Gulf Gate restaurant is pescatarian but as name suggests emphasis is vegetarian, vegan
In talking about the best Sarasota-Manatee restaurants for non-meat eaters, I’ve skipped over one choice so obvious that you can’t even spell Vegging Out without it: Veg.
Technically Veg & Grill (2164 Gulf Gate Drive) is pescatarian, which means you can also get seafood there. But as its name suggests, the emphasis is on its vegetarian and vegan dishes.
I’ve written before about the Gulf Gate restaurant’s Veg Burger: a simple black bean, corn and vegetable patty that has a comforting diner burger feel. But once some time had passed, I wanted to return and try some of the more uncommon items on its menu, such as its BBQ Jackfruit sandwich ($9.99).
I also wrote before about the struggle in eating barbecue as a vegetarian and one increasingly popular solution is jackfruit, a primarily South Asian fruit that tastes sweet ripe, but resembles the taste of meat rather remarkably when cooked unripe. It also absorbs flavoring well, which is why stripped apart and coated in barbecue sauce, it ably replicates pulled pork.
Since Veg & Grill doesn’t have a smoker, I’m told a strong cup of coffee is used to help create the flavor of the barbecue sauce for the jackfruit, which is served with coleslaw and vegan horseradish on a rosemary focaccia roll. It tastes deceptively close to pulled pork unless you’re specifically seeking out the difference.
They also offer the Silly Philly ($9.99), a meatless version of the Philly cheesesteak with grilled onions, red peppers, melted Swiss and portobello mushroom strips substituting the steak. Portobello is a fairly standard meat replacement, but it’s an inspired choice here, capturing some of steak’s juiciness and doing so with mushrooms, a common cheesesteak topping.
It also comes served on a rosemary focaccia roll, which is unusually tough and crunchy compared to the soft hoagie normally associated with Philly cheesesteaks. But the combination of grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and melted cheese should still be surprisingly recognizable to anyone who has had a standard cheesesteak before.
The tofu tacos ($8.99), served in two on corn tortillas with salsa fresca and shredded cabbage, are simple — perhaps a little too simple, as there’s not much flavor or seasoning to the tofu. Yet that allows the salsa fresca to take center stage.
I went during the restaurant’s 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. lunch hours, but much of the menu changes once it switches over to dinner at 5 p.m. Several dishes can be made vegan and gluten-free, including all three meals I had.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and you haven’t been to Veg & Grill yet, don’t wait to visit like I did for this column.
Have other suggestions of Sarasota-Manatee restaurants with tasty vegetarian dishes? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.