The typical South Beach Sunday brunch often includes a bloody Mary/mimosa budget that hovers around $25. Tack on some half-cooked eggs slathered in glorified mayonnaise and some breakfast rib eye or butter-soaked French toast, and you've got yourself a $50 to $75 tab that serves only to postpone your weekend hangover and bog your body down as you get ready to start the week.
In contrast, T.H.R.I.V.E.'s vegan and raw-vegan Saturday and Sunday brunch is a bargain not only for your wallet but in the recovery time it saves you after your weekend debauchery. The South Beach vegan haven (whose name is an acronym for "The Healthy Raw Inspired Vegan Experience") is tucked inside the Garden Center at 1239 Alton Road, but it's now more visible than when it first opened in 2010, thanks to the colorful chalkboard signage perched on the sidewalk out front.
The weekend brunch menu consists mostly of raw vegan choices, with one cooked dish (the waffles) rounding out the list. You start with a fresh-made organic juice (grapefruit, orange, or strawberry lemonade) and some sprouted buckwheat granola with fruit, coconut or nut milk, or almond milk yogurt. Sprouted flax banana pancakes; tofu scramble with sweet potato hash; sprouted cornmeal breakfast tacos or vegan quesadillas; and the whole grain waffles with fresh fruit constitute the entree options. The three-course brunch costs $20, but you can also just order an entree for $13 if you prefer to go ala carte.
Among the patrons at the eatery this Sunday was Mike Davis, who took a giant leap in his diet by going raw vegan as his 2012 New Year's resolution. Prior to that, he had been health-conscious and even dabbled in juicing, but had included chicken, turkey, and eggs in his diet. "[The motivation to change] was something I'd felt for the last two years, but it was something I was slowly moving towards. I didn't jump right into it."
Since he crossed over into raw veganism, he says he's seen significant improvements in his health and energy level. He's also lost 15 pounds and completely given up coffee. "I feel great. I sleep great. I wake up better. I rest better. I have more energy at work. I don't know, I have more vitality, I guess," he says. "I've lost five or six inches around my waist... but that wasn't the driving force. It was just to totally clean my body out." He's now slowly working on bringing more exercise into his routine, starting with bikram yoga.
He wasn't staying for brunch, but was picking up a piece of the raw chocolate mousse to go. He says he's also a fan of T.H.R.I.V.E.'s curry kelp "noodles," juices, and kale salad. "I really like their homemade dressings."
He paid about eight bucks for the raw chocolate dessert. While that may seem like a lot by "normal" restaurant standards, Davis says he believes the prices at T.H.R.I.V.E. are fair, all things considered. "They're organic and raw. And I do it at home, I make my own meals, so I know what they do. They're making it with love, they're taking their time, they're finding quality ingredients and ending up with an amazing product."
Gabriela Trejo-Watkins has been working at T.H.R.I.V.E. for about eight months and says that the response to their weekend brunch has been beyond positive. "Usually it's a mad house because there's so many people that really enjoy the food -- non-vegans and vegans that just want to have a good wholesome meal."
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I asked Trejo-Watkins whether she believed there was a shift pushing people away from Bellini-soaked brunching and toward the kind of holistic dining that T.H.R.I.V.E.'s Sunday brunch provides.
"I think so. As the green movement becomes more popular, people are realizing that certain foods are not good for you," she said. "More than half of our customers are not vegan, but I think people are realizing that your body needs nourishment, and that if you don't give it to your body then you're going to have health effects. So they get to come here and they eat good food, it tastes great, and they can escape from all the other foods. Veganism isn't for everyone, but I think a plant-based diet is what people need."
T.H.R.I.V.E.'s brunch menu is served 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can also order from their regular menu during those hours.