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 L.A. slinging slices of pizza piled high with veggies, upscale Mexican food and even takes on the traditionally egg-laden Italian classic, carbonara. Here are the very best—all 100-percent vegan.
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The best vegan restaurants in L.A.
Yes, Shojin is eccentric. Located on the third floor of an indoor mall in Little Tokyo and on a sleepy corner in Culver City, this pretty Japanese restaurant has very specific instructions for seating and bag placement: Handbags are placed in a designated basket next to your table. Almost everything on the bill of fare is excellent, and instead of wheat-based faux meats, Shojin uses tofu and tempeh, along with an 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, of which we can’t get enough. Other Japanese dishes are easily vegan, such as versions of tempura, fried shishito peppers 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.
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 topped with cashew mayo, and BLTs with tempeh bacon, and decadent veggie au cratin bakes. Stick around for their popular smoothies, which range from healthy-tasting kale options to dessert-inspired mint shamrock shakes.
L.A.’s myriad of vegan Thai restaurants could be a subculture all its own, and for our money, this is the best of them. Tucked inside a Mid-City minimall, 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 curry, 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.
Fresh tofu is worlds away from the processed, packaged variety from your local supermarket cold case. Fill up on the fresh stuff—be it in soy-milk form or 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.