The word "vegan" no longer raises eyebrows and prompts jokes about nut loaf the way it might have even a decade ago. Today, there's a smörgasbord of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in LA: from slices of pizza piled high with veggies to upscale Mexican food. Here, the very best—all 100% vegan.
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The best vegan restaurants in LA
All of LA's Cafe Gratitude locations feel almost like vegan Eden, full of a cheerful wait staff, diners with perfect postures and glowing skin and dishes that are affirmations themselves, so you will have to declare, "I Am Thriving," to order the soup of the day. It's true: When the server takes your order, they will ask you, “What are you grateful for today?" and you will feel compelled to answer. Embrace it, because the bright, perfectly composed food will have you coming back. If you’re feeling especially in tune with the world, you can order the I Am Grateful, the simple but delicious "community bowl" of kale, quinoa, black beans and garlic-tahini sauce.
Old-school vegans couldn’t have dreamt of such a place: A 100% meat-and-dairy free pizza parlor that’s also gluten-free (wheat dough is available upon request). And this is no sleek and modern spot, slinging words like “artisanal" and "local"—this is a joint, a tiny shop staffed with fresh-mouthed dough slingers. How are the pies? Delicious. If you go GF (gluten-free), you’ll get a rice-based dough that's airier than wheat. While lacking that glutinous chew, it still has enough variation of texture and crispness to satisfy. Choose a variety of faux meats, including a wholly convincing "pepperoni," or try a specialty pie like the popular Philly Cheese Steak Pizza. There’s not much space to dig into a slice, so get yours to go or opt for delivery if you’re in the area.
Serving both raw and vegan-cooked food and making almost everything from scratch, SunCafe has become a favorite among Valley dwellers—and vegans across the city—for healthy lunch and dinner options. The casual spot on Ventura Boulevard has your standard soups and salads, sure, but there are also burgers made with sunflower seeds, BLTs with tempeh bacon, and zucchini lasagna. Stick around for their popular smoothies, which range from kale to mint shamrock shakes.
Just a few blocks away from the coast, this compact Venice eatery always has customers gathered around its communal tables, sharing sweet potato fries and tips on nearby surf spots. Chef Eric Lechasseur began exploring macrobiotic cooking when his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (she has since recovered) and continued with it when his celebrity clients (Madonna, Gwyneth, to name a couple) requested the same healthy meals. There are some Japanese-influenced dishes here, but the real draw is the list of burgers—choose tempeh, seitan or bean and grain—that provide all the full-flavored drip and crunch of an In-N-Out run, along with vastly superior fries (cooked in rice bran oil, no less).
This vegan café has become a LA staple thanks to its healthy food, fast service and prices that won't break a budget. Creative dishes like the Rockin' Moroccan, Bangkok Curry and Greek Gyro Bowl allow diners to explore culturally diverse cuisines (some are even gluten-free!), while more traditional orders—the Super Italian Meatball Sub with seitan meatballs, for instance—are constant crowd pleasers. Native Foods has a beer and wine license, so you can pair your salad with a glass of Chardonnay for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
Yes, Shojin is eccentric. Located on the third floor of an indoor mall in Little Tokyo, this pretty Japanese restaurant has very specific instructions for seating and bag placement: handbags are placed in a designated basket next to your table and a portfolio of exuberant pro-vegan cartoons make an appearance at the beginning of the menu. But almost everything on that bill of fare is excellent and instead of wheat-based faux meats, Shojin uses tofu and tempeh, along with a interesting range of veggie and grain substitutions. For example, a mix of quinoa, miso and vegan-mayo make for an interesting and tasty topping on the traditional Dynamite roll, which we can’t get enough of. Other Japanese dishes are easily vegan like versions of tempura, fried shishito pepper and seaweed salad, as well as savory ramen and miso soup.
Everyone who comes in to this homey Inglewood spot is treated like family—you’ll even get a scolding if you don’t clean your plate (or at least box up your leftovers). They’ll let you taste before you order, but be warned: Finishing a whole serving can be a difficult task with portions as generous as these. You’ll find toppling platters of vegan soul food—mac and cheese, BBQ tofu, greens, cornbread and slaw—and Southern-style specials like stick-to-your-ribs cornbread casserole with chili. Hearty, down-home fare is elevated with super fresh ingredients and a light touch, despite the ample portions. For dessert? Opt for a slice of the sweet potato pie or fresh-out-of-the-oven, sweet bread pudding.
