The Cider Press Cafe

Various brunch items at Cider Press Cafe in St. Pete. [Courtesy of Cider Press Cafe]
Various brunch items at Cider Press Cafe in St. Pete. [Courtesy of Cider Press Cafe]

Co-owners Johan Everstijn and Roland Strobel opened this lovely location in 2015 (their first one was in Naples, but closed) and it has morphed quite a bit since its launch. In the past year it has gone from a strictly raw restaurant to one that is vegan but split equally between cooked and raw food. Why does this make a difference? Perhaps ironically, raw food can be more expensive and more time consuming to produce. I’m not sure what the rationale was for the change - perhaps it was that they placed in the top 12 in the nation in 2017’s James Beard Blended Burger Challenge with their Kale-lemon Me Softly Burger, a nonraw entry - but it’s quicker to get in and out at lunch and some of the food is more calorically dense. One big beef people, and that includes me, had with Cider Press Cafe initially is that you would be starving two hours after eating there. These days the lineup of juices and dishes like spiralized veggie pad Thai and breads made of dehydrated gruels have been augmented by accessible vegan comfort foods that include a range of burgers and things like empanadas and vegan shepherd’s pie. Their nonalcoholic drinks list is impressive.

Address: 601 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

Phone: (727) 914-7222

Price: $$

Ray’s Vegan Soul

Chef Ray Milton (middle) greets customers as they file in to eat at Ray's Vegan Soul Food. [DANESE KENON | Times]
Chef Ray Milton (middle) greets customers as they file in to eat at Ray's Vegan Soul Food. [DANESE KENON | Times]

Ray Milton is a former boxer, former pastry chef and current boxing instructor. In the past couple of years, he branched out with something entirely different. He ran a food truck that sold soul food, a cuisine increasingly in short supply. Oh, and it was vegan. Also gluten-free and soy-free. 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.

Black eye peas at Ray's Vegan Soul Food. [DANESE KENON | Times]
Black eye peas at Ray's Vegan Soul Food. [DANESE KENON | Times]

At the end of 2017, Milton took it brick and mortar, immediately finding a niche for his vegan mac and “cheese” made with cashews (it doesn’t taste precisely like mac and cheese, but it’s good, especially with a scoop of vegan chili), barbecued jackfruit "pulled pork,” raw tacos, jicama coleslaw, pumpkin chili, African almond soup and other plant-based delights. Milton is an advocate for a vegan lifestyle, his own experience being a poor diet that led to weight gain and diabetes. Hours are limited, just Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday during the day; most food is packaged to go in ways that are not airtight, so watch the leaking. raysvegansoul.com

Address: 169 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg

Phone: (727) 415-9030

Price: $

Golden Dinosaurs Vegan Deli

The Buffalo Tempeh with vegan mac and cheese. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
The Buffalo Tempeh with vegan mac and cheese. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

A vegan Cuban sandwich with a side of vegan potato salad. How good could it be? Hold Brian and Audrey Dingeman’s beer. They opened a vegan deli in August in the space that used to be Mangia Gourmet in Gulfport. There’s a glass cake case next to the order counter that features Audrey’s truly good cakes and desserts. But the real draw is the from-scratch vegan sausages, cutlets, seitan and straight-up solid vegan hot dogs, taken all-the-way Chicago style.

Meatless chili dogs. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES]
Meatless chili dogs. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES]

They have a beer and wine license (local offerings like Green Bench and Pinellas Ale Works), serve a lot of excellent kombucha and local Bandit coffee, and have a large, light-strung outdoor patio that is robustly pet-friendly. Beyond the crunchy pressed Cuban with seitan “mojo pork,” they do two versions of a Reuben sandwich that are laudable, both heaped with lively, lovely St. Pete Ferments sauerkraut. And you have to finish things up with a chocolate chunk sea salt cookie, the chocolate sourced from nearby Pinellas Chocolate Company. For such a tiny, casual spot, the Dingemans’ attention to local and regional sourcing is impressive.

Address: 2930 Beach Blvd. S, Gulfport

Phone: (727) 873-6901

Price: $