BITE-SIZED

Where's the Beef?

No Meat March shines a light on fruits, veggies and more

Riverside deli Whiteway Delicatessan has several items that are vegan including the homemade falafel, tabouli and hummus. There's also a great kale salad that's topped with sweet craisins.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
5 Points tapas restaurant Tapa That offers a delicious portobello salad among other options like the cleverly named SLT quesadilla (shitake mushrooms, lettuce, tomato).
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Tucked away off of Merrill Road is a vegetarian and vegan gem, Tabouleh. Go for the sampler plate, which includes warm falafel, grape leaves, tabouli, hummus and more, to maximize the veggie deliciousness.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
With two locations (Baymeadows and San Jose), locally owned Native Sun has a wide assortment of wraps and sandwiches that are vegetarian, like the filling Hannah Park, which is made with tempeh. They also have a great juice and smoothie bar that uses milk alternatives like almond and soy milk for vegan patrons.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
With four locations in Jacksonville and one in St. Augustine, Mellow Mushroom is a great go-to spot for vegetarian offerings. The hummus appetizer with pita points is perfect for sharing pre-meal.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Fast casual Mediterranean eatery Hovan in 5 Points serves up hummus, tabouli, fattoush salad and more — like this hearty vegan Imambayildi eggplant dish.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Dig Foods at the Riverside Arts Market on Saturdays serves up strictly vegan fare (no eggs, dairy or animal products) like this sweet potato and olive pizza with cashew "cheese."
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Delicomb at Jacksonville Beach has many vegetarian and vegan offerings and sides.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Food truck turned brick-and-mortar restaurant Corner Taco (in 5 Points) has several veg-friendly option like the 5 Points Taco with protein-packed quinoa, homemade creamy hummus and red cabbage and the asparagus taco with cilantro and sweet chile sauce.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Chef Chan Chinese on the Southside has a flavorful Mongolian tofu dish that's packed with flavor.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
Riverside's Cafe Freda serves a tofu bahn mi sandwich that's vegan-friendly and piled high with cilantro and pickled vegetables.
Jessica Campbell, jaxveganlove.com
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• Jax Beach restaurant Zeta, on First Avenue North, is adding a brewery to its space, and will begin brewing its own line of craft beers.

• Corner Taco food truck has opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 818 Post St. in 5 Points, serving lunch and dinner.

• Anatolia Grill & Bar, at 9825 San Jose Blvd., recently closed.

What's 31 days long, full of health benefits and colorful vegetables, and has local community and restaurant support? If you guessed No Meat March, you win. (I probably shouldn't proclaim "winner, winner, chicken dinner!")

Foregoing meat is gaining momentum for a number of reasons, and while many already honor Meatless Monday — dedicating one day a week to conscientious vegetarianism — No Meat March (nomeatmarch.com) encourages Northeast Floridians to take a 31-day pledge to give up meat and seafood. As a participant for the past two years, I found my energy increased and I began craving leafy greens and juicy fruits. Honestly, tempeh and tofu (which, when cooked properly, is quite versatile) are delicious and enabled me to experience one of the best Reuben sandwiches of my life, made with tempeh, sauerkraut and avocado on pressed ciabatta bread.

Local meteorologist Julie Watkins, a vegan all the time (not just Mondays, and not just March), helped found Girls Gone Green in 2007 to bring awareness to the environment, animal welfare and health. "Everything is connected," she says, "and how we look at one greatly impacts the others."

Meat-free for nearly 20 years, Watkins has several favorite places around the area with menu items she recommends. "Happy Cup in Atlantic Beach has the yummiest wraps — the strawberry with hazelnut, almonds and agave is the best," she raves. "And Tapa That [in 5 Points] has mushroom quesadillas that are amazing!"

Looking for easy meat-free options? Hit these spots: any Mellow Mushroom, any Tropical Smoothie (which carries Beyond Meat, chicken-free strips you can substitute in any menu item), Buddha Thai Bistro and any European Street Café.

"No Meat March is a short-term commitment and challenge that will take you out of your box," says Jessica Campbell, co-founder of Jax Vegan Love. "It will inspire you to explore new recipes at home and try new menu items you may have previously overlooked when dining out."

Campbell has been meat-free for three years. JVL was created in March 2013 as a way for her and others to share their passion and enthusiasm for all things meatless on the First Coast. "My goal since day one has always been to work with local restaurants to get more vegan items added — and clearly labeled — on menus," she says.

She loves the Hanna Park sandwich offered at Native Sun Natural Foods, tofu bahn mi at Cafe Freda in Riverside, sautéed string beans and Mongolian tofu from Chef Chan Asian Cuisine in Baymeadows, vegan eggrolls and eggplant pra ram from Buddha Thai Bistro in Jax Beach, 5-Points hummus and tabouli taco at Corner Taco, and the ginger teriyaki tofu bowl served at Burrito Gallery downtown. And who can forget coconut bacon doughnuts at Riverside's Sweet Theory Baking Company? So doughy and delicious — I have to say I'm a huge fan, too.

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