First look: Art of Food

Art of Food in Midtown's Co-op Miami wants you to eat your veggies -- and smoothies and brownies.
Art of Food in Midtown's Co-op Miami wants you to eat your veggies -- and smoothies and brownies.

The Goods: Vegan cuisine isn’t just for patchouli-scented hippies anymore. Celebs like Toby Maguire, Natalie Portman and Casey Affleck are highlighting the glam side of going animal product-free. A vegan is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. Thus far, Miami has been lacking in the vegetarian and vegan dining options, but Art of Food aims to change that. Nestled in the airy Co-op Miami showroom across from Circuit City in Midtown Miami, the casual food bar offers a bohemian setting surrounded by art, clothing and funky jewelry. There’s take-out counter service and half a dozen bar-height chairs perfect for lunch or a midday snack.

The Grub: Colorful, creatively-prepared casual fare. In addition to avoiding fish, flesh, dairy and eggs, the menu also focuses on organic and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Owner Sheryn Abalos prepares the savory offerings on the menu, which includes sandwiches, salads, soups, wraps and smoothies. The food is prepared at temperatures below 118 degrees, a practice among raw food adherents said to preserve valuable enzymes and nutrients. The eco-friendliness also extends to the restaurant’s use of biodegradable goods and non-toxic cleaners. Co-owner Barclay, who also helms the Blu Dog Bakery in Miami, showcases vegan treats like enormous gluten-free cookies and fluffy cupcakes. There’s nothing on the menu over $10, and sandwiches will set you back $8, smoothies $4-$7, Jamaican jerk patties $3.

With a basic herbivore menu — tofu, spelt, greens and spices — the tiny open kitchen turns out thoughtful plates like faux-egg salad made with scallions, lemon and a veganaise mayo, curried chick’n and apple sandwiches and a “save the tuna” wrap seasoned with sesame and miso. A faux salmon wrap is made with brazil nuts, almonds, carrots and beets, while a falafel filling fuses walnuts, sunflower seeds and tahini. Salad toppings include exotic and vitamin-packed ingredients like goji berries, hemp seeds and flax croutons. Raw foodists will appreciate the “live lasagna” made with Brazil nut cheese, zuchini pasta and a tangy tomato sauce. The extensive smoothie ingredient list gives Jamba Juice a run for its money with obscure add-ons like nutmilk, raw carob, agave, raw almond butter and unfiltered apple juice. The Mango Paradise, with mango, coconut, dates and nutmilk, may inspire herbaliscious reveries.

Baked goods like “ooey gooey” chocolate cupcakes, ginger macaroons and slabs of fudge brownies are sinful ends to a virtuous meal.

The Verdict: Organic hipsters and veggie denizens now have a sweet spot in Miami to satisfy cravings for cruelty-free fare.

The Art of Food, 3404 N. Miami Ave; 305-438-0004; open noon-7 p.m. Mon-Sat