the word about the healing powers of raw, vegan, organic food. Hence, Shakti Life Kitchen!
It was a pleasure chatting with you, Carrie! Thanks for taking the time and good luck with future Shakti endeavors!! :)
Following my stop at the Jacksonville Farmers’ Market I drove down State Road A1A on my way to St. Augustine. It was beautiful!!
A mere hour later I arrived in St. Augustine but definitely wasn’t hungry yet, what with the filling snacks I had picked up earlier in the day. So I decided to first do some work at a local outdoor Internet Cafe. After that I walked around a little bit. I really like St. Augustine! It’s a bit touristy but it’s got a lot of character and is really quite beautiful.
Finally, I was hungry again and it was time for dinner at Present Moment Cafe. !!!!!! (<– this is how I express internal excitement, via text…other forms include “squee” and “Eee” ;) I had no idea just how fun and unexpected it would be to dine here. Are you ready for a random pick-up story? Ha!
Present Moment Cafe -100% vegan
224 West King Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084
My notes regarding the decor/atmosphere are kind of funny. So I’m just going to share them as is: “The vibe is so *bleeping* cool, chill, grungy but clean, hot ladies rockin’ cool tattoos all over the place. Easy parking in the back. Packed with customers. Yay!”
I sat at the bar admiring the super hot bartenders. Yeah, I said it. They had beautiful tattoos and great style. They’re hot! What can I say? Anyway… so, I sat at the bar and ordered the Chipotle Kale Soup to start. It was quite spicy but extremely delicious. It might have been a special because I don’t see it on their online menu now. However, it was super yums, if you like spicy food.
As I was taking pictures of the soup a gentlemen walked in and sat next to me, a bit closer than one would expect from a stranger, at a bar that wasn’t terribly crowded. Ha… After maybe a minute or two he leaned over and said, “Can I read you the opening to a chapter from this book?” He was holding an open book about tattoo artistry and religion. I was so thrown off that I said, “sure!” He went on to read a relatively interesting passage from the book and we talked about it for a minute. I definitely wasn’t warm at first and kinda gave him the bug eye. But after I realized he knew some of the [hot, tattooed] servers/bartenders who were chatting me up earlier, I softened and we ended up having dinner together there, at the bar.
It was definitely one of the more unique “pick up” approaches I’ve experienced (That’s right, Jesse! I totally included your pick-up attempt in this post, ha!! ;). Anyhow, it made for a lovely time and ended up chatting with the others who work at Present Moment. As a result I was able to secure safe, overnight parking near one of their homes. So it all worked out quite perfectly. (Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I totally would have kneed him in the junk if I felt threatened! ::bats eyelashes::)
Oh, by the way, the brave guy with the book is Jesse. He’s a local St. Augustine tattoo artist. Check out his work at here. Let’s get back to the food, shall we? :)
Below are two poorly-lit photos of my dinner and dessert. For the main course I had the Taco Salad, which was so amazingly delicious. I was also gifted a sample plate of Present Moment’s samosas. Yumm-o!! And for dessert I enjoyed Brownie Sundae. Oooooh yes, oh yes, oh yes!! One of THE best raw desserts I’ve ever had!! The ice cream was incredibly creamy and don’t even get my started on the brownie. Oh my!!!!! And the black cherries thrown in? Oh I was on cloud nine, for sure. Thanks for the recommendation, Jesse! :)
After dinner I headed to Morgan’s place – one of the servers/bartenders. She let me park nearby her place, where there was secure, overnight parking. Thanks again for that, Morgan!!! :)
All-in-all, the above few events/eateries made for what has become one of the best days of the trip so far. Just all around, it was one of the happiest days I recall: between the discovereis at Nature’s Sun Natural Foods Market, my first televised interview with Julie, the beautiful drive down the coast, the great outdoor internet cafe, the beautiful scenery in St. Augustine, the wonderful dinner at Present Moment Cafe, thanks to the staff (Kristen and Morgan) and to Jesse. The combo was almost too much to handle.. that’s how great of a day it was. ::happy sigh::
This day also made me realize something else – you never really know who you are until you’ve spent quality time by yourself. Totally dependent only on yourself, for some time. Even if it’s just a day. I also never knew how much I liked being near the water until my afternoon spent in St. Augustine. It settle me right down and I felt calm and at peace. It was interesting, for sure. I loved that I was able to experience this day solo. Just soaking it all up and sitting with myself. Not sure really where I’m going with all this… but just to say, the trip has/is turning me into a totally and completely different person; a better more improved version of who I was before I started this journey. And I couldn’t be happier. <3
The next morning I headed to Winter Park, Florida to check out another raw restaurant. When I first arrived in Florida, by the way, I realized that Gerty’s a/c didn’t work. I considered getting it fixed but thought I’d wait it out for as long as possible. So, in the meantime I was driving with all possible windows down or open (some of them hinge from the bottom). As I rolled up the window on the driver’s side, once arriving in Winter Park (what a cute town, btw) the lining on one side (which is responsible for keeping the window properly aligned) popped up.
