Note: One business originally included in this story was removed because it is in the process of acquiring a business license but has not yet received it.
Pensacola’s culinary identity will almost assuredly always revolve around seafood, but there’s more diversity within the local restaurant scene than ever before in 2020. Exponentially more than five years ago, even.
That growth extends to vegan foodies, who for years turned primarily to End of the Line Cafe if they wanted to patronize a place with a robust vegan menu.
But times are changing. Listed below are some of the top vegan-friendly restaurants ready to serve you today in Pensacola:
End of the Line Cafe
Address: 610 E. Wright St.
Menu link: eotlcafe.com
Current faves, per the owner: Knuckle Sandwich (club piled high with maple-hickory bacon, grilled tofu, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, Roma tomatoes, Dijon mayo on toasted sourdough), mac and cheese.
The aforementioned End of the Line Cafe is still the OG when it comes to vegan cuisine in Pensacola, because it’s the only restaurant in town with a 100% vegan-only menu.
“It’s creative, organic, homemade vegan cuisine,” said longtime owner Jen Knight about her restaurant’s approach to vegan food. “For the most part, it’s housemade, and mostly organic. The desserts we make are ethical, all fair trade and made with organic sugar. We take a lot of pride in getting good groceries, basically.”
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Although it is allowed, End of the Line has not re-opened for dine-in service due to the coronavirus pandemic. Knight said the restaurant has recently extended its hours, which are now 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sundays for brunch.
Known for its fresh, vegan takes on traditional meat-based deli sandwiches like the BLT, Reuben, muffaletta and banh mi, the cafe integrates a weekly, rotating specials menu to complement its long list of cornerstone favorites.
Knight said she and her small team have adjusted pretty well to food service in the pandemic era.
“We’re just kind of making it work,” she said. “I got another phone line so now we have two phone lines to handle the calls. I’ve brought on a little help to answer the phone so we can facilitate the orders more efficiently. But yeah, we’re working with it. Staying creative.”
Alcaniz Kitchen & Tap
Address: 200 S. Alcaniz St.
Menu link: alcaniztap.com
Current faves, per the chef: Vegan meatloaf (recurring special), marinated portobello focaccia sandwich (recurring special).
Carving out a niche as a go-to vegan spot wasn’t in the original game plan for Alcaniz Tap, the neighborhood restaurant and bar that opened in historic downtown Pensacola at the beginning of 2019.
But general manager and head chef Amber Halverson has opened the mind of owner Ed Riley in recent months, to the point where guests can now expect a new vegan special every single day, in addition to a host of good vegan stuff on the standard menu.
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“He wanted a neighborhood bar that served craft beer and burgers and wings and things like that, and I was like, ‘There’s a way that we could bring in all dynamics of people and offer that same kind of feel but bring in a variety of clientele,'” Halverson said. “Because we all have those friends who are vegetarian or vegan and we all want to meet up for drinks and get food, but we all want (a menu) that’s diverse and provides something for each and every one of us.”
Since Halverson received free rein over the kitchen at the beginning of the year, she’s designated one fryer as the vegan fryer and has gotten to work on new made-from-scratch recipes like her fried cauliflower appetizer, house brined and fried pickles, Impossible burgers and tacos, and even a house vegan ranch.
Alcaniz Tap is currently operating on abbreviated hours due to COVID-19 and can be visited from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Khon’s on Palafox
Address: 34 S. Palafox St.
Menu link: facebook.com/khonsonpalafox
Current faves, per the owner: Mighty Veggie Sushi Roll, peanut noodle bowl
In the spring of 2019, Khon’s Executive Chef Dot Chap and General Manager and Owner Winston Evans decided to bolster the menu of their southeast Asian-inspired restaurant by creating an entirely separate vegan section.
“We realized that a lot of our dishes and sauces are vegan anyway,” Evans said. “A couple of my friends are vegan, and we know one or two people in a group might be vegan sometimes, so we want to make sure we can give everyone what they want.”
The vegan menu at Khon’s is comprised of three stir fry options, three large plates, four small plates and four salads.
“Our ginger salad is one of the best I’ve ever had,” Evans said. “And that Mighty Veggie Sushi Roll we were kind of doing it off the menu. People, if you knew about it, you’d ask for it, so we just put that on the menu. It’s really good, too, with the peanuts and stuff on it.”
Khon’s operates between noon and 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and noon and 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Cafe Single Fin
Address: 380 N. Ninth Ave.
Cafe Single Fin on the border of downtown Pensacola has been hip to the vegan lifestyle for a while now.
The surf shop-inspired cafe boasts more than a dozen all-vegan menu items and operates a predominantly vegan bakery.
The Vegan Costa Wrap (burrito with scrambled seasoned tofu, vegan sausage, rice, black beans, avocado and side salsa), the tofu scramble, vegan black bean tacos, Impossible tacos and the Banzai Burger highlight the vegan side of Cafe Single Fin’s menu.
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Their vegan bakery is loaded with roughly 30 all-vegan dessert options, like the birthday cake muffin, s’mores muffin, chocolate chip cookie pie and much more.
The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. between Monday and Saturday and 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sundays. Breakfast is served all day.
Skopelos at New World
Address: 600 S. Palafox St.
Maybe you knew this, maybe you didn’t, but one of Pensacola’s finest sit-down restaurants is extremely vegan-friendly, and has been for the past few years.
Traditional home-style meals are creatively re-imagined at Skopelos, which features vegan options on both its lunch and dinner menus.
The Impossible Burger, the Impossible Shepherd’s Pie and the Country Fried “Steak” headline the lunch menu for the non-meat or dairy eaters. And for dinner, Skopelos does a Butternut Squash Risotto and Fried Oyster Mushroom, a larger serving of the Impossible Shepherd’s Pie and the Lumache Pasta, which features creamy pesto, sundried tomato, toasted walnuts and baby spinach.
A host of desserts — like the Halvah Mille-Fuille (phyllo, tahini crème, toasted pistachio, apricot purée, sea salt, black sesame) — are also vegan at Skopelos.
The restaurant is open from 4-9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Fridays, 5-10 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sundays.
Jake Newby can be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8538.