GATOR GUIDE: Vegan + Vegetarian Friendly Spots in Gainesville

I’ve recently made the transition to a meat free diet, and while it came with plenty of benefits, I can admit that I’ve whined about the lack of convienence. Gone were my days of a habitual trip to the drive through for nuggets. What was I supposed to eat at restaurants? Water and side salad?

Okay, I’m exagerrating. I’m still grieiving my loss of nuggets. Either way, I adapted pretty quickly. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite vegan and vegetarian friendly spots in Gainesville, FL. Whether you’re a local resident or just visiting for the weekend, these restaurants were chosen based on variety, price, and availability to satifsy even the pickiest of vegetarians.

Honorable Mention: Union Street Farmer’s Market
Before I get into the establishments up and running 7 days a week, I wanted to tip my hat towards the Farmer’s Market in Bo Diddley Plaza. Every Wednesday from 4-7, the plaza is filled with vendors selling everything from vegan tacos to fresh produce. While the market leans pricey, especially when I’m shelling out $6 for a small but fresh jar of pecan butter, it’s well worth treating myself at least once a month to fresh, locally made food that caters to every diet.

For the Cafe Lover: Karma Cream
Karma Cream isn’t just vegan friendly, it’s vegan oriented. It derives its name from their organic dairy and vegan ice cream, but they’re also a fantastic place to hang out and get work done while eating your typical baked goods and coffee.

For Diner People: East End Eatery
East End Eatery is the kind of place you don’t expect to wow you from the outside. The white and light blue facade is worn and dated, but the second you step in you feel like you’re in any modern cafe with a laidback feel. East End Eatery not only offers tofu eggs and vegan cheese as a substitute, but I was also asked upfront if I wanted my Huevos Rancheros with them or not. I hate asking for substitutions and vegan/vegetarian options due to some weird embarassment, so it’s nice when a place treats the question as common as “Would you like fries with that?”. They also focus on offering delicious gluten-free options, like their blueberry waffles. Their drinks are standard fare for casual American dining, but they do offer almond and soy milk. I’m hoping for the oat milk wave to reach them soon. Also, their patio (and staff) is very dog friendly and they’ll bring your furry pal a bowl of water.

For Aesthetic Kings and Queens: Vale Food Co.
Ever heard that a healthy plate is a colorful one? While I can’t verify the health benefits of putting sunflower seed butter and dark chocolate chips on your acai bowl, it’s definitely pleasing to the eye. Vale specializes in acai bowls, dragonfruit bowls, poke bowls, and variations on nut and avocado toasts. It’s the kind of food I’ve dubbed “vegetarian 101” (sans poke), and it’s a main staple of my diet. They also offer acai and dragonfruit smoothies, if you’re like me and try to get all your nutrients from liquified meals because you like straws a little too much. Don’t worry, I use reusables ones.

For Build-Your-Own Fanatics: Anybody that eats out more than twice a year knows about some place that’s “like Chipotle, but _____”. Build-Your-Own Meal restaurants have been exploding in popularity for a while, and Bolay is my go-to “like Chipotle, but not awful for you”. Bolay does the assembly line with superfoods like kale salad and vegan friendly options like miso glazed tofu. You can customize a small, large, or kids “bol”, or order a premade “Chef’s bol”. Bonus point for the Vegan Bol already on that list. Unfortunately, they only offer tofu as of right now, and as ridiculously good as it is, it would be nice to have an extra option like a seasoned black bean tempeh.