I spent the next ten minutes trying to coax the window back up without catching on…whatever it was catching on. I ended up using a piece of paper to help guide it up and out of the door. The window had never truly rolled up properly so I figured it was a matter of time before it busted. But it stinks either way. So now, as of today (a couple months later), I can only roll it down a few inches before it goes off-track again. Makes for interesting toll booth ticket pick ups and payments! ;)
After resolving the window debacle I headed to Cafe 118 Degrees for an early lunch. Yahoo!!!
Café 118° – 100% raw, vegan
153 East Morse Blvd.
Winter Park, FL 32789
This restaurant is great!! There is comfy outdoor seating, calming music playing in the background, knowledgable staff, and I wanted to try absolutely everything on the menu!! Believe it or not, that rarely happens with me. While I enjoy a wide variety of noms I hardly want EVERYthing on one single menu. This place is all-raw and offers juices, smoothies, milkshakes, amazing entrees AND desserts. Ahhhh!!! Therefore, I opted for a light main meal and TWO desserts. Ha! ;)
Hello, pineapple, celery, mint juice. Oooooh yes!!!!!!!! So friggin’ refreshing. ::slurp::
For the main course I had the Crispy Vegetable Rolls – red and white cabbage tossed in almond dressing, shredded carrot, avocado, and cashews with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. These rolls are WONDERFUL! I could totally eat them without the sauce (which, from my experience, is rare…usually I prefer to slather the rolls in whatever sauces accompany them). But these rolls are extremely fresh and yummy. The sauce is nothing like anything I’ve had before. It sort of has an applesauce consistency. It’s perfectly sweet with a hint of cinnamon. Simply beautiful.
I tried to get a clear pic of that little swirly-doo that’s peeking out of the corner of this roll. Do you see it?? How cute is that?!?! Awwww Eeehehehe! This Camera+ iPhone app continues to impress me.
Aaaaas I mentioned earlier, I chose to try two of Cafe 118’s desserts. They just sounded way too good to pass up. And Lordy me, I’m sooo glad I made this decision. Ha!! Hold on tight, y’all!!
I give you, a vegan s’more! ::extends hands, presentation-style:: Deeeeelectable! The graham cracker part was freaking amazing. It was kind of soft-ish and the ‘mellow filling was incredibly light and sweet. And the chocolate sauce. Oh heavens, yes!!
And now for one of Florida’s show stoppers: introducing THE best vegan ice cream of all time – CACAO MINT CHIP, as presented by Cafe 118°!!!!! Per my notes, “I JUST DIED AND WAS REBORN BECAUSE OF THIS ICE CREAM!! BEST RAW ICE CREAM… no, no, BEST ice cream EVER (raw, vegan, or otherwise). Soooo *bleeping* creamy, and the cacao chunks on top, *BLEEP!* Don’t leave here without trying this ice cream!”
Um, so yeah. I think that about sums it up. ;)
Then I drove to Orlando and stopped by the one place that was open on a Monday (or maybe it was a Sunday? –> Both of these days of the week continue to haunt me while on this trip), a Loving Hut.
Loving Hut – 100% vegan
2101 East Colonial Dr.
Orlando, FL 32803
The day that I visited this Loving Hut they were having a buffet-style, dine-in menu. I paid a flat fee, it was really cheap too, like $12 or something like that for all-you-can-eat buffet. Pretty good, pretty good.
