Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Dining in Swan City: Lakeland, FL

When we opened The Juice Box in May of 2015, everyone told us it wouldn’t work.  That a cafe serving healthy, organic food and Horror of all Horrors, VEGAN food, would never last and we might as well start packing our bags.  We knew there was a need for it so in little ol’ Lakeland, FL, we set our sights on having a place where people who choose not to eat the typical Polk County fare, could enjoy a meal and feel good about what was going into their bodies.  We conformed at first and offered some meat but have phased that out and now are proud to be Lakeland’s only vegetarian restaurant BUT EVEN MORE exciting, is that other local joints are aware of the need for vegetarian/vegan options.  

The plant-based food market has shown rapid growth over the past several years, a trend that in not likely to change. In January of 2018 it was estimated that the previous 3 years had seen an increase in the amount of 600% in consumers identifying as vegetarian or vegan. Thats HUGE! Due to the reasons, facts and statistics for what drive many people to adopt this lifestyle/diet, this is not a fad diet that will fade with time, but instead, one that is growing exponentially still, SO MUCH SO, that even Burger King has announced offering a vegan Whopper. Though White Castle is not in FL, they are offering a vegan slider. Long story short, this is not going away. It is not a fad and veganism aside, dairy-allergies are real.

The thing many restaurant owners fail to recognize, is that while a vegan option may not be the most popular menu item, by ignoring that growing need, they are not only turning away vegans but anyone that is friends with one.  Here's the truth: I am not vegan but I don't eat meat or dairy which limits the places I can eat.  I love to socialize and go out with friends but because of my dietary restrictions, my group of 2-10 will not dine anywhere that we can't ALL enjoy.  So, just because I may be the only one who doesn't eat dairy, you aren't just turning me away, but you turn away my whole group.  I go out often and often in large groups and there is no way that my group is the only one this happens to.  The vegan community is growing exponentially; so much so that even fast food chains are offering vegan options now.  If you want a menu that encourages everyone to dine with you, you will have to evolve your menu to attract us.  Trust us, we will bring friends.  =)

Because we are in the business of mostly-vegan food, we stay ‘in the know’.  We do find though, that many Lakelander’s are still unaware of the options out there locally.  So, while we love having you all visit us, we want to support this movement where other local restaurants are broadening their dietary options on their menus.  
So behold!....Below is a list of some of the best options Lakeland, FL has to offer for anyone choosing to eat a plant based diet.  

Please help out our small business by commenting your thoughts below (it helps us!) or sharing this post with your friends on social media.  Another way to make a difference locally is to jump in your car (or bike or whatever) and go visit these places!  Happy Dining!

*We may have missed a couple of places and this post will be updated, but feel free to comment below if you own a restaurant or know of one that we missed.  This post is for restaurants who have at least a couple VEGAN options for customers without having to make substitutions that compromise the dish.  That means no meat, dairy, egg, honey or animal products of any kind.  And we aren’t talking about a boring iceberg lettuce salad or French fries.  Real food options.   In our search many restaurant owners said they had vegan options when in fact, they had no idea what that even means and after carefully reviewing their menu,. they didn't.  

We don’t mean to toot our own horn, but TOOT-freaking-TOOT, The Juice Box is so far the most vegan option in Lakeland.  With a fully vegetarian menu of juices, smoothies & casual food, the only real non-vegan ingredients are local honey (which can be substituted with agave or coconut sugar), goat cheese (on just one menu item) & Cage-free eggs (on just 2 menu items).  The food menu consists of toasts, Chickpea salads made made to mimic the flavor profiles of some of popular meat-counterparts (like tuna, buffalo & curry chicken) and last but not least, bowls.  The most popular menu item is the Buddha Bowl with our famous and top secret recipe, the Sesame Dijon sauce.  In addition to our regular menu items, we offer specials and we also like to get creative and play with other vegan recipes.  We also occasionally carry desserts and our resident ‘Ball Slayer’ whips up some of the most amazing raw vegan date balls you can imagine!  For obvious reasons this makes top of the list but luckily, Lakeland is growing and we have some other awesome options now!  Read on to find out!

