Local restaurants provide healthy eats

Manatee and Present Moment cafés offer up vegetarian, vegan options

By Ted Regis

With the fast-paced lifestyle that a college career tends to demand, it is easy to slip through a fast food drive through and be on one’s way. However, the benefits seen by those who are employed by restaurants committed to a healthy diet make the search for nutritious meals worthwhile.

Restaurants like The Present Moment Café on West King Street and Manatee Café on State Road 16 offer dishes that make customers leave energized and refreshed.

“This is a way that we used to eat years ago. And it just got to the point of everything being processed over the years and we’re just trying to go back to living healthy,” said Sandra Killion, preparation chef for The Present Moment.

Processed foods are not found at The Present Moment Café, which opened in November 2006. No meat, fish or dairy products are served. Only raw, vegan dishes comprise the menu, which reads, “We hope you enjoy our different, kind cuisine, and feel the benefits of the original diet which enriches body, mind and soul.”

“Vegan is more youthful, healthy, vibrant, energetic. It’s more appetizing. Your taste buds are happy when you eat it,” Killion said.

The community has embraced The Present Moment Café’s unique atmosphere.

“We’re just getting busier and busier as the weeks go on. People are coming from all over: Gainesville, New Smyrna, Jacksonville. We have regulars coming down from Jacksonville all the time,” Killion said.

Among the favorites served at The Present Moment Café is the “Sunlight Burger,” which is made of walnuts, almonds, carrots and zucchini with pine nut provolone, topped with caramelized onions.

The living pizza is served on Fridays, and Killion describes it as having an apple cinnamon nut crust, layered with pesto, macadamia ricotta cheese, caramelized onions, fresh sliced tomatoes and fresh seasoning.

Senior Sean Conway, who has worked at The Present Moment Café for more than five months, knows the importance of the food one chooses to eat.

“Food is the most important drug you can put in your body,” Conway said. “People underestimate the importance of what they put in their bodies. I have always tried to take the initiative to be aware of the food I eat and how it affects me.

“It actually kind of amazes me that people lust after fast food at all. What is a greasy bag of fries compared to wholesome corn chips and guacamole? What is a hot dog to hummus?”

While Manatee Café does not exclusively serve raw, vegan food, their menu is full of healthy dishes that cater to vegetarians and meat lovers.

Executive chef and owner of Manatee Café Cheryl Crosley said, “You can’t survive in St. Augustine without [meat products].”

Her opinion is reflected in the restaurant’s diverse menu, which has such dishes as the tofu Reuben, Cajun-style chicken and the breakfast burrito, which is one of Crosley’s favorites. Breakfast is served all day at The Manatee Café.

For more healthy food, try The Fresh Market and Native Sun Natural Foods, which are both on San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville.

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