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Orlando, FL, home of Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true? Really? What if you are vegan or vegetarian? Let's take a look...

Disney parks, arts, museums and so much more... thousands of people visit Orlando, FL every year from all over the world. But the number 1 challenge has always been where to grab healthy vegan food and snacks, right?

The truth is I've been to Disney parks with family and friends numerous times, and every single time finding vegetarian or vegan friendly dishes was a big challenge. I often grabbed french fries and some tea at best and usually had to bring my own vegan food with me so I don't starve.

As far as Disney parks go, (as fas as I know) there is one restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios which offers a vegan burger with fries. All other parks have very limited options, and intentionally so, since a huge part of the Disney experience is to allow visitors to enjoy the foods they crave and love, not necessarily healthy foods you know.

Erin McKennas Bakery (aka BabyCakes NYC) at Downtown Disney:

And on that note, I did however find some delicious and health conscious desserts at Downtown Disney at Erin McKennas Bakery (aka BabyCakes NYC), which opened their doors during Spring 2015 and is already a huge hit among local vegans and vegetarians! Plus their gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free desserts are sweetened with agave and unrefined sugar (which are better than regular sugar at least), so there is something for everyone! I tried the banana cake and it was simply delicious. Highly recommend this place, dynamite!

https://www.erinmckennasbakery.com

 

I've also tried and loved the pumkpin slice from Erin McKenna's BabyCakes, the world's premiere gluten-free vegan bakery, and previously the shop at downtown Disney before Erin Mc Kenna's Bakery opened its doors. See pics below from Summer 2015:

 

 

 

Vegan Brocolli Cheese Biscuit:

 

Now outside of Disney and the parks there is lots to explore! Check out these must-try vegan and vegetarians restaurants around the city of Orlando...

My #1 choice! Ethos Vegan Kitchen:

My all around favorite! http://www.ethosvegankitchen.com

Ethos is 100% vegan and most importantly, they estimate that 50% of their menu is organic. What started as a vegan restaurant in downtown Orlando has grown to its current beautiful location in Winter Park since July 2012. The new location now attracts vegan and health concious people from around Orlando daily. Ethos provides wonderful food at a reasonable price and even vegan bakery items made from scratch on-site daily. Plus Ethos is just walking distance from the shops and museums in beautiful historic Winter Park. A must try!

Here are some of the dishes:

Ethos Garden Salad GF SF
Mixed spring greens loaded with artichoke hearts, vine ripe tomatoes, black olives, sprouts, red onions, carrots, cucumbers and broccoli. Served with your choice of dressing. (Tip: Plus I added Tofu for a small extra fee)

Chickun Marsala
Sautéed chickun and button mushrooms covered in a Marsala wine sauce on a bed of spaghetti.

Blackened Tempeh GF
Tempeh coated in our special blend of Cajun seasonings and seared in a cast-iron skillet. Served over basmati rice and layered with black beans with carrots and peppers, collard greens and tomato-mango salsa.

 

And here are some of the small bites and soups at Ethos Orlando:

A side of spinach (Tip: A nutritious side at a great value also)

Black Bean Soup GF SF
Black beans, onions, carrots and red and green bell peppers seasoned then slow-cooked to perfection. Topped with sour cream and diced red onions.

Vegetable Galette
Seasoned carrots, potatoes, and broccoli wrapped in a layer of flaky pastry and baked until golden brown.

Chickun Gyro (Tip: There is something new and unique daily on their specials menu!)

 

Garden Cafe:

Already very popular among locals is the Garden Cafe in downtown Orlando. An asian chinese restaurant with all time favorites including veggie fried rice, tofu and veggies noddles and much more. Note that there desserts, however, are vegetarian, not vegan, and since they include milk I didn't get to try them.

Warnings: Note that their food, oils and many of the dishes are heavily processed. Plus if you are not a fan of fake meats avoid most dishes including the sushi as well. Perhaps give it a try once, but definitely not ideal for healthy conscious eaters. They most likely use GMO tofu as well.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/garden-café-orlando-4

 

Kiko Japanese Cuisine:

Another great find is vegan sushi at Kiko Japanese Cuisine.

http://www.gokikosushi.com

Chef Jim Wu moved from San Francisco, CA to Orlando, FL and brought with him the fine art of japanese sushi, but better yet, without any food coloring, MSG or lard. In addition to his regular sushi menu he also created a special vegetarian menu. I guess being that he came from California, he brought a piece of their delicious and healthy food culture to Orlando! He also teaches cooking healthy classes. And his lunch specials include salad and miso soup as well 5 days a week. Check out these great photos below of the Avocado on top Roll and Shrimp Tempura vegan sushis.

Two Roll Combo (w/ soup & salad)
(Pick two rolls from: California, Avocado on top Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy yum Roll or B.B.Q Pork Roll)

When asked they say they use the brand House Tofu but were not sure if GMO or not.

 

Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa

What? A bbq place? Let me share this one...

http://www.pigfloyds.com/

Imagine being in town and family wanting to drag you to a BBQ place. I'm sure you've been there, and most times you don't find much to eat... well, unless you try Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa.

