Vegan food has certainly evolved throughout the years in Los Angeles. From my introduction by way of Vegan Glory and their seitan wraps to my most recent experience of modernist takes on tapas, sushi and 12 course tasting menus, the quality and sheer variety of vegan options I’ve experienced in our city is downright impressive (although let’s be honest, I’m no full-time vegan).
My goal in putting together this list was to help vegans and non-vegans alike navigate their way through the new spots making their mark in the local vegan scene as veteran establishments that should be recognized for their original ingenuity.
In addition to cataloging a laundry list of the best of the best, I have also made recommendations on specific menu items that I have particularly enjoyed, so hopefully that’ll’ guide you as well. Basically, consider this list a primer for eating the best of vegan food in L.A., and maybe a inspiration to try something new or out of your comfort zone.
Keep in mind at the conclusion of this article I’ve also put together a list of honorable mentions that might represent the next tier of your exploration.
List starts after the jump (in no particular order).
1. The Springs
This urban oasis is all about cultivating health, wellness, community and sustainability into everyone who steps into the 13,000 square foot space. The Springs cafe located right in front of the open air entrance serves up delectable raw dishes all made fresh to order. Start with a fresh juice like the North Star a green juice made with kale, parsley, lemon and other good stuff it’s the perfect balance between tart and sweetness. For appetizers the spicy tuna is a popular choice made with nori, spicy “tuna” pate, avocado, green veggies and a chipotle mayo. The salads are a total go to around here, I suggest the seaweed caesar the dressing is divine and the pine nut parmesan crumbs adds a unique oceanic flavor to the dish. To my surprise I was most blown away by the budino dessert with coconut carmel with little sea salt rosemary cookies on the side. It was the best budino I have ever had in my life and Scarpetta is a close second to that. The Springs is a much needed and in demand community in the ever changing Arts District in DTLA.
Oprah’s former chef and New York Times Best Selling Author Tal Ronnen opened a fine-dinging vegan restaurant with much carnivore appeal. The menu reads off like a non vegan resturant with meatball flatbreads, crab cakes and meaty lasagna as offerings. Chef Ronnen has a knack for reinventing meat-free meals packed full of flavor and imagination. Their signature artichoke oysters made with a puree of artichoke, crispy oyster mushroom, a yellow tomato béarnaise topped with kelp caviar is cheeky in presentation and a mandatory must try.
Move out of the way cucumber roll! Shojin gives vegans and vegetarians a unique option for sushi outside the standard vegetable roll. The Japanese vegan and macrobiotic menu of fish-less sushi rolls include ingredients like barbecue seitan, enoki mushroom, lotus root and burdock. With a focus on “organic and natural” cuisine Shojin’s inventive interpretations are a delight to omnivore and carnivores alike. Instead of wheat-based faux meats, the restaurant chooses the healthier option of utilizing tofu and tempeh as meat substitutions. Their impressive range of veggie and grain usages can be found in dishes like the dynamite roll where a mix of quinoa, miso and a slightly torched spicy vegan-mayo is used to replicate the creamy sweet and spicy dish. Other highlights include the spicy “tuna” on crispy rice made with spicy tofu and a buttery eggplant dish on a asparagus carrot roll. Shojin can be found in Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City.
4. The Gadarene Swine
Chef Phillip Frankland Lee and his team of culinary artists are kind of rebels in the restaurant world. His newest venture The Gadarene Swine is undeniably innovative with it’s fine-dining approach to veggie eats. It’s not exactly claimed as vegan but it is animal free and totally deserves a spot on our list. Dishes like the olive stuffed olives is a powerhouse of unexpected flavors bursting in your mouth tasting nothing like olives but more like a delicious briny beignet. Notable starters include a bowl of popcorn dusted with garlic and thyme and the most delicious bowl of kale chips I’ve ever tasted. Signature dishes to order include a colorful plate of blackened cauliflower, a tomato,parsley,white onion dish accompanied by it’s dehydrated counter parts and a strawberries and champagne dish. The playfulness of textures, flavors and presentation define’s The Gadarene Swine as a true dining experience. Since all ingredients are picked up daily, make sure to try their juice cocktails like the Bangkok Dangerous a faintly spicy mango libation. Lee’s wife Margurita is a kick-ass pastry chef so order whatever they have that day for dessert and you won’t regret it.
