T.H.R.I.V.E.: Vegan/Raw Food Eatery Deeply Hidden in South Beach

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T.H.R.I.V.E. is the name of this little vegan/raw food/juice bar at 1239 Alton Road on South Beach, but you won't see any indication of it existing if you walk by. Even knowing the address won't help, and if I tell you that it is within the Garden Center, you will still have trouble finding it. Too much trouble, if you ask me. But vegans and raw food aficionados won't bother asking me. Instead, they'll be grateful for my having pointed out that it exists and ignore my quibbles over the "chickin burger."

First of all, let me say how lovely the spacious and secluded outdoor dining patio is -- great place to sit and relax with one of the fresh-squeezed fruit juices and smoothies served ($6). There are a few seats indoors, too.

But as for the "chickin burger"...I always feel uneasy ordering a dish in which both words require parenthesis due to their mock natures. The "chickin" is some sort of greyish brown, mushy (but moist!), patty-shaped foodstuff culled from...actually, I've no idea other than it isn't meat. I do know that it was raw or what is referred to as "living food". If I was a food, I'd want a better life than that.

The "burger bun" is two leaves of kale. And in case you're wondering, it does not come with ketchup and pickles. Salad on the side was decent enough, and a miso dressing was awfully thin, but tasted just fine. The tomatoes atop the salad were great. I would have loved a salad made exclusively from those tomatoes -- hold the mushy patty.

Seriously: That's my beef with raw food restaurants. I mean I LOVE raw food. A good tomato salad is just one of dozens of uncooked meals I can totally enjoy. A whole array of vegetables can be eaten raw in salad form -- shaved fennel and radish...well, it's not even worth beginning to list, because it's almost everything. They can be cut in different ways to bring out different textures, they can be combined in new ways, flavored with fresh herbs, marinated in citrus juices (imagination is not the strong suit of raw foodists). How about a raw food joint that specializes in serving only salads made from only perfectly ripe produce?

​Thrive's "burger" was eminently edible, but $11 could have bought me a better sandwich just about anywhere. Price is a real raw food restaurant conundrum: How come food that doesn't need to be cooked always costs more than food that has to be? Don't they save some labor on not needing to hire somebody to work a stove, grill, fryer, etc.? Jeez, you'd think not needing to even buy and run all that equipment would make operations cheaper.

Some desserts are cooked, like a recommendable "German chocolate cake". This time the quotation marks come in because it's vegan, so no eggs, cream, etc -- more mousse than cake. But quite tasty with coconut flakes on top and a mock German frosting (also good) on the bottom, serving as crust. The cake was $6.

Although there are fruits in the house for juicing, nobody at T.H.R.I.V.E. has thought to offer a fruit salad. Biting into fresh, ripe fruit is, again, my idea of raw food bliss.

As I say, vegans and raw foodists will want to know about this restaurant. I'll stick to produce stands.

1239 Alton Rd., Miami Beach

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