Culinary life without meat, cheese, eggs and other animal byproducts isn’t a taste bud buzz kill. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. Vegans, leave the food dehydrators and juicers in your kitchen cupboards and dine out with the rest of humanity. While many of the region’s menus provide some incarnation of uber-vegetarian cuisine, these five locales turn it into an art form.
The Vegan Lunch at Veg in Gulf Gate is a daily delight from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with portabella burgers, salads and soups. Scarf the Sundried Tomato Pesto Organic Tofu Sandwich (which I ordered on gluten-free bread) with a side of fresh fruit for $7.99. There’s the Happy Hippy Wrap with chickpeas and sprouts, the Mike’s Favorite Seitan “Brisket” Sandwich with barbecue sweet-and-sour sauce, and the Pan-Seared Organic Tofu Salad. Bring your “little sprout” to this family-centric locale for a photo. 2164 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota. 312-6424; vegsrq.com.
A tad more exotic but equally vegan-accommodating is Taste of Asia on Siesta Key, where the Koor Mee Lao dish with rice noodles and sautéed onion, scallions, bean sprouts and cilantro boasts wicked flavor. Coconut milk and curry dishes with jasmine rice, such as the Vegan Amazing, are rich with homemade peanut sauce and mixed vegetables. There’s even fried tofu for an appetizer. Super spicy or mild entrées? You choose. 5110 Ocean Blvd., Sarasota. 349-2742; tasteofasiasrq.com.
The Faken BLT for $9.75 at Simon’s Coffee House on Sarasota’s South Tamiami Trail has everything a meaty sandwich should carry, without the meat, of course. Soy bacon, vegan mayonnaise, tomato slices and lettuce comprise this stack, which comes on panini, multigrain, whole wheat or white bread (all vegan). Wash it down with an Immune Booster drink of lemon, celery, carrot and cucumber juices and a one-ounce wheatgrass shot. 5900 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 926-7151; simonstogo.com.
A full organic menu at Mi Pueblo in Venice (or Sarasota) runs the gamut from gazpacho with seasonal vegetables to dairy-free desserts. Try the Tacos de Paz for $10.95 (two corn tortillas or live lime-marinated kale leaves filled with spicy ground Brazil nuts, guacamole, pico de gallo, sunflower seed sour cream and a side of living veggie rice). For a sugary cap, the Besitos de Chocolate has super food chocolate bites made with Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, agave, raw cacao and a dusting of mesquite. 530 U.S. 41 Bypass S. #530, Venice (locations in Sarasota, too). 486-0005; mipueblomexican.com.
Vegan pizza, please! At Vertoris Pizza House in Bradenton, you can get your pie gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free -- 10 inches worth, with vegan pizza sauce and Daiya cheese -- for $20. The dairy-free eggplant Parmesan, hummus and bruschetta score big, as do the garlic knots and breadsticks. Get the spinach salad sans mozzarella or the Greek salad without the feta cheese, and have a gluten-free Redbridge or Estrella Daura beer while you nosh. 6830 14th St. W., Bradenton. 751-0333; vertorispizza.com.