Vegan in L.A.
L.A. is today where other cities will be in a few years. Veganism is mainstream here, restaurants aren’t just based on fast Instagram-worthy food, they don’t publicise their ‘V’ plates and you don’t have to panic-plan your eating options ahead of time. You go to a plant based restaurant only to find out that the neighbouring restaurants have almost as many plant-based options. There is so much to try that I had a very busy few days but definitely found some of the trendiest and most creative plant-based restaurants I’ve enjoyed anywhere, all tucked away here in L.A.
This place is everything you would dream fro in a vegan restaurant. Upscale decor, comfy booth seating and a menu that you really want one of everything from. In not publicising themselves as plant-based, they have cleverly created a high-end vegan restaurant for carnivores, where meat-free meals are reinvented.
It is home to the famous Impossible Burger, scientifically created from all-natural ingredients creating a meatless burger that bleeds and sizzles when it cooks, but with a much smaller environmental footprint. Having read so much about it, I was actually put off by the thought of how similar to cow meat it would be but at Crossroads they cook it well done so there’s no bleeding by the time it reaches your plate and the outcome was delicious, with a side of truffle fries.
The menu is packed full of delicious options, meatball sub, “chicken” & waffles, pasta bolognese, salads and my favourite mac & cheese. That’s without even getting started with the weekend brunch menu. I’m already planning my return.
In the trendy Silver Lake area of L.A., Little Pine is a cabin-in-the-woods style bistro, beautifully put together by musician Moby. It has been creatively designed so that even on a sunny L.A. day, you feel as though you’re up in the cosy Californian pines. The dinner menu, with highlights such as broccoli arancini, stuffed shells, sausage & polenta and panko crusted piccata makes decisions hard.
But none as hard as when you then return for the weekend brunch and come away sausage sandwich, sliders, pancakes and a cinnamon roll for good measure, heavier!
Moby, well known for his vegan activism, donates 100% of profits from Little Pine to animal welfare organisations, so ordering that extra chocolate molten lava cake not only makes you happy, but also helps a lot of animals at the same time, talk about a win-win.
With a Mexican chic setting of colourful cushions, high ceilings, painted tiles and a trendy bar, Gracias Madre is a West Hollywood restaurant so balanced in beauty and taste that it can’t be missed. The dreamy patio is filled with olive trees and twinkling lights making for a romantic dinner or a cosy lunch date. Pre-dinner margaritas at the bar took me back to sunset on the shores of the Mayan Riviera getting the perfect balance of tequila, lemon and salt.
The menu is inspired by the kitchens of Mexico serving locally grown and organic ingredients. The guacamole is one of the best I’ve tasted and the quesadillas de calabaza combined the sweet butternut squash with the salty caramelised onions just right. Just make sure there’s room for everything else that you can’t say no to on the menu.
As the name suggests, this is the place to come to bring positivity back into your life as you will soon be throwing affirmations around like you’re ordering your food. A laid back cafe vibe in the heart of Venice, I came here for brunch and what a beautiful brunch it was.
Being reaffirmed by my waiter that I was “Vivid” (their code name for the most beautiful Açai Bowl I’ve ever seen) while sitting across from me was “Bonita” (Breakfast Taco Plate), everything here is named to make you feel as good in your mind as it does in your tummy. And to be ready for a day of exploring L.A., it was only right to get a “Brave” (Wellness Shot) for good measure. Oh and a “Serene” (Cinnamon Roll) to take away, I just can’t say no to them!
I’m giving the Beverly Hills branch it’s own section because although they share their name and 'good vibes only' menu titles, Cafe Gratitude Venice & Gratitude Beverly Hills are as different as the people who frequent them. The Beverly Hills branch is much more, well…Beverly Hills.
Everything is just a little more glam, the finish is more marble than cafe and the focus is the bar which is packed with wellness such the Cleansetini with vodka and micro-filtered H2O or the tumeric mule. Opening out to a wide front patio, this is the spot to come to for a front row view of Beverly Hills life adding a splash of glam to your lunch date.
