SOUL FOOD: VEGAN STYLE
Ray Milton is a boxing instructor and former pastry chef and proprietor of Sugar Ray’s Bakery in St. Petersburg. In the past couple of years he has branched out with something entirely different. He runs a food truck that sells soul food, a cuisine increasingly in short supply. Oh, and it’s vegan. Let that sink in. When you think soul food, you’re thinking greens redolent of ham hock, mac and cheese heavy on the cheese, fall-off-the-bone ribs and sweet potato pie chockablock with butter.
He’s been doing it his own way, selling vegan mac and cheese (okay, vegan mac and "cheese" made with cashews), jackfruit "crab" cakes, raw tacos, jicama coleslaw, pumpkin chili and other animal-product-free delights to hipsters at Ray’s Vegan Soul outside of the Bends on weekends and at various events and festivals around Tampa Bay. And now he’s ditching the wheels and going brick and mortar at 169 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N in St. Petersburg.
For the first few months, he’s going to be open for late-night Fridays from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., with vegan burgers and such, and for Soul Food Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a rotating menu. He’ll post the menu every week at facebook.com/raysvegansoul but says he will always have the mac and cheese, raw tacos and African almond soup, his three most popular menu items, all made, as he says, "made with 100 percent organic love."
JUICE BAR: EXTRA SQUEEZE
Kelly Lessem made a name for herself with Squeeze Juice Works, one of the area’s most dynamic juice bars, packing 4 to 6 pounds of fruits and vegetables into each delicious pint. She has grown the business to three locations and has just added an expanded menu at the Central Avenue location, which will extend to the flagship store on 30th Avenue in St. Petersburg and the Tampa location in 2018.
The full expansion includes coffee and tea "alchemy drinks;" traditional coffee and tea; medicinal shots; housemade organic flavored syrups and sweeteners; adaptogen add-ons; new housemade "mylks" (hemp, hazelnut, cashew and coconut); and — for those looking to go a different route and simply enjoy Squeeze’s atmosphere — beer and wine.
"We chose to expand the menu to reflect our own journey with self-care and balance," Lessem says. "Living with a chronic health condition constantly invites us to try new methods for wellness so we can live life to its fullest."
What’s an alchemy drink? It blends organic coffee and tea with micronutrients and plant-based adaptogen and mylks. For instance, the Mexican Mocha combines espresso, anandamide, raw cacao, organic cane syrup, cayenne and nut mylk; Bite the Bulletproof Tea mixes Earl Grey tea, prash and nut mylk. The medicinal shot menu, on the other hand, has you covered for flu, digestion, allergy, brain power, immunity and inflammation, and the adaptogen add-ons support everything from whole body nutrition and stress to gallbladder and liver.
And with that adaptogen at the Central Avenue Squeeze, guests can enjoy reggae music and a food truck the first Sunday of each month, and moms can enjoy "Mommy Happy Hour" every day from 2:30-5 p.m. For hours and locations, visit squeezejuiceworks.com.
A TOAST: TO DRINKING AND SHOPPING
Now here’s an interesting trend. Maybe it’s born of fashion shows and trunk shows where the host shop serves wine, or maybe it’s just pairing two of our favorite things, shopping and drinking. But shops in St. Petersburg are adding a little tipple to proceedings. There’s Bartique, a "bar-infused boutique" at 648 Central Ave.; Ohlendorf atelier at 2914 ½ Beach Blvd. S; and this spring Mermosa, a Florida-based winery, is acquiring Cerulean Blu, a swim and resort wear boutique at 400 Beach Drive. It will be a tasting lounge and boutique.
MORE THINGS TO DO
DINING: More new places to eat and reviews
TOP 50: Affordable restaurants to try in 2017
MOVIES: What to see, and avoid, in theaters
FOLLOW: Tampa Bay Times Food on Facebook