When you think of vegetarians and being vegan if you’re like me you usually picture some crunchy restaurants and health food stores run by hippies–and that’s because I was vegan for a short while and still try to eat vegan for about 2/3 of my meals. While, veganism hasn’t exactly gone mainstream, being a vegan isn’t easy in certain cities like Miami. Now, I know I write about luxury so you may be thinking, where is this coming from? Well, after being in Miami and being vegan I found it difficult to eat at luxe restaurants. Miami is all about the glitz and glamour, so when you picture South Beach you don’t picture hippies, right? As difficult as it once was., things have gotten more progressive–even in Miami. It isn’t yet at the level of New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, but, I have to say, Miami’s veggie-friendly scene has grown steadily in recent years.–even at its best restaurants. So I asked my vegan sister who lives in Miami for her top picks for vegans and vegetarians in the city that lives to party! And she picked lots of trendy spots that non-vegans will be thrilled to try as well. After all, the number one challenge to being a well-adjusted vegan or vegetarian is keeping those carnivores in your life happy too! Here’s what my sis had to say:
As a vegan who moved to Miami in 2005, I was shocked to realize that there wasn’t a single Whole Foods in the entire city–you can take my word for it. I’m happy to report there are now! I’ve rounded up the best vegetarian and vegan-friendly spots to check out in the lovely Magic City! Feel free to let me know if I’ve forgotten one or two of your favorites in the comments! I love discovering new places and hope Travelingpanties readers will too!
Choices Cafe: (379 SW 15th Road, Miami, FL) This place is hands down, my favorite place to get vegan food. When it popped up in 2011, I felt like my prayers had been answered. This tiny little restaurant is located in an unassuming location close to the Brickell area. If you aren’t looking for it, it would be easy to drive right by without noticing it, but don’t let its humble exterior fool you. This little dynamo was recently named one of the top vegan restaurants in the entire country by Travel and Leisure Magazine. For the full list click here. This place is completely vegan and mostly organic. My husband and I used to order from this place at least twice a week when we lived in the Brickell area. Our typical order: the mental lentil wraps with a side of black beans and quinoa. My hubby is so crazy for these wraps, he would order double and eat his extra one cold the next day. This is a must for any vegan who is looking for amazing, no-frills vegan food. They have been so successful that they are working on opening another location in North Miami and I’m eagerly awaiting its grand opening!
Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin: (73 NE 167th St North Miami Beach, FL 33160) This is another place that you could easily drive right past if you weren’t looking for it, but you should not let appearances fool you. This is another vegan dynamo, with Jamaican leanings. Hakin, the owner, is always there every time we go, making sure everything is going smoothly. He greets each and every guest and makes everyone feel welcome. My hubby and I are regulars, so everytime we come, he tells us “welcome, family!” He’s really the heart and soul of the restaurant you can tell it’s a true loving endeavor. The menu is huge with flavors to satisfy anyone. Vegans and non-vegans alike will love it. The first time I went, I had the Thursday special, which was meatless meatballs, salad, quinoa, and seasoned mixed veggies. I had to ask the waitress twice that the meatballs weren’t meat, because they were so delicious. (It’s been my experience that meatless meatballs are typically little balls of bland mush, hence, my confusion!) My husband and I love to go for breakfast. I’ll typically get a green smoothie (they will make you a smoothie with whatever you want!) and an empanada and a scrambled tofu baguette. Delish! I’ve also been there for lunch and dinner and have tried almost everything on the menu. My husband loves getting the daily specials, his favorite is the meatless meatball dish. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, since each dish is so flavorful and unique. Another must try for no-frills, amazing food.
The Cafe at Books and Books: (927 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139) This place has a wonderful location and atmosphere. The seating is all outdoors, under huge umbrellas that shield you from the Florida sun. It’s located smack dab in the middle of popular pedestrian street Lincoln Road, which makes it a prime people-watching location. It has a great, lively atmosphere and an extensive vegan menu. It is not a vegan restaurant, but I think it’s amazing that they offer to many delicious vegan choices. My favorite dish is the kale and kidney bean bowl. My husband loves the tofu wrap. The menu changes, but everything I’ve had has been outstanding. They also have a vegan cheesecake that is out of this world! It’s a great spot to go with out-of-town guests, vegans, and non-vegans alike. You can’t lose!
