The Manatee Café is located in an unassuming strip mall a few miles northwest of downtown Saint Augustine. If you didn’t know it was there, you would most likely drive right by it or never be in that area of town at all. I did some research beforehand and it looked promising as a good casual lunch spot, so I was specifically looking for it. They have vegan and gluten-free options, donate a portion of their proceeds to saving the manatees and use filtered water and organic produce when available.
Inside, the walls are painted blue with lots of pictures of, you guessed it, manatees. It’s hard to accurately rate the atmosphere because we did not get there until 3:00 pm, plus it was absolutely pouring outside. Most of the tables were already cleaned and the chairs turned upside down in preparation for closing (Manatee’s hours are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm most days). I imagine earlier in the day it’s a busier place but only one other couple came in to dine while we were there.
The menu had a large number of vegetarian and vegan options and one of Manatee’s claims is that any item on the menu can be made vegan upon request. I let the waiter know I was vegan and he gave me several recommendations, including what salad dressing to order. While our waiter recommended Veggie Burrito #2 (has beans while #1 has hummus), I decided to get Veggie Burrito #1 (no cheese). The burrito is more like a soft taco. The whole wheat tortilla was filled with hummus, veggies, sweet potato, avocado, salsa and sprouts. It came with tabouli and blue corn chips on the side. I was very happy with my choice and ate every bit of it. The vegan salad dressing is a combination of nutritional yeast and mustard. I don’t like mustard and this dressing was great, I highly recommend it.
Everyone else in my group also enjoyed their meals. My husband opted for the Stir Fry, which I tried and would order again myself. It was comprised of black beans, rice, veggies and baked tofu served with a salad. Some omnivores in our group had the tuna wrap with hummus and the pizza with feta, both of which got high marks.
Since we were pretty full we all split one dessert, the Chocolate Tofu Pie. It has a graham crust and had a chocolate peanut butter taste. It was great. I also had some nice chai tea (no dairy for me).
Some other lunch items that look intriguing are the Tofu Reuben and Cajun Tofu. I would love to go for breakfast sometime and try the Breakfast Burrito or vegan French Toast. All in all Manatee Café is a casual, very vegan-friendly restaurant with good healthy food and reasonable prices.
Ratings from a plant-based eating perspective (1-5 scale, 1=Terrible 5=Excellent)
Ambiance: 3 Service: 5 Choices: 5 Taste: 5 Overall: 5