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Pete's Authentic Cooking: Fresh, Vegan, and Gluten-Free Lunch in Coral Gables

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Pete's Authentic Cooking isn't a health-oriented restaurant, but it sells vegan soups. Though the Coral Gables breakfast and lunch spot offers gluten-free options, it also bakes fresh chocolate chip muffins and croissants.

That's because Pete's has one of the smartest fast-casual menus I've seen in some time. While lesser lunch spots peddle chicken salads and turkey clubs, this restaurant offers shaved fennel with Parmesan, grapefruit, and spring greens in a citrus vinaigrette.

Sounds pricey, right?

It's not. That salad is just $7.50.

The restaurant, which opened in April, features rotating specials. Thursdays, try the chicken sandwich with oven-roasted tomato, lemon aioli, and arugula on ciabatta. Fridays, go for the Thai noodle salad with cilantro, basil, julienned vegetables, green curry, and chopped cashews. (The latter is vegan and gluten-free.)

Soups vary from squash, lemongrass, and coconut milk to a cold variety made with avocado, apple, and cucumber (small $4.50, large $5.50). A lunch combo -- featuring a drink, small soup, and sandwich or salad -- costs $12.40.

Pete's also lets you build your own salad or sandwich.

Classics are also on the menu, so you can order a beef and chorizo sandwich with Pete's homemade pineapple and apple jam ($7.95), and your buddy can opt for a small niçoise or caesar ($4.50) if he must.

As for flavors, I sampled a rich and surprisingly vegan red bell pepper soup served with toasted sliced baguette, as well as a turkey sandwich with bacon and avocado and a simple, unfussy salad with grains.

Pete's isn't doing anything groundbreaking, but it's providing Coral Gables with another fresh lunch option that includes vegan and gluten-free meals. The menu elevates traditional salad-and-sandwich fare and maintains reasonable prices.

Oh, and it's pretty tasty too.

Pete's Authentic Cooking is located at 153 Giralda Ave. and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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