Deer Run B&B Review: A Vegan Bed and Breakfast in the Florida Keys

I turned 30 in March. In August, my mom will turn 60. Two momentous birthdays in a single year required a special celebration: a mom-daughter vacation!

I asked my mom where she wanted to go, and after throwing around a few ideas, she was pretty decisive: the Florida Keys. She hadn’t been since her honeymoon 37 years ago, and I’d never been at all. I didn’t know much about the Keys beyond what I’d heard about Key West, but I was excited to explore both it and the less popular keys. And when we discovered that there was an all-vegan bed and breakfast on Big Pine Key, well, that sealed the deal. To the Keys!

Mom and me in Key West

Blurry Facebook photo of mom and me in Key West!

Deer Run Vegan B&B on Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is 33 miles north of Key West, more than halfway down the stretch of 43 connected islands that make up the Keys. Besides hosting the only population of the diminutive Key Deer in the entire world (!), it also hosts a fabulous vegan B&B. Mom and I spent five nights at Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, enjoying the B&B’s private beach, astonishingly large and delicious breakfasts, and the occasional game of Scrabble when the weather didn’t cooperate.

Nothing like some RBG on the beach. 👌🏼👑 🌴

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Proprietors Jen and Harry have created a true vegan oasis in the Keys. Mom and I shared the Eden room, which might not be oceanfront but does have a private, secluded garden. The entire beach and yard is a wildlife-friendly habitat, and I loved having surprisingly good wildlife-watching right outside our screened-in porch. The redwing blackbird who was making a home for his family greeted us loudly every morning, the tiny lizards scurried through the trees, and I caught a glimpse of a shy resident iguana high-tailing it away from me when I walked around the corner one afternoon. The aforementioned endangered Key Deer (which grow only to about waist-height) roamed freely over the beach, and I couldn’t get enough of their tiny selves.

I'm pretty curious about you too, little one.

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Not only are Jen and Harry true-blue animal advocates (they’re both involved in all sorts of vegan and animal-friendly causes in the Keys), but they’re also environmentalists. To that end, Deer Run is kitted out to be super eco-friendly, with composting toilets, water-recycling systems, and compost bins for guests’ plant refuse. They also supply bulk shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash — no tiny plastic bottles here.

Out on the beach, Harry and Jen are working to restore and replant mangrove trees. They form a natural barrier against erosion but have typically been ripped out to make way for development and long stretches of sandy beaches.

View for the next five days.

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It’s good for the soul to stay in a place where the owners share your values and don’t compromise on them. Deer Run is that place.

Delicious vegan breakfasts at Deer Run

Deer Run is also the place to go if you want massive vegan breakfasts that feature multiple courses and take you at least an hour to eat. This is not an exaggeration, and I have to admit that I didn’t finish my breakfast even once during the five days we were there. (Don’t worry, plates and aluminum foil are at the ready so you can save your leftovers for later.)

At first, I wasn’t thrilled when I realized that the 8:30 breakfast call meant I’d have to get up early during my vacation. But it was totally worth it. It meant that Mom and I made the most of our days, and we started with super hearty breakfasts that kept us going. Plus, there’s copious coffee and tea if you need a caffeine kick!

Breakfasts typically included a baked good to start, followed by an incredible fruit smoothie, and then a ginormous main dish with fruit and another side. For example, one day we had almond scones, tropical smoothies, toasted oat waffles, and slices of cantaloupe. Another breakfast featured a to-die-for mocha muffin, a southwestern frittata, roasted potatoes, and a pineapple spear. And we had the absolute best vegan bacon I’ve ever tasted on our last day — I’m salivating just thinking about it!

Words not good enough? Check out the visuals.

 

 

 

 

See? I wasn’t joking about the ginormous breakfasts. You will leave full!

I can’t recommend this place highly enough. If you want a relaxing vacation where you’re immersed in gorgeous nature with wildlife all around, go. It’s pricy, but it’s worth it.

