Allison van Tilborgh
Got Plants?: An Conversation with Sanford Restaurants That Serve Vegan Food
From Whole Foods to Cracker Barrel, look at anywhere selling food products and you’ll see that veganism is on the rise. Vegans, like myself, don’t consume animal products. That means no meat, no dairy, no jello or marshmallows. Many of us try to eat a ‘whole foods, plant-based diet’ which consists of whole vegetables, fruits, and grains, while others identify as ‘junk food vegans’ who can now enjoy plant-based chicken sandwiches and hot fudge sundaes with general ease. But animal-free food is not just for vegans.
Whether for health reasons or a way to reduce your environmental footprint, there has been no better time in recent history to incorporate vegan foods into your diet, and businesses are taking notice. The following interview was conducted with four Sanford-based restaurants that are not entirely vegan but have incorporated vegan grub into their menus. What motivated them to do so? Continue reading to find out.
Who are you and where are you located?
A: This is ALEBRIJE, located at 1566 S French Ave in Sanford FL (in the Winn Dixie Plaza).
DB: This is DEES BROS BREWERY, located on Magnolia Ave and 2nd in Historic Downtown Sanford.
RP: This is RAW PRESS JUICE CO, located at 516 Sanford Ave, at the end of the block.
H: We are HOLLERBACH’S WILLOW TREE CAFE, located at 205 e 1st st Sanford, FL, 32771
What makes your restaurant unique?
A: ALEBRIJE is an authentic Mexican restaurant. All our food and cocktails are made from scratch.
We offer not only authentic flavors and ingredients but also share with the community our culture through our dishes, drinks, and hospitality.
DB: DEES BROS BREWERY was dreamed up by the two brothers, Michael and Ben. We serve what some call "elevated bar food." We have everything from shareable bites to tasty sandwiches, salads, and even some vegan desserts. We have 20+ unique beers on draft that we brew ourselves, most of them being vegan friendly. We also have several vegan options that complement our traditional menu, and we have a strong focus of being aware of all the different allergens present in our food so that we can accommodate any diet. We also have a large space that is great for parties and families.
RP: Sanford offers very few healthy options. We strongly believe that plants are the best medicine and we try to highlight that in our food options. RAW PRESS JUICE CO offers both foods and drinks that no one in the vicinity offers: smoothies, açaí/pitaya bowls, fresh-made salads, wraps, juice cleanses, and wellness shots. We have just begun offering 8 adaptogen blends for various ailments and conditions.
H: We are a 700-seat German Restaurant, with live entertainment seven nights a week, with our German market and clothing store. At HOLLERBACH’S we pride ourselves on providing our guests with authentic German food, beverage, and entertainment experiences.
What vegan options do you have on your menu?
A: We offer a lot of vegetarian options including “quecas” (which is a corn tortilla stuffed with mushrooms or pumpkin flower), vegan “alambre” (which is the original Mexican version of "fajitas"), three delicious salad (avocado salad, spinach salad, and our flavorful taco bowl), a vegan burrito, chimichanga, enchiladas, and elotes asados.
DB: Vegan chorizo chili, mac 'n beer cheese, various salads, loaded hot dogs, and a wonderful veggie sandwich. We also have a delicious brownie sundae and peanut butter torte for dessert. We are adding several flatbreads and chili macs very soon!
RP: All our açaí/pitaya bowls and smoothies are vegan except one that has honey on top. All of our adaptogen blends and vegan except the “You Dew You” (we are communicating with the manufacturer to try to veganize it). All our wraps can be made vegan; just order without feta cheese.
H: We have two key vegan options. First is the Giant Pretzel, made especially for HOLLERBACH’S from a bakery in south Florida. It's a classic Bavarian pretzel served with vegan sweet mustard. The other is the “veganwurst”: a pan fried Beyond Bratwurst, served with sweet red cabbage and pommes frites.
What is your most popular vegan option?
