By Megan Elliott
If you’ve ever tried eliminating meat from your diet, you know that one of the most challenging parts of sticking to a vegetarian lifestyle is that it isn’t cheap. Sure, if you’re living on rice and beans at home, you’re going to save a lot of money, but in terms of vegetarian convenience food, it can be hard to get bang for your buck. Lucky for us Orlandoans, there’s a fine selection of locally-owned restaurants that serve up inexpensive vegetarian grub.
Check out these local joints for vegetarian and vegan food under $10:
Jimmy Hula’s (vegetarian)- I present to you the most well-executed vegetarian taco that has ever graced my taste buds— the Tree Hugger ($3.79). Sliced zucchini, Portobello mushrooms and onions are fried in butter, then topped with black beans, crema (garlic-mayo sauce) and cotija cheese, wrapped in a toasted flour tortilla, and served with a side of tortilla chips. Even though it’s made with, arguably, the two most overused ingredients in vegetarian cooking— portabellas and black beans—this taco is perfection. Jimmy Hula’s has locations in East Orlando (UCF), Lake Mary, and Winter Park, and is under construction in Hunter’s Creek.
Eastside Asian Market (vegetarian, vegan)- This hidden gem of East Orlando is a quaint vegetarian café tucked inside of an Asian grocery store. The star of the menu is The Special Bun—a spicy blend of imitation pork and thin tofu strips on steamed buns. The buns come in pairs (two for $4.99).
Black Bean Deli (vegetarian, vegan)– If you’re a fan of faux-meat, you must try the Black Bean Deli’s Vegan Empanada. The meaty filling is so convincing that my omnivorous boyfriend was in utter disbelief. He called the server over to confirm that the empanada was, indeed, meatless. According to our server, the empanadas are made with a vegan ground-beef substitute, which customers often mistake for the real thing. One empanada ($2.50) and a cup of yellow rice ($1.50) is enough to satisfy, but I usually can’t resist a side of sweet plantains ($2.50) as well. The Black Bean Deli has two locations in Orlando and Winter Park.
Lazy Moon (vegetarian, vegan)- The slices at Lazy Moon are significantly bigger than your face, so one is always enough. Vegans can pig-out on a Treehugger slice ($5.75), with Daiya cheese and two toppings, or a Vegan Veggie soup ($4 cup, $6.50 bread bowl). In addition to the vegan options, all vegetarian entrees are $6.50 or less. Plus, you can design your own slice, or substitute tempeh for any meat. Located on University Boulevard, Lazy Moon is an obvious vegetarian haven for UCF students and East Orlando residents.
Avalon Pockets (vegetarian, vegan) – If you’re new to the “world of veg,” you should know that restaurants specializing in Mediterranean fare are typically a safe bet for filling, meatless options. Middle Eastern cuisine is one of my favorites. I mean, vegetarian or not, who doesn’t love falafel? The best falafel I’ve had comes from Avalon Pockets, a quaint, family-owned business in Avalon Park. What they lack in atmosphere, they make up for in delicious, made-from-scratch food and endearing customer service. At Avalon Pockets, $4.99 will get you the best falafel wrap in town. Trust me, I know my falafel. On top of that, a dollar extra will get you fries and a drink to boot! That’s a filling, made-from-scratch vegan meal for $5.99.
Toasted (vegetarian, vegan)– Toasted is a gourmet grilled cheese shop. Need I say more? Conveniently located in the plaza next to the Winter Park Whole Foods, Toasted offers a variety of vegan and vegetarian entrees, with an exclusively vegan menu, in addition to its omnivorous options. The vegan Truffle Melt ($6.25) consists of an excellent house-made vegan cheese, arugula, truffle oil and pepper, melted between two toasty slices of locally sourced bread. If you’re down with dairy, try the Fig & Goat ($6.50), a grilled cheese made with goat cheese, Havarti, figs, basil and honey. It is truly a magical sandwich.
Buyers Beware: While this restaurant is extremely veg-friendly, its seemingly innocent tomato soup is made with chicken broth (yikes!). So stick with the sandwiches, my veggie friends.
Well, there you have it, folks! Thank the heavens for local vegetarian goodness, and tip your servers well. Enjoy!
However, they’re not quite as affordable as the aforementioned, and every respectable vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, flexatarian, or what-ever-you-are-atarian in Orlando has been to those places. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Go! Go right now!
Megan Elliott is studying journalism at the University of Central Florida, where she contributes as a writer and photographer for Centric Magazine and The Central Florida Future. In addition to her academic pursuits, Megan is completing a 200-hour yoga teacher certification through the Yoga Alliance. Passionate about environmental conservation and animal rights, Megan volunteers with Back To Nature Wildlife Refuge, a local wildlife rehabilitation and education center. There she serves as an Administrative Assistant, animal care volunteer and foster parent to orphaned wildlife. Megan’s highest pleasures include eating sushi and snuggling with her boyfriend and his cat.