The most interesting thing about dining at this Loving Hut during a buffet is that it appeared as though some customers were not vegan. Not that I was judging or anything but sometimes you can just tell. You know what I mean? Eh? Anyway…under normal circumstances the Loving Hut looping television broadcasts can be a bit…um…interesting. But on this day I enjoyed people watching and seeing them for-real watching the Supreme Master Ching Hai talk about veganism, and then discussing it at their tables. Kinda cool. I also wrote down this quote, from one of the broadcasts: “Even if we don’t kill but eat something that has been killed we are indirectly killing and the animal suffers,” said Supreme Master Ching Hai.
Next up is Dandelion Communitea Cafe. They weren’t originally on my list (man, I say that a lot!) but some veg friends coaxed me into going as it’s a wildly popular, local veg destination.
Dandelion Communitea Cafe – 80% vegan
618 N Thornton Ave.
Orlando, FL 32803
I like what they say on their website, here: “More than just a cafe, Dandelion is a gathering place for a diverse cross-section of people in the community with regular cultural events such as art opening’s, poetry night, eco-networking, eco-film nights, moon circles, weekly vegan potluck’s and other special events to keep the love groovin’ right along.”
I had the Summer of Love Rolls – a delicate rice wrap hugs a medley of herbs & veggies ready to dive head over heels into dreamy coconut peanut sauce. Yum! Along with a quinoa wrap, of sorts. It was great! Oh and check out that unique artwork (third pic down).
Then it was time to venture to an all-vegan bakery that had my name written all over it.
Raphsodic Bakery – 100% vegan
710 North Mills Ave.
Orlando, FL 32803
This bakery is super cute, love the decor! They’ve also got a cool bathroom (pic below) and their sweets are fantastic. I tried two cupcakes, the Wake Up and the Lemon Ginger. Delightful!! The person working was super kind and helpful too. And despite being in a less-than-comfortable-feeling neighborhood, it looked as though business was great. That just warms my heart!! Oh and they’ve got a number of gluten-free goodies too. AND their packaging is really cute too (more pics below). Definitely worth checking out if you’re in Orlando.
Before heading to dinner I scoped out an internet cafe to do some writing. I decided on a place called Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this randomly selected coffee shop just so happened to offer a variety of vegan noms including soup, sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and sweets. Just wanted to mention it as I’d totally go here to hang out, do work, and eat. The food is on the fast-food side of the spectrum, and I didn’t try any, but it looked great and has many great reviews on Yelp!. At the very least, it was a nice surprise.
Okay, okay, okay for all y’all who have said to me, “OMG have you been to Ethos yet?” I can now say: Yes, gosh darn it, I have. And it will be totally cool if you never ask me that again. ;) I kid, I kid. No but really. I hope that you read this blog post before you ask me if I’ve ever been to Ethos. Ha! :)
Ethos Vegan Kitchen – 100% vegan
1235 North Orange Ave, #101
Orlando, FL 32804
**NOTE: They’re moving to Winter Park at the end of July 2012**
You know the drill, if a restaurant comes with a lot of hype, I tend to go in with grand expectations. Ethos didn’t do too bad. ;) The decor is lovely, very comfortable and casual. The outdoor seating was plentiful and looked great. It’s an order-at-the-bar style restaurant…they give you a number/ticket and you sit and wait for the food.
I had the What’s the Dilly, Philly – sautéed marinated seitan with onions, red and green peppers, mozzarella cheese, and veganaise. You might recall my over-the-top post about Blackbird Pizzeria’s Philly Cheesesteak-style sandwich (and they’re IN Philly, to boot); per my notes, “Uh oh, Blackbird has a contender!!! Wow!” The sauce is something special, that’s for certain. The sandwich as a whole is rich, creamy, and has hearty chunks of delicious seitan. The red peppers, onions, and cheese accompanied by s lightly-browned-on-the-inside baguette made for an award winning combination. In addition, I LOVE that you can get their sandwiches with a side of fruit. Hello, watermelon!!
Here’s what’s coming up in the next Florida post (there will be many Florida posts, btw):
– Happy Healthy Human, Indian Harbour Beach
– Christopher’s Kitchen, Palm Beach Gardens
– Darbster, West Palm Beach
– Hippocrates Health Institute, West Palm Beach
– Sublime, Ft. Lauderdale