Top 5 Vegan Restaurants in South Florida

Vegan restaurants in Miami are rare. For the most part, they cater to a granola-munching, Birkenstock-wearing demographic, but neglect the rest of us who just like to eat.

Maybe veganism would be more widely accepted if it struck a balance between looking appetizing and providing an environment where the masses would feel at ease. After all, there are probably many people among the millions in Miami who would happily try vegan fare if it were presented accordingly.

These are that can provide an example.

1. Escopazzo: Italian cuisine is particularly good for vegetarianism, but raw and vegan is challenging. Chef Giancarla Bodoni dishes raw, vegan fare in a fine dining setting and obliges the whims and needs of finicky eaters. Escopazzo is the only full service restaurant in Miami where vegans will never feel disciminated against or snubbed. In a couple of weeks, she will expand her raw section to include a few more items. 1311 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach; 305-674-9450

2. Sublime: Owner Nanci Alexander has been serving "clear-concience" cuisine since 1989. Lauded for its vegan fare and upbeat atmosphere, Sublime was named "Top 10 Vegetarian Restaurant" nationally by USA Today and has attracted celebrities like Pamela Anderson, Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Alicia Silverstone, and Bob Barker. And 100% of the proceeds go to organizations that promote animal welfare and vegan lifestyles. 1431 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale; 954-615-1431

3. La Vie en Raw: This Coral Gables eatery focuses on raw cuisine even though the menu is completely vegan. Our very own Riki Altman, went there a few months back and gave it a semi, wavering thumbs up. She appreciated the fact that a carnivore could go there and leave satisfied. Standout dishes include the smoothies, fresh squeezed juices, and "meatloaf." 3808 SW Eighth Street, Coral Gables; 305-444-3826

4. Lifefood Gourmet: Lifefood Chef John Schott has been on a mission to "simply love and help humanity overcome its perils." Part counter service, part health mart, Lifefood Gourmet serves raw, vegan food intended to nourish and rejuvenate the body all the while providing a douse of spirituality, well-being and sanity. 1248 SW 22 Street, Miami; 305-856-6767

5. Glaser Farmer's Market: Technically not a restaurant, Glaser counts because it's more mainstream. Every Saturday just due west from Cocowalk, Glaser Farms sets up this bazaar and  offers a vast array of raw, vegan preparations ranging from dried fruit patties and snacks, all types of salads, dips and dressing, vegetarian desserts and squeezed juices. If you don't have a juicer or a Whole Foods close by, then Glaser is the next best thing; just be ready to throw down some loot. 19100 SW 137th Ave., Miami; 305-238-7747

Parting thoughts? Veganism is far cry for most omnivores and strikes fear in all carnivores. Never the less, if vegetarians, vegans and raw food eaters ever want to be well respresented in the dining community, it wouldn't hurt if they took a more mainstream approach and operate as full fledge restaurants versus dark, dingy, fast-casual counters. These restaurants prove to be a good start.

As the adage goes, "We are what we eat." But according to Ms. Altman, "[if] we are what we eat, I'd certainly rather be a smoothie than a greasy slice of pizza."

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Aniece Meinhold