Miami vegan dining grows in popularity

Posted April 29, 2015


Veganism, a diet sans animal products, has become increasingly more popular during the past few years in the United States. Unlike Vegetarianism, which is a diet sans meat, vegans also don’t eat eggs, dairy or any other ingredient that comes from an animal.

There are many different reasons why people choose to go vegan. However, the most common reasons are ethical, environmental and health. For example, the way that animals are treated in the food industry is sometimes unethical, and lots of people choose to not support these practices by not including animal products in their diets.

A vegan diet is also more environmentally sustainable, as it uses up fewer resources, such as water. Others choose it because if the right foods are eaten, a vegan diet can be high in nutrition while remaining low in processed sugars and fats.

Veganism began to gain popularity in the 2000s and vegan options were introduced into restaurants and grocery stores. However, it can still be difficult to live a vegan lifestyle without sticking to places that serve exclusively vegan dishes.

Chefs have become increasingly creative, opening vegan, or vegetarian, restaurants and cafes that offer a wide variety of tasty dishes. While vegan dishes tend to be on the pricier side, rest-assured the ingredients are always high quality and non-processed.

Jugofresh, which opened last summer, is a small café with locations throughout the Miami area that all opened around the same time. The Jugofresh in Coral Gables, cleverly located next to a yoga studio on Santana Corner, attracts not only vegans but also lots of heath-conscious people from all over the Coral Gables and South Miami neighborhoods.

Sunset Harbor Acai Bowl at Jugofresh

Sunset Harbor Acai Bowl at Jugofresh (Photos by Melissa Ostroff).

It has a large variety of grab-and-go juices, including vegetable-fruit blends, detoxes, mylks and alkaline waters.

Jugofresh’s most popular juice is the Mylk Shake. It retails for $11, yet it doesn’t contain any fancy ingredients. This price seemed a bit unreasonable considering the only ingredients the drink contains are almonds, dates, water, coconut palm nectar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and grey sea salt.

However, it tastes delicious, with the perfect amount of cinnamon and vanilla flavors without being overly sweet.

Another unique aspect of Jugofresh is the made-to-order bowls that it offers. The most popular bowl is the Sunset Harbor Acai Bowl, which is made with acai berry, Brazil nut crumble, banana, raw honey, seasonal fruit, coconut flakes, and cacao nibs. Retailing for $9, this well-made dish was delicious. The cacao nibs are what give this acai bowl an edge, adding a spin on the traditional fruit-only concoctions offered at most other places.

The restaurant also has a couple of green bowls, meaning it includes kale and spirulina, known as the Acai Verde and Sana de Rana. However, the most unique bowl on the menu is the El Dragon, which is made from pitaya, a dragon fruit. A bright barney-purple color, this bowl also includes almond milk, banana, honey, chia seed, coconut shavings and buckwheat granola.

Jugofresh also has a nice variety of sandwiches and salads. One great dish to try is the “Viva Miami,” which has a herby avocado spread and a cashew sauce that has just the right amount of spice. One of the best salads is the “Aji Brown Rice Salad Bowl,” which has a nice medley of mixed greens, beans, rice and other tasty ingredients.

Temple Kitchen, which opened in October 2014, is another small vegan café just down the street from Jugofresh on Sunset Drive. The price range is very similar; on the expensive side but high quality ingredients. It is set-up the same way as Jugofresh, with a section for grab-a-go juices and then made-to-order food and smoothies that contain various fruits and sometimes kale.

Assortment of juices at Temple Kitchen

Assortment of juices at Temple Kitchen.

Temple kitchen also makes an additional effort to be ecofriendly; all of their disposable utensils and plates are recyclable.

One of its most popular juices, the You Clean Up Nicely, contains only four ingredients: pineapple, apple, ginger, and aloe vera.

The ginger in this is strong. However ginger-lovers will enjoy the spicy taste of this juice. Most of the fruit juices at Jugofresh and Choices also contain the spices of ginger or cayenne. It’s a classic juice cleanse staple that one will either love or hate.