5. Au Lac
Au Lac started in 1997 when Mai Nguyen opened their doors Fountain Valley with a personal mission in mind. Nguyen had overcome a serious illness through adopting a plant-based diet and now she is set to promote healthy eating directly to her community and has since expanded to DTLA. Good food and good health is at the heart of Au Lac. The organic vegan resturant recreates traditional Vietnamese cuisine (hold the animal) and has since evolved through out the years into something really special. Garlic basil noodles, salt and pepper “shrimp”, raw soups to even tostadas are now on the menu. For such care in the ingredients and technique the prices are surprisingly modest making this a frequent dining spot for vegans.
6. Cruzer Pizza & Pasta
A Philly Cheese Steak pizza pie? VEGAN? Yeah, it’s being done at Cruzer Pizza & Pasta in Loz Feliz. 100% meat-and-dairy free pizza with options for gluten-free dough, guest can choose from a variety of faux meats, including a very convincing “pepperoni,” some chicken, sausage, ham and steak all vegan of course! Packed with ton’s of flavor by their tomato sauce and gooey daiya cheese can only be described as “a slice of heaven” especially when pizza vegan options out there are still lacking. Notable dishes include the quarry girl pizza loaded with two kinds of mushrooms, vegan sausage and basil, cheese bread sticks filled with daiya cheese and a vegan meatball sub. Cruzer really perfected their craft and all the vegans in Los Angeles now have a place to grab a quality slice. Pro tip: The place is pretty small so do like the locals and order to go.
Brothers Jorge, Eduardo and Walter Rodriguez, owners of Los Balcones Peruvian, recently opened Chavela, a plant-based restaurant inspired by the flavors of Latin America. The menu is created by Executive Chef Rachel Carr, formerly of Cru Restaurant and SunCafe Organics. With locally sourced ingredients and even some key items from Peru like the Ican berry found in the grilled pineapple kale and quinoa salad, Chavela brings life to their fresh ingredients. Other highlights include the aji amarillo mac and cheese with gluten-free quinoa macaroni and the super additive barbacoa portabello tacos. The name Chavela refers to a type of Peruvian-style sangria with a kick of exotic liquors of rums and island curacao. Try the chavela rosa made with hibiscus liqueur, aperol, silver rum, lemon and rose. They also have awesome desserts like the decadent chili chocolate ganache made with avocado chocolate mousse and a cinnamon buckwheat crust.
8. Vegan Glory
Los Angeles is a host to countless Thai vegan joints but this one has to be one of the best. Vegan Glory located inside an unassuming strip mall on Beverly Boulevard offers a full menu of Thai staples like the papaya salad and a spicy eggplant dish sautéed with chili paste, onion, garlic, sweet basil, and bell pepper. In addition to Thai dishes they do a very good job at creating savory sizable wraps and burgers. Stand outs include the cowboy wrap with seitan, chopped romaine lettuce, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, salsa and vegenaise wrapped up in a lavash wrap. Definitely order a side of crispy fries with organic ketchup they are so simple that they become perfect with any meal. Looking for a deal? Their Thai lunch combo’s start at a modest $8.95 and is served daily from 11:00am to 4:00pm and come with steamed brown rice, one spring roll, salad, and the soup of the day. Traditional Thai desserts on the menu include banana sticky rice and coconut ice cream with palm seeds both are fresh and hit the sweet spot.
9. Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine
Rahel is passionate and proud to serve traditional Ethiopian cuisine minus the animal. With over 30 years of experience in Ethiopian cooking, Chef Rahel helped open still standing Messob in 1985 on Fairfax Avenue in Little Ethiopia. She left in 2000 to pursue her own dreams of opening the first ever and still only 100% vegan Ethiopian resturant. Her signature and most popular plate would be the massive Millenium Special, a plater with 10 items that include split lentil stew, greens, sunflower mixed with injera, potatoes mixed with carrots and cabbage, pumpkin stew, desert and MORE. For a vegan joint this place seems to have one awesome lunch buffet (it’s all everyone talks about online!) seven days a week from 11:00am to 3:00pm folk have access to 10 dishes at an unbeatable $8.99. In addition Rahel is also very considerate of her clients with nut allergies and even offers gluten free injera and desserts for those who are sensitive.