Pig Floyd's Vegan Tofu, Fries and Veggies
It tastes awesome! I ate the whole thing. Plus the place is so cute, well-designed and guess what? It smells great! No heavy bbq smell if that bothers you. So step inside for a great time with family and friends! Love the manager too as he constantly checks with everyone and make sure we are all having a great time.

When looking at their menu remember: Substitute tofu for any menu item at no charge

 

Thai House of Orlando:

A favorite among locals is Thai House of Orlando. Tip: They are always packed during lunch hours, so be sure to get there early and no later than 2pm to make sure you grab a seat!

http://www.thaihouseoforlando.net

Their Phad Panang Spicy Curry with tofu, broccoli, bell peppers and mushroons is delicious.

 

Bosphorous Restaurant:

At the heart of Winter Park you will find Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine.

http://bosphorousrestaurant.com

While not a vegan restaurant, it's a great place to take family and friends, with great prices, a beautiful atmosphere and awesome freshly made food! Some of the vegan friendly options include:

Vegetable Sauté (Guvec)
A delightful combination of fresh green beans, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, and garlic in a savory tomato sauce

Babaganoush
Fresh smoked eggplant purée with tahini, olive oil, and yogurt

Hummus
Freshly pureed chickpeas with olive oil, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice

 

 

That's not all folks! Other vegan and vegan friendly restaurants include:

Black Bean Deli http://blackbeandeli.yolasite.com Check out the awesome new location on East Colonial Drive, a dream that came true for the owner who dreamed of this 2nd location for years! You can now have sit, grab a drink, enjoy the Vegetarian Platter (rice, black beans, sweet plantains and salad), and a side of Vegan Enpanadas. There is also cuban coffee, latin sodas, kombucha and much more.

Raphsodic Bakery http://www.raphsodic.com A must try vegan bakery for vegans and non-vegans. I tried a few of the cakes and cupcakes and while they were a bit too sweet for me, they are a favorite among locals for sure!

Loving Hut Orlando http://www.lovinghut.us/florida A popular asian restaurant in California, now with 4 locations in Florida.

Infusion Tea http://www.infusionorlando.com A wonderful place with a great variety of teas, plus you also get a stamp card. Enjoy sandwiches, soups, delicious vegan cakes and more.

Dandelion Communitea http://dandelioncommunitea.com Beautiful patio and artwork at Dandellion. From soups to sandwiches to dessert and more. I even brought my guitar and enjoyed playing with a couple local guitar players.

Daya facebook.com/DayaRestaurant Open only between 5-9pm, and a bit pricier. You will enjoy the freshest ingredients, beautiful delicious dishes and a lovely staff.

Olea Grill Orlando http://www.oleagrill.com An awesome Greek-inspired menu with a Chipotle inspired experienced. Note that most of the foods are salads and cold however, and the falafel is fried in canola or vegetable oil on their own pan.

Tako Cheena, an Asian-Mexican-fusion inspired menu with several vegan friendly options. A small restaurant with limited sitting and very limited street parking. Also note that when you order a burrito you pay extra for each small container of salsa, as they are freshly made. The water did not seem filtered, so be sure to bring or grab a drink. You can order to go or have sit and wait to be served, however the service is very slow I noticed, and after reading some reviews online I guess it's not just my opinion. Overall a favorite among locals and often packed during busy hours. Warning: I asked and they do use GMO tofu they said.

Bento Cafe http://www.bentocafesushi.com They offer a couple vegan friendly options, however most dishes are fried in the same oil pan as the chicken and fishes, so ask before ordering. I tried the Veggie Stir Fry and it was quite sweet and the portion was small also I thought. Additionally be sure to find street parking, as at their plaza I was only refunded $5 of the $10 parking fee. Warning: They also use GMO tofu.

Chipotle http://www.chipotle.com The awesome thing is they announced they were going organic and elimating GMO foods. In fact, much of the vegan ingredients, rice, beans, avocado, corn, tofu are already organic or moving towards organic and non-GMO. When I asked their corn is not organic but not GMO either.

Italio Kitchen http://italiokitchen.com They offer delicious dishes from grill including sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and more for a pasta bowl or wrap. Warning: Vegetarians can add some cheese, but vegans might need to bring their own protein source.

Pei Wei Orlando http://www.peiwei.com

Photo: Veggie Tofu Rice Noodles at Pei Wei

 

Find many more vegetarian friendly places here: http://www.happycow.net/north_america/usa/florida/orlando

 

A "Happy" Place after all, just be careful... :)

So whether it's soup, salad, sandwiches or even sushi, Orlando has something vegan for every taste! So on your next trip be sure to take a day or two to explore the local cuisine as well. Orlando might not be famous for its vegan cuisine, but I was sure impressed by all the choices! A diverse and exciting vegan-friendly city after all! :)

Note that most places don't even know about the quality of their foods, so I could not include many details here. When I ask about the tofu, for example, some told me they use GMO tofu but after I asked what brand they use and checked myself, it was just regular tofu, not organic but not GMO as well.

 

Do you have a favorite vegan or vegetarian restaurant in Orlando, FL? Be sure to share with us below...

 

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