With locations across LA—there's one in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Pasadena—Real Food Daily is a vegan's delight offering full plates of whole grains, legumes and vegetables alongside housemade, signature sauces. Dishes span the gamut from Italian (Lasagna Nepoletana) to Mexican (Mexico City tacos) to Chinese (Kung Pao stir fry), all while delivering intricate flavors that appeal to both vegans and non-vegans alike. Brunch is also available for weekend diners, where you can nurse that hangover with a breakfast burrito packed with scrambled tofu, roasted potatoes, black beans, tempeh bacon and more.
Fresh tofu is worlds away from the processed, packaged variety from your local supermarket cold case. Fill up on the fresh stuff—from soymilk to silky tofu pudding served with sweet ginger syrup, each batch is made on-site with non-GMO soybeans—at this always-packed little café in the San Fernando Valley. Vinh Loi hits all of the high notes of Vietnamese cuisine, serving up pho and bun that are spicy, savory, sweet and sour in equal measure. A surprising number of patrons bypass the extensive menu and opt for dealer’s choice-type ordering: Go up to the counter and tell them what you like and don’t like, and they’ll surprise you with a platter of something delicious.
It should be said, right off the bat, that Gracias Madre is beautiful. A cross between Mexican chic and Palm Springs casual, the vegan Mexican restaurant is decorated with festive cushions and tiles, a gorgeous courtyard and, inside, high ceilings and a comfortable bar. Wherever you choose to sit, order the guacamole—it is truly fantastic. The sopes con piña, looking like mini savory quiches, are two masa cakes piled high with pineapple salsa, cabbage, beans and guacamole. For dessert, a more traditional option might have been the flan, but the pumpkin cake is the way to go. Flanked by creamy vanilla bean coconut ice cream, the seasonal cake is gently spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, and tastes remarkably like fall. It is a necessary reminder that vegan doesn't have to mean void of flavor, and that Gracias Madre has arrived as an ethically-conscious alternative to LA's growing haute Mexican scene.
Imaginative and hearty, dishes at Sage feel like they’re nudging vegan cuisine in a new direction. Sage, which has locations in Echo Park and Culver City, is one of the few vegan places in LA to make use of jackfruit—dressed up with chile in Street Tacos or as a tuna substitute in the "tuna" melt, just one of the United Nations-array of sandwiches that include meat-free versions of banh mi and a po' boy. Dishes have interesting touches: Quinoa corn cakes are served with a sharp and crunchy slaw for just the right amount of zing, while the Soul Bowl is served with whole, dehydrated okra for an unexpected crunch. Finish with an order of Kind Kreme—cashew, almond milk and coconut–based ice cream—scooped straight from the ice cream counter.
On the eastern end of Sunset Junction sits this homey café which feels like one of those East Village Hungarian restaurants that have been dishing up beef pierogies since Allen Ginsberg’s day. Instead, you’re much more likely to see a member of the Like dining on Eastsider Tacos (seitan topped with cashew cheese) or one of the five tasty burgers (the portobello seitan is a favorite). Sit outside and people watch as locals, all in various states of stylish dishevelment, walk by. Be sure to order one of the vegan desserts—we love the excellent lemon berry cake—which are on display in the deli cases. Many of the carbs here are gluten-free, including the pancakes, and GF substitutes are readily available.
Simply put, Crossroads is a high-end vegan restaurant for carnivores. Plant-based chef to the stars Tal Ronnen—he counts Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres as clients—is reinventing meat-free meals with flavorful and imaginative dishes that are reasonably priced and served in a cozy, white-tablecloth Melrose Avenue dining room. Grab a comfy round booth and start with one of the signature small plates: Artichoke oysters layer five artichoke leaves with pureed artichoke, a fried oyster mushroom, kelp caviar and a drizzle of yellow Bearnaise, and crumbly rounds of "crab cakes" are packed with diced hearts of palm, apples and beets. Do they taste like the real thing? Not exactly, but the dishes are fun, flavorful and pair well with the seasonal list of well-made libations mixed with ingredients such as Sriracha bitters and passion fruit. Both the thinly shredded sweet and tangy kale salad flecked with currants and pine nuts, and the Farinatta, an arugula salad dressed with a sun-dried tomato pesto over a thin earthy and umami-rich pancake made from chickpea flour and roasted wild mushrooms, are standout plates.
LA's myriad of vegan Thai restaurants could be a sub-culture all its own, and for our money, this is the best of them. Tucked inside a Mid-City mini-mall, this no-frills eatery offers all the Thai staples like pad thai and tom yum, as well as lentil burgers and a few Mexican standbys like burritos and quesadillas. The extensive menu offers something for everyone, but you’re better off ordering standout dishes like creamy green chili, full of eggplant and bamboo in a coconut milk base, and the spicy papaya salad that packs a fresh lime kick. The Thai iced tea is also exemplary, with an intense tea flavor that balances out the sweetness.