Choices Cafe: Vegan Food with Latin Flair
Filling Miami's Vegan void
Continuing with last week’s “Freaky Friday” theme, Jess and I have once again switched roles this Friday. Last week Jess went on a White Dade-worthy rant about her experience trying to buy an English-language board game at Midtown Target, and instead being presented “Operando!” Today, I will be writing a happy, cheerful article about a vegan and sometimes gluten free restaurant that just opened up in The Roads. And as a lifelong carnivore and hater of “Rabbit Food,” pleasing me was gonna be a tough assignment…....
FILLING MIAMI’S VEGAN VOID
Growing up in California as the son of Mexican-American ranchers, Cuevas saw all the killing and abuse that went on in the beef industry. As a result he has been a vegetarian since age 10. He moved to Miami and saw that we didn’t have much in the way of Vegan dining options. So him and his brother took their Mexican-American culinary heritage and mixed it with vegan cuisine. What they created is one of the most unique menus in Miami.
Salads are a pretty standard thing at most vegan restaurants. But Choices puts some interesting twists on it. The Jicama salad with papaya uses citrus and cayenne to give it a distinctly Mexican flavor. While the Quinoa salad is smooth twist on Pico Di Gallo mixed with the coarse Mexican grain. Think larger couscous mixed with cilantro, tomato and lime over lettuce. Even a non-salad eater can enjoy. Any entrée can also be made into a salad, simply by replacing the starch with baby greens.
Kale is an ingredient that is found in a lot of the dishes at Choices. Most notably is the Chili Con Kale. This spicy, hearty chili tastes just like it would with meat. But instead it substitutes healthy Kale. If you bring a meat eater to Choices, this is the appetizer for them to get. The Roasted Buckwheat vegetable soup is another item you won’t find elsewhere. The buckwheat makes this soup extra thick, and it can almost be eaten with a fork. Throw on some of the Tapatio hot sauce that is on every table and you have a spicy, lemony garlic appetizer for everyone. Kale is also used in the Kale Stew, a lighter option that features black beans and sweet potatoes in a light lemon broth.
But it’s the entrees that really make you want to come back to choices. Filled with vegan chorizo, quinoa, black beans and plantain, the Insane Mexican Wrap is Choices top seller. It’s better than most meat-filled burritos one can find, and still has about 25 grams of protein in it.
The day we visited Choices had a chipotle wrap on special that Cuevas said is now outselling the Insane Mexican. It starts with ground walnut meat, which tastes a little light lighter Taco Bell meat except it’s actually healthy. Then covers it with a creamy chipotle sauce, made from grape seed veganaise. As a mayo hater, I can tell you the vegan alternative only adds the creamy texture without the sometimes-unpopular flavor of traditional mayo. He adds quinoa, lettuce, tomato; onion and cilantro for a filling yet light entrée.
The Vaganator is Choices’ answer to the traditional burger and fries. The vegan patty is much juicer than most veggie burgers. And the vegan Daiya cheese on top has the same effect at the grape seed mayo; it just adds a nice texture without too much flavor. While this is as good a veggie burger as you’ll get in a restaurant, it is not the most unique item on the menu. So on your first visit try one of the wraps to see what this place is all about.
Baked and not fried, the sweet potato fries that accompany the Veganator are surprisingly flavorful. They were so good we didn’t believe Cuevas when he said they were baked! Choices doesn’t even have a fryer, so this side has to be baked. And it may take a while.
Choices also has some more traditional entrees, like the California Chicken Wrap and the Por Su Pesto sandwich. But Cuevas gets creative with his menu, so it may change frequently. Try all you can while you can.
The smoothie menu is even more original. Cuevas has been making his own juice blends for 20 years, and the creativity shows through. Adding cayenne pepper to a lemon, orange and ginger smoothie is only the beginning. This mix of citrus and spice is what makes Choices so interesting. It’s just not food you find anywhere else, much less a vegan restaurant.
Finally, on weekend Choices offers, well, Choices. Beginning at 11 a.m. they offer pancakes in five different styles, with ten different fillings to choose from. The pancakes can also be made gluten free, but also include plain and carrot cake. You get three that are all made to order with your choice of fillings. So you can have one traditional filled with strawberries and blueberries, one carrot cake (recommended without filling), and one zucchini buckwheat pancake filled with jalapeno and onion. It’s all about choices.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegan or not, Choices is just a great restaurant. Its creativity combined with its light fare gives you a delicious, filling meal that will not weigh you down for the rest of your day. So if you’re a vegan, or someone eating with a vegan, or just someone looking to try something new, you can’t go wrong at Choices. Though open now, their grand opening is November 19. And hopefully they’ll be around for a long time.
All photos by Carlos Miller
OWNER ALEX CUEVAS TALKS ABOUT CHOICES
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"Choices Cafe: Vegan Food with Latin Flair"