Miami Spice: Florida Cookery's Vegetarian-Friendly Lunch

I have a wonderful friend who lives in Palm Beach. Blame it on easy communication over the Internet, but even though we're only an hour drive from each other, we barely get together in person.

So, whenever either of us finds ourselves within 15 minutes of one another, we drop everything and make time for lunch, dinner...or a quick coffee. With my friend staying overnight in South Beach, a Saturday Miami Spice lunch was planned. Only problem? She's mostly vegetarian, who will eat the occasional seafood dish, so I was tasked with finding a restaurant that would entice her.

Perusing the Miami Spice menus (and keeping in mind the "I'm almost never on Miami Beach and want to dine someplace lovely" parameters), I happened upon Florida Cookery's lunch menu. The restaurant, in the James Royal Palm hotel, was walking distance from where my friend was staying, there was an abundance of veg-friendly items, and the large outdoor patio sounded inviting, so I made reservations for two. If you're into a delicious meat-free meal, Florida Cookery will serve you well. Here's what we had:

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Roasted garlic and lemon drenched romaine is served with green olives. Parmesan and green olive tapenade is slathered onto baguette toast instead of croutons. It's a bright play on a classic Caesar salad. Note for strict vegetarians: The dressing is pureed with whole anchovy filets, so opt for the salad without the dressing if that's a concern. Carnivores can opt for the guabana-glazed sticky ribs with green papaya slaw.

When you describe anything as a "dream" you're setting the bar high. But the aptly named "Veggie Dream Burger" delivers. A house-made veggie patty is flash-fried to give it a light crust. The burger is topped with a lemony sprout mix, goat cheese, and grilled tomatoes and served on a whole grain bun. Truth be told, we ate the extra large sandwich, which is served with your choice of slaw or quinoa, open-faced in order to make room for dessert. Other options include lime-grilled chicken with avocado, fennel and arugula; and a Mediterranean chopped salad.

For dessert, we ordered the Old Miami Beach Key Lime pie with torched meringue and almond crust. Although the tart we received was flavorful (torched, the meringue turns into a toasted marshmallow topping), there's something about a slice of actual pie that feels more "down home" and "Old Miami Beach" than the perfect little morsel we received.

Florida Cookery offers Miami Spice lunch daily ($23). When we were there, lunch was being served on the patio only, so call ahead and check if the dining room is open if you can't stand the Florida heat and humidity.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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