I remember when I first visited Florida in 1998 that being a vegetarian was a problem. I’m actually a pescatarian, meaning I eat fish which meant a tuna sub was for lunch most days. Gladly these days are gone and living in Tampa I have an abundance of options available to me and today I want to share a few of my favorites.
First up is Fresh Kitchen – owned by The Ciccio Restaurant Group is located on S Howard Ave, right in the hub of South Tampa. The Fresh Kitchen offer is a full range of fresh and delicious ingredients combined in a handy bowl to eat in or take out. The restaurant is reminiscent of a cafeteria where diners head to the counter and order their bowl ingredients from the menu, picking a base such as noodles, rice or Quinoa, then veggies and a protein, topping it all off with a delicious house-made sauce. There is usually a meat protein, a fish and tofu. There are also a range of healthy, desserts to choose from and they cold-press a variety of juices made fresh each day and even a cayenne pepper based immune-boosting shot.
The Ciccio Restaurant Group also owns Ciccio, Ciccio Water (a sushi restaurant), Daily Eats (amazing breakfasts) and even their own fitness center The Camp that offers Yoga, Camp Cycle (a high-energy, music based cycling experience) and Circuit Training.
Also in South Tampa is Rouen Thai, a vegan, vegetarian and macrobiotic friendly restaurant. They do serve meat dishes so your carnivore friends will be happy but the vegetarian menu is not only large but diverse. The restaurant is also child friendly.
If you are looking for entertainment over dinner head on over to Byblos on a Friday or Saturday night. They serve freshly made Lebanese food and host a belly dancer who shimmies and twirls her way around the restaurant during the evening. They do offer meat dishes but vegetarians will be happy with having multiple options to choose from while enjoying the cozy decor.
Meze 119 is located over in Pinellas County in St Petersburg. This middle eastern bistro restaurant offers a range of gourmet vegetarian and vegan foods made from fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant is open for brunch on Sundays between 11-3 and opens for lunch Monday to Saturday 11-5pm and dinner from 5pm-9pm on Sunday to Thursday and 5pm-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Pinellas County is also home to The Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, the only 100% vegan Vietnamese restaurant in the county. Every two weeks The Lotus hosts a huge vegan all you can eat buffet.
Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen located in Bay Street at International Mall offer some great Wok Out bowls with a choice of protein including tofu, a choice of sauce and a base of either sticky brown rice, shanghai lo mean or quinoa. During happy hour all of their burgers including the veggie burger are priced at $5 and don’t miss their drink specials. The salads feature dressings that are made in house daily and include quinoa kitchen salad with macron almonds, mint, radish and feta topped with crispy leeks and served with quinoa and basil vinaigrette as well as the brussels sprout salad with kale and macron almonds tossed in parmigiana reggiano vinaigrette.
There are many more options available throughout the three counties in Tampa Bay and as healthy eating becomes more popular and mainstream, there will be many more to follow. The area has recently been home to Fit Foodie, a race and healthy eating event that drew large crowds ready to embrace healthy eating alternatives and new workout options and Wanderlust, a mindful triathlon of yoga, mediation and a 5k run partnered with vendors offering healthy dining options and active wear aimed towards athletic participants from all genres but heavily geared towards the yogis in attendance.
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