We were thrilled with the quality of the raw food restaurant Vida de Cafe in St. Pete Beach. Every dish we ordered was more beautiful and tasty than the previous, and it was the perfect beach food.
One of my favorite parts of any trip is planning which vegan restaurants are going to make it onto our schedule. When planning our quick trip into the Tampa Bay area, I had some serious prioritization to do. Tampa has a few vegetarian restaurants, and if you extend the search out into the metro area, there are quite a few options.
Because I had to squeeze my love of the beach into the small free time, our vegan restaurant had to be really close to the beach. But, if there wasn't a good option close to the beach, I'd definitely choose driving to get to food over lazing on the sand. Luckily, I didn't have to make that choice because Vida de Cafe seemed the perfect option.
Vida de Cafe is a raw vegan restaurant on St. Pete Beach, directly across the street from the water. You can literally eat an amazing piece of key lime cheesecake and then be in the water within 3 minutes. You know how I know? Yeah, I test-drove that for you.
To me, raw food is the perfect food for steamy beach weather. I can never understand how people can force greasy, fried, heavy food into their bodies when their body is already working hard to process the temperature. It runs in the same part of my brain that thinks, "you're smoking... outside? How can you choose that air over fresh air?" Raw vegan food gives your body a jump on digestion and overall leaves you feeling great.
We started with a half Caesar salad, and it was one of the best things we had. They topped it with dehydrated eggplant flavored like bacon, as well as pine nut parmesan cheese, which was really delicious. Their romaine was crispy, fresh, and flavorful, and there was just the right amount of dressing on the salad.
Next we tried their spinach gnocchi, which was very interesting. The gnocchi itself was made from jicama and cashews and had that distinct, melt-in-your-mouth texture of regular potato gnocchi. It was served atop a very strong mushroom sauce and covered with spinach.
We also had a half portion of their crab cakes, which were very good. They make the crab cake from porcini mushrooms, cashews, and a mixture of spices and vegetables. You don't have the same texture as in a cooked vegan crab cake, but the flavor was so incredible that it didn't matter to me. If you take it more as an interpretation of the crab cake, you won't be bothered at all at different textures. They serve it with a nice dill sauce and a side of their apple and avocado salad, which was another salad winner.
We tried their special of the day, which was mushroom tostadas, and it was in a close race with the caesar for being the winning entree. It was served on a raw tortilla and loaded with marinated mushrooms, fresh corn kernels, tomato, and homemade guacamole, and then covered with a slightly spicy sauce. If it's on the menu the day you visit, I recommend it.
We were at a family get together and the night before we hit up Vida de Cafe, one of the dessert options for everyone else was key lime pie, so since I felt left out, I was game for the raw key lime cheesecake here.
It has a very accurate cheesecake texture, and the only thing I might have hoped for would be more lime flavor. Perhaps more lime juice and a bit of zest would have amped up the flavor a bit. The crust was delicious and I enjoyed the tropical fruit sauce on top.
As soon as I saw the fudge brownie with choco chip ice kream, I knew my husband was going to pick it. What I didn't expect was how much he was going to love it. He literally said it was "the best dessert I've ever had," "this is incredible," and a few other superlatives. The rest of the time he spent eating it.
The brownie itself was warmed slightly and covered in a chocolate sauce. My best guess as to what they made it with is raw cacao, dates, almonds or macadamia nuts (they appeared to be white nuts), and coconut oil. It held together really well and had great texture. I really enjoyed the ice cream, which they made from cashews and coconut, and included a few chocolate chips as well.
A lot of people worry that eating raw food will leave you feeling hungry at the end of the meal, and that was not the case for us at all at Vida de Cafe. Of course, we didn't feel overstuffed or groggy in any way either. One of my favorite things about the menu was the fact that we could choose half portions of most of the dishes, which allowed us to try a greater variety of their options.
I highly recommend Vida de Cafe for anyone in the Tampa area. It's good enough to warrant a drive even if you're staying in the city itself. I read in many reviews that opening times can be spotty, so just call ahead to be sure they're open before you head out. If you're in the St. Pete Beach area already, I can't imagine anything that would taste better than the light, refreshing, filling food at Vida de Cafe.