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Photo by: Isaac Babcock - Observer restaurant critic Josh Garrick was pleasantly surprised by the richness of Ethos' vegan cuisine.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 9 years ago

From the Corner Table: Ethos Vegan Kitchen

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Review: Ethos Vegan Kitchen
by: Josh Garrick Columnist

Those of you who read my reviews know that I’m a classic meat and potatoes kinda guy, so you can imagine my stomach rumbling at me as I walked through the doors of the nationally acclaimed Ethos Vegan Kitchen. Now vegan is serious vegetarian, and this extraordinarily well-planned restaurant is 100 percent vegan. That means, no meat (duh), and no dairy, eggs, honey or any other animal derivatives.

So – in my best crusader attitude – I met with owner, manager and chef Kelly Shockley (he’s totally vegan) and basically said, “Let’s check out that menu.”

And I am happy to report that Chef Kelly, while overseeing a daily menu that is 100 percent vegan, answered me by saying, “The taste is the most important thing. First, we want the food to taste good. We are a full-service restaurant and want to be compared to other restaurants … not just other vegan restaurants.”

Now I must say the menu reads like that of any— ssshh (meat-serving) — restaurant, so we started with an appetizer of Sausage Rolls and Black Bean soup. Hey – wait a minute – that spicy sausage baked inside a flaky pastry is … sausage. So it was explained to me that the sausage – which looks and tastes like any spicy Italian sausage – was made from wheat gluten. “It’s all in the spices,” said the chef, and I settled back in my seat a happy man. Turns out this vegan assignment may be easier than I thought.

My dining partner and I went on to try three different sandwiches, each of which included a “meat analog,” which is a plant-based food spiced to look and taste like … meat. The No. 1 restaurant favorite is the What’s the Dilly, Philly?, which looks and tastes like a Philly cheese steak. Remembering that spices play a big part here, it’s a great sandwich, and the meat is replaced by seitan (be careful with that spelling). Chef Kelly explained that seitan is, “pure wheat protein (with more protein than there is in a steak),” and it was developed by Buddhist monks more than a thousand years ago. Awesome.

Ethos Vegan Kitchen moved from Orlando to Winter Park in July. They are open daily from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., is family-owned and operated by Laina and Kelly Shockley. Located at 601-B S. New York Ave. in Winter Park, call 407-228-3898 or visit ethosvegankitchen.com

Visit the Ethos food booth at VegFest 2012 at Orlando Festival Park on Saturday, Oct. 27. The festival celebrates all things vegetarian and includes food, live music, non-profit and retail vendor booths, food demonstrations, kids’ activities and more. Plus, enter to win one of three Ethos gift certificates in the VegFest raffle. Visit cfvegfest.com

Wear your Halloween costume to Ethos on Wednesday, Oct. 31, and earn a free cookie for your guise. They’ll also be featuring $1 off beer and wine from 5 p.m. to close.

The next sandwich was the “Special of the Day,” which turned out to be a real winner. The Tofurkey Reuben is made of tofu (made to look like sliced turkey) served with sauerkraut, soy cheese and a homemade Russian dressing. It was wonderful. The third sandwich was the Coconut Curry Wrap, which featured grilled tofu – the most recognizable of the lot – along with celery, raisins, walnuts and coconut with a veganaise dressing.

Pasta is, of course, a staple in a vegan restaurant and their Pumpkin Seed Pesto Penne Pasta is terrific with loads of pesto sauce for this foodie who says “there is no such thing as too much pesto.” Loved it – along with the main dish of Pecan Crusted Eggplant, which can be real eggplant, because eggplant is a vegetable! My inquisitive nature, however, wanted to know about the delicious gravy and mashed potatoes that accompanied said eggplant. Chef Kelly explained the gravy is a combination of canola oil, flour and “liquid aminos” (a soy sauce alternative), which added wonderful flavor to the gravy that is every bit as good as Grandma’s turkey gravy. It should be noted that they do their own version of Shepherd’s Pie, Crab cakes and Orange Chicken as main dishes as well. With all these choices – so deliciously prepared – this is ‘cross-over’ food that could turn a cowboy into a vegan.

For dessert, we shared a delicious chocolate amaretto mousse, the basis of which is silken tofu, and of course, cookies of all kinds that are generous in size and taste.

So there you have it. The Ethos Vegan Kitchen is a restaurant serving hearty, home-style cooking first, so we can leave all the vegan research to the chef to worry about. All we have to do is enjoy the fact that there is another wonderful food choice in Winter Park, and by eating there, we may be a little healthier than we would be by eating at some other home-style restaurant.

The word Ethos speaks to the moral nature of a person or institution, and the name rings true to this socially responsible and environmentally aware business.

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