While I was in Seattle, S was on his own trip in LA. He stayed with a semi-vegan friend for a few days before journeying to Loma Linda for work, and they hit up all the notable vegan joints in LA. I won’t say I’m not envious, but at least S took copious notes so he could share his delicious eats with me (and you)! This is his first installment.
I’ve just returned from a magical place. It’s warm all the time there–rarely gets below 60–and it almost never rains. Improbable palm trees stud the roadways. And there is more vegan food than you could eat in a lifetime. It’s not the Garden of Eden–it’s Los Angeles!
I’m the first to claim I love a good snowstorm or a grey, overcast day. But there’s something about the perennial sunshine that just gets your spirits up. I can see how Southern California draws so many dreamers.
I stayed with a friend from high school who, after flirting with veganism for a few months, went full vegan for the month of January and has continued ever since. She made the impressive leap from omnivorism to veganism without the classic stopover in Vegetarianville, and she hasn’t looked back. What follows are write-ups of a few of Los Angeles’ most popular vegan hot-spots, and my own terrible photos. [Ed. note: Not as bad as my low-lighting restaurant snaps!]
Our first stop was at the famous Veggie Grille, and it was literally on the way home from the airport. I grabbed the All-American Stack with a side of coleslaw and a strawberry lemonade. The “stack” included three onion rings, grilled “veggie-steak,” and standard burger condiments. I found it disappointing, to be honest; the protein was pretty unremarkable, the onion rings were a bit floppy, and the coleslaw was quite bland. The strawberry lemonade, on the other hand, was delicious; tart and bright with flecks of strawberry seeds. Just the thing for a warm, sunny day!
On the way back to my friend’s apartment we stopped at Sprinkles, a lovely ice cream shop in the heart of Beverly Hills. You don’t understand Beverly Hills until you spot a Bentley double-parking in front of a Ferrari in front of a cupcake ATM, as we saw while standing in line for the single vegan ice cream flavor. The strawberry sorbet was so fresh and creamy that I didn’t mind doubling up on it.
And we stopped by the ATM on the way out to grab vegan red velvet cupcakes, which we watched being dispensed via live video feed. I’m told Honey Boo Boo patronized the very same cupcake ATM. I felt touched by fame. The cupcake was terrific, by the way–moist and rich, with a coconutty icing that worked well with the flavors.
That night we went to Cafe Gratitude in downtown LA. It’s not really a cafe, but a lovely full-service restaurant with warm wooden decor and an array of organic vegan dishes. Ordering at Cafe Gratitude requires you to say something positive about yourself, because all the dishes are inspiring sentences. We started off with the I AM ECSTATIC, and what is more ecstatic than brussels sprouts roasted with Maple Miso sauce? The sprouts were a tad soggy, but the roasted flavor worked well with the touch of maple and the portion was huge. I must say, though, that I still prefer Kelly’s brussels sprouts–and I’m not just saying that!
For the main course I declared I AM WARM HEARTED, and when the server returned he confirmed: “You are warm hearted.” As a reward for my compassion I received grilled polenta with mushroom ragout and spinach, drizzled with ricotta cashew cheese and sprinked with brazil nut parmesan and basil. It was absolutely delicious. Rich and savory, with as much decadent ragout as polenta. The cheeses were very, very good, but overkill even for me, and I’ll almost never turn down another savory flavor. The basil and spinach was absolutely essential for leavening this heavy meal.
And though my stomach protested, I couldn’t pass up a stop at the famous BabyCakes, where I bought a double chocolate cookie cake with mint icing. Now, I love Bloom, our local vegan bakery, and I think it can stand up to any of its big-city counterparts. But this cookie sandwich absolutely blew my mind! The chocolate cookies were decadently fudgy, almost brownie-like, and the icing was drawn from the Platonic conception of a mint oreo. I meant to take a photo, honest, but it was so good that I thought of nothing else until all that remained were crumbs in a paper ball.
This ends Part I of LA Eatin’! Stay tuned for the second and final installment, where I visit Real Food Daily, see a thing that was in space (!), and order a meal from the bizarre Cheezy Pizza.