Cuban B’s is a local food truck that will make any carnivore drool with their creative meaty menu but most wouldn’t guess that this same food truck offers possibly the best vegan burger I’ve ever had the pleasure of shoving into my face.  The Baja Beni is a staple on their menu and is legit, a freaking phenomenal example of a mouth watering, perfectly seasoned meatless patty full of mildly spicy deliciousness.  Don’t expect it to taste like a burger, it’s practically it’s own food group because it stands out so well.  The generous portion of tots on the side aren’t so shabby either but that’s not all this fab food truck offers for vegans; They also showcase a vegan Thai Green Curry Empanada complete with an exquisitely seasoned, ‘buttery’ & flaky crust that will make any carnivore  wonder why they’ve turned their noses up at the V word for so long.  You can find Cuban B’a at Swan Brewing in Lakeland every Wednesday evening 4:30-9:30pm or follow them on Facebook to stay up to date on their other stops.  I’m not kidding: vegans and non-vegans: you don’t want to miss this food truck, but don’t take my word for it!  Check them out yourselves!  (Apologies in advance if you go but they are out of the Beni….I may need a support group to curb this addiction!...JK, they'll have plenty...go getcha one!)

Nestled in a cozy location on Cleveland Heights & Hallam, Tea Largo shares a space with Picasso’s Cup, a cute art joint where you can paint pottery or design mosaics in case you feel like letting out your inner artsy fartsy side while sipping tea.  In addition to offering a wide selection of teas, Tea Largo has an extensive menu full of coffees & smoothies and my personal favorite: the almighty antioxidant motherlode, the Açaí Bowl.  Perfect for a quick bite or an uber healthy breakfast, the açaí bowl comes topped with granola & honey and your choice of extra toppings.  If you’re adhering to a strict vegan diet ask for the açaí bowl sans the honey & opt for some toppings to sweeten it up like sliced bananas, goji berries and more.  If you’re more in the mood for a drink, the chai smoothies are great!  Of all the vegan options in Lakeland, definitely one of the healthiest!

It’s no secret that sushi restaurants often have a vegan sushi roll, but what about an option that’s not sushi and clearly labeled on the menu?  Tsunami, downtown Lakeland’s newest sushi joint, has just that!  Vegans can enjoy one of several options on the Vegetable Entrees section of the menu including vegetable tempura & Teppan Vegetables, but turn your gaze over to the Ramen section where Miso Vegan Ramen graces the bottom of the page!  The broth is pretty fantastic but the thinly sliced tofu takes the vegan cake in this bowl.  If ordering a sushi roll, you can always substitute or order without the fish but caution to vegans or dairy allergies: cc on the menu stands for cream cheese.  I accidentally made that mistake and had to send mine back for a roll without said cc when I saw the white bovine-breastmilk start to ooze out.  (Sorry, not sorry)  They gladly replaced it with a vegan version and all was right with the world.  

There are no words to describe my utter lack of interest in spending any amount of time mindlessly waiting in line for almost anything, but when Born & Bread announced on Facebook that someone by the name of Nate (thanks Nate!) joined the B&B team and that he was vegan and B&B would now be offering a vegan Banana Nate Muffin, I decided I’d better put my standing-shoes on, grab a coat and get ready to wait in the infamous Saturday morning lineup.  I changed my mind when I couldn’t get anyone to get up that early with me on a Saturday and I wasn’t about to wait in line before 8am in 40 degree weather without a sidekick so we almost didn’t make it and I feared my beloved dream muffin might not make it on the menu if no one was there to buy them.  Luckily, just past noon on the way to lunch we passed the line on South Florida Avenue and it was surprisingly short since it was near closing time.  One U-turn & $20 later I was one happy customer.  (That $20 got me 2 giant loaves of fresh bread AND muffins!). The buildout is fantastic and the owner hit the nail on the head with the ambiance.  I’m quite a critic when it comes to food, space, business, etc and this space did not disappoint at all!  The rustic buildout wasn’t overdoing it and the background music in French was exactly what I would want to hear in a place like this.  The bread was fantastic but didn’t hold a candle to the muffins which were moist, flavorful & seriously reasonable priced for the size!  Born & Bread is known for selling out though (in fact, I bought the last 2 vegan muffins) so you may want to plan on waiting a little and arrive earlier to be safe.  It would suck to wait in line that long if there’s literally nothing else you could eat.  Fingers crossed this Nate fellow will reinvent their famous Cruffin and make us a vegan one!  More options means less chance of selling out. :)
Note: Born & Bread is only open on Saturdays from 8am-1pm & now on Wednesdays for dinner.  Also, the line is kind of endearing now and part of the's kind of fun to wait in line and be surrounded by the happy energy flowing from the loyal customers! <3

