While vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise in the African-American/Black community; it’s still a relatively new frontier for our people, especially African-Americans. Vegetarianism was relatively low in West Africa, home to our ancestors, so changing your entire diet to a plant based one can be challenging.
Following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, Black vegetarians in the western hemisphere began to rise in large part due to Rastafarianism—a religion developed in Jamaica in the 1930s and rawfoodist such as famous African-American comedian Dick Gregory. Both these factors were contributing forces to the early stages of Black dietary shifts in the U.S, in addition to the phenomenal soulful flavors used in creating African and Caribbean inspired vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin, located at 73 NE 167th Street in North Miami Beach, FL 33162 is continuing the delicious tradition of vegan and vegetarian soulful innovation. Just steps away from all three major highways and Jackson Hospital North, the restaurant sits right off 163rd street in an unassuming strip mall with a gigantic sign outside that reads VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT. To be honest, I have driven by this place a trillion times and never stopped. I just wasn’t interested in Vegetarian food in my 20’s, but now, I want to live so I made that stop out of curiosity and have been a customer since!
Various organic and natural products are on display near the entrance and to the right, there is a full fledged mini health food store. I was even able to pick up some shea butter and organic oils for my dreads!
The restaurant has been in continuous operation for over seven years in the same location. A recent expansion will allow for larger dine in parties in a semi private dining space. Owner and operator Hakin, plans to make his restaurant not only the largest Black owned, but largest vegetarian and vegan restaurant in Miami-Dade period!
I started my experience with the Latte Chimp ($8.50), a delicious cold coffee smoothie made with nut or cashew butter, dates and non-dairy milk of choice. I chose almond milk and asked for extra cashews and dates on the top. This smoothie could put Starbucks completely out of business. I absolutely loved the flavor, texture, and the amazing energy I received minutes after drinking it. The coffee flavor had a nice chocolaty taste, obviously without any chocolate having been added. The extraordinary sweetness from dates balanced the natural bitterness of the coffee for a well-rounded flavor.
(Because I had already dined at the restaurant the day before, I decided to get some cool shots for our upcoming show, so I wanted to see how this delicious shake was made. Let’s just say, my version didn’t come out quite the same!)
As an appetizer we ordered mini vegan spinach and ackee empanadas ($4) made with deliciously flavored spinach and bite sized pieces of cooked ackee. Ackee is a pale yellow fruit whose texture is almost bread-like and very porous. When it’s paired with strong flavors, it soaks up that flavor and produces excellent results! Within these little patties, it almost takes on a cheese-like consistency that unifies the deliciousness of the organic sea salt, and other spices. These are a MUST HAVE!
My first entrée was The Breakfast Pizza with scrambled curry tofu ($8.00); which is NOT ON THE MENU! The restaurant is full of surprises and some of its regular customers have inside knowledge of items that have not made it to the menu yet, and this is one of them. Be sure to place request it like a regular if you find yourself visiting. You’re welcome. The pizza is completely vegan and made with a delicious sauce that explodes with flavor. The bread is slightly crispy and baked to perfection with the scrambled curry tofu giving the pizza a unique spark in taste that is irresistible. Another MUST HAVE!
The next entrée was the Morning Philly Steak ($10.95) made with seitan beef, red and green peppers, onions, jalapenos and vegan cream cheese. This sandwich was good, but lacked consistent flavor. The vegan cheese was very tasty and would be a great selection for a low sodium diet.
Last of the breakfast items was the Blueberry Vegan Pancakes ($7.50). Absolutely delicious! It comes with Agave Syrup on the side. I prefer maple syrup, but the Agave is better for you and is actually a lot sweeter. Agave is a plant whose nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners and is WAY BETTER FOR YOU THAN SUGAR. This is a great choice for the kids or anyone who enjoys sweetness for breakfast.
Trying out the lunch menu, we ordered a Vegan Tuna Sandwich ($10.95). This is when I started to get worried. How the hell did they make this damn sandwich taste just like Tuna? Let me tell you something, if you enjoyed classic tuna as a child, this is the sandwich for you. It definitely my favorite sandwich here – period. Made with vegan EVERYTHING, I was in complete amazement. This is a MUST HAVE!
Next we brought on the meat, well, not really, but it tasted like meat. We ordered the Ginger Chicken Dinner with Chick Peas, Rice, and a side salad for only ($11.95). Made with a tofu/veggie mix, the chicken was sautéed in an Asian inspired sauce with large pieces of ginger throughout producing an aromatic so inviting you may just say $#%@ the fork and start eating his bad boy with your hands! That’s exactly what I did, so that should tell you how good this taste.
I think it’s so cool that you can dine at spot like this guilt free while having amazing flavors that allow you not miss meat one freaking bit. The chickpeas were cooked to a damn near perfect consistency with incredible flavor. The salad looked pretty, but I didn’t eat it because I forgot to ask for dressing. The rice was actually brown rice and cooked with nuts and other @$%@ in there that made for a dynamic flavor mixing in the chickpeas.
Vegetarian by Hakin has it all – ambiance, service, and AMAZING FOOD. You can appreciate his passion for creating flavorful but extremely healthy guilt free cuisine. After losing family members and a former employee to preventable diseases, he began what he describes as his Ministry to help others heal through food. To that end, there are meal plans and other resources available through the restaurant. In addition, make sure you try their amazing soups, and vegan cookies.
When the expansion is complete, there will be space for private parties, functions, seminars and other community events. Vegetarian by Hakin’s excellence and its proximity to my residence make it one of my regular spots. You can reach them at (305) 405-6346. This eatery receives 10 out of 10 stars, and definitely The Hungry Black Man Approval!
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