IF YOU GO…

  • Be sure to visit nearby Bahia Honda Beach, located just a five-minute drive away. After driving past the entrance kiosk, turn left to hang out on a world-famous beach, or turn right for a chance to walk out on a portion of the old Key Highway system, which extends over the absurdly blue water and offers great views (photo below!).
  • Borrow a bike from Deer Run and take a ride to one of the nature trails on the island, or just cruise around enjoying the sun.
  • Order a custom-made key lime pie from Jen. It’s the only (!) vegan key lime pie in the Keys, and she’ll deliver it to you in a picnic basket with silverware, plates, and coconut whipped cream for your dining pleasure. Mom and I split one and finished it in two days. #noregrets
  • Be aware that the B&B attracts plenty of non-vegan guests, so you might have to field the standard “curious omnivore” questions. Think of it as an opportunity to educate and inspire!
  • Ask to meet the cats (if you’re not allergic, of course)! They’re sweet and super friendly but don’t interact with guests unless their presence is requested.

View from Bahia Honda

Pretty sure that’s a photo of paradise right there. ;)

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Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comDeer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.com Deer Run Vegan Bed and Breakfast // govegga.comSave

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Vegans on a Plane: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is a great option for #vegan #travelers. #govegga

Last spring when I was planning Steven’s and my trip to Vienna and Prague, Turkish Airlines kept popping up with seriously unbeatable prices. (I think we ended up paying <$600 round trip from DC to Vienna.) Despite the rather long layover(s) at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, I ended up being glad we opted for Turkish — this is one airline that still treats its economy class passengers well. Here’s some of the special treatment you can expect on Turkish, even in economy:

  • Hot towels at the beginning and end of your flight
  • An amenity kit, including toothpaste, a toothbrush, an eye mask, slippers, and a few more doodads
  • Turkish Delights just after takeoff (this sweet is often vegan; not sure about the vegan-ness of the ones they serve)

Plus, they have more than respectable food! Turkish is well-known for having a bona-fide chef on board; although she/he primarily serves the business and first-class cabins, you’ll see her/him helping out during meal service in economy, too. I was extra impressed that they offered a full meal service on our relatively short flight from Istanbul to Vienna, meaning we arrived at our destination with full bellies. That’s always welcome!

One downside to booking on Turkish? You can’t reserve seats or request a special meal online. Instead, you’ll need to call their booking line ahead of your flight to make that happen. Every time I make the vegan food request, I always fear this is the time it fails and I’ll be left meal-less. Happily, that was not the case on these flights — although I was a little disappointed that the special meals aren’t delivered early, as is usually the case!

Here’s a sampling of what we ate on Turkish.

As you can see, the presentation was pretty standard for airplane fare. But nearly everything tasted pretty darn good. I most enjoyed the white beans in tomato sauce, that phyllo-wrapped savory pastry, and the fresh, piping hot bread.

So, the verdict? Vegan food on Turkish Airlines is tasty and plentiful. Now go ahead and book your flight!

Vegan on the Go: Cape Cod

Vegan on the Go: Eating #vegan on #capecod

Last month, my partner Steven headed north to Cape Cod to spend a week soaking up the sunshine with his mom. He kept me well-apprised of all the vegan food he found during his stay, and given the plentiful options available for veg-friendly folks, I knew I needed him to write up a review of everything he enjoyed on his trip. So, here it is: Steven’s report on where you can find vegan food in Cape Cod. All words and photos are Steven’s. 

(Side note — how sad is it that I grew up in Rhode Island but have never been to Cape Cod?! Yikes! Maybe next summer…?)

Pearl restaurant -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
Pearl

Our first stop was Pearl, a classed-up beachside seafood place right near Mayo Beach. After verifying that the veggie burger was vegan, I ordered it with a side of hand-cut potato chips. The burger itself was nothing to write home about, and I erred in ordering it again on a return trip (even when I added the sriracha slaw). The hand-cut fries, on the other hand, were absolutely fabulous — piping hot, crispy, and nice and thick while still being wonderfully crunchy.

