January 2, 2011

The Vegan Traveler: Miami Beach

I spent my recent and far too short of a winter break on my parents' sailboat in Miami Beach. After living in Mayberry  small town America for the past 5 months, I was more than ready to work on my tan, people watch on Ocean Drive, and uh, whatever else it is that people do in cities. (Being in the country for that long will do that to you.)

I haven't spent much time in Florida since I graduated from the best college ever in 2009, but I had an awesome time. It was great to simply wake up after sunrise, stare at palm trees while sipping coffee, and spend time with my family. Relaxing in the sunshine was just what the doctor ordered after a semester of working 70-80 hour weeks. (Ugh.)

My parents and I love exploring new places, and especially new restaurants and bars. It was a fun challenge to find vegan friendly places (maybe not as fun for my parents as it was for me, but they're used to be being high maintenance at this point). Despite my best efforts, I was slightly disappointed in the lack of vegan (or even vegetarian) options that Miami had to offer. (Luckily, the amount of cocktails I consumed more than made up for the lack of substantial food.) Below are some of my favorite hits and misses from my trip:

1. Pasha's South Beach

Pasha's South Beach
My family and I stopped in here for dinner on our way to Christmas Eve service, since my dad figured Mediterranean restaurants would have a good amount of options for me. It's location on Lincoln Road Mall made for great people watching, and the appetizers (hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, and muhammara) were delicious. Unfortunately, my vegetarian kebab was less than stellar. (As in...it had no taste. At. All.) However, based on how good their appetizers were, I'd be willing to go back and try something else from the vegetarian menu to see if it were any better. 

A few days after Christmas, my parents treated me to a movie and lunch. (The movie was Mission Impossible. Don't judge.) We stumbled upon Siam Oishi in Coconut Grove, and now I'm pretty much this restaurant's biggest fan. While their amount of fish-free sushi rolls wasn't spectacular, their vegetarian combo was a ton of fresh, great food. I've never had veggie hand rolls made like that before! The avocado roll was so great I literally swatted my mom's hand away when she reached for a taste. (Sorry, mom!) I rolled back to the boat that day as one very happy vegan. Hands down? My favorite food from the entire trip. 
The Vegetarian Combo...one of my best meals ever. (Seriously though.)
3. Jaguar Coconut Grove
After finding out that Jaguar's happy hour cocktails not only contained two shots of liquor (helloooooo Miami!), but were a mere $5, I made every excuse to perch on a bar stool there from 5-7pm every day. (Ok, not every day. But plenty of days.)
Jaguar in Coconut Grove
They're a Brazilian restaurant known for their seafood ceviche, which I naturally don't partake in. Besides a rice platter (say whaaat?) and a black bean soup, they also lack any sort of vegetarian options. When I asked for a portobello burger on my salad instead of the steak, they informed me that they "don't make substitutions". Hmmm. Then offer something without meat. See? Problem. Solution. (But no one's asking me.)

In between cheap drinks and shooting dirty looks towards the kitchen, I met up with my friend Mia. Not only is she gorgeous and fun, but...(drum roll please) she's a vegan as well! (Which makes her even more gorgeous and fun, naturally.)
Mia, me, and a fancy iphone app
After more than a few $5 cocktails, we were having too much fun to care that the only thing we'd had to eat were the plantain chips they put on the table as an appetizer. Which led us to get up and head to...

According to Mia's man friend that was with us, Villa Mayfair had recently opened as a high end bar/restaurant/lounge in the Grove. (High end? Bar? Sign. Me. Up.)

Villa Mayfair
Being a Wednesday night and all, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was swanky enough to make me think, just for a second, that this was maybe what J. Lo or Beyonce's life is like on the average Wednesday night. (Sigh.) While we weren't there to eat, the bartenders were happy to make us sample of their specialty drinks. Beet juice martini? Surprisingly delicious. Expresso martini? Please and thank you. 

Peach Mai Tais...need I say more?
Eventually I realized that I had an early flight the next day, and forced Mia and her man to drive me back to the marina in his two-seater sports car. (Luckily Mia is petite enough to ride on my lap.) 

The verdict for being vegan in Miami? Not so good.

 All in all? I could totally live like this. Bring on the cocktails, sports cars and mini skirts any day of the week. 

Any places in Miami or South Florida that you love?


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