Ethos: Vegan Restaurant Orlando, Florida
We were staying in Orlando, FL at the Sheraton Vistana resort for a week’s vacation (but that is another story). Of course we knew that we would be looking for a vegan restaurant in Orlando once we arrived. Well, OK, probably as soon as we got there!
Before we left, I checked with happycow.net to find options for eating out while we were there. I always do this whenever I am planning a trip – even a short one. Its advance work that is on our short list of Vegan Travel Tips, for sure. The results were scant* but there was one that looked promising: Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Winter Park.
*I would later find out that, for some reason, Happy Cow missed a number of wonderful additional options in the area. Orlando is a lot hipper than you might think.
The idea at Ethos is familiar restaurant fare: veganized! The concept of the restaurant is on point – they serve up an impressive menu of common items (such as burgers, pizza, lasagne, salads, mac n’ cheese, etc) all animal products-free.
From the start, Ethos was impressive. It is a right-on-the-main-street prominent kind of a place, rather then a small out-of-the-way, hole in the wall establishment. Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with that since I have found a number of grunge style, hole in the wall, places that are wonderful. The exterior of the building is warm and sunny colored with a large sign pointing the way. The interior is a dark and artsy mix of wood tones, black, and silver. The waitstaff is young, funky, energetic, and friendly.
Quiet Night: Ethos Vegan Kitchen Interior
We went there on a Tuesday night which happened to be fairly quiet. We learned from chatting with our cheerful waitress that during the week it varied but this was a particularly quiet one. she also informed us that business varied during the week but was usually pretty busy on the weekend, particularly during brunch. Those words were proved true when we returned at mid afternoon on Saturday, on the way out of Orlando, and the place was absolutely packed.
Mmmm, appetizer salad!
We took a long time to order (ok, I took a long time) because the menu is filled from front to back with delightful intriguing options for appetizers salads sandwiches and entrees. Let’s not even talk about the dessert options 🙂 True to their concept, the menu was filled with familiar named selections so your meat-eating friends won’t get scared by strange names. You know, that scary weird stuff like seitan, tempeh, lentils, or the one that makes them all run away – tofu! In most cases, they even go so far as to simply say “cheese”, “gravy”, “sausage” and omit any modifiers.
We appreciated that each item was marked whether it was gluten or soy-free. For folks who are concerned about those ingredients it is helpful that the information is easy to find.
The Samson Burger!
Georgia chose the Samson burger. The menu describes it so: “A generous black bean patty served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, sprouts, spicy mustard, ketchup, and veganaise. Served on a Kaiser roll.” $7.95
As soon as it arrived it was obvious that she had made an excellent choice. The burger was thick and juicy, and plenty of the toppings. However, the condiments were comically sparse. Easily remedied with a quick request for some more. Georgia gave it two thumbs up, A+.
Even though that Samson burger sounded killer I went for variety and ordered one of their newest items: Blackened Tempeh. From the menu: “Tempeh coated in our special blend of Cajun seasonings and seared in a cast-iron skillet. Served over basmati rice and layered with black beans with carrots and peppers, collard greens and tomato-mango salsa”.
This dish was creative and tasty. The owners are also chefs so they are regularly developing new dishes. The blackened tempeh was very good, but will probably get a little tweaking. I thought it could have been a little spicier and a bit richer tasting. No doubt it will be improved in a short time. For now, I give it a solid B+, certainly worth trying out.
We loved our food that night so much that we dashed in on the way to the airport to grab take out lunch. The service was fast, even though they were packed for brunch. Once again Ethos scored: the sandwiches were delicious, just the right size, and a great value. We went happily off to the airport knowing that we didn’t need to forage amongst the often disappointing options in the terminal.
The Last Word
Ethos is a “must visit” if you are anywhere even close to their Winter Park location. The location is easy to find, the ambiance is relaxed and stylish, the waitstaff upbeat and friendly, and the food is simply excellent.