STORIES BY ROBERTO LOPEZ

Final Project: Vegan Food in Jacksonville

Published: December 13, 2020

With vegan foods’ ever-growing popularity, Jacksonville has plenty to offer both longtime and new vegans. Whether you’re looking for juicy faux burgers, fresh organic smoothies or loaded vegan quesadillas, the restaurants below will satisfy all your vegan cravings.

Southern Roots Filling Station

Southern Roots Filling Station is a cozy counterserve restaurant offering breakfast and lunch menus. The restaurant offers salads, bowls and sandwiches – “sammies,” according to the menu. The restaurant packs their bowls and sammies with vegetables, chickpeas and even throws in tofu eggs. The tofu is made to look like an egg and its yellow color comes from a pinch of turmeric. Southern Roots even has a garlic cheez that can be added to sandwiches and other menu items. https://www.southernrootsjax.com

Murray Hillbilly

Murray Hillbilly has lots of vegan burgers and chickun – spelled the way to differentiate between the faux and real chicken. Little changes in spelling or terms such as beef-less patties are often used in vegan substitutes. Their premium menu has burgers and sandwiches stacked high with common companions like onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Some of these burgers even include tempeh bacun or housemade meunster cheese. The value menu is what sets the Murray Hillbilly apart. This menu includes three chickun sandwich variations, chickun fries, mac n’ cheese and hand-cut fries. None of the five options exceed five dollars. The restaurant also offers several vegan desserts and has a separate gluten-free menu. https://murrayhillbilly.square.site

House of Leaf & Bean

This little dimly lit restaurant meets all the basic vegan needs. House of Leaf and Bean serves salads, bowls, sandwiches and vegan pizza. Their organic coffees and teas are great for a little boost in your day, and their fresh organic smoothies are ready in minutes. Their logo has both tea leaves and a soybean to represent their teas and tofu respectively. If you’re not in the mood to get out of the car, you can just go through the drive-thru. House of Leaf & Bean has a drive-thru in the back – but no microphone, so don’t sit at the menu waiting for someone to ask for your order. https://www.houseofleafnbean.com/menu-1

Taco Lu

If you’ve been to Taco Lu, you might be confused to see it on a list of vegan restaurants, but Taco Lu has hidden gems. Taco Lu’s vegan menu section serves tacos, enchiladas and fully customizable quesadillas. The bangin’ tempeh taco mimics their bangin’ shrimp taco with a tempeh alternative, and their vegan avo has avocado, cilantro-lime vinaigrette and other fresh vegetables. Taco Lu is a great place to go with friends and family that are both vegan and not vegan because the restaurant is a regular Mexican joint except for their vegan menu. There is something for everyone. https://www.tacolu.com/menu#menu=vegan-menu

Blaze Pizza

This pizza chain is like if Chipotle met brick-oven pizza. Customers walk across the restaurant’s front counter and select toppings from behind the glass. Both the regular and high-rise crusts are vegan and so are the red sauces. Vegan cheese and spicy vegan chorizo are both available, and of course, there are plenty of vegetables to choose from. If you tell the workers that you’re having a vegan pizza, they even offer to do a glove change to avoid contamination from non-vegan foods. After tossing the pizza into the oven and giving it a few turns, it is sliced and boxed, and ready to be eaten. https://www.blazepizza.com

Jacksonville is a huge city full of restaurants to try. These fully vegan restaurants and restaurants with vegan options allow more people to try vegan food and transition into a vegan lifestyle. Even for those people who just want to cut out meat for one day or a week, Jacksonville has tons of great options.

The Music Industry Unsung Heroes

Published: Nov. 20, 2020

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While musicians have been heavily impacted by COVID-19, many other roles in the music industry face struggles, including photographers and show bookers.

Brittany Davis is a local music lover and photographer and has been successful in combining her love for both. 

Aunt Acid [left (Richard Sharp)] and Yellow Steve [right (Alan Tutwiler)] onstage at Rain Dogs. Photo courtesy of Brittany Davis.

