My family has now officially been (and have remained) vegetarians for 4 years now; we converted in December 2011. (Of course, about a year after that, I went and have remained a strict vegan.)
Therefore, I feel the time is appropriate for another vegan/vegetarian post…
Seven months ago our family did a vegan/vegetarian tour of Pensacola, Florida. What we found was that Pensacola is indeed an extremely friendly area for those of us who live the alternative lifestyle of an organic, non-GMO, plant-based diet family.
Pensacola was comparable to Asheville, NC; another place we have done a vegan/vegetarian tour as a family.
However, unfortunately, Destin is absolutely not a vegan/vegetarian-friendly town.
We thought it was, as Whole Foods’ website was showing they had a store in the Destin mall.
But when we arrived, we soon learned the Whole Foods hasn’t been built yet. This was a major bummer, as we were depending on buying most of food supply there.
Our resort condo had a full kitchen, so the plan was to cook most of our meals there. Without a Whole Foods, this was much more difficult.
At first, we thought we had a saving grace in that Destin has a Fresh Market. Not so much.
I was officially disappointed as their foods were highly processed; even containing artificial colors made from petroleum.
We bought a few things there, but ultimately, we quickly learned that we would have to compromise in eating non-organic, GMO grown food.
To my surprise, one of the places that actually helped save the situation was Chipotle; where they openly promoted their non-GMO food. They even had a special vegan tofu option for my burrito!
We also made a visit to For the Health of It for some smoothies.
Ultimately, though, the current plant-based score of Destin, as a whole, is extremely low. It’s comparable to just any other town that has chain restaurants.
You learn this the moment you Google “vegan restaurants Destin.”
A few of the restaurant choices were based on my son.
We took him to The Pancakery for a special M&M pancake for his 5th birthday. He loved it!
I special ordered off-menu a veggie burrito, but for the price and the size of it, I definitely was missing Whole Foods!
As much as I hate to admit it, because I love Jimmy Buffett so much, my wife and I were similarly disappointed at Margaritaville.
It was the first time we’d ever been to Jimmy Buffett’s theme restaurant. I must admit that the staff was extremely accommodating as to helping us figure out what we could eat there; as they did have a special vegetarian menu already printed up.
My wife is a vegetarian so it was easier for her to order. But for me, as a strict vegan, I had to explicitly explain what vegan means: no dairy, no milk, no butter, no eggs…
Ultimately I paid $17 for a few grilled veggies and pasta.
Again, the staff was nothing but helpful. However, it become obvious that as a chain restaurant that likely depends on Sysco (like nearly all chain restaurants), I assume their food was canned, boxed, and GMO; which is what is served in most prisons and public school systems, to my understanding.
My son was perfectly happy though. It was because of his birthday day that we were actually there. He had the $7 mac-and-cheese; which the waiter admitted was just a box of Kraft (which contains food dye made from petroleum).
We also paid another $6 for him to have to special battery-operated light up cup, filled with a cocktail of more food dye, as well as high fructose corn syrup.
Granted, when you go to a themed restaurant, you’re paying for the environment more than you are the food.
And I must admit, we definitely appreciated sitting right there on the Gulf of Mexico, with open windows looking out on to the harbor; while Jimmy Buffet’s music played.
Plus, the waiter brought my son some ice cream, knowing it was his birthday.
But the whole drive home my wife and I felt so horrible that we had just paid over $60 for that meal. (We tipped well there, as we did a The Pancakery; as we do not hold it against the individual establishment or its servers just because they’re not truly equipped for a plant-based family.)
Our experience with Margaritaville would have been the same way at pretty much any themed restaurant. We could went to the Rainforest Café and I’m confident my review would be the same.
Here’s the bottom line: Our family loves Destin. We will absolutely be going back the next chance we get.
But first, we are going to wait for that new Whole Foods to be built. That will take care of the issues we experienced.
Because then we can have a go-to restaurant as well as a trustworthy place to buy our groceries to cook meals back at the resort condo.
As for now, though, Destin is definitely not (yet) a vegan/vegetarian-friendly town.