Florida Guide > Dining
Vegetarian dining in Florida
The words you don’t want to hear when you’re in a restaurant and you’ve just declared yourself to be a vegetarian to the waitress is “Oh dear” or even “Huh? ! ” The concept that anyone, for whatever reason, is unable to eat meat is a difficult thing for the residents of Florida to comprehend. “What, not even chicken? ”
Unfortunately my daughter is the recipient of these odd looks, yes most of the fast food outlets tend to have a veggie option but that’s probably because they are carrying the national menu. On the whole regular restaurants have no such option. What we have found is that many will try and find something that will satisfy from their menu or by adapting a particular dish. A recent visit to Cracker Barrel however had the waitress and maitre d’ perplexed. They so wanted to help but were unable to offer anything other than what was on the menu, so my daughter ended up with rice, green beans and chips! All was not lost as the dessert menu was completely meat free! ! !
On a recent trip to Clearwater beach my daughter had researched a restaurant which described itself as vegetarian friendly, Natures food patch. It was a store selling a variety of organic items and had a cafe. Yes it had veggie dishes but they were mostly sandwiches and wraps. Not the range a UK townie has come to expect.
Mannys chop house and TGIFridays are examples of restaurants that were willing to adapt a dish on the menu. Mannys provided a Chicken free Quesa dia and a vegetable Fajita. TGIFridays produced an individually made veggie patty served in a bun specially mixed with vegetables my daughter chose. But by far the stand out so far has been the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant Boma. Although the restaurant is a self service buffet one of the chefs saw my daughter wandering dispirited along the many meat dishes. Once he had established that she was a vegetarian he took it as a personal challenge. The result was an absolute veggie heaven not just in the content but also in the presentation. He even provided a special dessert consisting of Oreos in a choux pastry topped with chocolate.
Clearly given the amount of visitors to Florida, restaurants may change and vegetarian restaurants or veggie options may start to appear more widely. In the mean time, whilst I cannot guarantee a repeat of the Boma dish, vegetarians need not despair at the lack of vegetarian restaurants or veggie options on the menu. Clearly it will depend on the chef in question and perhaps how busy the restaurant is, but from our experience most restaurants will be able to find a suitable dish once they get over the initial shock.
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