Traveling for most people can be a huge undertaking, just by the mere thought of having to pack, coordinate routes of travel and hotel stay. Throw in the idea of having to go against the grain of the U.S. mainstream diet, by being vegan then it can become really complicated. Doing some research prior to any travel as a vegan is paramount. Thankfully, there are many great supportive sources who are more than willing to share their experiences and information for fellow vegans.
Peta and Happy Cow serve as great sources but also require updating by those in the community, due to restaurants commonly closing or no longer serving vegan options.
Commonly, meat eaters will say that you can have a salad or eat an apple. While this is a true statement, it is less than desirable when traveling. Most people on vacation are looking for good places to eat and relax. And it is important to remember, there are plenty of ways to make delicious food that is not riddled with animal remains.
According to Onegreenplanet.org, vegans in the US have grown 90 percent since 2014, rising from 1 percent to 6 percent between 2014-2017. Catering to a market is not only a smart idea, but a necessity for economic survival.
The following list reflects our favorite restaurants while traveling to Key West, Florida.
#1 The Cafe
Our first stop was at a restaurant called, The Cafe on Southard Street. It’s located just steps from the world-famous Duval Street. It is a commonly known vegetarian food spot, but has many vegan options. We tried many of their dishes while staying in Key West. I was taken back by the delectable dishes that were made from this place. The vibe of the restaurant is very relaxed and full of charm, much like the rest of the area.
The decor features local artist work. I have to admit, my personal favorite is the portraits of Frida Kahlo.
By far, the best dish I had while dining at The Cafe, would be the Kung Pao Tofu. It was spot on delicious down to the details of the vegetables and their crunchy texture. I would highly recommend it. There is a long list of deliciousness behind the Kung Pao. The Un- Wing Dings appetizer consists of fried tofu with a BBQ sauce; and so far, has been the best wing alike option I have ever tasted as vegan. Of course, we had to return to try their breakfast options.
The Tofu Benedict did not disappoint. It consisted of grilled tofu, topped with an avocado sauce and a zesty kale. I have to say, this was one of my favorite dishes prior to becoming vegan a couple of years ago.
This Tofu Benedict dish easily rivals the traditional Eggs Benedict. I also have to mention, The Cafe is the only spot in the entire Key West area that has vegan Key Lime pie. It was so delicious. I could not believe I was able to travel to the Keys and have Key Lime pie as a vegan! Thank you, thank you!
I’m pretty sure we had every vegan dish at the restaurant. Panchos Huevos Rancheros (made vegan with Tofu) and Tofu Scramble with spinach and tomatoes are also highly recommended.
The owners were kind enough to offer a dessert to us, being that we constantly ate at their restaurant during our stay. We chose a slice of Coconut Cake. It was delicious and so soft. I could go on and on about this place, the Avocado Chickpea Toast was also incredible. Fresh juices are also available. For more information about The Cafe: www.thecafekw.com
#2 Date and Thyme
Our next stop was at a local food spot Date and Thyme, which includes a small grocery section as well. We were pleased to find our favorite bottled water, Mountain Valley Spring Water, in the refrigeration section. It is a nice little spot to grab a quick bite, outdoor eating only. I would imagine they do a great deal of take out. We ordered their Black Bean Burger, Hummus Wrap and Island Burrito. All of our meals here were delicious and very fresh tasting. They are located in the heart of Key West which is very convenient. They also have a wide variety of fresh juices, perfect for the typical hot sunny days in the Keys. For more information: www.dateandtime.com
#3 Pollo Tropical
Surprisingly on our way to Key West leaving Miami, we stopped at a Pollo Tropical and found their menu clearly labeled as vegetarian and vegan. Vegans are constantly being lumped into one with vegetarians. So it was refreshing to see they had separate designations for the two.
The TropiChop pictured here can be made vegan, by adding your desired veggies to the rice and beans. All fried items such as French Fries, Yuccu and Sweet Plantains are vegan as well. It was very tasty! The PETA website also had these dining options listed as safe along with their corn. However, this particular Pollo Tropical indicates their corn is not vegan, due to butter being added to it. For the information about Pollo Tropical and other vegan friendly chain restaurants, check out PETA: https://www.peta.org/living/food/chain-restaurants/
My hopes are that this article helps fellow vegans when traveling to the Florida Keys. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Key West thanks to some forward thinking, consciousness and environmentally responsible restaurant owners. We applaud you and are looking forward to planning our next vacation.