If you haven't been to Cob & Pen you are seriously missing out on one of Lakeland's best joints to enjoy a craft beer or some great food.  I personally love this place and frequent it for girls nights out or even casual date nights.  Located in historical Dixieland in a locally iconic historical home, Cob & Pen is an excellent choice for a night out or for a group meeting (book club?  staff party?).  The staff is great. The atmosphere is amazing.  The fries are fantastic.  They aren't know for keeping their website updated so don't pay attention to their menu online (at least as of now) but most recently they are working on incorporating several vegan options into their menu.  Some exist now but they are focusing on improving to be able to cater to everyone.  Currently, you can find fried cauliflower Po'Boys and tacos on the menu.  The sauces aren't vegan yet but they are working on it and I have no doubt they'll be awesome when they do.  In the meantime, ketchup and hot sauce can smother it.  They also offer a kale caesar, but the Caesar dressing is not vegan so they have balsamic to substitute.  Also, they have a great selection of beer.  Need I say more?  Didn't think so.  =)

Good Thyme
While you're in Dixieland on your little vegan foodie tour, go ahead and head on over to Good Thyme, hidden just behind the Dixieland Mall & Concord Coffee.  Established in September 2019, this casual take-out joint is owned by the same guys as the above mentioned Cob & Pen.  Good Thyme serves both breakfast and lunch AND even BETTER, includes vegan options on their menu that do not disappoint.   Ummmm....can I get a Hell Yeah & Hot Damn for mother-lovin' VEGAN BISCUITS & GRAVY?!?!?  For real folks, I can't make this stuff up.  Wait....that's not all.....they also have HOUSEMADE (now that's ambitious!) vegan andouille sausage!  I had the honor of being able to taste test many of these dishes prior to their opening and I can tell you first hand I was beyond impressed and you will likely be able to find my butt over there every weekend for pretty much the ONLY vegan breakfast in Lakeland!  Make sure you definitely add this place as a stop on your foodie adventures!

The Poor Porker, also known as 801 E Main for its location is an open air space & small music venue also home to Bar Calexico and Las Espinas in addition to its own food truck serving up beignets.  I am told the Traditional beignet is dairy & egg free BUT it is loaded with non-organic powdered sugar, so depending on your ‘level’ of veganism, these may be up your ally or if you don’t consume non-vegan sugar, steer clean.  Though not even close to healthy, these are delicious and seriously better than famous Cafe Du Monde, what all beignets aspire to be.  Poor Porker has them beat hands down.  In addition to this bag full of fried doughy goodness and also residing at 801 E Main is their newest food truck, Las Espinas which serves both vegan and non-vegan tacos and a pretty impressive cashew queso.  Of course I had to try both variations of the tacos, one which features a tofu based filling and the other, a mushroom base.  Though I was not thrilled with the idea of mushrooms in my taco, I gave it a whirl anyway and actually preferred the mushroom to the tofu.  The cashew queso was pretty great and tasted a lot like the queso I make at home, except this was done for me so I didn’t have to do anything!  

