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Meatless dishes are on the menu in Lakewood Ranch

At these restaurants, eating vegetarian and vegan is anything but boring.

The Rocket salad at Lucky Pelican is adorned with mango slices.
The Rocket salad at Lucky Pelican is adorned with mango slices.
Courtesy image
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 So, you want to save the planet? Eat your vegetables! 

We all know the reasons why. Plant-based diets require less land, water and energy compared to their meaty counterparts. And their production and distribution result in fewer greenhouse gasses, decreased deforestation and more biodiversity. 

But eating green is also good for you. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains reduces your intake of saturated fats and lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. 

Oh, and there’s another fabulous reason to keep meat at a minimum: Vegan and vegetarian dishes are simply delicious. These restaurants in the Lakewood Ranch region boast a tasty selection of meatless masterpieces.


10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch; 941-893-4321;

Grove is a magnet for savvy diners attracted by its contemporary ambiance, lively happy hour and inventive global fusion cuisine. 

Not a meat eater? Not a problem. You won’t go hungry here. 

Terry Daniels, Grove’s chef and general manager, suggests four vegetarian-friendly dishes for your dining adventure.

Grove’s avocado tacos are stuffed with black beans, corn and cotija cheese and topped with fresh pico de gallo salsa.
Photo by Lori Sax

Start with the watermelon poké — a creative twist on the classic ahi tuna tower. With pickled watermelon, creamy avocado, sushi rice, vegan yogurt, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, this perky (and vegan) amuse-bouche prepared our palate for Daniels’ delicious, protein-packed bean burgers. They’re made in-house (bun included) and embellished with provolone and basil mayo. Avocado tacos were up next — stuffed with black beans, corn and cotija cheese and topped with fresh pico de gallo salsa. 

To accompany the burgers and the tacos, we ordered the Thai cauliflower appetizer — crisp, tempura-coated cauliflower bathed in a luscious peanut sauce and generously sprinkled with crunchy peanuts and sassy scallions. 

How filling was all that? Put it this way: We had to pass on the peanut butter pie — our fave Grove dessert. 

Apollonia Grill

8235 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park; 941-359-4816;

Apollonia Grill is truly a family affair. Both locations (University Town Center and Sarasota Landings) are deftly managed by Eddie Yzeiri, his wife, parents and brother. You can taste their devotion to Mediterranean cuisine in their many meat-free options. 

“Our dinner table at home is always filled with vegetables,” says Yzeiri. “It’s a major part of our diet — as it is for most people in the Mediterranean region.” We’re talking abundant vegetarian choices here. It was hard to choose, but we narrowed it down to three tasty selections. 

We started with the carefully crafted zucchini croquettes. According to Yzeiri, the process begins by grating and draining zucchini, blending it with fresh herbs and manouri cheese, shaping it into “meatballs,” coating with panko breadcrumbs, and frying to golden perfection. Served with dill yogurt infused with lemon and garlic, these croquettes are a robust meal all in themselves. 

We also feasted on eggplant rollatini, created with roasted, thinly sliced eggplant that’s stuffed with a blend of feta and spinach, baked to perfection, topped with marinara sauce and finished with a sprinkle of feta and mozzarella cheese. Finally, we shared a dish of spanakopita — crispy on the outside, tender within, and bursting with the richness of cheese and earthy spinach. 

Appollonia’s menu also features a plethora of sides, including sautéed spinach, roasted veggies and grilled asparagus. Even a die-hard vegetarian can have a hearty meal here.

Lucky Pelican Bistro

6239 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota; 941-907-0589;

Let’s deal with the pelican in the room: Folks flock to Lucky Pelican for its fresh seafood and not specifically for its vegetarian offerings. 

Fill up on the crispy, super-delicious veggie pancakes at Lucky Pelican.
Photo by Lori Sax

Luckily, vegans and vegetarians don’t dine here in vain. While your tablemates feast on oysters, lobster rolls and sake-glazed sea bass, you can fill your gullet, too. With what? Manager Petra Demko helped us choose a wickedly fulfilling meal, starting with the crispy, super-delicious veggie pancakes. They’re made with zucchini and other veggies and lightly fried. (Like to slather sour cream on your potato latkes? Try it on these.) 

We also added tempura veggies and garlic spinach to our feast, along with the Rocket salad, which is dressed up with mango slices. Depending on when you’re there, lucky vegetarians might also find collard greens spiced with Creole seasoning; sweet cream corn cooked with dark rum; and fried Brussels sprouts with pecans and cranberries. Lucky? You bet! 

Paris Bistrot

8131 Lakewood Main St., Suite 103, Lakewood Ranch; 941-388-0564;

You have a rendezvous with friends at one of the best French restaurants in town: Paris Bistrot. 

The veggie quiche at Paris Bistro cradles a pastiche of colorful vegetables.
Photo by Lori Sax

The menu tempts with iconic French dishes, including beef Bourguignon, bouillabaisse, and canard à l’orange. Pop open a bottle of Laurent Perrier Cuvée Brut and relax. Plenty of tantalizing vegetarian options await you, too.

Chef and co-proprietor Jean Christophe Nebra suggests three, starting with buckwheat crêpes. Chef Nebra fills these savory (and vegan) crêpes with a colorful medley of ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion), mushrooms, spinach and house-made tomato sauce. The crêpe’s tender envelope lets these robust flavors shine through without overwhelming the palate. 

Veggie risotto is Nebra’s next taste treat — a soul-satisfying mix of creamy rice with Parmesan cheese, topped with ratatouille, mushroom, spinach and bell pepper. (Note to vegans: Nebra is happy to prepare this sans the cream and Parmesan cheese.) 

A grand cru Saint-Emilion pairs perfectly with your third classic — veggie quiche. This rich pastiche of colorful vegetables and mozzarella is savory and satisfying. If you still have room for sweets, don’t miss Chef Nebra’s astonishing selection of dessert crêpes.

Did you know? Compared to beef, the Impossible Burger requires 96% less land, 87% less fresh water, generates 89% less greenhouse gas emissions and results in 92% less pollution to freshwater ecosystems.
Photo by Lori Sax

Libby’s Neighborhood Brasserie

8445 Lorraine Road, Sarasota; 941-357-1570;

Libby’s Impossible Vegan Double Mac Burger is a delightfully indulgent possibility. It’s a double-stack of juicy goodness — with vegan American cheese and herb mayo. The result? Heck, it tastes like a real burger. This is more than a meal — it’s a commitment to a sustainable and kinder burger experience. We relished each guilt-free bite, secure in the knowledge that we made a positive impact on the planet.

Station 400

8215 Lakewood Main St., Suite P103, Lakewood Ranch; 941-907-0648;

This go-to spot has plenty of meat-free breakfast and brunch options to delight both vegetarians and their carnivorous companions — but what about lunch? Chris Schnizel, the general manager, confirmed what we’d been eyeing: the falafel wrap. It’s a rarity in these parts, but they definitely do it right. Their falafel is a crispy, crunchy, aromatic delight, made with a blend of chickpeas, herbs and spices. Station 400 also adds field greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted red pepper, hummus, and a generous drizzle of tzatziki sauce for a flavorful treat. (I prefer a lemony garlic tahini sauce to tzatziki but to each their own.)



Su Byron

Su Byron has worked in the regional arts and cultural world for the past 25 years as a writer, an editor, and a public relations and marketing specialist. For 12 of those years, she was the co-publisher of the Sarasota Arts Review, a monthly arts and entertainment newspaper. Su is a freelance writer whose regular columns and articles appear in a host of regional and national publications.