By KATIE KENNEDY
At a restaurant as cute as the Sweet Pea Cafe, it’s easy to be a vegan and enjoy it.
A vegan diet avoids all animal products and consists of the best of earth’s bounties: fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. At Sweet Pea, a locally owned vegan restaurant serving locally grown fresh food, anybody — vegan or not — can get a delightful meal that will not disappoint.
Sweet Pea is located on Tharpe Street, across the parking lot from Star’s Meat Market, one of Tallahassee’s oldest monuments to meat. (Oh, the lovely irony.)
The Pea’s casual order-at-the-counter service creates a relaxed and personable atmosphere in a quaint and cozy place. In addition to the booths and tables inside, they have several outdoor tables.
Nothing is commercial at Sweet Pea. From the mosaic tables to the mismatched mugs and the colorful chalkboard menu board, everything has its own special touch.
Sweet Pea collects its produce from nearby farms such as Lake Seminole Farm, The Best Little Greens, Ripe City Urban Farm, Full Earth Farm, iGrow-Whatever You Like, and Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.
Sweet Pea, which serves only brunch and lunch, features various specials every day. The menu is simple and authentic, with rich foods that are packed with flavor but leave you feeling light and happy rather than ready to nap on the floor. If you’re not used to eating vegan, your preconceptions will melt away with your first mouthful.
During our visit, we enjoyed a delicious Tofuevos Rancheros, a Brady Brunch, Falawesome, and the Spicy BLT with tasty sweet potato fries and a carrot ginger slaw.
The Tofuevos Rancheros were rich and savory. This dish emulated Huevos Rancheros but replaced the eggs with a tofu scramble. This brunch option included two toasted corn tortillas topped with “cheddary cheeze” — a vegan substitute for dairy based cheese — brown rice, beans, scrambled tofu and veggies, salsa, and sour cream. Yum!
I especially enjoyed my Spicy “BLT,” which included blackened organic tofu, lettuce, tomato, and spicy mayo on organic wheat bread. The tofu was cooked perfectly — nicely seasoned with a pleasant consistency. Sometimes tofu can be too dense, too fluffy or mushy. But this tofu was not that way. (One can eat anything when it is seasoned properly!)
You also can enjoy a Fair Trade cup of coffee with almond or soy milk with added Stevia, a natural zero calorie, zero sugar sweetener.
We visited Sweet Pea Cafe with my younger cousin Adeline, who
recently became vegan after being a vegetarian for years. She chose the lifestyle after learning about the way the meat, dairy and egg industries treat animals. She told us she wanted to do her part to reduce unnecessary torture for animals.
In addition, she said, factory farming uses tons of greenhouse gases, fuel, energy, and nonrenewable resources. Along with the eco-friendly benefits, being vegan also has great health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, kidney disease and liver failure.
Although Adeline was the only person in our group of five who was vegan, each of us was pleasantly surprised by these healthy, flavorful meals.
While eating vegan may seem difficult and complicated to maintain, it is a lot easier than most people think. If done right, eating vegan also saves money. The three cheapest things you can buy are soy, rice, and corn.
And the vegan’s verdict on Sweet Pea Cafe? Yummy!
We loved dining at Sweet Pea Cafe. As one of our meat-loving friends said, “I would definitely eat here again. Now, I want to grow out my hair and put on Birkenstocks.”
If you go…
Sweet Pea Cafe
832 W Tharpe St
Tallahassee, Fla., 32303
Katie Kennedy, a native of Tallahassee, will be entering her senior year at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. She is an intern for Tallahassee Table.