Copper Chimney: (18090 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles Beach) This is one of my two favorite Indian restaurants in Miami. The atmosphere is very relaxed and casual, but a touch upscale. They sometimes have Bollywood movies playing and then sometimes they will have live music. It’s tucked into the corner of a plaza, and again is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. But, once you go, you’ll be craving it every day. My husband and I order from this place or go in at least twice a week. The waitstaff is extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful. Our favorite dishes are the dal tadka, channa masala, tandoori roti, and the lentil dosa. If you specify that you are a vegan, the waitstaff will happily point out which items are vegan or can be made vegan. I’ve never had a bad experience here and I’m a HUGE Indian food snob. I’ve been told by meat eaters that this place also has excellent meat dishes, so it could be a place vegans and non-vegans agree upon.
Bombay Darbar: (3195 Commodore Plaza, Miami, FL 33133) This is the second of my two favorite Indian restaurants in Miami. It’s a tiny little place in Coconut Grove. Do yourself a favor and MAKE A RESERVATION. It is constantly packed and you won’t get a table without a reservation unless you want to wait a long, long time. My husband used to work around the corner from this place, so he’d pick it up for dinner several times a week. The food is spectacular, the vibe is very casual, the only negative I’ve ever found is sometimes you feel a bit rushed during peak times because there are people clamoring for your table, but it’s totally understandable.
Rosa Mexicano: (900 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL and 1111 Lincoln Rd Miami Beach, FL) I’ve never been to the Lincoln Rd location, but the one on S. Miami used to be my go-to date spot with my hubby on Friday nights when we lived in the area. While there’s not a vegan menu, if you specify, they will accomodate you happily. I always get the seasonal vegetable tacos and the fresh guacamole. The vibe is fun, chic, and lively.
Alma Mexicana: (1344 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139) This is a very casual, quick Mexican place in South Beach. The vegetarian tacos and burritos (hold the sour cream and cheese, please!) are life-changing. Now, I will defend Chipotle to the death, and it takes a lot out of me to say this, but I’d say I like this place better for casual Mexican food, if forced to choose between the two. If you order a large guacamole, they even make it fresh!
Scarpetta: (4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140) Scarpetta is an upscale, world-famous Italian restaurant located inside the beautiful Fontainebleau Hotel. This restaurant is swanky, special and lovely. They relatively recently added an excellent vegetarian menu, and will accommodate vegans. I love the polenta and the seasonal veggies. Everything here is wonderful and vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, pescetarians, whatever…everyone can find something here to make them happy!
Hakkasan: (4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140) Also located inside the beautiful Fontainebleau Hotel. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Miami. I’ve spent the past two birthdays celebrating here and had my bridesmaids dinner here during my bachelorette party. I’ve never had a bad meal here. The atmosphere is sexy, upscale, and vibrant. The cocktails are inventive and tasty, the food is spectacular. They have a extensive “vegetable” and “tofu” menus, and even if you see something that looks good they can make it meatless for you. A word of caution: make sure you tell your waiter that you are a vegan, because some of the tofu and vegetable dishes have meat, seafood, or are made with fish sauce, and you have to specify you want your food without those things. They are happy to accommodate. I love the vegan versions of the mabo tofu, tofu claypot, stir-fried wild mushrooms, szechuan style aubergine, braised vegetable tofu, and I could go on and on. The vegetarian dim sum is also divine!
Sushi Siam: (Several locations around Miami, but I’ve only been to the ones on 931 Brickell Ave, Miami, FL and 647 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL) Sushi Siam is solid Thai-Japanese fusion. It’s casual, and you can wear whatever you’d like. I’ve worn business attire after work, and I’ve worn yoga pants after the gym. I love everything I’ve ever had here, but my three favorite dishes are the Panang Curry with Tofu, the Vegetarian sushi rolls, and the Tofu with Four Friends. I always get the tasty wakame salad and miso soup to start every meal. Again, when I lived in Brickell, I would go here all the time for dinners with friends, because nobody ever has anything bad to say about this place, vegans and non-vegans alike. The menus are gigantic and there’s something for everyone. They have expanded all over Miami and enjoy tremendous success.
Rice Asian House and Sushi Bar: (17100 Collins Avenue #114 Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160) Tucked away in a small strip mall plaza, Rice is quickly becoming our go-to spot for fantastic Thai and Japanese. It’s very casual and family friendly, but also has a slightly upscale feel to it. I love the stir-fried veggies with tofu, the curries, the steamed vegetable gyoza, the wakame salad, the miso soup, and the veggie sushi. My husband is crazy for the pad thai with tofu. They are very accommodating–I always ask for no oil or the lowest amount of oil possible in the stir-fries and curries and it is always done just as I prefer it. My husband always asks for the pad thai to be free of fish sauce, egg, and oil, and they always get it right. The food is stellar, and the customer service is warm and friendly.
