Choices Vegan Cafe Opens Off Brickell

​​The first "choices" that led up to the birth of Choices Vegan Café (379 SW 15th Road, Miami) were brothers Jorge and Alex Cuevas' decisions to leave their long-time former professions. Jorge, 45, was a high-level school district administrator in San Francisco, handling more than 40 million dollars in federal and state education funding. Alex, 34, had been in software sales for 11 years. But both of the 15-year vegans had a passion for earth-conscious living and eating habits that eventually drove them to put it all on the line and open a vegan restaurant here in Miami.

To add to the risk factor, the spot they found is the same one that Om Garden, another vegan restaurant, used to inhabit before it closed its doors last year. The joint is located on a quasi-residential street and has a homey look from the outside, but a sleek, fresh, and streamlined appearance inside, with new paint in vibrant green, plus shiny new counter tops and simple white stools. It's soft opening, what Jorge calls the "menu stabilization" phase, began six days ago, and customers have been either stumbling in from the neighborhood or coming in rather purposefully after having found the place online.

To deepen the pertinence of the restaurant's name, diners have three tiers of vegan food to choose

from: "Soul-ution," vegan "comfort foods," or alternatives to

traditional foods; "Evo-lution," healthier vegan meals; and

"Raw-volution," raw vegan foods with the highest nutrient density,

phytochemicals, and digestive enzymes.

Short Order got a chance to sample a bit of each of these tiers on our First Bites visit.

First up was the Vegan Assassin's Insane Mexican Wrap ($13) (The "Vegan Assassin" is Alex Cuevas' negativity-fighting alter ego).

Camille Lamb
The VA Insane Mexican Wrap mixes spicy and sweet with soy chorizo and plantains.


burrito comes from the "Soul-ution" portion of the menu, because it

employs meat alternatives to mimic the flavor of a typical burrito. But

this hearty wrap did a lot better than simple substitution with its mix

of spicy, creamy, and sweet flavors.


spiciness stemmed from the soy chorizo, a vegan version of the Mexican

sausage. The luscious and surprisingly creamy, cheesy taste could be

attributed to the Daiya brand

tapioca-based cheese alternative smooshed in the center. And the sweet

flavor came to our mouths courtesy of some organic plantains, sauteed

lightly before being folded into the mix.

Camille Lamb
The VA Insane Mexican Wrap comes with a fresh and fruity side salad


wrap was accompanied by a plate of fresh organic salad, lightly dressed

with lime juice and not much else. The burrito's mix of flavors popped,

and the dish as a whole was ridiculously satisfying. Far from "bird

food," it would be especially great for diners just starting to

experiment with meat and dairy-free foods, but who are unwilling to

stray too far from the looks and tastes of familiar eats.

Next, we tried four of Choices' healthful soups and sides.

Camille Lamb


starting from the left-most cup, we tried the roasted buckwheat

vegetable soup ($6 for a regular portion), made with organic garlic,

tomato, onion and lemon. It was flavorful and not too salty, but could

have gone a bit lighter on the garlic.

Next in

line was the kale stew ($6), which had a strong tomato flavor that we

were surprised by, but welcomed over the heavy "green" kale flavor that

we expected. Other ingredients include black beans, soy chorizo, and

melt-in-your mouth cubes of sweet potato.


came the quinoa salad ($7), a simple mix of perfectly cooked organic

quinoa, onions, lemon, cilantro, and kernels of raw sweet corn. Alex

mentioned that this was one of the top sellers, and we liked it, but we

preferred the next salad for its refreshing juxtaposition of citrus,

spice, summery vegetables and fruits.


salad was the jicama and papaya ($6), a simple blend of those two

elements, plus lime juice and cayenne pepper. The mix of crisp and

fleshy textures and tangy and spicy flavors was the perfect combination

for a hot Miami night.

Camille Lamb
Choices' raw summer rolls


rolls ($5) may or may not make regular appearances on the restaurant's

permanent menu, as Jorge says they're extremely time-consuming to

prepare. But if you happen to be in the neighborhood when Choices has

them as a featured special, try one. They consist of organic greens,

tofu, sprouts, carrots, and tomato, accented with fresh mint leaves and a

dollop of a spicy almond-peanut sauce, all wrapped in a moistened

rice-paper roll. Fragrant, fresh, and healthy, these rolls have a mix of

textures and flavors that's fun to eat.

Camille Lamb
The "Por Su Pesto" tofu sandwich

The "Por Su Pesto" sandwich (a play on the Spanish

por supuesto

, meaning "of course") is a simple tofu sandwich on

Ezekiel bread

(made from organic sprouted whole grains), topped with spinach, tomato,

and homemade pesto. It was tasty. Maybe nothing to write home about,

but a good value as it includes a generous side salad for $10.


brothers plan to start serving breakfast within the next few weeks.

(Jorge said he's in the process of perfecting the perfect vegan and

gluten-free pancake --- God bless him.) We got to try one of the dishes

that will become a staple of the morning menu: raw oatmeal.

Camille Lamb
Choices' raw oatmeal

No, that doesn't just mean choking down handfuls of dry oats. Organic

oats, along with cashews, cinnamon, and dates, are soaked for somewhere

around 15 hours. Before serving, fresh fruits like strawberries and

bananas are sliced in. The result? A higher nutrient retention in your

favorite breakfast food. As far as taste and texture goes, the dish

closely resembles a fruity rice pudding.

The restaurant also serves the made-to-order organic raw juices Alex has become so well known for, and it will soon roll out its superfood smoothie menu, featuring ingredients like raw cacao, maca, and goji berries.

Choices is currently open from noon to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Call 305-400-8895 or go to mychoicescafe.com.

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