Monday, January 30, 2012

Help Yourself in Key West

Today's post is about an awesome vegan/raw/healthy cafe in Key West.
Ever since I saw this video from Kevin and Annmarie Gianni about the Help Yourself cafe, I've wanted to go there.

That opportunity finally arrived. Earlier this month, my good friend Rebecca and I headed to Key West for a short day trip to ring in the New Year. We were in Key West for less than 24 hours, but Help Yourself was top on the list of places to go : )
We arrived via ferry about 3pm.
Before the trip, I had called Help Yourself cafe (twice) just to make sure they would be open on New Years Eve. They were- but only until 4pm. So, we headed straight there (walking, you know, since we got there by boat), and made it just in the nick of time.
Signs with veggies and organic food make me happy :)
I love their slogan: Food As it Should Be (you know, food)

They have a large selection of hot or cold items, cooked, raw, gluten free, and/or vegan. All fresh and made to order. It was really difficult to decide which to order. Salad or smoothie? Cooked or raw?
I first decided on the raw vegan taco salad. I made a rookie mistake, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit it here. I looked at the ingredients, and I made assumptions that I shouldn't have. I know better than that. Good grief, do I know better. Of course I ordered the salad with no tomatoes, and no corn. I assumed the "brazil nut taco meat" was the same type of nut taco meat I make at home. But, as soon as I got the salad, I could tell that the taco meat was likely not something I could eat, either. My heart sank. I felt SO bad. I didn't want to bring the salad back in, because it was my mistake for not asking about every single ingredient. Like I said, I know better.
But... I couldn't take the chance. We were pretty much stuck on an island, with the whole night ahead of us, no other food choices (other than the dried fruit and rice cakes I always travel with in my bag) and I just could NOT be sick! Not only would it ruin New Years for me, but I didn't want to do that to Rebecca. So, I sheepishly went back in to the restaurant and asked about the ingredients in the salad. Sure enough, it contained sunflower and something else (I can't remember now) that I definitely could not eat. It was all natural and organic, there was nothing wrong with the ingredients, they just happened to be ingredients that I am allergic to.

I was so sad.

This is the part where I tell you how awesome this restaurant is. The owner offered to make me something else, at no charge. Really! I felt really bad about that, since it was my own mistake, and here they were cleaning up behind the counter and getting ready to leave. But she said it was no problem, and my growling stomach urged me to accept her very kind offer. So, I then ordered the "Ancient Secret" salad (and asked about ALL of the ingredients, including the dressing- which I couldn't eat, but she gave me some olive oil and vinegar on the side). The salad was fabulous: mixed greens topped with quinoa, gogi berries, almonds, chick peas, and apples. So. good.
Rebecca got the "Mighty Marinara"- which looked and smelled delicious, and she said it was yummy.
The food was great, the dining area was cheery and comfortable, the weather was perfect, and it was a beautiful start to the New Year. I am so glad we had the chance to try this great little cafe. Here are some more photos:

Extended seating area on the patio. I think this is also where they have a weekly Farmer's Market.

Fun food facts, to browse while you wait.

You can visit the Help Yourself web site here. You can also follow them on Facebook. The food is great, the atmosphere is cheery, and the staff is wonderful. Should you visit Key West, be sure to stop by and at least grab a smoothie.

More Key West photos- these guys are not at Help Yourself, but you can find fresh coconuts several places on the island:
Yes, they literally harvest the coconuts from the palm trees, and crack them open for you right there. Yum. Coconut water is extremely refreshing. Unlike coconut milk (which is actually the meat and water of the coconut combined) coconut water has no taste. It tastes like water. 

Coconut water is fat-free, cholesterol-free, full of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphate) and also contains small amounts of many essential amino acids. Think of it as Nature's Gatorade. And how much better to get it in Nature's packaging (the coconut) than after it's been processed, bottled, canned, and stored on the grocery store shelf. Right?

You can't beat the sunset at the Southernmost Point in the USA: 
So pretty:

OK, that's it for the Key West summary. I do hope you have the chance to visit. I would like to return, because we didn't get to see everything during our short visit- although it was perfect for New Year's.

Just looking at these photos brings back happy memories :)

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