The Sanctum

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Sanctum table

Anyone who questions whether there is a market for vegetarian restaurants only needs to visit The Sanctum, a new meat-freetery in the Mills 50 district whose slogan is “Real, damn good food” and whose online description calls its menu plant-based. It seems that it is always packed.

Admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot of people to fill the space, which is set back from Colonial Drive at the northeast corner of Fern Creek Avenue. The space is small and narrow, with a bar and communal seating up front and a few tables hugging the wall down the side, across from the kitchen area. But it was clear to me when I lunched with colleagues there recently that more than a few were repeat customers hungry for vegetarian and vegan options.

That may be one of Sanctum’s secrets of success: It isn’t totally vegan but offers several items that can easily be veganized. As long as you’re not concerned about the purity of the kitchen as far as your food commingling with mere vegetarian offerings, you should be just fine.

Sanctum feta

So then if you see an item that includes cheese, it means that it’s real cheese and not a nondairy concoction. Actually, in the case of the Mo’Rockin Bowl, chevre was an optional add-on. This was a salad of mixed greens tossed with roasted beets spiked with harissa (wonderful), cauliflower and onion. Add a few raisins and garbanzo beans and a spicy cumin-tahini dressing and you have a rockin salad you’ll want mo of. Not sure you really need the creamy chevre — or if it’s worth an extra $1.50, but it did cut the sweetness of the candied walnuts quite nicely.

Sanctum Caesar

Calling another Green Bowl selection the Toasted Caesar would suggest someone had had a bit too much to drink when compiling the ingredients. Where else have you ever seen a Caesar salad with roasted rosemary potatoes thrown in? Or quinoa, sunflower sprouts and roasted pumpkin seeds, for that matter? Apparently the dressing hails from the land of traditional Caesars, so there you go.

Sanctum Thai 

I chose the Sassy Thai Salad, which featured pad Thai noodles at the bottom of the bowl under a stack of greens with cabbage, radish, cucumbers, carrots, bell pepper and grape tomatoes. A peanut and tamarind blend dressing coated the greens, and the salad was topped with some kimchi. I found myself devouring the entire salad.

For some reason the Sassy Thai was listed under the grain bowl section of the menu. I guess since the noodles are made from rice it qualifies for the category. But other selections feature actual brown rice or quinoa. I think I’ll try one of those on another visit.

Unless I go for breakfast and have the avocado toast that I saw someone eating nearby (but which wasn’t on the lunch menu) and some eggs.

Yikes! Eggs and real cheese on the menu. This is my kind of plant-based restaurant.

The Sanctum is at 715 N. Fern Creek Ave., Orlando. It is open for breakfast and lunch daily and for dinner (early closing at 8 p.m., 9 on weekends) Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-757-0346.

Sanctum interior