Vegetarian Treats & Live Music at Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Orlando

Dandelion Communitea Cafe - vegetarian restaurant in OrlandoHello from the frozen tundra! Yesterday I went to the grocery store like everyone else in the state and was met with Thanksgiving-levels of crowds. I heard that lines in some grocery stores reached the back of the store, and workers were even handing out bottles of water to people waiting. David and I have spent the day shoveling piles and piles of snow and stopping to take a break for lasagna. And it just keeps falling…

So while I watch the snow blow in the air, let’s think back on warmer days when I was recently in Orlando…

Dandelion Communitea Cafe - a vegetarian restaurant in Orlando, FloridaWe visited Dandelion Communitea Café several times while we were on vacation. Dandelion is a vegetarian restaurant in a bright green house. It’s a very casual, order-at-the-counter kind of place with seating both indoors and outdoors.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe - a vegetarian restaurant in Orlando, FloridaWe ate outside both times, because when you get the opportunity to get some sun on your skin, you take it.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe - Orlando, FloridaDandelion Communitea Cafe - Orlando, FloridaSome other locals had the same idea, and we admired them while we waited for our lunch.

Lizards at Dandelion Communitea CafeLizards at Dandelion Communitea Cafe

Tempeh BLT at Dandelion Communitea Cafe - Orlando, FloridaI ordered the tempeh BLT. I tend to be more of a seitan bacon fan, but this was a step above standard tempeh bacon with the perfect amount of smokiness and crispness.  You get a choice of sides, and I had it with chips and whirled peas guacamole. Curiously, their guacamole is made without avocadoes and solely has a pea-base. It didn’t match the heights of your typical avocado-based guac, and so I’d go with a different side in the future.

Black Bean Burrito at Dandelion Communitea Cafe - a vegetarian restaurant in Orlando, FloridaDavid had the black bean burrito in a whole-wheat wrap with tomato, corn, red onions, quinoa, salsa, and the whirled peas guacamole. They pressed it until nice and toasted. On the side, he had chips and vegan queso, which was terrific.

We went back later one evening, after we’d already gotten dinner elsewhere, for drinks and to take in some live music. They offer a variety of teas, wine, and beer.

Live music at Dandelion Communitea Cafe - Orlando, FloridaOn their website they highlight the different events that they feature in the evenings, including outdoor drum circles, art openings, and a variety of musicians. That night Patty Pierzchala and Benji Beach were playing. They don’t typically play together, but they shared the slot and did a few duets. Both singers had really nice voices and a good rapport with the crowd.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe - a vegetarian restaurant in Orlando, FloridaFinally, on our last day in Orlando, before catching a flight back to the land of snow and ice… (What were we thinking???) We stopped for lunch.

The giddy up at Dandelion Communitea Cafe - Orlando, FloridaI repeated the same dish I’d tried and loved when we were in Orlando in 2013the Giddyup. It’s made with tempeh chili, vegan queso, and a choice of greens or quinoa. I had enjoyed the burrito so much that I made a burrito inspired by it called the Southwestern Chili Cheese Burrito. The Giddyup was every bit as good as I’d remembered with Green Goddess dressing on the side plus chips and salsa. David went with the BLT that I’d ordered on a previous visit.

For a casual lunch or relaxed evening out, Dandelion Communitea Café is a fun place to grab a bite or beverage or take in some live music. I’ll look forward to going again on a future visit to the area.

Things To Do In Orlando (That Don’t Involve Theme Parks)

Lake Eola - Orlando, FloridaThe best way to have fun on a trip is by finding the things that you would enjoy doing if you lived in that city.  Then amp it up for the week.  So if you’re a comic book collector, seek out hole-in-the-wall comic shops.  If you love hikes, finding awe-inspiring hiking trails.  If microbrews are your thing, tour the local microbreweries.  It’s no wonder that people get burnt out on vacations of endless lines and crowds.  Who seeks that out in their normal, everyday life?

My favorite trips include lots of sun and nature, vegan meals aplenty, and shopping for unique groceries and kitchen items.  One of the best surprises about being vegan while traveling is the way that it’s taken me to areas I might not have sought out if I was sticking with chain restaurants and the usual tourist scene.  I like getting a glimpse of a local’s viewpoint, and unearthing some hidden treasures that wouldn’t necessarily be on a pamphlet in the hotel lobby.

With those things in mind, here are some of my favorite things to do in Orlando (that don’t involve theme parks):

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant

Nile Ethiopian - Orlando, Florida

While Nile Ethiopian Restaurant is located in one of the more touristy areas of Orlando with gobs of traffic and neon lights, this unassuming restaurant in a strip mall is worth seeking out. With semi-private huts for groups or standard dining tables in the main room, it’s a wonderful place for getting a wide platter of injera, smattered with colorful wots (stews). It’s not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, but they have lots of vegan options.  We’d visited Nile on a prior trip and were eager to revisit it again.

