Of the many distinct qualities in climber lifestyle, diet certainly takes one of the top spots on the list of importance. Following closely, or perhaps more importantly (depending on who you talk to), moral and ecological issues are also a huge trending concern within this subculture, hence why many climbers become vegetarian. Or worse, VEGAN (for those of you who need dramatic music here. I say “worse” because often a rather negative connotation is tacked on to such ideals in comparison to a “normal” diet, that is. And while the word will most likely ensue at least one scoff and/or eye-roll within a crowd of people, there has definitely been a change in mindset within the last couple of years. Vegan restaurants are popping up all over the place, and rightfully so. Vegan cuisine just keeps getting better and better!
One particular hotspot on rise is Ethos Vegan Kitchen, an award-winning, full-service establishment that has been striving to improve the quality of vegan food, while still keeping the price reasonable. Anyone who has tried to eat vegan – or even just plain eat healthier – knows that it can be hard on the wallet, but Ethos has found a way to make it happen. Previously located off of Orange Ave., in Orlando, the restaurant picked up and moved to Winter Park, right on the corner of New York Ave. and Fairbanks Road. According to their webpage, the owners had chosen the Greek word “Ethos” as the name for their restaurant because it reflects the ethical and moral nature of their beliefs about operating a socially responsible and environmentally aware business. They certainly don’t fall short of their name and what is most intriguing about this place is that, in every way possible, Ethos makes efforts to be Eco-friendly – from fluorescent lights, biodegradable packaging, organic, fair-trade sourcing, and company-made uniforms. But perhaps what is most impressive is the fact that the owners go above and beyond the expected courtesies towards their staff. Not only is management super nice to their workers but, included in their benefits, staff members are given a "benefit package" that includes meal credits, an employee-managed reserve fund, and an Annual Staff Appreciation Picnic. Stephanie Brooks, proud vegan, new Aiguille member, and our wonderful server for the night, spoke about this when she said that her coworkers are her favorite part about being a server at Ethos, with the food coming in a close second. "What's great about the staff," says Stephanie, "is that we are a very diverse group, which makes getting to know everyone a lot of fun."
Indeed, the staff was a very eclectic and warm group. Walking in, everyone was eager to smile and greet us and our hostess sat us in a cozy little booth. Like any other mind-reading vegan, Stephanie suggested the Healthy Trio Appetizer and in no time at all we were stuffing our faces with hummus, olive tapenade and mango salsa! Yum! The atmosphere is very chill, with two lounge areas and plenty of space to fit bigger groups of people. The menu resembles every bit of a family establishment, with American favorite dishes, like Sheep’s Pie (a delicious plate of home-made mashed potatoes, piled over veggies, smothered in savory gravy), Yo Mama’s Lasagna (five layers of lasagna noodles, mozzarella, marinara sauce and hearty vegetables), and Pizza any way you want it. Though you might end up staring at the menu for a while, asking yourself “What the heck is Chickun” or “What is Seitan? It sounds scary,” you can rest assured that you don’t have to worry about the risk of getting something that just tastes “okay.” There are a lot of American favorites on the menu but with the warm, earthy colors and certain menu items like, with the warm, earthy colors, plus certain menu items, like pizza, calzone, garlic knots, bruschetta, lasagna, and chickun marsala almost give it an Italian feel. However, there are also plenty of dishes that distinguish the selection as a vegan menu, like Hippie Wrap – house-made hummus with sprouts, cucumbers, banana peppers, tomato, and lettuce, wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Or the savory A Fungus Among Us – ciabatta bread, decked with a grilled portabella mushroom, tomato, lettuce, roasted red pepper and "veganaise." For those of you who simply need something meaty to make up for the real thing, there is always meat substitutes that you can add, like "seitan," a beef substitute, or "chickun." I asked Stephanie what her favorite dish is, she said: "So much care and preparation is put into making each dish amazing," says Stephanie, "it's difficult to pick just one." It's true. With a great selection of food that you can't find anywhere else, whatever you decide on is going to be delicious. "We do a lot of comfort foods, which is great for vegans who miss the foods they grew up with." Indeed, none of these comfort foods have fallen short of their name. Coming from a an avid cheese lover (and one who said she could never be vegan because she loves cheese too much) I am still raving about their Mac n' Cheese n' Pease, which I have come back for least three times since my first visit.
Ethos Vegan Kitchen is open Monday through Friday, 11am to 11pm. The best time to come is a Saturday night, says Steph, when the restaurant is slow enough to interact without feeling rushed but there is still plenty of excitement, and in the morning when delicious brunch is served, 9am – 3pm on Saturday and Sunday!