Orlando’s Eclectic Pockets: Dandelion Communitea Cafe

Exterior Dandelion CommuniteaThe first time I visited Orlando, it was for college Spring Break.  In comparison to the small town where I was living, it seemed quite bustling and busy.  What stood out most of all was how touristy it was.  There were discount gift stores on every corner with garish tchotchkes selling shells, beach towels, and alligators’ heads.  As tacky as they seemed even back then, those gift shops were even less of a draw now, if such a thing is possible.  Before leaving home, I wondered how our Orlando vacation might compare with the one where I was stuffed sharing a room with five other people, all of us having driven down from Iowa with pillows on our laps, not knowing what kind of accommodations we might be visiting.

This time around, Orlando seemed smaller, more manageable in size.  And while the tchotchke shops were still present along with rickety amusement parks and every chain restaurant you could fathom – with a small push, there was so much more.  What we found is that outside of the land of billboards advertising Harry Potter and Mickey Mouse, there were cool pockets of neighborhoods with pristine parks, farmer’s markets, and even a vegan grocery store.  (More on that in a future post!)  We did visit the Magic Kingdom one day, but we also loved exploring the sandy beaches and funky neighborhoods with quaint shops.

dandelion signpostOne restaurant in such an area was Dandelion Communitea Café.  This restaurant in a colorful, bright green house has several rooms for gathering for tea or a meal, along with an outside patio area with tables for those who are desperate to soak up every ounce of Florida sun.  In front of the café, they have a signpost with arrows to other local businesses and points of interest with vegetarian options.  (True to its name, it really did give a feeling of community!)  Dandelion is a vegetarian café, and everything can be made vegan, with the exception of their grilled cheese sandwich.  There are also loads of gluten-free options.

eola parkThe first time we visited Dandelion, we parked by the beautiful Lake Eola park, where they were having their Sunday farmer’s market.  There were swans and other birds taking a swim in the small lake with an outdoor amphitheater and swan boats.  After a stroll around the park, we walked about a mile and a half to the restaurant.

eola park birdsWith temperatures in the eighties, David was eager to have a glass of their vanilla black iced tea, while I sided on a glass of water.  The café was bustling with loads of people in every room, but we were still able to grab a table without a problem.

interior communiteaAfter perusing the menu for a bit, we went back up to the counter to order our meals.  Their classic dishes can be served in a bowl or a wrap (your choice), along with spring mix lettuce, quinoa, or a combination of both.

buffalo 66I opted for the Buffalo 66 with cashew encrusted tempeh tenders, celery, carrots, and red onion with a combination of quinoa and spring mix lettuce ($9.75).  It was drizzled with buffalo sauce and vegan blue cheese dressing.  There are several options for sides, and I went with the whirled peas guacamole and chips.  The first bite of tempeh seemed on the mild side, but by the second and third bite, the buffalo sauce flavor was really coming to the forefront.  With the wonderfully creamy vegan blue cheese dressing, it made for the perfect hot weather meal that was substantive and felt decadent while still being light and healthy.

sweet potato burritoDavid ordered the sweet potato burrito in a whole wheat tortilla and stuffed with quinoa, corn, onions, and ginger cilantro sauce ($9.50).  The ginger in the sauce made the burrito almost feel like a fusion of Mexican and Indian fare.  The softness of the sweet potato played beautifully against the chewy quinoa and toasted tortilla.  He went with a side of vegan queso and chips.

interior communiteaBefore we flew out of town, we wanted to grab something hearty before hitting the airport, and we ventured back to Dandelion to get an early lunch.  David had spied the vegan nachos on his first trip, and he was eager to sample them for himself.

nachos communiteaTheir nachos are called Machos Libre ($9.00), and they’re in the starters area.  This is absolutely one that would be good for sharing, because David hardly put a dent in it!  With a huge pile of organic corn chips, tempeh chili, and homemade vegan queso made of peanuts and nutritional yeast, it was more than a meal!  It’s then topped with fresh tomatoes and scallions.  I sampled several bites of the nachos to help David out as I could, and enjoyed every bold and spicy bite.

giddyupgiddyup cuI’d overheard people talking up the Giddyup ($9.00), and so I opted for a whole wheat tortilla wrap filled with tempeh chili, quinoa, spring lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, and vegan queso.  For a side, I got lemony hummus dotted with hemp seeds.

The cashier asked if I’d like to add their Green Goddess dressing to go with it for a dollar more.  I asked if it was worth it, and she said, “If you’ve never had the Green Goddess dressing, you definitely should.”  I was sold.  I wish that they would have brought out a small tub of the stuff, because I could happily have bathed in it.  I found myself having “just one more bite” of the burrito, so that I could have another taste of the dressing made with tahini, sesame oil, scallions, liquid aminos, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and magic.*  (I’m not 100% certain about that last ingredient, but one must assume…)

Dandelion Communitea Café is a cool, laidback addition to the Orlando-area scene, and it’s easily a place that could fit in a small college town.  Far from the mass produced spectacle popular elsewhere in the area, Communitea offers a real slice of life.

Dandelion Communitea Café on Urbanspoon

26 thoughts on “Orlando’s Eclectic Pockets: Dandelion Communitea Cafe

  1. This sounds amazing! EVERYTHING about it! The food, the service, the atmosphere, the ‘feel-goods’! I so wish every town had a Veg*n restaurant! I gotta tell ya…I’m a little jealous right now! But in a fun way :)

    • I so wish that too! I’m always happy when I go to veg restaurants and they give a real peek into the deliciousness of vegan fare. People who aren’t vegan or vegetarian sometimes imagine it will be food of deprivation, when it couldn’t be farther from that. It’s delectable, life giving, rejuvenating food!

