A brief preface as to why I’m blabbing about restaurants:
Let’s face it: Tampa is not the easiest place to be vegan. I have been vegan just over a year now, and I’ve been going it alone from the beginning. The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been dining out with friends who haven’t yet adopted a vegan lifestyle (I still have high hopes for them to do so –no pressure!). The challenge doesn’t come so much from difficulties in finding vegan options in predominantly carnivorous restaurants, rather, the challenge lies in convincing my dining companions that we can go anywhere they like and I’ll still be able to order something. After all, the dining experience, for me, is more about the socialization aspect, and less about stuffing my face. If you’re like me (a vegan with zero vegan friends), then you’re probably all too familiar with the ring-around-the-rosie routine when it comes time to decide where to eat; no one wants the responsibility of making the final decision, so the vegan (or “picky” one) of the bunch is typically assigned the task. That’s a lot of pressure!
With that said, this blog is dedicated to the Tampa vegan who often dines out with non-vegans. It is intended to help you choose a restaurant that will please both you and your meat-eating, dairy-gulping buddies (as disgusting as they are — heehee). Every other week I will post new restaurant ideas for you, as well as photos, my personal menu favorites, and other helpful tips about the featured restaurant.
-End preface 🙂
For my first installment, I want to tell you about Thai Cafe in downtown Tampa. There’s no real reason I chose Thai Cafe for my “maiden voyage” blog post. It’s just where I happened to be this week (er…and remembered to take photos).
Now, I’m not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to distinguishing great Thai food from garbage Thai food, but I’ve always enjoyed my meals from Thai Cafe, and so have my non-vegan friends. Thai Cafe is near the corner of Twiggs and Franklin, which means the parking situation is like any downtown parking: park illegally and have your friend run inside to pick up the food (obviously, I won’t be helping out with your parking ticket – you’re on your own). I’ve only ever gotten take-out here, but the outside seating is charming, and I’m sure it fills up nicely with the lunch crowd (not like the photo above where it looks like a ghost town – it was taken well after the lunch crowd had left).
I ordered the Panang Curry dish with the tofu option (duh), but your friends might like the chicken, shrimp, or even crispy duck option (those fools). When you place the order, they give you the option of how spicy you like your curry. I’ve never been a fan of mega-spicey food, so I demanded (asked nicely) for medium spiciness. It was perfection. The vegetables and crispy tofu are served over white rice, and then it’s all topped with a beautiful yellow curry sauce. This dish costs about $9, which is pretty decent. The helping is pretty substantial, and if I’m not a piggy that day I can usually have enough leftover to eat later (aka – that same night just before bed).
The Panang Curry dish is my favorite here so far, but you can easily make most of their entrées into a vegan one (if you need to know how to do that, you might need to find a starter blog for new vegans – LOL).
It’s probably worth mentioning that the staff here is quite friendly. It seems to be family owned and operated, which always makes me feel better about supporting them. It is also worth mentioning that I would never say if the service is less than perfect at any restaurant I suggest to you. If the service is bad, I just won’t bring it up. When it’s all said and done, I’d rather give positive support to a place that has options for the vegan community, as opposed to tearing them to shreds because of an employee who maybe just had a bad day and took it out on me.
I hope you enjoy Thai Cafe as much as I do. Check back soon for more vegan dining suggestions.