By Nikki Hedrick
After 17 years of being a vegetarian, I’ve noticed one major change—the bevy of available dining out options. From restaurants that focus on vegan fare to places slowly including more vegetarian possibilities than bland salads, it’s cause for celebration.
When it comes to eating out, I’m guilty of landing in a slump—stuffing my face with the same options in the same predictable places. So although I’m including my favorites, I also sought out the opinions of my lovely Facebook friends. If I missed your favorite spot, please leave a comment online or email email@example.com.
Although I want to focus my informal list on locally owned picks, it is worth mentioning the slew of franchised restaurants include meat-free and vegan options. When chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and Denny’s offer veggie burgers, it’s a sign of just how many options are now on the market. Panera Bread, Zoe’s Kitchen, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Newk’s Eatery, and even Taco Bell are workable options when I’m low on time for a meal.
But my current favorite in this category is Everkrisp. The chain has two locations in the area—Grand Boulevard at Sandestin and Destin Commons—and has an ultra-flexible “you pick” style menu so all diets and dietary constraints can easily find something to fit their taste buds.
Italian spots are usually a safe bet for vegetarians, especially if you have a rampant craving for cheese. On 30A, Angelina’s has held the Italian food crown for over two decades, and for a very good reason. Often I end up ordering the eggplant parmesan because it is so dang good. The menu includes other options, like oven-baked ravioli and pasta bursting with seafood. Their lunch specials are something of a local’s favorite, and I promise you’ll never leave this place hungry.
Raw & Juicy Organic Juice Bar & Café in Seaside always offers up something new. With an artisan-oriented menu that often shifts with the seasons, I always feel like I’ve learned something new—or at least tried something new—when I visit. Their menu features a selection of wraps, healthy bowls, and an astounding array of juice and smoothie options, created right as you order.
Burrito del Sol has Destin and Fort Walton Beach locations, and they serve up tasty burritos as big as my head. Their house tempeh is delicious, as is their unique house-made pineapple salsa. For the carnivores in your life, the restaurant offers everything from steak to fresh fish and plenty of craft beer to wash everything down. The Fort Walton Beach location has also added music to the mix if you need another excuse to check it out.
Fort Walton Beach’s The Boardroom Pub and Grub has enough vegetarian items on their menu that I haven’t even sampled them all yet. I find myself alternating between the grilled portobello sandwich smothered in toppings and served on focaccia bread and the Boardroom Grilled Cheese, a more grown-up version of a childhood favorite. Both are so good that I have a hard time looking elsewhere. Wine aficionados will be interested in their tasting flights, and they wouldn’t have “Pub” in their name if a wide selection of beer weren’t available.
The great thing about higher-end dining experiences is they aim to please on a completely different level. Requests to alter menu items are commonplace, and it makes for a wonderful personal touch to any meal. Skopelos at New World in Pensacola one-ups those experiences with some amazing sounding vegan items on their regular menu and a sporadically offered six-course vegan wine dinner. Although I’ve yet to try either, I’ve been fed twice there while working events and the food is stupendous.
I am about to admit something that is akin to vegetarian sacrilege—I’ve yet to eat at End of the Line in Pensacola. The fully vegan restaurant has been in operation since 2002 and is the first place that everyone will tell you to eat at if you are looking for meat-free options. They also offer cooking classes for those who want to add to their vegan-cooking repertoires. Excuse me while I hang my head in shame.
Chizuko in Pensacola specializes in “vegan bar food.” The late-night hot spot focuses on finger foods, sliders, daily specials, and good vibes. It’s also a drop-off spot for Pretty Baked, locally homemade vegan goodies for when your sweet tooth strikes.
But back to that bar food. Whether they dress up a PB&J or make homemade vegan sliders with an Asian twist, it is all delightful. But what truly makes Chizuko notable is their continuous role in the community—regularly hosting fundraisers and being a music venue for independent artists. The place has quickly become a safe haven and an artistic after-hours joint in the region.
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or just want to try something different, life is about options, having new experiences, and creating new memories along the way. Here’s to good food, fun places, and supporting what you love.
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