A long time favorite of mine and probably the OG of the health world here in Lakeland is Anthony’s Health Hut.  Established in the late 70s, this small health food store and cafe definitely has a ‘mom n pop’ type feel and also is home to one of my favorite go-to sammiches, the Tofu Salad Sandwich.  I like to get it on Ezekiel bread (though they have GF options & pita too!) and it comes topped with greens, tomatoes and sprouts.  Other options include a Veggie Sandwich, tabouli, brown rice, salads & bean burgers.  They also have smoothies and a shop to kill time in while you wait for your food!  The wait is never long so it’s the perfect place to drop in for a quick lunch while you’re out and about.

Saigon is a place my family frequents.  While it’s true that a lot of southeast Asian food does contain a lot of fish sauce, Saigon has a vegan fish-free sauce to compliment their dishes instead and to top it all off, most dishes offer tofu instead of meat, making this an easy to order from menu.  My personal favorite is the #17 - Bun, noodle salad with tofu.  This can be ordered with regular fish sauce or their vegan house sauce or even a peanut sauce.  Pho is another option available if that’s your jam along with several other menu items but I’ll be honest; Though Im adventurous with trying NEW dishes, once I find something I like at a restaurant, it can be hard to sway my decision making, so I haven’t ventured much further….because there’s no point.  The Bun is freaking delicious and I could bury my face in it.

Ok, I will say with honesty that this was not my favorite joint many years ago (READ ON!).  The menu was impressive but no vegan option graced its menu and the service was pretty bad.  I believe in giving restaurants another try if it wasn’t up to par, but after multiple visits I just stopped going because waiting 45min to have my wine order taken was not something I cared to do.  BUT, about a year ago my friend told me about their new menu and I decided after not going for a couple of years, I would go ahead and give it one last college try.  I did and holy cow was I impressed!  The cocktails were great, the menu was outstanding, even clearly labeling vegan items, the food was freaking delicious and most importantly, the service was phenomenal.  I began frequenting Red Door again and I don’t know what they did but MAN, they stepped up their game big time!  Like, 5-star BIG TIME.  I was able to go with my carnivorous husband and we BOTH ate a 3-course meal; His, full of meat and mine, I didn’t even have to order any substitutions!  The Buddha Bowl is crazy good and topped with the most delicious fried kale/spinach that is so perfectly done I could just eat bucketloads of that.  The beet tartar is also vegan and I may or may not have eaten it in record time, throwing all class to the wind whilst the tahini sauce dribbled its way down my chin.  The only thing this menu lacks to complete it is a vegan dessert, but to find a high end restaurant that everyone can eat at and enjoy is a miracle for Lakeland.  PS: Just because a meal is vegan here does NOT mean it tastes like twigs and leaves.  Even an omnivore would dive right in to the Buddha Bowl without thinking twice whether it was vegan or not.  It is THAT good and my first choice for a date night dinner AND one of my favorite things about it is that it’s not the typical Mexican or Asian cuisine which is easy to often make vegan.  Those are great but there are at least a dozen of those and options are all going to be similar.  Red Door gives those on a plant based diet real options that are far more creative and not your run of the mill choices.  Classy.  Wine.  Gourmet.  Vegan.  Yum.  These pics don’t do the food any justice but the night we went to dinner and shot some quick pics, the lighting outside was awful.  Just trust me and go check them out, Red Door is top notch and a serious favorite on all levels.  Just writing this is making my mouth water thinking of their food...

I must go back and photograph the food better.  These images just don't do the dishes justice.  They are beautiful & deliciously tasty.  

