By Beth Whitman, on August 27, 2013

Miami (vegetarian) vice

Most people think vegetarians are the picture of health – veggies at every meal, fresh food, local goodness galore. The truth is, a vegetarian on the road (which is me…often!) can easily end up grabbing a bag of chips and salsa and calling it a night. Hardly a picture of health, but usually easier than finding a vegetarian-friendly restaurant in some parts of the country.

But over the years I’ve noticed an increase in healthy veggie options, from take-out salad stands and juice bars to upscale vegan restaurants. Vegetarians rejoice!

Even with the growing trend of veggie-friendly fare, I was surprised to find a number of restaurants that were strictly vegetarian – that’s 100% blissfully vegetarian fare, rather than a few veggie options on a meat-laden menu – on a two-day stopover in Miami. Fortunately, they aren’t all found in one area of the city. This means that no matter where you’re staying in Miami, Florida (I was at b2 Miami Downtown), it’s likely you’re close to one of the following.

Govinda’s Garden

Located in the business district of downtown Miami, Govinda’s specializes in vegetarian and vegan food and caters mainly to the local business crowd, since they only serve breakfast and lunch. The owner, Mari, told me, “Eighty percent of our customers are not vegetarian.” In other words, their customers are mostly meat eaters looking for healthier food choices. For vegetarians and meat eaters alike, Govinda’s serves up a little slice of flavorful and healthy heaven.


Vegetarian tuna sandwich at Govinda’s Garden

The menu leans heavily toward vegetarian versions of meals we’re used to seeing as meat. Some of their specialties include veggie tuna salad, Asian soy chicken salad, and veggie fish red curry platter. To add an interesting twist to the whole place, Mari is a Brazilian Hari Krishna (a religion based on Indian scriptures including the Bhagavad Gita) and is happy to share her world philosophies with you. 

La Vie en Raw

I’m not very tuned in to the raw food movement that focuses on foods that are prepared uncooked or cooked at no more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but I was very impressed with the variety and quality of food at this little restaurant in Coral Gables (very close to downtown Miami).

I tried an appetizer of stuffed mushrooms along with the kale quiche entree. It’s difficult to conceive how these items, normally baked, could be good when served raw, but both exceeded my expectations. You might find this hard to believe, but if I hadn’t been told they were raw, I likely wouldn’t have known. Strange, but true. Other menu items include: pizza, lasagna, and soups. They also serve smoothies and juices. Owner Sabina shared with me that their juice detox program is also very popular.

Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin

Vegan Philly steak sandwich at Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin

Hakin runs a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that is low-key, yet bursting-with-love. Even better, it comes with an interesting twist – Caribbean food, mon! Similar to Govinda’s, Hakin specializes in crossover food, items that are familiar to meat eaters, but can easily be transformed into vegetarian deliciousness, such as Jamaican veggie patties, coconut curried sauteed vegan salmon, and barbeque ribs sandwich.

Other patrons sitting around me in this small restaurant included a rabbi and his wife, a Rastafarian, and a couple of Indian tech nerds. I’m not sure I could find a more diverse group in such a small space, even in New York City. The owner knew most of the patrons and at some point or another, sat with each of us, personally delivering my smoothie when he realized the service had been a bit slower than he would have liked. Beyond the food? The vibe of this place alone is worth the visit.

Viewfinder Tip: Be sure to rent a car on your trip to Miami so you can enjoy all of these.

Choices Vegan Cafe

These folks serve up an all vegan menu with popular crossover items such as sandwiches and wraps. They also serve a full breakfast menu and dessert. It’s a small café with a few tables, as well as seats at a counter. The food is great, but the wait and counter staff left a lot to be desired. Still, it’s worth a visit. Now that tells you something.

What’s your favorite vegetarian entree?