I have a new favorite vegan restaurant. Not that I had an old favorite, but there is much to like about Market On South, a new market. On, um, South Street. It’s charming, edgy and as enticing as any meat-centric eatery.
Now, I have to be careful here. I’ve learned from writing about vegan restaurants in the past that many of the people who follow the strict regimen don’t seem to have a sense of humor about it. I call it an irony deficiency. One of my favorite columns I wrote as the Chow Hound was about a vegan restaurant. It was located in a space that was a former (and future, as it turned out) gay bar, so I wrote the review as though vegan were a lifestyle choice. I made myself laugh; I made a lot of vegans angry. My goodness, the hate mail I received. Some of them, paradoxically, were out for blood.
So let me be perfectly straight<ahem>forward: The food I tasted at Market On South was terrific and I recommend you try it.
Especially the Georgia Peach Sloppy Joe, which, I hasten to point out, contained no actual Joe. It did, however, have a very meaty texture, if you don’t mind such a comparison, and despite the promise of peaches was quite spicy. It was also appropriately named, that is the Sloppy part. And served, as all SJs should, on a soft and doughy white bun.
My selection came with a choice of a side dish. And since crispy Brussels sprouts were the special side dish of the day, I didn’t even look to see what the other choices were. They couldn’t have been any better than the sprouts, which were indeed crispy but also had a butteriness that had to come from something other than butter, because that is not allowed in vegan cooking. Whatever, they were delicious.
The folks manning the counter were welcoming, seemingly eager to see someone walk into the place. I thought that was maybe because when I came in, during the height of the lunch hour, there was only one other person sitting at one of the small tables. But even before I had my food, more groups had come through the door and all the tables were occupied.
This is not a full service restaurant. Order your food at the counter and take a seat. Someone will bring it to you, probably on a metal tray, which should not be confused with the trays seen in most prison movies, when it is ready.
Market On South is actually a partnership of three businesses: Dixie Dharma, which does the savory foods; Valhalla Bakery, which produces vegan-approved sweets; and Humble Bumble Kombucha, which I assume is responsible for the bar. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink (despite the name of the company, no honey is used in the drink because honey is not vegan). Market on South, which is still in soft opening, is touting itself as a place to gather for a drink in the evenings. It serves beer and wine and wine-based cocktails. Frankly, I’d rather have a Sloppy Joe without meat than a cocktail without liquor, but that’s just me.
Besides the collaborative aspect of the three businesses working together under one roof, Market On South also is available as a rentable commissary kitchen. This is a great asset for people who would like to develop a food business but lack the resources to set up a professional (read: health department approved) kitchen. Of course, I’m sure any businesses that would like to rent the facility would have to also be vegan — you wouldn’t expect to use a kosher kitchen to develop your pulled pork recipe, would you?
Market On South claims to be in Orlando’s Milk District. South Street might be a bit of a stretch from the area surrounding the T.G. Lee Dairy plant at Bumby Avenue and Robinson Street, but I’m willing to widen that reach (not that it’s up to me). It occupies a free-standing structure across the street from the raised lanes of State Road 408. There are some picnic tables with umbrellas out front, and the dining area inside is pleasant and comfortable. There are a few shelves with comestibles, which constitute the market part of the place.
I like Market On South on many levels, and I am happy to recommend it to you. Even die-hard meat-eaters would do well to cut back on animal products every now and then. Meatless Mondays is a current movement designed to get people to think more about their diets. Unfortunately, MOS is closed on Mondays. How about Tofu Tuesdays?
Market On South is at 2603 South St., Orlando. It is currently open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The website does not list one phone number for the market, but there are links to each of the businesses.