Ashamedly, I had not been to KC’s so a few girlfriends and I decidedly to go check it out.  Who could turn down pizza and wine?  Maybe a nun.  Not us, though.  The atmosphere is lovely.  It walks the tightrope between casual and fine dining which is great because while you can make a date night of it, you also wouldn’t feel uncomfortable showing up in jeans; It is pizza, after all.  I was immediately excited that they cared enough to advertise their vegan pizza on a large sign in the window and even more excited when I saw the clearly labeled sections on the menu.  Service was good, the menu is fantastic and the flavor combinations for the vegan pizzas are both creative & delicious.  I personally tried 3 pizzas, the vegan chorizo, the butternut squash & the white pizza.  The flavors worked surprisingly well together.  I mean, who puts butternut squash and walnuts on a pizza?  Move over pineapple!  We were unanimous in choosing the chorizo as our favorite though.  My only complaint is this: The menu clearly labels the vegan section and I only ordered from there.  I ordered 3 pizzas at about $14.99 each, which is a fair price I think for a vegan pizza of that size (1 person could finish a whole pizza if they were a little hungry), but when the check came I was charged an additional $3.99 per pizza!  When I asked, I was told that vegan cheese did not automatically come on the vegan pizzas, which I found to be misleading.   Especially since I was not given the option; it came with vegan cheese on it, as expected.  Vegan or not, I have never seen a pizza menu not include cheese on the pizzas. A generic pizza consists of 3 main ingredients: Crust, Sauce & Cheese.  Those can all be altered but when one is not included, that should be clearly stated on the menu item because when ordering a pizza anywhere, even vegan, it is assumed that cheese will be on it unless otherwise noted and that the price is already factored in since the whole section of the menu says ‘Vegan’.  Additionally, because they use Daiya cheese which is thick, the waitress made sure to to tell us that they don’t use a lot so that it isn’t overpowering, which just makes the $3.99 each seem more unjustified.  I probably would not have ordered 3 pizzas to try, had I known the cost would be almost $20ea, but maybe that's just me?  It would be nice to see the Daiya reflected into the menu price and the upcharge reduced.   On a big positive note, they will also veganize many of the appetizers and even the garlic knots & stuffed mushrooms!  I almost broke out into a full blown dance when I heard that.  Make sure to double check about the upcharge for Daiya cheese though if cost if a factor for you at all but we did have a pleasant experience and will go back.  Worth a try for sure and they even have vegan Parm and I was definitely impressed by the selections.

Attention: Anyone who claims to hate Brussel sprouts!  Go.  Here.  Now.  Be changed.  Cafe Zuppina has a few options for vegans.  While they are not clearly marked on the menu, the owners and the wait staff do seem to know about vegan diets and which choices you can have.  My favorite is the veggie platter.  Ask for it vegan, otherwise it comes with feta and a little dairy, but TRUST ME when I say that the dish is not compromised in the least with the omission. The veggie platter is literally just that, a platter full of veggies and basically a sampling of all of the different vegetable appetizers offered.  If you have OCD about your food touching, this isn’t for you because it is one GLORIOUS plate with what seems like a dozen different helpings of perfectly seasoned and cooked veggies.  If you think that veggies will never be enough to fill you up, try this and be proved wrong.  This dish is filling, tasty and healthy and I still take home leftovers every time!  Like Saigon mentioned above, the veggie platter is my go-to and I haven’t tried anything else because why bother when your plate has a million different things on it?!?  The atmosphere is casual and dining area is small and a little cramped but if you like good, quality food in a locally owned cafe, Cafe Zuppina fits the bill!  

***NEWS: Cafe Zuppina has opened a Turkish coffee shop next door and a friend sent pictures of VEGAN scones & desserts!  Naturally, I had to check it out and I had an iced latte with non-dairy milk and a vegan scone.  It was fantastic!  They also had vegan cookies!  LOVE this place!