Before the pandemic, Davis typically attended several shows a week. While she spent much of her time enjoying the music and socializing with friends, she would always leave with a few new pictures taken on one of her point-and-shoot film cameras.

Davis prefers film cameras over digital cameras because of their vintage picture quality and because she doesn’t know how the pictures look until they are developed.

For Davis, having to wait for the photos to be developed is part of the excitement.

Due to COVID-19, there haven’t been many shows to attend, and the shows available aren’t necessarily safe to attend. Thus, Davis has had to sacrifice photographing the thing she loves most, and she feels like she has lost a part of herself.

Davis has turned to photographing other subjects such as friends, architecture and the nature around her. 

Davis is eager to get back to shows with her friends, and she is even more eager to be able to capture those moments with her camera again.

Like photographers, show bookers are often overlooked. 

Show bookers use their connections to organize and set up shows and even festivals. 

Mike Ciero, a local show booker has struggled, as the bands and venues he often contacts for shows are either not doing shows or are playing shows for very few people. 

Ciero understands and believes that right now the focus should be on helping keep everyone safe so live shows may resume sooner rather than later. 

Before the pandemic, Ciero was booking several shows a month at several venues. He was also managing a local band and some of the shows he was booking. He had even started his own booking company.

While COVID-19 has put a hold on his work, he is eager to get back to booking and managing shows.

Davis and Ciero are not the only people eager to get back to live music. Sound engineers, venue owners, music lovers and of course, musicians are all ready to get back to live music.

Phi Echo Salon Aims to Grow Their Business by Minimizing Their Waste

Published: Oct. 26, 2020

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Phi Eco Salon sets itself apart from traditional chain salons with its dedication to sustainability and the smallest carbon footprint possible. 

Owner Carissa Vaughn focuses on how the salon can recycle its waste and where the waste comes from

The salon is located by Jacksonville Beach, about a block north of Beach Boulevard. It has five chairs, a cleanse room and a lounge. 

The cleanse room has two washing stations, which allows stylists to shampoo their client’s hair. The lounge has flowing curtains and a large white sofa, providing guests a place to relax.

Phi Eco Salon shampoo inventory. Photo by Roberto Lopez.

The five chairs have ample space between them, allowing for social distancing and COVID-19 precautions. After a monthlong, state-mandated shutdown of salons, Phi Eco Salon was able to reopen, and because of the space between their chairs, not much change was needed.

 Reilee Meyer, a receptionist at the salon, said they like having a salon where their stylists have space to work. In turn that space adds to a more comfortable environment for customers. 

However, the salon was not untouched by the pandemic. 

State regulations stopped the salon from booking their normal amount of customers, according to Vaughn. Now, five months later, income on some days is down to half of what it used to be. 

Vaughn hopes that things will go back to normal soon for both the safety of her customers and staff and so the salon can achieve the smallest carbon footprint possible. Throughout the pandemic, the salon has increased their loads of laundry and how often they sanitize – all of which increase the waste produced. 

While the salon must continue to sanitize and do laundry at an increased rate, they have minimized waste elsewhere. Phi Eco Salon recycles everything possible. Common salon items such as tin foil, plastic, paper and even hair are all individually recycled. 

Vaughn said that the hair they sweep up is recycled into mats that resemble burlap. Those mats are used to absorb oil spills in our oceans. Furthermore, the salon uses fully biodegradable towels made of bamboo fibers and organic cotton. Vaughn said that within two days of placing the towels in water they are supposed to biodegrade. 

Phi Eco Salon pushes to minimize waste wherever they can, which is why all their products are vegan and all packaging is biodegradable. They do this by stocking their shelves with their two main brands – Davines and Surface.

Vaughn previously owned a similarly themed salon called Selphi, before relocating to their current location. The salon held the same values but with the addition of one important feature – Selphie was fully solar powered. 

Vaughn said she would like to make Phi Eco Salon just like Selphi –  fully solar powered.

Phi Eco Salon looks to continue growing, not only in popularity but in the ways they give back to the Earth through their environmental efforts.