By Susan Benton
If you are new to the 30A scene you might not know that it’s been rapidly expanding for well over a decade, as more and more people visit the area and decide to stay. I was one of those people 22 years ago, when with two babies in tow, I followed my own parents who had already settled by South Walton’s salt-water’s edge five years prior.
With the boom in population, and increase in tourism, 30A’s shiny new culinary scene is also growing in different directions and at breakneck speed, and restaurateurs — acutely aware of the changing tastes of a more diverse clientele concerned about sustainability, healthy eating and animal rights — are choosing to add a range of vegan dishes to their menus.
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Vegans do not consume or use animal products (leather, wool, etc.) of any kind and likely purchase only cruelty-free items, not tested on animals. Veganism also includes staying away from fish, eggs, and any foods produced using animals or animal products in any way, like honey, gelatin, and marshmallows.
Here are some local vegan-friendly options in no particular order:
Enter Ji.Shi Ki.Chn in Seaside. Chef Jim Shirley is on a mission to serve soul-satisfying organic superfood while taking the guesswork out of healthy eating. “It’s comfort food for the conscience”, explained Jim. Look for the label VG for vegan on his menu, then start with an order of Charred Okra served with Creole Vinaigrette for dipping, before moving on to the Veg Out salad served with blacked tofu that’s piled high with fresh corn, sweet potatoes, and a confit of roasted tomatoes.
Pizza Bar in Seaside has always been one of my go-to spots for great food and dining al fresco on the back porch overlooking the sand dunes. I was excited for my vegan friends to see they were now serving vegan pepperoni pizza. My buddy, Elaine Parrett, longtime Seagrove resident and also my kid’s former teacher at the Seaside Neighborhood School, rushed right over to give it a try. “Honestly, the crust was the best part, and I’m picky about my crust! The pizza had onions and charred broccolini which were also a nice touch. All of their pies are 11” and you can substitute vegan cheese on any of their specialty pizzas”, Elaine explained.
Burger lovers on the go seeking plant-based options need not look further than Chef Tim Creehan’s 30A Burger located at 30Avenue at Inlet Beach. They are serving the impossible burger topped with fresh lettuce and tomato on a super soft bun. Just make sure to ask them to hold the butter! Pro Tip: Order online for pick up to avoid the counter service line during spring break and summer.
For those active vegans that may need a pet friendly option for breakfast and lunch, Raw & Juicy has you covered in Alys Beach. You will find the most vegan offerings in the area at Jenifer Kuntz’s restaurant, including salads, bowls, juices, smoothies, and hard to find baked goods. Try the Açaí bowl loaded with powerful plant compounds that act as antioxidants and have benefits for your brain and heart, that also deliver healthy fats and fiber.
For those wanting to stock their rental home or condo with the highest quality prepared vegan foods, you are in luck! Sign up for The Cultivated Kitchen’s email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Krissi Summerell Finch will shoot you her weekly menu. It will include directions for ordering, payment, and pick up! Try the Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup. It’s a pureed hug made with ginger, turmeric, leek, fennel, carrot, butternut squash, vegetable broth, and coconut milk.
Breakfast lovers can unite at Hibiscus Café in Grayton Beach where the popular Waffle Wonderful is served! The homemade and gluten-free waffle is topped with a light spread of chunky peanut butter, fresh fruit, pecans and shredded coconut. Warren Tape, General Manager, also alerted me to the gluten-free and vegan biscuits & sausage gravy they serve, a Southern favorite among all eaters.
Sabrina and Todd Reber opened Vin’tij Food & Wine over 20 years ago. Their restaurant is actually where my husband and I had our first date opening month. Not officially on 30A but still a local gem of 30A foodies, Vintij recently expanded to Grand Boulevard where they serve a vegan menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that also includes desserts, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies and cleanses. The Lucky Bowl is a favorite, also gluten-free, and is packed with roasted cauliflower, new potatoes, mushrooms, garlic green beans, blistered tomatoes, shishito peppers, and served over an Asian stir fry quinoa rice. Don’t leave without trying the Peanut Butter Trifle with Coconut Cream.