The options for a vegan at the Florida beaches along the gulf coast are somewhat limited, but there are a few standouts. Most notably, Raw and Juicy takes top honors for having enough great options that we could go a few times during our week-long trip and still enjoy the food.
The first time we went to Raw and Juicy in Seaside, Florida it was actually by accident. In other words, I hadn't stalked the internet looking for reviews for the best vegan places to eat, like I usually do. It's a good thing I didn't because the raw restaurant was brand new when we went in 2008 and if I didn't see a lot of reviews I might have missed it.
Back then, we just ordered a juice at the little food truck. I remember it was good, and I remember thinking it was pricey, but that it was worth it to be able to get a freshly pressed, raw juice a few minutes after walking off the beach.
It's a whole different scenario now. Now Raw and Juicy has a pretty full menu and enough starters and entrees that they could actually be operating out of a full-sized restaurant instead of the tiny truck they use.
As for the prices, people still might find them to be a bit high, but a) I heard a lot of visitors expressing shock all around Seaside at the restaurant prices and b) they seem high for food cart food, but compared to sit-down raw vegan restaurant, the prices are perfectly normal and actually a bit cheap.
Onto the food. We ate a full dinner at Raw and Juicy twice during our week-long vacation and had at least one snack there, so we ended up with a good feel for their offerings.
One of our favorites was a raw pasta was shredded zucchini with an awesome raw nut, basil, and garlic pesto that I could have eaten with a spoon.
We also tried the veggie sandwiches a few times. Raw and Juicy's bread was a nice thick flax cracker and they filled it with fresh vegetables and served it with a side of kale salad.
We had a few non-raw items like their hummus and veggie wrap and cooked beans and rice, both of which were really tasty.
We loved their big salads with pumpkin seeds, sprouts, peppers, avocado, and raw sour cream. They make their own raw chips that reminded us of Doritos in that we would like to happily eat an entire bag.
And of course we had some juices-- the orange one is the raw and juicy and the green is green goddess. Both were delicious, refreshing, and perfect for a hot summer beach day.
We loved to see that Raw and Juicy was still growing strong after five years and we can't wait to see them keep pumping Seaside with healthy food forever more.
One morning we headed over to Grayton Beach to visit the amazing state park. I wish all the beaches along the gulf coast were as protected as the park. The water was the calmest and clearest here, by far, and the sand bar stretched so far out into the water that we could comfortably walk a 1-year old into it. There's a small entrance fee, which I'm totally on board with because it keeps down the traffic and helps protect the wetlands behind it. I wish we'd gone the first day of our vacation so we'd know to go back.
Along the way we stopped at Hibiscus Coffee and Guesthouse for breakfast. They're open daily in the mornings, weekends they throw in lunch, and on Sundays they have 11-2 brunch hours. Cafe Hibiscus isn't even a vegetarian restaurant, but they do actually have a few vegan options on the menu.
While we didn't actually see any of the guesthouse rooms, the atmosphere was really chill and relaxing. To visit the cafe, you walk through a fence into a courtyard full of tropical plants, with a pathway leading from the cafe to the rooms and cafe tables in between. I'd definitely recommend some natural bug spray to accompany your patio lunch because it's muggy in the summer.
My sister and I both had breakfast burritos that we thought were the big winners of the cafe. They were stuffed with yellow rice, beans, veggies, and had a really great flavor, especially when topped with a bit of Cafe Hibiscus's homemade hot sauce. We loved it so much we brought home a bottle.
My husband is a sucker for any waffles, so he had the vegan waffle wonderful. It's whole wheat and comes with chunky peanut butternut, coconut, and fresh fruit (hold the honey to make it vegan.)
My brother had vegan gravy and biscuits made with soysage, which he thought were really good but not filling enough for him.
He ended up with a side of their soysage, which had herbs added in and a really great texture. To me it wasn't too meaty, but to the guys it was just meaty enough.
We tried an assortment of their drinks, from iced chai to coffee and a nice iced tea in between, and all were big hits.
It was a really quiet and pleasant brunch for us, and we'd definitely recommend you popping over to check out their vegan options.
One of the best parts about Seaside is the family atmosphere around the central lawn and amphitheater. In the summer they have programs for kids and at night people sit around eating ice cream and watching their kids run through the grass. It's idyllic and old-fashioned and fun. We participated a few nights by picking out sorbet at Dawson's Yogurt and Fudge Works. Their treats are sweet, but refreshing.
I'm a sucker for tart flavors like key lime and lemon.
My husband opts for sweeter options like strawberry and mango. Maybe it says something about our personalities?
Ice cream is a definite must at the beach, and Dawson's is a great option in Seaside.
In Seaside, we found a few things at Modica Market, but I definitely don't recommend planning to stock up on food there as it's quite expensive over normal prices.
We also loved their Saturday farmers market and wished we made it into town earlier the first day so we could have fresh produce throughout the week instead of just the last day. They do have a few good grocery stores of 30-A where you can get your groceries for the week at a reasonable price.
Bud & Alley's has a nice bar atmosphere with views over the ocean, but not a ton of food options. We just drank beer and ate some sweet potato fries.
A short bike ride from Seaside is Water Color, where we found a great wine shop and restaurant called Wine World. In the evenings they had a happy hour special on glasses and we shared a nice olive oil and herb dip with warm french bread. There wasn't much else on the menu to eat, but we enjoyed the wine and time relaxing on their patio.
We also loved a restaurant called Olives in Santa Rosa Beach because they made us a good veggie sandwich with olive spread and a side of sweet potato fries.
All in all, to me the beach is more about the relaxation than necessarily having amazing restaurants to peruse every night. We brought a ton of fruits and veggies from our home farmers market, and that helped to supplement what was harder to find in restaurants. And, we went to our favorite places over and over again. Thanks Raw and Juicy and Hibiscus!