The food hall has gone vegan in Coconut Grove.
A fitting throwback to the good old days of the Grove – when condos were sparse and peace signs were plentiful – the vShops calls itself the world’s first vegan food hall.
The concept isn’t exactly new. Its first incarnation as Choices Vegan Cafe opened in 2016, long before food halls were a gleam in Miami’s eye. But as the popularity of food halls grew, the idea to expand several different concepts gelled.
“We wanted to be a food hall,” explains Rose Flynn, director of operations and a vegan for 40 years.
There are eight concepts at vShops and have been since 2018: The original Choices, which serves burritos, bowls and breakfast; Next Generation Pizza; Southern Sol Garden BBQ; Tank Burger Bar; Morning Glory Organic Coffee; My Brothers Bakery; Neo’s Blender, which sells smoothies; and Ice Dream Parlor.
Restaurants at Miami’s many other food halls use the concept as an incubator, allowing chefs to try out menus before branching out to their own standalone restaurants. Chef Adrianne Calvo opened three concepts at Yumbrella food hall in South Miami, only to announce she’d be closing them and opening a full service restaurant nearby.
Other food hall vendors are long-time local favorites, like pastry-and-dessert maven Bachour, which has concepts at The Citadel and Time Out Market Miami.
Husband-and-wife team Alex Cuevas and Lori Zito own all the concepts at vShops.
Settling on the recipes are the most difficult part of putting together a vegan food hall, Flynn says. But Cuevas and Zito had a plan: To get the meat substitutes right, they enlisted non-vegan meat eaters to work on the recipes.
And the majority of vShops customers know what meat tastes like, Flynn says.
“Most of our customers aren’t vegan,” says Flynn. This isn’t shocking: Even non-vegans can appreciate Next Generation Pizza’s tasty Helen of Napoli pizza (potatoes, rosemary, cheddar cheese, bac’un bits, garlic, ranch sauce and scallions) or The Insane Mexican burrito (black beans, quinoa, plantains and vegan chorizo).
Other options include various vegan burgers – we liked the lentil burger with guacamole a lot – and Southern-style barbecue with mac and cheese, collards and beans. For dessert, try the coconut from Ice Dream or grab baked goods from Brothers Bakery (we were eyeing the coconut cake, which is among the 25 percent of the food not made in-house).