Palette Magazine

Clean eating in South Florida

By John Dangaran

DIRT’s Detox Bowl.
DIRT’s Detox Bowl. Photo: ©Brett Hufziger / Courstesy of DIRT

Today the American diet is as diverse as ever. Whether following a trend, embracing a lifestyle or making changes for health reasons, people have increasingly picked up alternative eating practices. And restaurants are following suit. Whether you’re eating a vegetarian, vegan, paleo or gluten-free diet, there are a number of options that can help you become — or keep you — a healthier and happier diner.



Normally, when you think of a restaurant that is farm-to-table, images of fine china, white tablecloths and small portions come to mind. DIRT, on Washington and 5th in Miami Beach, is taking the fresh ingredients, health consciousness and environmental awareness to a fast-casual setting. The place feels more like a juice bar than it does a traditional, sit-down restaurant; especially since there is no table service. Seating is available for those looking to dine in, but orders are made at the counter.

They make it easy for diners with preferences and restrictions — from vegetarian and vegan to full paleo and gluten-sensitive — by providing each group with a dedicated menu. The concept is simple: Provide local, healthy, sustainable food that won’t just benefit the customer but also the community. One fine example is the juice menu. All house-made, cold-pressed juices are served in custom glass bottles that are fully recyclable. Patrons are encouraged to return them with a $2 bottle deposit refund. 

Things to try: Build your own breakfast sandwich starting with cage-free eggs; have a shot of the Refresh cold-pressed juice with ginger, apple and raw honey; try the proprietary fair-trade espresso with house-made almond mylk (or grass-fed dairy milk); or dig into the DIRT X Jugofresh Winter Bowl with winter squash, cashew puree, toasted quinoa and zucchini tossed with cranberries and pumpkin seeds in a roasted shallot vinaigrette.

232 5th Street, Miami Beach



The Cafe

Hidden among the old sailor bars and fish houses of Key West, there is a little gem of a restaurant beloved by locals and tourists alike. Located just off Duval Street, The Cafe offers hearty, vegetarian comfort food that is guaranteed to have you stuffed to the gills and leaning on the back legs of your chair by the end of the meal. It offers a fun, cheeky menu, full of original and creative vegetarian alternatives to popular restaurant dishes. The quirky, brightly painted interior features local art, which promotes that feeling of relaxed familiarity emblematic of the Keys. 

Things to try: Try the “Chicken” and Waffles, made with battered-n-fried cauliflower, rosemary maple syrup and blueberry butter; savor the Polenta Benedict made with homemade polenta, poached eggs, hollandaise and home fries; sample a slice of their famous Vegan Key Lime Cheesecake; or quench your thirst with the Dogfish Tweason’ale from their gluten-free beer list.

509 Southard Street, Key West



Sublime Restaurant and Bar

This place shows its diners how vegan food ought to be made. Catering to both the meat eater and the lifelong vegetarian, Sublime will have you eating cholesterol-free vegan food without skipping a beat. The menu pulls inspiration from traditions all over the globe, including Asian, Latin, Mediterranean and American influences. And the restaurant staff prides itself in running a fully vegan restaurant, while also being as organic as possible. Excellent cocktails and an extensive sustainable wine list are also available.

The idea for Sublime first came to owner Nanci Alexander after she founded the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). It was just another way for her to help promote and protect the rights of animals in the state, as Alexander feels the animal agriculture industry is the single greatest source of animal cruelty. So, she thought, what better way to combat it than to help others adopt a plant-based diet? Sublime is committed to helping its patrons attain healthier bodies and minds, while aiming to help the soul feel a little better, too. The restaurant donates 100 percent of its profits to organizations that help support animal welfare and vegan lifestyles. 

Things to try: The Frito Misto is made with crispy cauliflower, sweet chili sauce and sesame seeds; the Mac ‘N’ Cheese has dijon-beschamel cheddar sauce and panko breadcrumbs; the Mushroom Ravioli is filled with cashew cream, slow-roasted tomatoes, butter sauce and basil; and the Vegetable Lasagna features layers of eggplant, zucchini, squash, spinach, mozzarella, house-made ricotta and marinara sauce.

1431 N Federal Hwy,

Fort Lauderdale