Coinciding with my trip to L.A. last week, the New York Times published an article, Making Vegan a New Normal,which focused on the booming vegan scene in southern California. I’ve written before about some of my favorite L.A. restaurants, and I try to visit a few of them each time I’m in town. But I always make sure also to try some places that are new to me. So here’s my updated list of L.A. faves:
333 S. Alameda St. suite 310, 90013
A new-to-me place located downtown that became an instant fave! A vegan and macrobiotic Japanese restaurant with great ambiance and amazing sushi rolls. My husband Seth and I started with the Spicy Rock Shitake Tempura appetizer and then split three rolls: the Dynamite roll (spicy “tuna” and avocado); Yellow Magic Orchestra (pumpkin tempura and curry spiced tempeh); and the Pirates of the Crunchy (fried tempeh, green onion, crunchy tempura batter, and spicy mayo).
8593 Santa Monica Blvd., 90069
Also a new favorite. This organic burger joint in West Hollywood isn’t all vegetarian or vegan, but it has a terrific vegan burger. It’s a great place to grab some lunch — especially if you sit outside and have some fun people-watching while you eat. I got the Classic O! Veggie — it’s a homemade burger comprised of spinach, corn, carrots, peas, and cucumber slices. The spinach makes it different from any other veg burger I’ve had; and anything spinach immediately shoots to the top of my personal fave list. My sauce of choice was the vegan Thousand Island, but Seth loved the chipotle.
8000 W. Sunset Blvd., 90046/ 2025 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90036
323-822-7575 (Sunset Blvd.)
The Sunset Boulevard location has become a favorite for grabbing a late-night bite after whatever event has brought us to the City of Angels (closes at 10pm). However, on this trip, we met some friends for lunch at the Santa Monica VG, which is nice because it’s just down the road from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier (roller coaster!). Seth goes for the VG-Cheeseburger, topped with caramelized onions and jalapenos. I cannot resist the All Hail Kale Salad with blackened tempeh. If feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll order a side of sweet potato fries. There are eight locations in southern California, two in Oregon, and two in Seattle (one of them opens today!). I’m hoping a VG will open in NYC sometime very soon.
Real Food Daily
414 La Cienega Blvd., 90048
Sunday brunch at RFD in West Hollywood has become a tradition for us. Seth brunches on the Breakfast Burrito — a whole wheat flour tortilla, scrambled tofu, tempeh bacon, spanish rice, black beans, onions, peppers, topped with ranchero sauce, cashew cheese, guacamole, and pico de gallo. My favorite is the RFD Benedict, a veganized version of a brunch fave from my non-vegan past: the hollandaise sauce is perfection, and the herbed tofu is as fluffy as egg whites! (Additional RFD locations in Santa Monica and Pasadena.)
2135 Sunset Blvd. 90026
I didn’t make it to Elf during this most recent trip, but it is definitely a favorite — the perfect place for a special occasion or an intimate dinner with friends. The menu changes to incorporate seasonal ingredients. Right now, they are offering a Vegan Fondue appetizer that features pan-roasted vegetables paired with an organic walnut romesco for dipping. The last time I visited, Seth and I split an appetizer of a crock of lentils topped off with roasted crimini mushrooms and caramelized onions. For my entree, I had roasted beets and fennel that were served over basmati rice, drizzled with a port wine reduction. Delicious!
639 Larchmont Blvd., 90004
Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco’s Mission was a favorite before it closed. And I am grateful that the Los Angeles restaurant offers the same wonderful food and vibe. My usual pick for dinner there is I AM FORTIFIED — sauteed seasonal vegetables and kale, a mix of brown rice and quinoa, topped with sesame-ginger sauce. During my last visit with Seth and a couple of friends, the three of them all opted for I AM GUAPO/A, a Mexican torta sandwich on grilled panini bread with pureed black beans, cashew nacho cheese, spicy red pepper sauce, crispy chipotle-maple coconut, romaine lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Smoothies are popular here, but I’m a big fan of I AM BALANCED, filtered water with peppermint and wild orange essential oils.
1604 Pacific Ave., Venice 90291
If you’re anywhere near Venice, this is the place to go for a fantastic lunch — I love it! My pick is the Asian Kale salad, all gussied up with jicama, carrots, cucumber, roasted almonds, and miso-sesame dressing. Seth salivates at the very mention of Seed’s seitan sirloin burger and its soy blue cheese crumbles.