JD's Pizza -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
JD’s Wood Fired Pizza (aka JD’s Sports Bar)

Provincetown is probably the most veg-friendly town on the Cape, and my mom and I stopped by JD’s Wood Fired Pizza for lunch during our visit. I ordered the primavera pizza, which featured peppers, snow peas, zucchini, onion, summer squash, mushrooms, sundried AND cherry tomatoes, and a big old pile of arugula. I have a bad habit of always ordering Daiya on pizza when it’s available, and this veggie powerhouse definitely didn’t need it. Thankfully the chef had a light hand with it. The crust was crispy and delicious, and while I could have done with some tomato sauce, it was a great pizza.

Grab 'n Go -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Grab ‘n’ Go Health Bar

“Vegan Soft Serve” was written on the sandwich board outside this shop, so I had to stop in. The only flavor was chocolate, and although it was not especially unique, I always appreciate vegan soft serve — and this one came with purple sprinkles!

Box Lunch -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Box Lunch

Lunch in Wellfleet was a little tough to find, but I figured the Box Lunch sandwich shop would have something I could eat. One of the few options was the “Hum Vee,” a pretty standard wrap with hummus, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, onions, and lettuce. Unfortunately the hummus was overly salty and there wasn’t much (if any) avocado to balance it out.

Van Rensselaer -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Van Rensselaer’s

I wondered why I was the youngest person in the restaurant by about 30 years until I realized it was Early Bird dinner hours. Someone has clearly made an effort to be accommodating to vegans at Van Rensselaer‘s, as the restaurant offers an explicitly vegan fried rice bowl and a tofu provencal that can be made vegan. I got the latter along with a trip to the salad bar, which was decent — there was a kale salad that looked very out of place among the rest of the standard salad bar fare. The tofu provencal was unfortunately not as appetizing. There were zoodles for some reason, and the tofu had clearly not been prepared properly (it was limp and bland). I couldn’t resist the vegan peanut butter brownie for dessert, but it was unfortunately just as mediocre. Disappointing, given the prices here!

Joey's -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Joey’s at Eat at the Fleet

Right off Route 6 is a little convoy of food trucks called Eat at the Fleet that includes Joey’s, a tex-mex truck with some solid veggie options. I got two chorizo tacos and shared some tortilla chips with my mom. The chorizo was quite good and uniquely flavored, if a little overly sweet, and the pico was awesome — the cashier told me it was from a local farm, and it certainly tasted fresh.

Green Lotus Cafe

I always have to get vegan Reubens when they are available. The one at Green Lotus was quite good, even if it wasn’t the best (that honor goes to the Reuben Royale at Liquid Earth in Baltimore). And their vegan clam chowder was awesome.

Karoo

This very veg-friendly South African restaurant in Eastham was absolutely packed on a Saturday night. I started with the West African Peanut Soup, which I often make a quick and lazy version of at home. This one featured pumpkin and carrot in addition to peanut and was absolutely delicious. I also got the Vegan Bunny — apparently “bunny chow” is a South African street food that features curried meat or vegetables inside a loaf of bread. This was more of an open-faced sandwich, with flavorful and savory curried veggies, a pile of delicious sweet potato fries, and two buns in there somewhere.

Shoreline Diner -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Shoreline Diner

Whenever Kelly and I drive up to Rhode Island to visit her family, we see the sign for Shoreline Diner — but it’s always past midnight and we can never make the time to stop. On this trip I vowed I would make it. On the drive over I deliberated for awhile between a breakfast dish (Berries and Cream French Toast) and something more savory, and in the end decided on the Tempeh BLT Club. Crisp, flavorful, and filling, this sandwich included both tempeh and veggie bacon. I was in protein heaven.

MIchael Angelo -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Michael Angelo

There’s apparently a thing in Connecticut called Salad Pizza. When my cousin told me he was ordering pizza from Michael Angelo, I responded in the classic vegan way — “Don’t worry if the pizza isn’t vegan, I’ve got leftovers, I don’t want you all to have to go out of your way.” Of course, they responded like family should, by calling to check that the pizza was vegan and making a delicious salad, fresh salsa, and guac for sides. Salad pizza is, much like it sounds, is simply a chef salad dumped on top of a pizza. It’s very strange and very good, and never comes with cheese anyway, so I didn’t have to feel bad about depriving them.