Vegging Out: Birdrock Taco Shack features variety of creative vegetarian tacos

Chef Dave Shiplett’s Village of the Arts restaurant offers tacos filled with fried green tomatoes and beet and goat cheese

I usually prefer a burrito to a couple of tacos. However, one very notable exception would be when visiting Birdrock Taco Shack in Bradenton.

Chef Dave Shiplett opened the restaurant last year in the colorful Village of the Arts neighborhood at 1004 10th Ave. W. He previously ran downtown Bradenton’s Soma Creekside, which featured cuisine dubbed “southern style with a California attitude,” but closed it to focus on the taco shack that Shiplett said brings his version of SoCal Baja cuisine to Sarasota-Manatee.

Birdrock’s building has a funky beach shack feel that would be equally at home in Florida or Southern California, and fits right in with the creative sensibility of Village of the Arts. And that inventiveness extends to the restaurant’s menu.

Shiplett’s thoughtful takes on tortilla fillings make it worth sampling a variety of tacos, though the restaurant also serves burritos and larger fare. And while meat-eaters will be sated with pork belly, lobster and duck, vegetarians should be pleased to find several creative choices as well.

The Fried Green Tomato Hot Nashville ($3) taco provides an example of Shiplett’s eclectic mash-ups. The Southern staple of fried green tomatoes is topped with hot sauce and blended with the pico de gallo, cabbage and lettuce of a classic taco. Another standout taste-wise is the Eggplant ($3) taco, particularly its wonderfully gooey chipotle-roasted queso.

On the higher-end side of the vegetarian taco offerings — if you can consider anything at a low-key taco shack high-end — is the Beet and Goat Cheese ($5). The combination of soft goat cheese and a chili glaze gives the taco a distinctive, almost dessert-like feel.

Even simpler offerings like the Avocado Banh Mi ($2) are flavorful, combining fresh avocado with pickled vegetables evocative of the Vietnamese sandwich that provides its namesake. I didn’t try the Edamame Pineapple Bang Bang taco off the two-dollar options, but it’d be first on my list on a return visit.

And I most certainly see myself returning, maybe during a drop-in at Village of the Arts or after a drink at Motorworks Brewing, which is close enough I could hear the music playing there on a Saturday night. But if you’re looking for fun, inventive vegetarian dishes at great prices, Birdrock Taco Shack is worth going out of your way for.


Have other suggestions of Sarasota-Manatee restaurants with tasty vegetarian dishes? Email me at

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