      Funnily enough, I’m jealous too! I’m back in the land of cold & snow, and I’d love to step on a time machine and land back on the sunny streets of Florida again! :)

  2. Another good find for dining in Orlando! Your restaurant shots came out so well, and I know what a challenge it can be to take photos inside restaurants. Maybe the sun had something to do with it1 :)

    • Thank you! The sun makes everything better, doesn’t it? I made sure to sit by a sunny window our first visit, and then the second one we were outside on the patio. Certainly easier than trying to brighten night shots in a restaurant!

  3. I should not have read this. My dinner is simmering in on the stove and I’m VERY hungry. Wanted to jump through the screen and eat all this stuff.

    What a lovely vacation you had! Did you want to move there?

    • That’s always a danger! At least reading vegan food blogs (in comparison to, say, TV commercials) gets you craving quinoa and spring mix lettuce! ;)

      We had SUCH a wonderful time! Does it show that much that I wanted to move there? ;) I kept saying to David, “Now, WHY are we leaving?” I didn’t expect to like the area so much after my first more touristy trip there, and what I found so refreshing was how much more the town offered than theme parks and knickknack stores. Plus, everyone we met was outstandingly friendly. It was a great trip.

        • Too funny! I had to look up the average highs in August between where I live now and Orlando. The average is about 6 degrees warmer in Orlando. However, the humidity here is about 10 points higher. Florida, here I come! :)

  4. Dandelion is one of our favorites too. The nachos are amazing and so is the chili. Glad you had a chance to see some beaches too and that it felt hot, last week was pretty warm compared to how is has been and how next week is looking. You lucked out. Next time you come down give me a shout out and we can have a tea and Dandelion or maybe Loving Hut which is also nearby. (I like their Pho soup)

    • We went to Smyrna, and it was really nice. So convenient that you can drive right onto the sand! What is your favorite beach in the area? I was so loving every ounce of warmth. Some of the Floridians I was chatting with complained about the temperatures, but I was thankful for all of it! :)

      That would be super fun to meet up the next time I’m in town! Hopefully we’ll get to make the trip again sometime soon!

  5. What a lovely place. The purple corn chips just look so cool on the plate! And there’s no such thing as too much queso -it looks like they’ve done a bang up job there. What a lovely find.

    • Agreed! I thought it was interesting that they used peanut butter for the queso. It seems like people typically opt for cashews or flour as the base. I’m going to have to try it myself for future queso experiments!

  6. What fun. It’s been many a moon since I’ve been to Orlando. It was very nice of you to help David with the nachos. That’s what wives are for. Vanilla iced tea. Nice!! Where did those pasty midwesterners go? You both look great :)

    • We had such a great time! I’m ready to go back! :) As for the nachos, no accolades necessary. Selflessly diving into them for David was just a fulfillment of my wifely duties… In sickness, in health, and in queso… ;)

  7. Oh man, the Giddyup! And David’s sweet potato burrito! It all looks so good!

    It sounds like you and David had a great trip in Florida. Oh, and I like David’s Praise Seitan shirt. So awesome. :-)

    • It was all really good! Now that we’re back home, I need to start working on my own re-creations of their dishes!

      We had a wonderful time. It was one of those vacations where the happiness continues even after you’re home again. It was the perfect respite.

    • After seeing that signpost, it made me think that it would be fun to make one of my own. It could point the direction and mileage to some dear-to-me places.

      I could totally go for the Giddyup again! I can see why it’s a restaurant-favorite!

  8. Wow. The food looks AMAZING!!! I wish I had a trip planned to Orlando. I must admit that I’m very intrigued by the last ingredient in the dressing…

  9. The lake and park are lovely – swans and egrets and swan boats – how fun! Plus the major bonus of a Farmer’s Market – what a find.

    I love David’s t-shirt. I’ve seen it for sale online and chuckled over it – does he ever get comments on it? (No one has ever remarked on my “Seitan Worshipper” button). :-)

    I’m having exactly the same experience as Suburban Snow, only for me it’s lunch. I haven’t eaten yet and I’m wishing SO HARD that I could reach through the screen and grab a fistful of nachos and that dreamy Giddyup burrito! Another treasure – Dandelion Communitea Cafe looks so inviting. I LOVE that wonderful, whimsical signpost! And I’m pretty sure I spy a real mermaid behind the counter. :-) Love that billowy fabric on the ceiling, too!

    Won’t it be wonderful someday when places like Ethos and Dandelion are the norm, and only one out of every few thousand blogs might talk about how hard it was to find a place that served meat or eggs or cheese while on vacation? I can’t wait.

    • Funny you should ask! David doesn’t get many comments on the seitan shirt. (I imagine that most people where we live have never even heard of seitan.) However, when we were at Ethos a guy who was having dinner called out to him as he walked by, “Nice shirt!” Unless I’m at a festival or sanctuary, I don’t see many people in vegan shirts, but it always pleases me when I do. I’m glad to know there are more of us out there! :)

      Doesn’t that girl behind the counter have great hair? I’ve never been brave enough to do a really vibrant color, but I’ve always thought that if the mood ever struck me I’d do that same cotton candy blue shade. It reminds me of Ani DiFranco’s hair color.

      I look forward to that day too! There are definitely more vegan businesses popping up, even in unlikely places. Compassion is growing!

  10. We ate here the last 2 trips to Orlando, the Buffalo 66 is fantastic! They have a wrap with bananas in it that I can’t remember the name of but it was really great too. When my family and I go to Disney each year (sometimes a few times a year) we always look forward to the food vacation too!

    • Yes, the Buffalo 66 is so good! I keep meaning to try my hand at making my own version since I don’t know when I’ll be back to Orlando. A wrap with bananas sounds really intriguing! I’ll have to revisit their menu online to see what else they put in it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Your comments make my day!