When I first became vegan almost 10 years ago, I would announce my plant-based lifestyle in a restaurant, and people would look at me like I had three heads. At least a few times I informed them, “I’m not crazy, I’m just here from the future.” While everyone else ordered entrees off the menu, there I was, the black sheep trying to cobble together an order for a suitable, albeit boring, salad along with some vegetable sides—hold the butter please! Today, thankfully, we are light-years ahead: Restaurants have caught on, and even non-vegan establishments offer plentiful options. Here are a few of my go-tos. —Philip Nicozisis
Going to the iconic cocktail bar at The Breakers is more like an event than simply eating out. The best part: They have a large vegan menu. When I plan to indulge, I fire off an order of the cheese-less vegetable pizza. The egg-free crust is just right, slightly chewy and crispy. The succulent and zesty tomato sauce and toppings—like tomatoes, asparagus, onions, and greens—fight for my appreciation. You won’t miss the cheese one bit. More shareable plates, such as the steamed veggie dumplings (I always seem to order a second round of these), shishito peppers, and raw spring rolls wrapped in rice paper and coupled with a dipping sauce, hit the table soon after. Paired with the food, HMF’s atmosphere and service, not to mention the people watching, are hard to match. Palm Beach
2. Inch & Ounces
This casual-dining newcomer in downtown West Palm Beach specializes in pho and Vietnamese street food. The 40-ounce vegan pho features more rice-based noodles (read: no egg) than you know what to do with, a vegetable broth with just a hint of spice, and chopped veggies topped with mung bean sprouts and herbs. As a spice addict, I don’t play around—we’re talking level 12 out of 10. So, my favorite part of Inch & Ounces are the sauces that sit on each table. Halfway through eating, spicy sweat starts to stream down the side of my face. It’s a perfect daytime gastro getaway. West Palm Beach (561-855-7028)
Arabic food is inherently plant-based. After all, meat, dairy products, and eggs have been an out-of-reach luxury for much of human history. The owner of this ethnic eatery, Akram Alex Awad, serves authentic and fresh delicacies like hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, bean salad, and a savory walnut paté called muhammara. When I’m in the mood, I’ll bring my backgammon board and order a fruit-flavored hookah to smoke. People are often surprised that as a vegan I enjoy smoking hookah once in a while—and that I also drink wine. I have to remind them that I’m a vegan and not a saint!
These two sister restaurants always make for a great night out where you’re bound to run into people you know. Many don’t know this, but customers can often order off of either menu regardless of which restaurant they’re dining in. My regular orders include a vegetable sushi roll (carrot, avocado, and mushroom), fried rice with extra kimchee, and the grilled broccolini over hummus with pita bread. Many of the dishes on the menu can be veganized, like the fried rice: remove the egg and swap the oyster sauce for soy sauce. The broccolini from Buccan’s kitchen requires no modifications however, and is the star of the show. The hummus is the most creamy and heavenly that I’ve tasted. I like to make pocket sandwiches with the pita bread. A bonus: Broccoli boasts almost twice the protein as a serving of beef. Palm Beach
Serving novel and inspiring tapas, chef Julien Gremaud’s restaurant was one of the first in the area to offer a stand-alone vegan menu. I usually start off with the ginger guacamole and chips and the shishito peppers. Never in a million years would I think to add the punch of ginger root to this Mexican standard, but it makes the dip come alive. For entrées, two dishes capture my heart and my taste buds: the vegan tacos and the creamy, curry cauliflower with chickpeas. For the latter dish, Gremaud uses coconut milk, some oil, and turbo charges the flavor with just the right amount of curry. The pine nuts are a special, crunchy bonus to the medley of flavors and textures. The “meat” in the vegan soft shell tacos consists of a finely diced patty that includes brussels sprouts, avocado, quinoa, corn, tomato, and salsa. It’s one of my favorite dishes anywhere. West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens
The food quality, the staff, and the low-key minimart charm of Salloum make it a favorite for those in the know. And as such, it’s always packed. Again, since Arabic food is largely plant-based, it’s easy for vegans to find a satisfying, savory meal here. I’m a sucker for their falafel platter, which comes wrapped up in pita bread and doused with a giant shmeer of eggplant baba ghanoush. There’s also a large deli case of items for takeaway, and the Salloum brothers offer catering as well. The Israeli couscous, stuffed grape leaves, spinach pie (without cheese), and various prepared salads are all hits. This market curates the best of the best from far off lands—be sure to check out the extensive olive bar. It’s the closest that I can get to Greek cuisine locally, so this is my childhood comfort food. West Palm Beach
Philip Nicozisis is a commercial real estate entrepreneur, vegan activist, and best-selling author of Have Laptop Will Travel: Memoirs of A Digital Nomad. Follow his adventures on social media @thetravelingvegan.