Heaping platters of steamed fish embellished with ginger and scallions, and piping vats of caramel shrimp and pork stew sit at the center of the table at Ánh Hồng Restaurant. Voted best of Yelp and a Zagat award winner, Ánh Hồng Restaurant serves up family-sized portions that encourage friends and relatives to indulge in not just traditional Vietnamese specialties, but also a shared dining experience. The family-style eatery caters to single and small group diners as well, whether they are vegetarians ready to dive into a pile of lemongrass tofu, or vigilant meat eaters enjoying pork fried rice or chicken pho, a popular Vietnamese soup. The menu also boasts plenty of options for dessert, including mango and strawberry smoothies and Vietnamese puddings made from fruit and fresh milk from the chef’s pet cow’s coconut.
Sweet Marlays' Coffee takes its moniker from the middle name that owner Tammy Kozinski shares with her four daughters and granddaughter. Visitors find members of the family hard at work behind the counter, brewing up coffee from hand-selected beans and baking delicious pastries and desserts. Guests sip coffee drinks spiked with Ghirardelli chocolate and butter pecan, or Irish cream and English toffee, pairing cups with homemade pastries, desserts, bagels, turkey-pesto paninis, and flaky-crust spinach pies.
Owners Spencer and Sabrina Aird parlay a passion for nourishing vegan fare into Grass Root Organic Restaurant, which CBS Tampa named one of the best veg restaurants in the city. Carmine walls envelop diners in the cozy café space, creating a soothing atmosphere punctuated with vivid abstract paintings hung along the wall. While settled into high-backed wooden chairs, each topped with a lattice design, diners dig into a menu that features cooked vegan dishes as well as raw dishes. Raw vegan pad thai, guacamole, and spinach and basil pesto, among others, star on the restaurant's roster.
The Airds also run a customizable meal delivery system that sends clients fresh meals from a rotating weekly menu several times a week. Sabrina teaches occasional classes on how to replicate her culinary expertise and mimic items on Grass Root's menu by sitting very still on an oversized plate.
The folks at Juice Lab take their "farm to bottle" motto seriously. Within 24 hours of leaving the ground, branch, or bush, produce is juiced, bottled, and served to customers. The result is ultra-fresh juice that's always cold pressed to maintain the highest concentration of nutritional benefits, and to coax pyrophobic fruits into the juicer. Aside from juices, the neon-lit storefront also serves fresh coconut water from locally grown coconuts, available seasonally, coconut yogurts, salads, wraps, and other healthy and organic foods and treats.
Chef Jim Wu strives to create food that's both delicious and healthy. As such, he never uses food coloring, lard, or MSG in any of his sushi, steak, and other Japanese cuisine creations. His menu also includes a large selection of vegetarian items, and he hosts cooking classes on Saturday mornings at no charge. But after eating his artful maki and other creations, some guests may never want to cook again.
Carrying a pita, a diner approaches a salad bar brimming with pickled condiments, crunchy vegetables, and sauces. Without paying or even speaking to someone behind the counter, the diner lifts the spoon and festoons the pita with a pile of fresh toppings, ready to start the meal anew. At most restaurants, this could get you kicked out, but at Maoz Vegetarian, it’s not only overlooked, but also encouraged. After choosing from such vegetarian and vegan-friendly options as gluten-free falafel and fried eggplant, pita wraps or salads head to the stainless-steel salad bar. Belgian fries—a thick-cut version of their french cousins—and mounds of sweet-potato fries complement sandwiches and salads along with green-chili sauce, tahini sauce, and salsa for dipping and boosting the self-esteem of napkins.
While feasting, diners sit atop benches at long, shared tables that emulate the communal lunch joints of old in the unabashedly modern chain of restaurants, founded in Amsterdam two decades ago. Mirroring the eatery’s fresh, stylish food, the interior at Maoz features green tiled walls and steel fixtures illuminated by hanging lamps and baby pictures of supernovas.