I had been meaning to get by here to investigate but the day I tried, I drove by on a Sunday and CLEARLY not enough places are open for Sunday brunch because there was a line out the door and halfway down the block…until we remembered that Black & Brew had just opened up another location at the Lakeland Public Library.  So, we ventured over there and though I’ll admit I’m kind of a snob about coffee houses, I was beyond surprised with this new location.  (I should note I am not a snob about the coffee but the atmosphere and options in general).  I have been to the downtown location and it is very popular.  Vegan options are limited as presented on the menu but several sandwiches/wraps can be made vegan if you omit the cheese.  The vegan options of the menu include the Avocado Tartine & the CB&J (cashew butter & jam).  I ordered the avocado toast.  The avocado was thick and smashed atop a thick slice of (formerly mentioned) Born & Bread, bread.  It was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper and while it was very simple, it was super satisfying and my daughter ended up having 2 slices all to herself!  As for coffee, I had an iced latte with almond milk and it was great.  I have been to the downtown location and I do enjoy it but because I have a strong distaste for downtown parking during peak times and because I just adore the Palmetto/Lake Morton area, I will definitely frequent this location.  But you shouldn’t….its TERRIBLE!  (Insert smug sarcastic face here in a sad attempt to keep traffic out of my favorite coffee shop.). Really, though…2 locations….enough to go around.  OH….almost forgot!  Added bonus!  They also sell ice cream sandwiches by local artisan/food vender, A Cow Named Moo, who often offers a vegan flavor!  Do you have your running shoes on yet?  Because you should….avocado toast, coffee & vegan ice cream?  That’s worth the trip right now!

Bay Street Bistro - Don't let the name of this place fool you.  Honestly, I would change it if they would let me because it doesn't do this place justice, and I feel like this little downtown gem does not get enough credit.  While it sounds like a casual lunch spot, its actually a fine dining establishment where Chef Kevin whips up some seriously amazing dishes.  Like, Fo Real: Good Food.  The first time we went, we showed up with another couple and 3 kids in tow.  Little did we know.....Now, when my husband and I want a nice date night or to celebrate our anniversary, this is often the spot.  Ixnay on the spawns.  Service is phenomenal, atmosphere is quaint elegance.  The bruschetta is vegan and and the Melanzane Primo can be made vegan as well by just omitting the cheese (just ask!).  The house salad and poached pear salad (sans goat cheese) are also vegan.  Chef Kevin is familiar with the vegan diet and is happy to accommodate these requests, so the next time you find yourself itching for 5-star service and perfectly cooked food, make sure to check them out!

I’m beginning to feel like the theme in this piece is “places I go to all the time…”.  I do cook a lot.  Like, a LOT, but I also go out to eat a lot.  Thai Oishi is yet again, another one of those.  And, like some of the previously mentioned places, when I go here, I order the same thing.  Every.  Time.  None of the Currys at Thai Oishi use fish sauce, so all of them are vegan.  I know a few people who live for their yellow curry but me?  I haven’t even tried it because I simply cannot go in there and NOT order the Massaman Curry.  If you like peanut sauce, get this.  The Massaman Curry is a bowl of perfectly cooked veggies drenched in one of the most amazing sauces you’ll ever spoon into your face.  It comes with jasmine rice but I get the brown rice, which is also great and cooked expertly so that it’s not the drier, grainy texture that most people know brown rice to be.  Additionally, like most Asian restaurants, they have plenty of options on their menu for vegans, though not clearly labeled, you will want to ask your server if fish sauce is used in the sauces.

 Whelp, this one was hard for me.  This is a place I wanted to hate.  A place whose name taunts me and whose restaurant model makes me squirm.  This, friends, is a restaurant offering BOTH American 'junk' food as well as Thai food.  Like, burgers & patty melts grace the same exact menu as pad Thai & dynamite rolls.  What.  The.  Ever.  Loving.  Crap. ????  My husband eats here probably 3 times a week and I had accompanied him once.  That one time I loved my food but vowed not to go back because it just seemed.....wrong.  Like a mockery of foodies everywhere.  It made me twitch just thinking about tossing such vastly different options on a menu all willy nilly with no respect for either cuisine.  BUT...I know a lot of Asian restaurants have tofu and vegan options so I went against everything I believe in, and took my sister out to lunch at The Rib House.  I am embarrassed to say that my Judgy Judy side was wrong.  It was amazing.  NOW, let me say this: PLEASE ask your server or talk to the chef about your vegan diet, BUT I was told today that they took the fish sauce out of basically all the noodle dishes.  I ordered the pad Thai w/ tofu, no egg.  It was fantastic.  Unlike another local Thai restaurant who (won't be named) told me they put MSG-containing fish sauce in EVERY dish, The Rib House claims that they don't use it at all anymore in their noodle dishes.  The list goes on: curries, peanut sauces, pad Thai...plenty of options.  Just order tofu instead of meat and omit egg if it is present.  They also have a small salad bar, sushi (veggie rolls), fried tofu & edamame   Additionally, the service was great & the staff was friendly.  I will definitely be joining my husband for lunch more often, despite the name that still sends the logical side of my brain into a minor tizzy. But for real.....gimmee all the pad Thai!  

