For the longest time, vegans got the short end of the culinary stick in this town. Ethos Vegan Kitchen and various South Indian joints were the only major players in a game most restaurateurs seemingly just didn't want to play. Well, we're beginning to see a crowded field of plant-based restaurants sprouting across the city – Daya and the Sanctum newly joining Ethos and Loving Hut, to name a few – much to the delight of our city's herbivores, locavores and flexitarians. At Market on South, the triumvirate of Dixie Dharma, Valhalla Bakery and Humble Bumble Kombucha are part of more than just a locus for plant-based dining and drinking; they've created a cultural hub for "-vores" of all sorts.
Mornings are really all about the doughnuts – oh, those square doughnuts – at Valhalla Bakery. Owner Celine Duvoisin (described as a "magical unicorn kitchen witch" by food editor Jessica Bryce Young) didn't intend Valhalla to morph into one of the hottest doughnut haunts in town, but it has. Sugar fiends follow Valhalla's Instagram feed to track the wild flavor inventory ($3); glazed and Biscoff are my personal faves. They're so popular that Duvoisin plans to open a shop called Valkyrie Doughnuts in a yet-to-be-disclosed location near UCF. It's seriously hard to believe that no eggs or butter go into her doughnuts, or fresh berry fruit tarts ($7), or chocolate-lavender cupcakes ($3). Yep, they're 100 percent vegan, but don't worry – 100 percent unhealthy as well. Ditto with the Nanaimo bars ($4). These rich, dense, creamy dessert bars showcase her skills as a confectioner and her passion as a Canadian, though I'm eager to sample her vegan butter tarts (another Canadian fave).
One thing she promises in all her desserts – no kale. If it's the leafy crucifer you desire, the Hail Kale salad ($8) will give you more than 1,000 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K. Blackened corn, pickled watermelon rind, red onion and superb house-made croutons were all fine and dandy, but it needed a sweet element – apples perhaps, or watermelon. Adding tempeh bacon ($3) makes an already filling salad all the more so.
Shaun Noonan oversees the vegan victuals, and many are holdovers from the Dixie Dharma food truck days. The Georgia peach sloppy joe ($11) is a properly sloppy mess fashioned from TVP (textured vegetable protein), and we quite enjoyed it with a side of diced home fries in chimichurri sauce and Creole seasoning ($1; $3 a la carte). The side of vegan mac & cheese ($1; $3 a la carte) was gooey, garlicky and an ideally comforting accompaniment to the "meaty" Carolina BBQ pulled jackfruit sandwich ($12). Of particular note was the buttery (in a vegan way) Texas toast graced with shavings of preserved lemon. More Southern comfort is offered in the form of a fried green tomato sandwich ($11) on that same Texas toast. Chow-chow provides a tang, and an eggplant remoulade a little smoke. If you're looking for an appropriate side, crispy Brussels sprouts ($1; $3 a la carte) are your best bet.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of kombucha – two sips of the citrus-and-lavender-flavored live culture were enough for me, thank you very much. Personally, I'd rather a juicemonger set up shop here.
As far as the space is concerned, there's no attempt at a pretentious rusticity or forced modernity in the design or decor. They keep it pretty real and, as befits a vegan market, down to earth.
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