A few years ago, the words “vegan restaurant” were associated with corresponding words like “crunchy,” “granola” and “dirty hippie.”
Not the case anymore. Now, many vegan and vegetarian-friendly establishments are described as “innovative,” “sumptuous” and sometimes even “swanky.” And LA boasts the cream of the crop—Vegetarian Times recently listed our city as one of the top destinations for vegan restaurants in the world.
As a proud almost-vegan (oh, stop judging), I’ve been to pretty much every veggie joint in town—and I have my favorites. But for this list, I asked my meat-loving friends which meatless restaurants they’ve enjoyed. So if you’re dating a vegan, are friends with one or just want to take a walk on the wild side, give these places a go. We won’t tell anyone you liked it.
1. Veggie Grill
My carnivorous friends actually get excited about a trip to Veggie Grill. The chefs do wondrous things with faux meat and create comfort food that leaves my pals exclaiming, “OMG, it tastes just like meat!” Seriously, no one feels deprived here.
Try this: Buffalo Wings, Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ Sandwich, BLTA sandwich, Bombay Bowl.
If you want to step it up a notch and really impress your date, Crossroads is the pinnacle of vegan fine dining. Celebrity chef Tal Ronnen (Oprah and Ellen are fans) whips up scrumptious tapas-style fare in a stylish environment with a full bar. Reservations are a must.
Try this: Cauliflower Bisque, Crab Cakes, Risotto, Tortelloni.
Foodies will adore this innovative twist on organic Mexican food, and if fake meat freaks you out, you’ll find none of it here. The ambiance adds to the experience with its trendy, casual-chic vibe with especially lovely patio dining.
Try this: Flautas de Camote, Sopes Con Piña, Coconut Ceviche Tostadas, margaritas.
4. Native Foods
My meat-eating friends unanimously agreed that Native Foods had to make this list. The menu features familiar-sounding sandwiches and wraps and also creative concoctions for the more adventurous—and everything is made in-house.
Try this: Classic Deli-Style Reuben, Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, Yo Amigo Taco Salad, Soul Bowl.
5. Happy Family
Gotta give a shout out to my east county folks! Chinese food fans rejoice—this Monterey Park spot offers vegan versions of all the classics and the menu is huge. An all-you-can-eat option lets you sample various dishes, so go ahead and dabble in the mock meats or just stick with veggies and tofu...it’s all deeply satisfying.
Try this: Kung Pao Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Buddha’s Feast, Deep Fried House Chicken.
The tasting menu at this Studio City spot from chef Phillip Frankland Lee is the way to go, but at $85 it's definitely not a cheap meal. Order à la carte for a more reasonable dining experience, where you'll enjoy bites of pureed sweet potato, blackened cauliflower and Lee's decadent olive stuffed olives drizzled in honey.
Try this: Olive stuffed olives, Blackened cauliflower, Vegetables in a box, Roasted mushrooms.