Photography by Douglas Johns

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Veggie <br/>~licious

Fresh, Green & Healthy Cuisine

Story by Janan Talafer

Springtime—the perfect season to appreciate the rich bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables to be found in the Tampa Bay region. From Ruskin tomatoes to Plant City strawberries, and avocados to mangoes, delicious produce is readily available.

In this issue of VERTICAL, we take a look at an interesting cross-section of restaurants that make the most of fresh seasonal ingredients, often locally grown. Some of them place vegetables in a starring role as the main meal; others simply offer some tasteful veggie options.

Once upon a time, vegetables were relegated to a mere after-thought. Not anymore. As a culture we’ve become more aware of the importance of eating healthy, fresh and natural. Today’s chefs are creating inspired recipes featuring flavorful vegetables and herbs. Who says vegetables have to be boring? Bon Appetit!

Photography by Douglas Johns

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TAMPA—In the heart of downtown Tampa’s business district, customers line up out the door for the flavorful Vietnamese “fusion” dishes at Bamboozle Café. You’ll find exotic taste and crunch combinations with lots of raw, fresh vegetables and herbs. Bamboozle rolls customized to order are a house specialty. Try the Sesame Veggie made with sesame glass noodles, cucumbers, jicama, red bell peppers, mango, Thai basil and hoisin sauce, all wrapped in a moist, translucent rice paper. The Savory Tofu comes with pickled daikon and carrots, cucumber, cilantro, roasted shallots and soy sauce. This is finger food at its finest. Traditional Vietnamese Pho soup, served Bamboozle-style, can be ordered vegetarian with bean sprouts, red onions, cilantro, lime, jalapenos and basil.


TAMPA—Grass Root Organic was a pioneer five years ago when restaurant owners Sabrina and Spencer introduced Tampa Bay to the benefits of vegan, vegetarian and raw living food. They quickly found converts. Today, their exceptional plant-based culinary cuisine can be found at two locations: Tampa Heights and Lakeland. A popular raw food favorite—Sabrina’s Favorite Sandwich, featuring raw onion bread with hummus, zucchini, cashews, sprouts, lettuce and a raw Parmesan “sheeze” spread. Or how about the Live Spaghetti and Alfredo Sauce with spirals of fresh zucchini served in a creamy sauce, along with treatballs, a mix of fresh vegetables, sprouted seeds and herbs. Raw enthusiasts embrace the idea that not cooking preserves the enzymes and nutrients for better health.


TAMPA—Inside the upscale Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza in Tampa, this fine-dining Mediterranean-style restaurant adds a distinctive twist to seasonally available vegetables. What better way to enjoy them than grilled to perfection and served with a tasty gazpacho dipping sauce on the side? Or how about this intriguing variation on a traditional Caesar salad? Caesar fondue is actually baby romaine lettuce brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled so it develops a light smoky flavor. The leaves are then placed upright like spears and brought to the table with toast points, slices of cheese and Caesar dressing. Eat each spear individually, or break everything up into a salad. The Manchego cheese, a semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese from Spain, served drizzled with honeycomb is also quite decadent.


DUNEDIN—The Living Room on Main, a hip, new restaurant in Dunedin’s wonderful downtown offers a unique tapas approach to imaginative Mediterranean-inspired vegetable dishes. Try the signature Carciofo al Forno—Roman-style artichokes broiled in white wine rosemary butter and topped with Parmesan herb crust and mozzarella cheese—simply scrumptious. And who knew sautéed greens could be so self-indulgent—swiss chard, baby spinach, red and green kale sautéed in white wine and garlic. Regulars also like the grilled vegetable couscous–couscous wrapped in grilled vegetables, served with roasted red pepper cumin vinaigrette and the grape leaves stuffed with goat cheese, then grilled and served with sundried tomato toast points.

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