NEW SMYRNA BEACH — With a rich and diverse restaurant scene, this city can satisfy the taste buds of nearly any foodie.
But a restaurant that features a mostly vegetarian menu whose owners themselves find it hard to categorize promises to be a new and unique addition.
Open for almost a month, the new Cafe del Soul restaurant at 105 Magnolia St. is the third of its kind, but the first location in Florida.
Co-owners Reggie Hunter and Chyna Kennedy Honey opened the first location in California in 2004, where they’ve run two Cafe del Soul locations for 17 years.
“A lot of what we had started with our love for food,” Hunter said.
Honey knew she loved working with food after she started working at a friend’s smoothie shop in Miami prepping bananas.
“Something broke up inside my heart, and I just knew I needed to work in food,” Honey said.
She was vegetarian at the time she worked in Florida and felt she wanted to have a place of her own that offered that option to others.
“I wanted to create a place that everybody would be excited about,” she said.
Hunter had been working at an Italian deli before he met Honey, when she told him about the idea for the restaurant and asked him to join her in the business.
The decision to come to New Smyrna came somewhat unexpectedly. After years of running Cafe del Soul in California, Honey developed health issues due to the effect of that state’s wild fires on air quality where she lived.
“I got to this place where I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know what that would be,” she said.
She came to South Florida to visit family members and her symptoms improved greatly. But it was back in California while driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco that she knew she’d come back to Florida.
“I didn’t even know that we going to do the restaurant straight away, but it all just lined up,” she said.
After spending five months planning the business, she and Hunter opened the new location in New Smyrna on Sept. 23.
Unique, mostly vegetarian menu
Cafe del Soul offers a menu of organic, mostly vegetarian options. Customers can order soups, nachos, quesadillas, wraps, salads, and rice and quinoa dishes with the option of adding a protein, including GMO-free chicken (the only animal protein on the menu).
“We take a lot of time prepping everything,” Honey said. “Everything that we do is fresh each day.”
Nachos, quesadillas and wraps include a mix of vegetables, cheeses and different kinds of dressings. Customers have the option of having all the ingredients in the dish be vegan for an extra $3, or add chicken for $2 more. Prices for these dishes range between $7.25 and $12.
Local Caroline Connell said she has had a hard time finding restaurants that offer plant-based options in town. She and her husband went to Cafe del Soul and ordered the Quinoa Quesadilla, which she said was “perfectly crafted.”
“The vegan cheese was perfectly, thoroughly melted over the avocado and quinoa inside,” Connell said. “The vegan chipotle sauce was tasty too.”
She also tried a ginger limeade that she said “was to die for.”
“The food we ate was beyond delicious, and I am glad that we now have a new place to go in New Smyrna Beach where we can feel comfortable when asking for plant-based options,” Connell said.
Dawn Wilbur also went to the restaurant with her husband and said she recommends the nachos dishes.
“I got plant-based as I can’t eat dairy, and it was so good,” Wilbur said, also praising the pumpkin soup and the berry bliss smoothie. “I will definitely be back.”
‘We’re an organic café’
Customers have a choice to take the food home or sit down to eat at the restaurant.
“I wanted to create a place that made really good food that you could grab and go, or you could sit and enjoy,” Honey said
Although the menu draws from different cuisines, such as Mexican and Indian, the restaurant according to the owners said, is difficult to categorize.
“If you say just vegetarian, you’re cutting out a whole bunch of people, so that’s been a challenge,” Honey said. “I always say we’re an organic café, because I feel that could be anything.”
Honey said the reception from the community has been “great,” with guests saying that Cafe del Soul fills a need in New Smyrna Beach.
And if you’re unfamiliar with vegetarian fare, the owners are quick to offer samples.
“And when they try it, if they give it a shot, they’re in,” Hunter said.
Offering samples and taking time to talk about the menu with customers and answer their questions about the food is also key for the co-owners, Honey added.
The restaurant is already offering delivery services, and are hoping to build on the menu, such as coming up with new desserts, as the business grows.
“We really have been doing it for 17 years, and it really works with what we’ve got,” Honey said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Cafe del Soul
WHERE: 105 Magnolia St., New Smyrna Beach
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
INFO: cafedelsoul.net or 386-957-3597