Besides having a couple of options for vegans, Frescos also has some great cocktails and often live music on weekends if you're looking for a fun night out.   Thought the vegan options are limited (and some hidden) on the menu, they are pretty tasty and another great option if you'd like to dine downtown.  Vegan options for lunch and dinner include the Grilled Veggie Wrap & the Roasted Veggie Bowl. I was also told by our waitress that they do have the (vegan) Impossible Burger to substitute for any of the other burgers, but I would call first because this is not specified on the menu, which kind of stinks because how are we supposed to know without intentionally asking? BUT, super excited to know that, regardless, and I hope the menu in the future will reflect the options for vegans and eliminate the guesswork.  The atmosphere is great, the service we had was great and the wrap was good also.  On the list of side dishes I was told (though I would ask to confirm) that the following options were or could be made vegan: the black eyed peas, roasted Brussel sprouts (MINUS the honey), side salad (SANS the cheese, with vinaigrette dressing),beer battered fries & sweet potato tots.  I was told that Fresco's has vegan options for breakfast but I did not see anything on the menu that would suggest that so if breakfast is what you're looking for, go ahead and call ahead to ask.  I was informed the avocado toast is on bread that has dairy but that they have a different bread option so, while the options here are a little confusing, the staff seems knowledgeable and is helpful in navigating the menu.  

So if I'm being completely honest, which I have a fault of doing, I had low expectations when I went to check out Cafe Roti.  The reviews and most members of the local foodie-community have said some pretty awful things about this cafe (mostly service related) and I ALMOST let it influence my decision to even include it but I thought I would be doing a serious disservice to local vegans by not checking out it's new location downtown.  I hadn't been in years so I went in with an open mind but set my standards low in terms of food and service.  I was genuinely surprised.  Our waitress was outstanding; Greeted and sat us as soon as we entered, kept our waters full and was very helpful with my questions and took excellent care of us during our visit.  The food was pleasantly tasty also!  The menu clearly states the vegetarian options and among those, the vegan options include the salad (sans cheese), the samosas (YUM!), curry, karahi, spinach, jalfrezi, vindaloo & madras.  The yogurt in the madras, our waitress explained to me, is actually not yogurt at all but coconut milk.  The ONE qualm I have with the menu is that the rice does have butter so when ordering what should be a full meal, vegans would have to omit the rice and basically eat the equivalent of just over a cup of veggies with chosen sauce.  Not the filling lunch I had intended, but I can't hold that against them as a whole since it is not a vegan restaurant.  Next time, I will probably just order a plate full of delicious samosas or smuggle in my own steamed rice to cut the heat of the sauce.  =)

Pierogi Hut
A relatively new addition the the Downtown Lakeland Farmers Market is Pierogi Hut, a small stand offering up fresh made pierogis and 4 vegan varieties!  She did not have any ready to go when we went, but she did have one vanity left that I was able to grab and take home.  Clearly labeled...and all the delicious carbs.  The owner said if you call in advance she can have more available.

So the reason this list took me so long to finally post is because I could not possibly write an entire Ultimate Guide to Vegan Dining in Lakeland without mentioning Manna.  Though they do not have a brick and mortar and are not consistantly at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Market, they are definitely, without a doubt, worth a mention and a FOLLOW.  This awesome duo can often be found at the farmer's market but they are not there every week so you would have to follow them or call to find out when they will be there.  Actually, they told me they would be there this past weekend but they were not, so definitely give them a call to confirm, although a trip to the farmer's market is never a wasted trip.  MannaISF is not entirely vegan but they have several options that are clearly marked on the menu.  The Vegan Rolex is simply a tastebud orgasm and the rice filled samosa is literally EVERY-THING.  Gimme all the carbs!  Who knew a samosa filled with RICE could be so tasty?  I was hesitant but the rice is creamy and flavored perfectly.  No joke.  Hands down.  Simply amazing food and Lakeland is better to have them in it.  Wish I could have dug into this and posted a pic but when they make it back I'll update with a photo.


