If you’ve been putting off going vegan — or dabbling in veganism, at the very least — now is as good a time as any to do it. This is your last summer on earth, for one. But also: More members of the local restaurant scene are expanding their menu offerings for diners committed to cruelty-free and plant-based eating.
Just take it from Andrew Seeber, one of the minds behind 3 Dot Dash — a vegan kitchen that’s been popping up on both sides of the bay with popular fried “chicken” cutlet sandwiches since last year. Vegan for almost two years now and feeling physically better since going all in, Seeber has traveled to several cities where meatless meals aren’t hard to come by, including Chicago, New York City and Denver. Tampa Bay has lagged behind these sort of veg-minded hotspots (there definitely ain’t no vegan Jewish delis), but the region is coming around as it continues to grow.
A few examples: The Independent Bar and Cafe, which has hosted a few 3 Dot Dash pop-up events at its St. Petersburg location, plans to roll out a full lineup of vegan options this summer for Seminole Heights patrons. GrillSmith chef-president Joe Guli told CL in April that his Clearwater-born restaurant brand is working on new vegan-friendly dishes. And Seeber says The Bricks in Ybor City has asked 3 Dot Dash to act as an in-house guest kitchen with a special menu of vegan brunch fare on June 9.
All told, however, there’s still work to be done.
“It’s very rare in this community that we can go somewhere and the whole thing is on the menu,” Seeber said. “One of my greater complaints about eating vegan in the community is, sure, there’ll be a place that’s like, ‘We have a vegan option.’ A vegan option. Oftentimes, we travel in packs.”
The good news is that 3 Dot Dash is in the process of building its own brick-and-mortar location inside the Indie’s Seminole Heights sibling, Jug & Bottle Dept., at 6201 N. Florida Ave. As the brainchild of Seeber and his vegan friends in the restaurant and service industry, 3 Dot Dash originated as a response to the shortage of dedicated vegan spots in Tampa — one fueled by the DIY approach the founders put into their music, art and other life pursuits.
Two quotes from Seeber — “if nobody’s doing it, somebody has to” and “we were just trying to feed ourselves” — sum up the vegan kitchen’s genesis quite nicely.
Seeber and company make their own alternative proteins, which have been a total hit with veg-heads in town. So much so that, despite preparing 120 portions of food for their most recent pop-up at the Indie St. Pete, the gang sold out of everything in about 30 minutes.
“We knew we were headed in that direction, but that really solidified, ‘OK, we’re gonna start making a paradigm shift of how we do things,’” Seeber said.
Another one of 3 Dot Dash’s previous pop-up hosts, Jug & Bottle is where the vegan kitchen plans to serve as a grab-and-go destination in the back of the store — largely driven by cooked-to-order sandwiches, fries (think poutine “topped with crazy stuff”) and other sides like mac ‘n’ cheese and collard greens. Patrons will place their orders at the island in the middle of the bottle shop, then pick them up from the kitchen window once their names are called.
That fried chicken cutlet made famous by word-of-mouth — consisting primarily of seitan, aka wheat gluten, combined with chickpea flour and some other ingredients and treated like chicken (mock egg wash and all) — will have a presence on the menu, which focuses on Southern comfort food. And remember: This isn’t regular vegan nosh — it’s food meant for vegans when they’re hungover on a Saturday and craving something greasy like omnivores.
Yet they’re also set to offer healthier options, Seeber says, and pay attention to the gluten, nut and soy content in their dishes.
“In the vegan community, you really do have some specialized demands, and we wanna make sure to accommodate that as well,” he added.
What’s more, there’s an emphasis on ingredients sourced from local purveyors such as Jamison B. Breadhouse Bakes (any good sandwich starts with quality bread, right?), Commune + Co., The Chill Dill and The Urban Canning Company.
3 Dot Dash anticipates an opening sometime over the summer. But, even if it isn’t completely ready, the vegan kitchen’s under-construction home expects to hold a preview of some kind in time for the Jug & Bottle Ampersandiversary on July 7.
“I still remember what certain things tasted like that I enjoyed in the meat world. We’re trying to take that and, as best as I can remember, duplicate it,” Seeber said. “So if someone who would eat a regular chicken sandwich is out with their vegan wife, they will eat our sandwich and be just as satisfied — or as close as we can get ’em.”
P.S. CL asked the 3 Dot Dash co-founder to share 10 of his favorite year-round haunts known for their vegan-friendly eats, and he was kind enough to do so. Did any of your go-tos make the list?