Other juices on the menu include the I’m So Green That Leaves Envy Me and the Liquid Picnic. While the idea of blending up vegetables into a smoothie may seem off-putting to some, the drinks have a lot of different nutrients and various other health benefits, all three restaurants claim.

Temple Kitchen also has a variety of menu items, most of which have a base of kale, quinoa, or soba noodles. One highlight is the Soba, So Good, which besides the noodles also has mixed greens, avocado, carrot, kimchee, bean sprouts and sesame seeds. While the ingredients may seem strange, this ensemble has a variety of different flavors that work together well. The smooth texture of the noodles goes well with the crunchy vegetables.

A unique aspect of this place is that it has a custom option, where customers can handpick exactly what they want in a bowl. For $13, choose a base of spinach, kale, arugula, quinoa, soba noodles or potato. The customer can then select five additional ingredients from a list of 35 different ingredients. It’s a bit unreasonable that certain “premium ingredients” will cost $2 extra, including; avocado, goji berries, kimchee and tofu.

The newest restaurant of the three is Choices Organic Café in downtown Coral Gables, just a few blocks from Miracle Mile. This restaurant had the most variety of the three. In addition to smoothies, salad bowls and wraps, it offers a vegan pizza for $15 that contains cashew cheese, black beans, walnut pate, carrots and onions. While this may not have many of the same ingredients as an actual pizza, it’s an extremely inventive interpretation.

Mental Lentil at Choices

Mental Lentil at Choices.

Of the three, this place is the priciest; its signature dishes are around $14 to $16. One of its most popular dishes is the Mental Lentil, which contains lentil meat, black beans, quinoa, pico de gallo, plantains, sautéed onion, cashew cheese, avocado and tahini sauce.

The $16 price tag of this dish seemed a bit outrageous, but the meal was worth the price. It was a very large portion; enough to bring home for a second meal. The presentation of the dish was spectacular and everything tasted delicious.

With so many different elements and flavors to this dish, it was anything but bland. In fact, there was more zest in this dish than many meat dishes featured at non-vegan restaurants.

Similar to Temple Kitchen, Choices also gives the customer an option of which base he or she wants. For Choice’s signature dishes, one can choose a base of either mixed greens, quinoa or put in a wrap. This is also the only place that had some dishes that included a direct meat substitute, referred to as “chick’n.”

Choices also uses a surprisingly tasty cashew cheese as a substitute for dairy cheese. It sells its own version of the juices sold at the other two restaurants, but not nearly as large of a variety. However, it also sells kambucha tea and has a variety of organic sodas and agave teas on tap for $3 unlimited refills.

These three places were very similar in terms of the philosophy behind their food: plant-based meals that are made of high quality ingredients. It is amazing that despite using the same basic ingredients, these restaurants each have their own unique dishes. Their creativity is admirable, as they use a variety of simple ingredients to create complex dishes. These restaurants prove that a vegan diet does not have to be boring; it just takes a bit of innovation and a bit of cash.

If You Go

Jugofresh (

  • Vegan juice bar and café
  • Price: $$
  • Hours: Mondays-Fridays (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.), Saturdays-Sundays (9 a.m. – 6 p.m.)
  • Cuisine: American
  • Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Parking: street
  • Phone: 786-472-2552
  • Address: 1430 S Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables, Fla. 33146

Temple Kitchen (

  • Vegan juice bar and café
  • Price: $$
  • Hours: Mondays-Saturdays (7 a.m. – 8 p.m.), Sundays (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
  • Cuisine: American
  • Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Parking: street
  • Phone: 305-397-8732
  • Address: 5831 Sunset Dr., South Miami, Fla. 33143

Choices Organic Café (

  • Vegan juice bar and café
  • Price: $$
  • Hours: Mondays-Fridays (8 a.m. – 9 p.m.), Saturdays-Sundays (9 a.m. – 9 p.m.)
  • Cuisine: American
  • Rating 5 out of 5
  • Parking: street or garage
  • Phone: 786-600-1975
  • Address: 2626 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, Fla. 33134