If you ask most people what type of food comes to mind when you think of the USA, it is more than likely something like burgers, steaks and fried chicken.
Add Florida into the equation and you might just get some lobster or crab thrown in too. But how do you cope if you’re a strict vegetarian who doesn’t eat any type of meat or seafood?
Things have improved hugely since my first trip in 2001, where you were lucky to find one ‘garden burger’ or plain cheese pizza vendor. I ate a lot of fries that year. The parks and resorts now have a much better variety of non-meat/fish offerings, and especially at table service places, the chef will often come and speak to you or offer to make something from scratch.
My favourite vegetarian options in Florida include:
Magic Kingdom: Caprese flat bread – Pinochio Village Haus
Hollywood Studios: Grilled veggie sandwich – Studio Catering Co.
Animal Kingdom: Portobello mushroom sandwich – Rainforest Cafe
EPCOT: Freshly grilled veggie chick’n breast – Liberty Inn, USA Pavillion
Universal Studios: Garden burger – Mel’s Drive In
Islands of Adventure: Cheese pizza – Circus McGurkus Cafe
SeaWorld: Garden burger – Mango Joe’s
The Fast Food Joints
Although places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell etc. have improved a lot over the years, I have still often struggled to find anything other than fries in a lot of US chain fast-food places. Burger King had a bread bun but no veggie burger as nobody ordered it back in early 2000s but now they do offer a ‘garden patty’. Chick-Fil-A and KFC are always going to be a no-no. In some of them you can make up a meal with sides, but if in doubt always ask, as many will use the same oil to fry everything.
Recommendations for Veggies
I was once told by a server in The Olive Garden that some of our dishes have HARDLY any meat in at all. Not particularly reassuring. My then ‘veggie’ pasta was presented to me full of strange pink things – shrimp. Thankfully the same establishment is today my joint favourite eatery in Orlando and does a variety of meatless/shrimpless dishes.
The other I would recommend is Sweet Tomatoes. Even if you are a carnivore I suggest a visit here for a ‘healthy and hearty’ choice of food. The sight of the salad bar alone will be very welcome after all those steaks (maybe).
Most places like TGI Friday, Chilli’s etc. will have A choice, but even places like Red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse are worth asking at, although you may end up with a plate of lettuce like I did once.
Breakfast buffets have never posed a problem (Ranch beans aside – who knew they are flavoured with huge hunks of bacon?) but places like Ponderosa and Golden Corral do not tend to offer a veggie main dish or entree. Don’t rule them out entirely though as I have usually been able to eat enough by grazing the vast choice of sides, veggies and puddings.
My top tip for any vegetarians heading to Florida? If in doubt – ask. Service staff in the USA rely on tips, so they’re only too happy to help you out if they can.
Do you have any favourite veggie options or eateries in Florida? If so please share them in the comments below!