Featured above are all of the non-chain, locally owned Lakeland restaurants that offer vegan options without having to alter a ton of things.  In addition to those we have a ton of chain joints that offer options too!  Here's a list and brief menu items you can order.

Mellow Mushroom - has vegan cheese for pizza or my personal favorite, the House Calzone (I like to add broccoli).  Just make sure to say vegan so they leave the parmesan off the crust.
Chipotle - vegan sofritos instead of meat.  It's so good!  
First Watch - only vegan option here really is the AM Superfoods Bowl which Im told is out of this world.  Everything else has dairy or eggs.
Tijuana Flats - can substitute beans instead of meat for tacos, bowls and burritos. Don't skip the hot sauce bar!
Abuelos - this loud but great family atmosphere has a Pick 2 (or 3) option for enchiladas and you can get the Avocado enchiladas with ranchero sauce which is dairy free.  Rice Im told has butter but the black beans are supposed to be vegan.
Ford's Garage - Has vegan burgers to substitute on any of their custom creations.  Also has great sweet potato tots and truffle fries (sans the cheese)
Pita Pit - the falafel & black bean veggie pitas are vegan
Miller's AleHouse - Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad minus the blue cheese, also has the Gardein Chipotle Black Bean burger.  Make sure to ask for no butter on the bun and Veggie Fajitas without the cheeses.
Jason's Deli - has a big salad bar
Burger21 - a google search told me the black bean patty is not vegan BUT the menu lists there Impossible Burger!
Fuzzy's Taco Shop - they have a grilled veggie salad, fajitas and more, just order without cheese
Taco Bus - has several non-meat options AND has vegan cheese for an upcharge.
Teriyaki Madness - has tofu and veggie bowls
Little Greek - Also, falafel
Yogurt Mountain - inside Books-a-Million, has a vegan sorbet and a coconut milk flavor!  (topped with peanuts it was amazing!)

More Tips for eating vegan in Lakeland: While not every single sushi restaurant or Mexican restaurant is listed, almost all sushi restaurants have a veggie roll without cream cheese and most Mexican restaurants will allow you to substitute beans instead of meat on tacos, burritos, etc.  Just make sure to ask if they are vegetarian because a lot of places will cook their beans in lard or animal fat.

Most pizza shops (Il Forno & Palace Pizza have done this for me!) will allow you to bring in your own vegan cheese (unopened) and they will make you a pizza with it.  I personally prefer this to my other options.  Palace has crust that is SO GOOD and I just bring in my cheese and they make me a pizza with it (extra large!)

A lot of people don't understand the vegan diet or scoff at it.  For this reason, rather than preaching to people who don't care, I simply explain that I am allergic to dairy and eggs.  Its generally self explanatory whether or not a dish is made with meat, so after you narrow down your options you can ask which dishes can be made without dairy or egg.  Allergies are taken far more seriously so if you want to be sure about it, politely explain that you have an allergy and Voila! Your chances of accidentally consuming dairy, eggs or whatever significantly decreases.

Did we miss any??  Comment below to tell us!


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I appreciate the information being a newly practicing vegan (5 months in). I am so excited to try ALL of your recommendations. My sister and I have made it a weekly tradition to stop into the Juice Box on Saturday afternoons after our hot yoga class, and it has made all the sweating that much more worth it! I have searched quite a bit on google "vegan restaurants in Lakeland" but have found nothing nearly as thorough as your assessment. I am ecstatic of the unexpected movement taking place in the heart of Polk County.

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  4. Salt & Fire at Swan Brewing varies its menu all the time, but this weekend, they have several options for vegetarians, and often include other entree choices each week, Thurs-Saturday.