Simply put Suncafe in Studio City is AWESOME and don’t they know it. Making almost everything from scratch like their variety of seed and nut cheeses, soyrizo called SunChorizo and yummy gluten-free desserts this Studio City eatery has steadily become one of the most prominent raw vegan joints in the city. Dish highlights include lettuce leaf tacos served with SunChorizo, cashew cheese and a basil ranch and a mac & cheese dish made with quinoa pasta and a sauce made with tomatoes and cashew cheese sauce. In addition to raw vegan food, Suncafe also produces fresh pressed juice, smoothies, kombucha and raw soups made to order. The casual spot on Ventura Boulevard has a cute patio, ample parking and food that leaves you feeling good. And that’s something worth heading to The Valley for.
11. Toca Madera
Who saids carnivores and omnivores can’t get along? Toca Madera located in the heart of West Hollywood provides an array of options for every type of eater. The new resturant pairs modern organic Mexican cuisine with fresh seasonal cocktails in a sexy up scale setting, making this a great date spot. With a shared-plate format Toca Madera shines a spot light on locally farm-sourced ingredients with an emphasis on organic and caters to vegans with a separate vegan menu with gluten-free options. Stand out dishes include a refreshing take on ceviche translated through a coconut citrus salad made from young soft coconut served with house-made plantain chips and the cilantro grilled tofu tacos had layers of flavors from the caramelized onions, fresh serranos, tomatillo salsa and pickled pink onions. Make sure to save room for dessert because Toca Madera makes a mean vegan churro batter for their delicious churro vegan ice cream sandwich.
12. Elf Cafe
This all organic veggie loving resturant in Echo Park has been around for close to a decade garnering vegan and non vegan fans alike. Chef David Martinez who came from West Hollywood’s ultra exclusive Soho House is dishing out Mediterranean inspired creations during brunch and dinner service. Locals have been going nuts over the kale salad it’s practically a staple here. Other popular dishes include the addictive crispy oyster mushroom starter, kofta with saffron cous cous and the truffled mushrooms on toast a brunch option.
13. Stuff I Eat
Serving the community since 2008 Stuff I Eat in Inglewood is taking the vegan world on a spin with their comfort food approach to vegan cuisine. If you haven’t been to any soul food joints in Inglewood the portions are generous… well, very generous… ok let’s be honest they are just MASSIVE! But that’s a good thing when the food is as good as it at Stuff I Eat! Local favorites include the soul bowl with yams, mac’n’ cheese, BBQ tofu, kale greens, black-eyed peas, potato salad, coleslaw and a cornbread muffin. They even have a savory enchilada pie which I suspect weights a couple of pounds. The menu is probably every vegan’s dream but the owners also designed it as a “transitional menu” for those seeking to migrate from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet. Bonus: service is friendly and they let you sample the food before ordering! Totally two thumbs up.
14. Sage Organic Vegan Bistro
Sage is the only place where you can get a delicious plate of jackfruit nachos and trust me it’s unbelievably good. Drawn from Asian influences (hence the jackfruit) this local farm to table bistro in Echo Park serves up brunch, lunch, dinner and even coconut ice cream courtesy of KindKreme. There’s something special about the preparation behind Chef Mollie’s dishes. Hearty and refreshing the offerings at Sage are ample and full of flavor, from their Soul Bowl to their vietnamese inspired bhan mi sandwich, simply put the food is just really good here.
15. Gracias Madre
From the folks who own Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood serves up vibrant interpretations of Mexican cuisine. The plant-based menu is organic, locally sourced and farm sourced. Chef Chandra Gilbert’s love for Mexican cuisine really resonate within the menu. The guacamole, sopes with pineapple habanero salsa, mole enchiladas, butternut squash quesadilla and flautas filled with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions are standouts. Located on Melrose Avenue, Gracias Madre has a gorgeous dining garden and solid cocktail program with super fun libations like the boozy popsicle made with strawberry puree, house made aromatic bitters and tequila blanco.
And a few honorable mentions…
- The Grain Cafe
- My Vegan Gold
- Araya’s Place
- Vegan House
- Powerplant Super Food Cafe
- The Vegan Joint
So where do you find the best vegan food in Los Angeles? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!
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