The sambusa appetizer (below) is filled with lentils, green peppers, and onions.  It’s a tasty start to the meal. The crust is light and flaky and has the texture of fried rice paper.

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Orlando, Florida

Nile Ethiopian Restaurant in Orlando, FloridaI like to get the vegetarian Taste of Nile platter, which is a very generous amount for two. (I think we could have invited at least one or two more people over, and there still would have been plenty.) It comes with cabbage, red lentils, split peas, collard greens, shiro azifa, and tomato fitfit.

I love when Ethiopian restaurants have a dish that sets them apart from others.  The one at Nile that does it is their cold lentil salad, which is heavily laced with horseradish. It has a clean-your-nose-out bite that is a welcome surprise to balance the other savory wots on the platter.

The injera is not as dark and teff-heavy as some injera I’ve tried, making it on the milder and more muted side.  I prefer a stronger-tasting injera, but otherwise it tasted fresh and pliable.

The service is very warm and friendly.  It’s one of those places that makes me wish I was a local, so that I could be a regular.

East End Market 

East End Market in Orlando, Florida

East End Market is a two-story structure with dozens of different merchants sharing the space. There is a working garden market in front of the building. The lower half of the building is a large open room with shops, market areas with produce and freshly baked bread, and restaurants.  (For my Southern California readers, it’s reminiscent of The Market at Santa Monica Place.)

East End Market - Orlando, FloridaThe upper half features a variety of standalone stores, including Bookmark It, a book store which features local authors and books on the local food movement.

One of the restaurants on the main floor is Skyebird, a raw restaurant and juice bar. They have salads in mason jars for people on the go or in bowls for those who want to stay and eat at the long counter in front of their kitchen.

Skyebird - raw restaurant in Orlando, FloridaSkyebird raw restaurant - Orlando, Florida

Taco salad at Skyebird in Orlando, FloridaTheir taco salads are fresh and filling with romaine, raw taco meat made from nuts or seeds, pico de gallo, and a cashew sour cream that tastes very similar to the cashew dressing that I make at home.

Leu Gardens

Leu Gardens - Orlando, Florida

To immerse yourself in beauty, a relaxing place to spend an afternoon is Leu Gardens. With 50 acres of gardens, a tropical garden, rose garden, and more, it would be hard to see it all.

It’s amazing to see tropical fruits like papayas growing, and to walk freely through the expansive gardens. They have rotating artwork, and when we were there they had human-sized frog sculptures located throughout the gardens.  It’s called Ribbit the Exhibit, and it’s there through March 31st.

It’s free to visit Leu Gardens the first Monday of every month.

Leu Gardens - Orlando, FloridaLeu Gardens - Orlando, Florida

Leu Gardens - Orlando, Florida

Artichoke Red Vegan Market

Artichoke Red - Vegan market in Orlando, Florida

Artichoke Red - vegan market in Orlando, Florida

Artichoke Red is a small, all-vegan grocery store with specialty goods, vitamins, supplements, health and beauty products, vegan wine and beer. They also have a selection of vegan Twinkies.  (You can read a lengthier post about Artichoke Red from my prior visit in 2013.)

The local vegan food truck, The Squid Box, is there selling brunch on Sundays. Unfortunately, they were elsewhere the weekend we were in town, though, and so we weren’t able to try them.

The British Shoppe

The British Shoppe - Orlando, Florida

The British Shoppe - Orlando, Florida

If you’re looking for Doctor Who magnets, teapots, and Jammie Dodgers, you’ve come to the right place. The British Shoppe is a small store with an eclectic collection of British goods, including canned vegetarian haggis. (Only $11 a can! Yikes!)

Raphsodic Bakery

Raphsodic - vegan bakery in Orlando, Florida

Directly across the street from The British Shoppe, Raphsodic Bakery is a vegan bakeshop that sells a variety of gluten-free baked goods as well. We picked up a couple of filled cupcakes and enjoyed them with cups of coffee. There’s a small seating area and local artwork on the walls.

Raphsodic vegan bakery - Orlando, Florida

Raphsodic vegan bakery - Orlando, Florida

Lake Eola

Lake Eola - Orlando, FloridaThis beautiful park is one of my favorite places in the entirety of Orlando. Lake Eola Park is home to a variety of birds, including a large population of swans.  The Walt Disney Ampitheater overlooks the water. There are always runners jogging the perimeter of the lake, and it’s a relaxing place to take a leisurely stroll.

There’s a farmers market every Sunday with food, crafts, and live music. Plus, on the 2nd Thursday of every month, there’s a wine and art walk nearby that I’d love to check out sometime.

Lake Eola - Orlando, FloridaLake Eola - Orlando, FloridaYou can rent four-person swan boats for $15/half hour and paddle around the lake. It was drizzling when we toddled around the water, but it didn’t dampen the view.

Dandelion Communitea Cafe, a delightful vegetarian restaurant, is also a pleasant mile walk away.  To read more about Dandelion, check out this post!

For more fun things to do in the Orlando area, check out this post on Winter Park and Ethos Vegan Kitchen.