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Restaurant Details

Virgin Olive Market is situated in the heart of an industrial and auto-park wasteland. It can get a bit warm inside, and the quarters, cluttered with pantry shelves, practically necessitate sharing tables (not altogether a bad thing), but what do you expect from a space that was previously a convenience store? Besides, the staff is so welcoming and chatty, you can’t help but have a seat and strike up a conversation about their stock of handcrafted artisanal pastas and unique wines, or indie music and world travel.

VOM is only open until 4 p.m., so it’s a draw for the breakfast and lunch crowd, many of whom come solely for the soups. Succumbing to the buzz, I ordered the stuffed bell pepper soup ($3.25), a richly flavored broth of rice, ground beef, carrots, and red and green peppers. I found myself throwing etiquette to wind and slurping it all down like a famished lumberjack, working up a bit of a sweat in the process. Even on this hot 90-degree day, it was a fulfilling bowl of goodness.

The kaleidoscopic arrangement of spinach leaves meticulously decorated with banana, raisins, coconut, and dried pineapple and papaya added an artistic element to the tropical chicken curry salad’s ($6.25) sweet and spicy core. I appreciated the visuals of the dish; the honey-dijon dressing, not so much. On previous visits, I’ve had the pleasure of sampling specials including a refreshing watermelon gazpacho, delicious white-bean ravioli with mushroom sauce and a Southwest orzo with sundried tomatoes and feta that’ll foster gluttony. If Robert’s “hot sweet meat” sandwich, a kaiser roll ladled with tender hoisin- and garlic-marinated beef, is available, sink your teeth in. Assorted baked goods like vegan cookies, carrot-raisin cake and scrumptious triple-chocolate brownies ($1.95) guarantee a sweet ending for all tastes.

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