With oak wood floors, white paint, stone detailing and a canopy of fig trees illuminated by twinkling fairy lights, this Venice restaurant is about as dreamy as they come. On the bustling Abbot Kinney, the wine list here is as enticing as the food, which is almost too pretty to eat. The outdoor patio filled with olive trees is perfect for a summers evening while a small fireplace warms up inside on those chillier evenings, adding that cozy touch to the marble tables and stacks of pillows.
The Tomato & Zucchini Lasagne comes ready for the cover of Vogue while the Spicy Udon barely lasted long enough for me to even get a photo. This is a great cosy little spot with delicious food and the best wines that your friends will be grateful you brought them along to.
Sage have two locations in L.A., a longer-established bistro in Echo Park and a bistro and beer garden in Culver City, which was where I found myself one sunny Friday afternoon. Sage take their aesthetics seriously with their design-oriented organic eatery maintaining the garden feel in their patio and an industrial-chic look inside. Creative dishes at Sage are attracting more than just plant eaters with a jam-packed menu making decisions tough. Cauliflower wings, fish & chips, tacos, quinoa corn cakes, samosa rolls, burgers, wraps, pizza, bowls, ravioli…I could go on all day. They add an interesting touch to their dishes and the outcome is delicious. Then it’s onto the brewery menu!
A Cupcake ATM dispensing vegan red velvet? Say no more!
I’d heard rumours about this but didn’t quite believe that such marvels existed until I experienced it all for myself. If you don’t quite understand, it's just like going to take out money, only instead of money, a cupcake comes out. I can see how not everyone would choose cupcakes over money, and some might even complain to their bank if this were to happen to them, but I would choose cupcakes every single day and can confidently say this was the best ATM experience I’ve ever had.
Serving up delicious organic macrobiotic foods, M Café has been helping the residents of L.A. enjoy plant-focused eating on the trendy Melrose Ave for 10 years now. With delicious breakfasts from bowls to burritos as well as deli style options for take out wraps, panini, sushi, desserts & baked goods, as well as juices & wellness shots galore, this is a great little handy spot for your plant-based fuel up. And the location makes it perfect to walk it all off in the Melrose Ave sunshine afterwards.
An all day organic cafe, juice bar and vegetable ‘slaughterhouse’. They claim to treat veggies as a butcher would meat, chopping, filleting and carving. I’d heard the hype about The Butchers Daughter in New York, as had apparently the hordes of people constantly queuing on Venice's trendy Abbot Kinney to get a table. The menu changes daily to keep it seasonal from local organic farms. It’s a great spot for a morning coffee & smashed avocado toast, a lunch in the sun or an evening wood fired pizza.
After a Lakers game, Mohawk Bend is a great go-to for a late evening feast. My favourite thing about Mohawk Bend is how they single out their non-vegan items on the menu as though they are the anomalies. Everything they use comes from California, including an impressive 72 Californian beers on tap and cocktails made using the spirits of Californian craft distillers. Brick fireplaces and booths give this old theater a cosy atmosphere, while there are still sports playing on the screens dotted around to keep everyone happy. Pizza’s are cooked up in the wood stone pizza oven and are as big as they are delicious. We went for the vegan pepperoni which I even ate the crusts of and I never eat the crusts.
An organic cafe and superfood bar just a few blocks from Santa Monica pier. As the name suggests, honey is in a lot of their products but I could tell they get the request to leave it out so often that it isn’t a problem. They create delicious juices that are pesticide-free as well as having teamed up with bestselling superfood chefs to create healthy vegan options that leave out the highly addictive flavours. If there’s one thing I am its predictable, so it was an Açai bowl & Matcha Latte for me and I came away one happy bee.
You can’t mention vegan food in California without including Whole Foods. This is like a plant-based theme park for adults. I could (and did) spend hours just walking the aisles and admiring the marvels that shoppers in the US have at their fingertips. Fresh fruits cut up ready to eat, salads, sandwiches, cakes, cheeses, donuts, chocolate. If you can dream it, they probably have it. Picnic time anyone?
Which is your favourite foodie haunt in L.A.? I just need a little bit of time to digest all of this lot but I can’t wait to head back to my city of dreams to enjoy a little more.