A: Vegan Alambre, for sure, the original Mexican version of "fajitas". It's a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and asparagus, served with a side of rice and beans and handmade tortillas.
DB: Our vegan chorizo chili is definitely the most popular item, with the sloppy dog following in a close second. The chorizo chili is made with several different veggies, beans, and plant-based chorizo. We top it with plant-based sour cream, cheese, and chives and have the option to add vegan bacon. Our sloppy dog is a large hot dog served on a soft and delicious banh mi roll, topped with chili, grilled peppers, onions, cheese, and chives.
RP: Our most popular item is the Kale Salad topped with fresh tomato, crispy cucumber, a flavorful chickpea salad, satiating black beans, and crispy corn tortilla pieces in an avocado vinaigrette dressing.
H: Our Bavarian pretzel is, by far, our most popular vegan item.
Why have you decided to include vegan options on your menu?
A: We want to be as inclusive as possible. As a true Mexican, we are all about family time and sharing a good meal with family and friends, and we don't want to leave anybody out of that gathering for not having vegan options.
DB: I am not a vegan, but I have had a personal journey of having dietary issues that forced me to explore alternatives to dairy, gluten, etc. Frequenting different breweries and pubs, I noticed that very few had inclusive menus with options for different diets. I wanted our brewery to be more inclusive and offer more than just a salad and hummus for those who are living a plant-based lifestyle.
RP: I had some weight and health issues, and focusing on a more plant-based diet has helped me with both of those problems. Also, not being from this area I did some research and found out that vegan/vegetarian was one of the most googled terms in this area.
H: We think everyone should be able to come to our restaurant and experience Gemutlichkeit, a German word that means enjoying a nice meal with friends and family. However, we did not just want to put things on our menu that were not up to the standards of our regular menu. Vegan products have come a long way in quality to the point where we are considering adding more ambitious food to our very traditional menu.
What do restaurants miss out on when they don’t have inclusive menus?
A: I think they are missing the chance to get people together, friends and family, and enjoy a good meal with options for everybody.
DB: People are choosing alternative diets more often these days, and by having exclusionary menus you are missing out on a growing market. Not only are the families who have entirely plant-based diets not going to come to your establishment, but groups that include one vegan friend will also choose to dine elsewhere.
RP: If restaurants do not have an inclusive menu then it's certainly stuck in the past. Vegetarian/vegan food is the future.
H: As a restaurant, we should try to create hospitality for every guest; having a nice selection that can cater to everyone’s needs is important. We like to be the place where anyone can come to celebrate.
Lastly, do you envision your restaurant offering more vegan options in the future?
A: ALEBRIJE plans to add more vegan options to the menu as we expand. Mexican gastronomy is big on dishes made with vegetables, cereals, and grains. We want to keep it as natural as possible using natural ingredients full of nutrients.
DB: Absolutely!! I have had a great time learning about plant-based cuisine, and I cannot wait to add more options as DEES BROS grows as a business. I have also been putting out limited-time specials every six weeks or so, and I always make sure to have something tasty for my vegan friends!
RP: With the help of vegans like you (@thesanfordvegan) and some other professional chefs, RAW PRESS JUICE CO will expand our vegan options this year.
H: Yes! HOLLERBACH’S is currently testing ideas to make a vegan schnitzel and spaetzle dish.
As you can see, veganism is not limited to just one type of cuisine or restaurant setting. While Raw Press Juice Co may specialize in traditional whole, plant-based products, Dees Bros and Hollerbach’s are cooking up customary comfort foods without the animal products! Alebrije celebrates plant–forward cooking as a way to bring people together and honor generations-long traditions. Veganism is not some new fad–it’s the future of food!
To learn more about veganism in Sanford, follow my Instagram and Facebook pages @thesanfordvegan where I share vegan restaurant reviews, recipes, and news. You can also access my website at thesanfordvegan.com to access blogs and stockists for our vegan, zero-waste clean products which can be purchased at multiple vendors in Sanford!
Originally published for My Sanford Magazine.