Florida Guide > Dining
Vegetarian Food in Orlando
When I think of American food, I think of steaks, hamburgers and ribs. Not the greatest options for vegetarians! However, as a vegetarian and regular visitor to Orlando, amongst all the steak houses and lobster buffets I have managed to find a number of restaurants offering excellent meat-free options.
My personal favourite is a restaurant called ‘Sweet Tomatoes’ located just off International Drive at the junction with S. Kirkman Road. Sweet Tomatoes is an 'all you can eat' buffet-style restaurant offering a wide selection of fresh salads, soups, pastas, breads and desserts. Any dishes containing meat, chicken or fish are clearly labelled as unsuitable for vegetarians - it takes away the guess work you may have to go through in other restaurants, where a lot of the vegetables are cooked in meat juices. Sweet Tomatoes is also excellent for healthier options, or just those who are hungry and looking for a great value meal! Prices are around £4/$7 per person for the lunch time buffet and £6/$10 per person for the dinner buffet (after 4pm). There is little difference between the two buffets, however I find the dinner buffet will usually offer a hot dessert option such as peach cobbler or raspberry and apple crumble on top of the usual selection of fresh fruits, ice creams and muffins. Kids will enjoy the restaurant too, especially the ice cream machine and the freedom to add anything they want from the selection of toppings and sauces.
If you are looking for somewhere to pick up vegetarian fast-food, avoid McDonalds, as unlike the UK branches they do not offer any meat-alternative or vegetable burgers in their Florida locations. Burger King, however, do offer the BK Veggie burger, which seems to be some sort of vegetable/soya patty. It’s quite tasty and as Burger King have many drive thru branches along International Drive and the 192, it’s a great option if you’re looking to get a quick snack. Also, a Mexican-style fast food restaurant called Taco Bell, again with many drive thru locations along the main tourists roads, offers a ‘7 Layer Burrito’ – a selection of salad and beans with cheese, salsa and sour cream wrapped in a tortilla. This is again a great vegetarian snack you can pick up quickly while you’re in and out of the parks. Wendy's is another fast food restaurant that is very popular in Florida – while there is no vegetarian option offered as such, they do a nice meat-free salad bowl and jacket potatoes with either sour cream & chives or cheese & broccoli filling.
There are also some restaurants that Brits will be familiar with offering similar vegetarian options to the ones offered in the UK. Subway and Quiznos offer fresh baguette-style sandwiches where you can choose your own fillings – salad, cheeses and sauces. Pizza Hut, Papa Johns and Dominos all offer a vegetarian option, usually referred to as a garden pizza. All of these restaurants again have a number of locations dotted around the tourist areas. You are also likely to come across a few TGI Friday’s restaurants – their menu seems to change each year but on my most recent visit to Florida in late 2004 they were offering a roasted vegetable pasta and a vegetarian burger, both of which were delicious.
It is sometimes a little difficult to find a good vegetarian food option in the theme parks. I have often had to snack on chips or pretzels during the day and then make sure I go for a good meal later in the evening – usually at Sweet Tomatoes! Theme Park food is often a little pricey anyway, if you have a pass to re-enter and are staying fairly locally, it may be preferable to pop back to your villa for lunch.
I have found that supermarkets in Florida such as Wal-Mart and Publix do not offer such a good selection of fresh vegetarian food as you may find in Tesco or Asda, however if you look out for a brand of frozen food called ‘Morning Star’ in green packaging, you will see they offer a reasonable selection of meat alternative burgers, chicken dishes, sausages, bacon etc. And of course you can also find the usual sorts of chips, pizzas, pastas, salads, fruits and vegetables. So it isn’t really difficult at all to get by as a vegetarian in Florida, especially now you have a head start on finding the best restaurants!
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