Saturday I went to Tampa to check out the Florida Vegan Gourmet Food Festival. It was held on the USF Tampa campus, in the Botanical Gardens.  I’ve been to the campus before, but not to the gardens. I have to say, it’s a perfect place for a festival.

The Florida Vegan Gourmet Food Festival was definitely focused on the food. There were more varieties of food than other vegan festivals I’ve been to before.  Most were new to me, but there were a few places I recognized like  Sans Market which has a zero waste shop in St. Petersburg. Of course, I also found a few new places I’m pretty excited about.

One of the vegan restaurants I already knew was great before trying their food at the festival is Dixie Dharma. They have a place at Armature Works, all the way at the end of Riverwalk in Tampa. I’ve had a few things off their menu, and they never disappoint.  They surprised me this time though!  They served a jackfruit slider with coleslaw that I immediately wanted more of.  Why is this surprising?  Because I’ve tried BBQ jackfruit before and I never liked it. I’m not a big texture person when it comes to food, but the texture of Jackfruit really threw me off.  But Dixie Dharma’s is shredded to the point of you can’t shred it any further and that made all the difference. I am now a fan. Of course, I’m sure the chef’s expertise with seasonings makes a difference too. Another reason to visit Dixie Dharma if you’re anywhere near the area!

One vegan business that is new to me but became an instant favorite is Bri’s Vegan Bakes.  I tried their chocolate chip cookies and their Lemon Oreo Loaf and they are both beyond amazing. Unfortunately, they don’t have a storefront, so if you want to try some incredible vegan baked goods you’ll have to stalk their Instagram page and watch out for where you can catch them next. I should have got more of the lemon oreo loaf! I also finally tried Authentic Empanadas, and I gotta say they have the best empanadas I’ve had.  

One of the things that I am always disappointed about at food festivals is I don’t get to try it ALL because you are usually buying a small entry at a booth and because seriously, how much can you eat in a few hours? And not feel like you ate it ALL.  So I was excited to be invited to be a judge at the festival. That means I got to try all of the food pictured below, and a few more. I wasn’t able to stay until the end of the festival, so I didn’t find out who the winner was but I can tell you there weren’t any losers.  All of the food was great. 

I was surprised to find out there are so many great vegan options in the Central Florida area. I was even more surprised to realize how may pop up businesses there are. There are a large number of local vegan businesses that do not have a storefront, you are only able to get their food at festivals and pop up markets.  Places like Oh My Cod (vegan seafood) and Seasoned Green which you only get to try when you can catch them. Good Mood Food Co had fried mac & cheese balls that I didn’t try but my cohorts raved about.

Long story short – when you’re traveling around Florida you can absolutely find great vegan eats.  You just have to keep your eyes open, and never skip a vegan food festival if you can help it!  Speaking of which, rumor has it that City Festivals will be throwing another vegan fest this summer, so be on the lookout!

Here’s what you need to know to play tourist:

If you’re looking for great vegan food there are lots of links throughout the post. If you’re looking to attend the next festival follow City Festivals!

 City Festivals