Vegan Options

July 27, 2021 at 2:36 p.m.
Vegan Options
Vegan Options

By Sharyn Lonsdale

Vegan Options
My sister Lauren visited recently from Rhode Island with three things on her agenda: 1) See family 2) Hit the beach and 3) Find some good vegan food.

Finding vegetarian options is almost never a problem. Vegetarians do not eat animals, but they do eat animal products such as eggs, milk and cheese. People following a vegan diet do not eat any food derived from animals and get their protein from plant-based foods like tofu, lentils and nuts. Without the eggs and cheese, staples like traditional pizza, eggplant parmigiana and veggie omelets are (pun intended) off the table.

A 2023 study revealed that 15.5 million Americans identify as vegan, up from 9.7 million in 2020.* Taco Bell, Chipotle, Subway, Burger King and McDonald’s all offer vegan options (hold the cheese and mayo). That’s a good step forward, but not what most people are looking for when they dine out.

Since she flew into Sarasota and we would be driving to Gulf Cove, Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis would be at about the half-way point for a late lunch. The restaurant has many vegan options, including smoothies, salads, wraps and bowls and Lauren’s choice (and mine), the Roasted Beet Reuben.

After lunch, we drove to Sunflower Discount Market in Englewood to pick up the groceries we knew she would need at my parents’ house. The grocery store had just about everything on her shopping list, including plant-based milk, organic cereal and breakfast bars, plant-based “burgers,” frozen entrees and non-dairy ice cream. The only thing she couldn’t find was vegan cheese, and she said, the prices were better than Trader Joe’s.

My mother has basically “retired” from cooking and there was no way we could ask her to “just cook vegan for a few days.” That meant dining out and taking in.

While there was always something Lauren could order at local restaurants, her options were usually limited, especially for appetizer and happy hour menus, and she said she would have liked to have seen more dinner and late-night vegan options. She was more than pleasantly surprised when she went to Mango Bistro on West Dearborn Street. “I could probably eat there for a month without getting bored,” she said.

Marie LaForge, co-owner of Mango Bistro, has long offered vegan options and has a vegan menu offering a Vegan Italian Panini, Vegan Buddha Bowl and Tacos Del Vegan Gringo. “The menu has definitely brought more people here,” said LaForge. “We feel that there are so many great options out there for delicious plant-based foods that more people will be inclined to try.” LaForge said she will be adding more dishes this fall and that there will be vegan options on Mango Bistro’s Let’s Eat Englewood Menu during the popular September promotion.

Because of logistics, we couldn’t get to Culture Coffee on West Dearborn for vegan cake or Seed to Table Vegan Eatery in South Venice. Open for breakfast and lunch, Seed to Table also has a meal prep service. Owners Kimberly and Christopher Recchia are both vegans and opened their restaurant shortly after moving to the area. Kimberly Recchia says that diners come from Tampa, Orlando and Miami to indulge in “fresh, real food,” including grilled cheese, Portobello Mushroom with Cashew Sauce and vegan chocolate mousse, and that about 60% of their customers are regulars. With a perfect five-star rating on the vegan resource, Seed to Table also gets plenty of tourists.

As the number of vegan diners increases, the number of restaurants offering vegan selections should also increase. If you have a favorite place, I suggest asking what their vegan options are. You may be surprised.

Hosting a vegan friend or family member? I made a simple lunch of Noodles with Peanut Sauce, salad and fruit. It’s also very easy to double and I think, just as good served cold.

Sesame Peanut Noodles 


8 oz. soba or rice noodles or regular thin spaghetti

2 tbsp. sesame oil

3 tbsp. peanut butter

2 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger or

½ tsp. dry ginger

1/3 cup ground peanuts

Optional Garnish: 3 sliced

green onions


1.    Cook and drain the noodles according to the package directions.

2.    In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the peanuts. Whisk until well combined and smooth. Add water if sauce is thick. The peanut butter should completely break down to create a smooth sauce.

3.    Mix the noodles and sauce.

4.    Top each serving with

ground peanuts and sliced green onions.

To find out more please visit World Animal Foundation's website: