Eateries tout meatless options for Orlando vegans
Trendy diets pop up every day encouraging eaters to eat farm-raised beef or meat from grass-fed animals only, but what about the vegan diet and cutting out anything animal related altogether?
Vegan diets, similar to vegetarian diets, do not allow for the consumption of meat or meat products, but unlike simple vegetarian diets, vegan diets also do not allow for the consumption of dairy products, eggs or any product that involved the use of an animal.
Though this diet is restrictive, Orlando is home to many establishments that welcome vegans with open arms and open menus.
Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Winter Park is one such restaurant, and has been open for roughly seven years, despite doing very little promotion and advertising.
Instead of providing outlandish or avant-garde foods for it's vegan clientele, Ethos provides home-style cooking to those who may not want to miss out on familiar flavors when undertaking a vegan diet.
Vegans actually only make up about 30 percent of their customers, however, said manager, owner and chef Kelly Shockley.
"We're a hearty type of restaurant," Shockley said. "We do home-style cooking. It's what people are familiar with with already. We just make it vegan."
Tifanny Burks has been a vegan for about a month and half after being a vegetarian for almost three years and is an Ethos regular, going about once month.
Though the restaurant's most popular item is the coconut curry wrap, Burks prefers the Yo Mama's Lasagna, made with lasagna noodles, marinara sauce, mozzarella, zucchini, squash, spinach and onions.
Burks has tried out veganism before, and recommends doing a little digging before jumping into it.
"Do a lot of research. Look at places in your area to try and to experiment with vegan food," Burks said. "Go to a lot of farmer's markets because they offer a lot of vegan options."
But if you're looking for something a little more edgy and out of the box, the Vegan Hot Dog Cart on Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando might be an option to explore.
Burks found the Vegan Hot Dog Cart one night downtown while searching the hashtag "#veganorlando" on Instagram and has fallen in love with it.
"They have this Holiday Dog and it's the best hot dog you'll ever try," Burks said.
Having been in the area for more than fifteen years, the Vegan Hot Dog Cart has seen its fair share of owners and currently rests in the hands of Shaun Noonan.
"The focus behind our cart is that there are people that are living downtown that are vegetarian or vegan and they need a place to get some food," Noonan said. "There's this influx of people on a nightly basis and they just want some food."
For the skeptics who may not trust a vegan hot dog or who may be apprehensive to the idea of one, Noonan recommends only one thing.
"There's only one way to do it; you've just got to try it," Noonan said. "When you take that first bite, you just go from there."
While the hot dog recipe itself is a trade secret, Noonan said, he assures that for those who do muster up the courage to try a vegan hot dog, 99 percent can't tell the difference between a vegan hot dog and the real thing.
The hot dogs have certainly found their share of fame, as their aforementioned Holiday Dog was recently named the "Best Vegan Hot Dog" by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The cart rotates between seasonal and static specialty dogs year-round, keeping roughly three to four dogs on the menu at once, ranging from a dog with some pumpkin addition in the fall to its classic chili-cheese dog year round.
Prices for these dogs range from $4 to $6.
But at many of these establishments, such as the two mentioned above, the clientele isn't strictly vegan or vegetarian.
Some patrons may just looking for a healthy bite or just simply enjoy the flavors of the dishes, vegan, vegetarian or not.
Keri Lee Pierson, a UCF junior studying music performance, enjoys vegan and vegetarian food for health reasons, while maintaining a diet that includes meat.
"It's healthier and I don't dislike the idea of being vegetarian, because the way the U.S. does meat isn't very sustainable, and I hate animal cruelty but that happens less than people think," Pierson said. "Also, as a singer, I need to be as healthy as I can while I'm practicing, and meats have a lot of acids and fats the body doesn't always deal with well."
Although some UCF-area restaurants, may not be specifically vegan, they do offer menu items, such as Lazy Moon's vegan soup and Hummus House's vegan falafel and pita, for students with restrictive diets and preferences.