Veganism – whether you do it for the love of animals, dietary reasons or simply because you need a good cleanse, dining on plant-based foods can be both delectable and surprising.
Over the years, vegan cuisine has been on the rise and I’m happy to tell you in Pensacola it is a common menu option.
A few Pensacola restaurants have made catering to vegans a specialty, but above and beyond those, there are interesting vegan dishes virtually everywhere you look. Today, I’m spotlighting a few places that are either exclusively vegan or offer extensive vegan menus. But I’ll also give you some delicious vegan options at more “general audience” places, so if your friends all turn their noses up at places that aren’t serving the beef, there’s no need to worry.
End of the Line Cafe
Nestled in the shadow of the Pensacola Grand Hotel at 610 E. Wright St., End of the Line Cafe is Pensacola’s longest-running vegan restaurant, opening in 2002. Everything on the menu is 100 percent vegan and 100 percent delicious.
Beyond maintaining a completely vegan menu, End of the Line strives to provide wholly organic, local and GMO-free ingredients as well as ethically sourced ingredients. They are proud to avoid pre-packaged solutions, with everything house-made, including their own vegan cheese. Gluten-free, wheat-free and soy-free alternatives are plentiful.
In addition to their regular menu, End of the Line offers weekly Sunday brunch and a Thursday night dinner with a new menu each week. But you’ll find plenty to love on the regular menu, too, which has an international flair that include vegan takes on everything from a Korean Banh Mi sandwich and a classic Cuban panini to a New Orleans-style Muffaletta and a jackfruit pulled pork sandwich. Other favorites include the surfer burrito, loaded with coconut black beans, Cheddar, chimichurri, sour cream and pico de gallo; a mezzo platter brimming with stuffed grape leaves, tabbouli, feta, kalamata olives, hummus and warm pita; and even a tempeh-based take on tuna salad. Beer and wine are also available in this eclectic spot loaded with personality.
Typical bar food is not typically vegan-friendly, but when you have a late-night craving for drinks and snacks, Chizuko is the place to go. Located in the historic Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood at 506 W. Belmont St., Chizuko has the atmosphere of your favorite funky dive bar, but the kitchen churns out an incredible and ever-changing menu of vegan delights that will blow away the average joint’s Buffalo wings and cheese sticks, even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore.
I’m pretty sure someone’s written a song about Chizuko’s decadent double-decker peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, loaded with strawberries, bananas and, yes, potato chips, and if they have, they could even perform it right in the bar, which frequently features live music and other entertainment such as stand-up comedy. It’s hard to predict what will be offered at any given time — menus are literally hand-written — but what is predictable is that it will be great. Perennial favorites include curried boiled peanuts and kimchi potato salad, but creativity and spontaneity are the watchwords here.
Skopelos at New World
One of Pensacola’s most venerated and historic restaurants, Skopelos at New World Landing, 600 S. Palafox S., recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the cuisine is in any way dated. Chef Gus Silivos and his team are constantly embracing new trends and coming up with new ideas, and while Skopelos does not solely specialize in vegan cuisine, the restaurant has embraced vegan offerings in a big way, with items across every menu.
Among its options, Skopelos has embraced the Impossible brand of plant-based meat substitutes, but goes well beyond the standard burger — though they have that, too, dressed with vegan Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion and with a variety of add-ons including vegan cheeses, crispy eggplant “bacon,” avocado and sautéed mushrooms and onions. An impossible version of a classic shepherd’s pie is also offered in lunch and dinner portions, with impossible crumbles and nutritional yeast mashed potatoes along with carrots, online, celery, garlic and peas. And Sunday brunch offerings include an Impossible country-fried steak and “eggs” with a lightly breaded and fried Impossible patty served with Just Egg plant-based scramble and a cashew milk gravy.
Beyond the Impossible, vegan offerings include a mushroom Reuben sandwich featuring “corned” Portabella mushrooms and vegan smoked Gouda, vegan “scallops” made from King Trumpet mushrooms; and even a peanut butter ganache dessert featuring a peanut butter mousse and dark chocolate ganache with coconut milk in a chocolate/oatmeal/Dandies vegan marshmallow crust. And don’t miss the Buffalo cauliflower bites on the mezzo menu as a spicy and sensational appetizer.
Live! Raw Juice Bar and More
It doesn't get any more vegan than 100% raw foods. Live! is centered on mindfulness and plain good eats. Our favorite - the Thai noodle bowl and the herbal tonic cold-pressed juice.
A few other can’t-miss dishes:
• Carmen’s Lunch Bar, 407 S. Palafox St.: Vegan Moroccan Vegetable Curry, flavorful and filling, with harissa, golden raisins, chickpeas, green olives, carrots, onions, sweet bell peppers, fresh mint and basmati rice.
• Taste of India, 810 E. Gregory St.: Offers a number of vegan selections including Channa masala, garbanzo beans cooked punjabi style and dal fry, featuring spiced yellow lentils. They also do a monthly vegan social, so be sure to check their calendar of events!
• Jackson’s Steakhouse, 400 Palafox Place: Five-Vegetable Vegan Bowl, featuring roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and cauliflower, grilled bok choy and spring onions, and coconut milk risotto.
• The Tin Cow, 102 Palafox Place: Build-your-own burger concept offers two different types of vegan patties including the Impossible burger, with a wide array of fully customizable topping choices.
• City Bowls South, moving location: Acai Bowls on the go-go. This healthy food truck can be seen around different parts of Pensacola. Tune into their Facebook page here for updates
• Pot Roast & Pinot, 11B Palafox Place: Vegan “scallops and bacon” features kombu-cured tofu, mushroom “bacon" and balsamic reduction served with seasonable vegetables.
• Nom Sushi Izakaya, 410 S. Palafox St.: Vegan miso ramen, a big bowl brimming with roasted vegetable broth, marinated tofu, kale, crispy shiitakes, scallion and sun-dried tomato oil.
• Cafe Single Fin,380 N. 9th Ave. Full vegan menu featuring breakfast all day, acai bowls, and so many yummy options
Have a favorite vegan restaurant or dish we missed? Tell us below!