As a vegetarian, dining out can pose challenges. At least three LBI restaurants have vegetarian or vegan options; here are some tips for what to try and the most popular menu items.
When it comes to breakfast, no one can beat the sensational taste of The Sandbox Café Sizzler. The Sizzler can be enhanced with fruit, sweet cream filling or chocolate, or just basic butter and syrup. Most diners ask for the “Drunken Monkey,” which is banana, fried plantain and caramel rum sauce, or they ask for the “Very Berry,” which is strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry. Another phenomenal sizzler combo is strawberries and bananas with a cream cheese filling.
“The Sizzler is a deep-dish pancake made with our secret pancake batter recipe. We pour our special batter into a deep ceramic dish, swirl a sweet cream filling if you like, and top with various fresh fruits and/or chocolate. When the pancake comes out of the oven, we caramelize syrup on top, making the pancake sizzle – that’s why we call it the sizzler,” said owner Dana DiSalvio.
The Sizzlers, which are served only at breakfast, are so in demand that people wait 45 minutes in line for a seat. DiSalvio has won many awards for her Sizzlers, including “South Jersey Magazine’s 2013 Best Deep Dish Pancakes,” “Ocean Happenings 2014 winner Best Breakfast” and “TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Winner 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016.” The Sandbox Café has two locations, one at 26th Street and Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom with all-outdoor seating, and the other at 1403 Long Beach Blvd. in Surf City.
“Vegetarians are always pleasantly surprised to see that we offer more than a salad or a fruit cup as an option for them to eat. The Bada Bing is one of the more popular lunch items for all diners, not just vegetarians,” said DiSalvio.
The Bada Bing is made of eggplant chips, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and bruschetta on a sundried tomato wrap. The Sandbox Café will customize anything on the menu and even has gluten-free pancakes and waffles.
Meanwhile, Living on the Veg owners Rob and Lauran Ramos have created what seems like a vegetarian paradise at 2613 Long Beach Blvd. in Beach Haven Gardens.
“We met each other in Ship Bottom in 2003,” said Rob Ramos. “It was always my wife’s dream to own and operate a veggie place. Both being vegetarian, we noticed a lack of strictly vegetarian places to eat locally. We decided to open our own place in 2005.”
When it comes to a vegan diet and crave-able flavors, Living on the Veg covers all the bases, from sandwiches with tempeh bacon to veggie wraps and burgers and even vegan sides such as potato salad, cole slaw and cranberry couscous. Hungry but busy? Get fruit salads, eggless salad, chickenless salad, roasted corn salad or hummus to go.
One of the most popular items, and what Rob likes to call their “signature sandwich,” is the avocado and tempeh bacon sandwich, served on a toasted multigrain ciabatta with vegan mayo and their homemade vegan cheese sauce with romaine lettuce and tomato. The sandwich pairs well with Living on the Veg’s cranberry couscous. Other popular food items on the menu, which are both great sellers, are the veggie burgers and the black bean burger, which is served on a rustic round roll with guacamole, romaine lettuce, tomato and red onion. Also, if you are looking for a vegan/vegetarian breakfast, head into Living on The Veg between 9 a.m. and noon.
Newcomers to the LBI food scene this year are Carol and Donato Zarrillo, owners of Carol’s Organic Eatery, specializing in vegan and vegetarian food. Carol’s Organic Eatery caters to pizza and pasta lovers.
“We wanted to offer pizza as an alternative to the conventional vegan menu and also (vegan) pasta dinners (that also can be eaten by someone who is not vegan or vegetarian),” said Carol. “We offer a tomato pie which everyone can have and some other different topping combinations along with a homemade family tradition Calabrian sauce ‘gravy’ for our pizza as well as pastas.”
So far, Carol said, their two best sellers are the tomato pie, which is topped with sauce, grape tomatoes, basil, garlic and spices, and their vegan cheese pie, which has sauce and shredded vegan parmesan cheese. Carol’s Organic Eatery also offers Buffalo tempeh and hummus wraps, cold and hot sandwiches and salads. The Zarrillos offer puff pastries with assorted fillings, vegan cupcakes and crumb cake made on site. They also bring in cheesecake from New York City and muffins baked by Mark and Amanda MacPherson, owners of Twisted Tree in Asbury Park.
Carol has been vegetarian for almost two years and her husband, Donato, was vegetarian for over 20 years before going vegan two years ago. They opened up Carol’s Organic Eatery because of their struggle for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
“Because of the growing movement of consumers trying to eat healthier, we recognized the need to open a place for people who are vegetarian and vegan because we know it’s difficult to find restaurants that cater to us,” said Carol.
Carol’s Organic Eatery is at 805 North Bay Ave. in Beach Haven.
— Kassandra Hagen