While I’m traveling, I always do my research. As someone who consumes a vegan diet, I always try my best to look up where I can find vegetarian dishes in advance. I came across Fresh First in my searches and thankfully, it was just down the street from our hotel. After a quick walk from the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina (less than 10 minutes by foot), we found Fresh First. Now, we probably should have reached it in under ten minutes, except we walked right past the plaza. Thankfully, we were able to locate the restaurant tucked away behind a parking garage in a strip mall. After tasting the food and drinks, we knew that it was well worth the extra effort to find the place!
Fresh First is not strictly a vegan or vegetarian restaurant, though they do specialize in these dietary options. Fresh First is Florida’s first 100% gluten-free restaurant and juice bar. You’ll find wholesome, organic meals here and of course, it’s fantastic for those who can’t consume wheat. While we missed out on the breakfast menu (served from 8am-11am), it does feature two vegan meals: a tofu scramble, and an oatmeal prepared with almond milk. Lunch is served from 11am-3pm – yes, the restaurant closes at 3 o’clock, so make sure you get there in time!
I should also mention that while my sister, Robyn doesn’t exclusively eat vegan, she does consume a vegetarian diet. So, I know that she had to appreciate her older sister’s efforts in finding all of the vegetarian food – right? Anyway, walking into the restaurant, we were immediately greeted by our server who let us choose where we wanted to sit. It was a fairly casual environment with a natural, earthy vibe, and each table had a flower on it. There was a long bar where you could order juice or a smoothie, and I’m sure you could take your meals on the go.
We each ordered a smoothie from their menu: I got the “Outrageous Orange” (mango, banana, orange, almond) and Robyn got the “Awesome Amber” (kale, avocado, banana, strawberry, flax). The smoothies reached the table quickly and they were refreshing and fruity. After a long morning of waking up super early, catching a flight, and settling into our hotel, it felt great to consume some nutritious fruits!
For the meal, we both decided to order the same thing (although there were several vegetarian and vegan options on the menu): the Quinoa Veggie Burger. The burger was made from seasoned quinoa with beets, carrots, mushrooms, and scallions, served on a savory burger bun with sauteed mushrooms and onions. We were able to choose a side dish and again, both chose the red & sweet potato salad. I guess great minds think alike! Or perhaps we just have similar tastes.
I loved how the burger toppings spilled out of the burger bun and onto the plate! The burger patty itself was bright red from the beets. When I took that magical first bite, I knew that this was going to be a very enjoyable meal. The burger was very flavorful and I thought the sauteed toppings were delicious. We were also offered some condiments and to my delight, they offered Vegenaise (a vegan and gluten-free mayonnaise). The potato salad was really yummy – it would be the perfect salad to bring along on a picnic! The burger was definitely more filling than it looked, and the plate ended up being the perfect amount of food. I happily ate every bite, though I likely wouldn’t have had room for more.
I highly recommend Fresh First as a breakfast or lunch spot while you’re visiting Florida, especially if you’re going on a cruise. Even if you don’t eat a vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free diet, you’ll find really healthy and wholesome food here. It might be a great idea to eat a light, yet satisfying meal here before gorging on endless cruise buffets! And if you have a dietary restriction, this would be an ideal place for you!
Fresh First has two locations as listed on their website, though we dined at their South Fort Lauderdale restaurant.
South Fort Lauderdale
1637 SE 17th Street, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
In the Quay Plaza diagonally across from Bimini Boatyard
Free parking in the garage