Paradise Farm Dinner in Paradise: (19801 SW 320th St, Homestead, FL) This is the most special dinner experience I’ve ever had. Three years ago, my hubby took me to the Paradise Farm Dinner in Paradise. It was an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you have to specify two weeks in advance, but they are happy to accommodate you. The dinner takes place in a gorgeous open-air venue on the lovely grounds of Paradise Farm. Several well-known, highly-acclaimed chefs and sommeliers come to the farm and prepare a 5-course meal with wine pairings and explain the ingredients and the dish to you as you eat under the stars. Many of the ingredients come right from the farm. It was a truly magical evening. Before the dinner, you get to go on a tour of the farm, and enjoy local wines. After the dinner, there was a bonfire. It was truly a magical evening that I will never forget.
Il Gabbiano: (335 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33131) The most lovely Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to. The location is divine, you look directly out over beautiful Biscayne Bay. The tables have white table cloths, you have a gang of waiters who are there to cater to your every whim and request. I go here with my carnivorous parents every time they come to town. They love it for the incredible service, the beautiful atmosphere, and the delicious Italian food. I love the cappellini arrabiata (hold the cheese!), the gnocchi (hold the cheese!), and the pasta e fagioli is also delicious. It’s the perfect place for a business lunch, a special dinner, or a date. My hubby and I went here to celebrate our first year wedding anniversary. I love sitting outside and enjoying the breath-taking views.
Zuma: (270 Biscayne Blvd Way, Miami, FL 33131) The first thing I can say about this place is make a reservation as far in advance as you can. It is always packed, and if you’re lucky, you might see a celebrity or two. This is an upscale “Contemporary Japanese” restaurant that has several vegan options. The atmosphere is understated and sophisticated and the wine list is impressive. My favorite dishes are the mushroom rice pot, tofu and avocado salad, mushroom herb salad, the sweet potatoes, the roasted corn (hold the butter!), the veggie tempura, and the asparagus…so pretty much everything that I’m able to eat there, I absolutely loved. There are more options for our meat-eating friends, but again, it’s really cool that they offer a lot of yummy choices to the vegans among us. The plates come out as they are ready, so you get a constant flow of dishes coming to your table. It’s a lot of fun and everything is meant to be shared (or not, if you’re greedy like me!) The menu evolves, and the staff is extremely knowledgeable about everything, so you should definitely feel free to ask them for recommendations if you’re a vegan or vegetarian–and even if you’re not–they are a wealth of information!
Green Papaya (16893 NW 67th Ave Hialeah, FL 33015) A bit of a hike located really far West in Miami. There are a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in Miami, but to be honest, not many of them are worth visiting for vegans–they usually don’t have any vegan options, or if they do it’s just like a salad or something not that exciting. This place is the exception. I never would have ever found it, but I saw it on “Check Please,” which is a television show on the local PBS channel. It’s a great show that I watch all the time to aid in my discovery of off-the-beaten-path, local places. The show focuses on local restaurants and is hosted by Michelle Bernstein, a famous Miami chef. Anyway, this place got rave reviews by everyone on the show. It is very casual, fast, and authentic Vietnamese. I think it’s run by one family, because every time I go, it’s the same people working there. It’s not a vegan Vietnamese restaurant, but it’s the ONLY place I’ve found in all of Miami that offers a completely vegan pho with tofu and vegan bubble tea. (Some of the other Vietnamese places in Miami will say it’s vegetarian but won’t have tofu, or won’t do vegetarian pho as an option at all!) It’s a perfect spot if you’re craving authentic, no-frills Vietnamese. The summer rolls are also excellent! The only downside of the restaurant is that the location isn’t that great, it’s in a low-end strip mall, but the restaurant is an absolute gem.
(777 Brickell Ave, Miami, FL) Truluck’s logo is a giant crab. It’s known for its seafood and steak. However, they also offer a vegan entree! And I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely delicious. It’s a very firm, perfectly seasoned tofu “steak” with flavorful veggies/rice. I even have them do it with low oil. Pair it with a salad, or any number of the amazing vegetable sides, and you’ve got a seriously tasty, filling vegan meal. I bring my meat-eating friends and family here and they all rave about the steak, and I love that I can accompany them to a steakhouse/fish place and not nibble on cold lettuce leaves and a dry baked potato. There are multiple locations around South Florida, but I love the one in the Brickell area, they have a live piano player/singer duet in the bar area and it’s such a fun vibe. Perfect for date night!
Have any other places you think should be on the list? Let me know in the comments!