by Kylina Matteoli
If there is one place on Earth that can be called Vegan Mecca or Vegan Heaven that would have to be, hands down, Los Angeles. The city of angels hosts the largest amount of vegan restaurants as well as vegan options at non-vegan restaurants. This post will be divided into two parts since there are so many great finds in this city. So, let’s travel to the land of the stars, get our big sunglasses on, put the convertible top down, and cruise down palm tree lined streets to discover some of the best vegan eats.
When I think of Southern California, the first thing that comes to mind is the authentic and amazing Cali-Mex – good, old Mexican food. But the type of Mexican food found in LA isn’t like anything you’ve tasted before – it is on its own level. So, to begin our LA trip we’ll start with delicious Mexican food that isn’t simply just rice and beans.
For the most authentic Cali-Mex you need to hit up the taco trucks. And guess what? You’re in luck because LA even has an all-vegan taco truck. Plant Food for People is located in LA’s Highland Park and it proudly boasts for being LA’s first and only all-vegan taco truck. Their specialty here are the jackfruit tacos which are marinated and served with lime, radishes, slow-cooked pinto beans, with optional choices of pico de gallo, coleslaw, chipotle mayo, New Mexico hot chile, or tomatillo sauce.
Jackfruit is a unique fruit where it doesn’t taste sweet on its own. And the texture of it resembles the flakiness of fish. So, with the right seasoning, this food truck’s marinated jackfruit has a savory flavor that makes for a good substitute for fish tacos. And the great thing is tacos are $4 each. So, if you’re like me you can mix and match. I also recommend the cheesy potato tacos, and boy are these good! I’m a huge fan of potato tacos (which is a SoCal creation). So when I ordered these bad boys, I was not prepared for how good they are. If you haven’t had potato tacos before then let me break it down for you. These are soft tacos loaded with potatoes and vegan cheese that are then deep fried as a whole and served on a bed of ice-berg lettuce, topped with a cashew crema and tomatillo sauce with pico de gallo sprinkled on top. Just writing about it makes my mouth water. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. And as if it couldn’t get any better, this taco truck also serves tortas (a Mexican sandwich) and nachos.
And while you’re in the Highland Park area make sure to save room for dessert at Donut Friend. A trip to LA is not complete without stopping here. This place has the tastiest, coolest, and craziest vegan donut creations. Don’t believe me? Just look at these flavors. The “S’morissey” is a chocolate donut filled with toasted vegan marshmallows, topped with a chocolate glaze and graham cracker crumbs. It even has its classic donut hole stuffed with a perfectly-torched-ooey-gooey marshmallow. Not feeling the campfire vibe? Need something absolutely crazy? Say no more. The “Srirachosin” is a glazed donut stuffed with peanut butter, strawberry jam, smoky coconut bacon, and drizzled and dotted with sriracha.
I wasn’t brave enough to try this one. So, instead I had the “Rite of Sprinkles” which is a cake donut with your choice of glaze (I chose strawberry) and topped with colorful rainbow sprinkles. It definitely satisfied my inner 4-year-old-girlie-girl self. Still not your style? Well, what’s cool about this place is you can also make your donut DIY style. You can choose from a huge selection of possible fillings, glazes, and toppings. A savory donut? Sure. A MacDaddy sweet donut to even give the Tooth Fairy a toothache? Duh, of course. So, grab a friend and head over to Donut Friend and take some pics of those adorable donut creations of yours and post them to Instagram. #Donutgoals
Part 2 will have more vegan restaurants that will cover a Vegan In-N-Out burger joint and an all-vegan sushi restaurant. So, stay tuned to read more of the amazing places to eat in LA. But until then, if you are digging the Cali-Mex food, here are some other vegan Mexican restaurants to explore.
- Trejo’s Tacos – Co-created by Danny Trejo (Actor in Machete). This restaurant offers all types of tacos – carnivorous, vegetarian, and vegan. This is a great place for a large group of people that have varying diets. It is also very affordable with tacos starting at $4 each. My preference is the Black Pepper Tofu Taco (served with caramelized shallots, serrano peppers, scallions, pickled onion, and cilantro). And a great appetizer is the Street Corn, but make sure to ask for them to make it vegan (this is corn that is seasoned with spices and topped with chipotle cashew cream and popcorn)
- Gracias Madre – This is an all-vegan Mexican restaurant, but it is a little bit pricier with prices ranging from $12-$16 per entrée. For an appetizer, I ordered the Sopes Con Mango (potato-masa cakes, mango habanero salsa, guacamole, black beans, cashew crema, escabeche (pickled onion, jalapenos, and carrots)). If you’ve never had masa cakes, you need to try them! And preferably, you need to try these masa cakes because they are absolutely delicious. And for my main dish, I ordered Nopales (stewed cactus, guajillo chile sauce, cashew crema, rice, black beans, and house-made tortillas). Who knew you can eat cactus? Well, come and try this dish and you’ll want to eat this every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Places to Eat:
- Plant Food for People Taco Truck – Can usually be found at the Farmer’s Market or parked in front of local coffee shops in Highland Park. Check their website to see their postings for their whereabouts.
- Donut Friend – 5107 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90065
- Trejo’s Tacos – 1048 South La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
- Gracias Madre – 8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Places to See in Highland Park:
- York Boulevard – Here on this street are several shops selling vintage clothes and boutiques offering hip home-decor accessories.
- Fashion 21 – This is the first Forever 21 that has been open since 1984. How cool is that?
- U.S. Office Machine Company – This is one of the last typewriter shops in the City of Los Angeles, which specializes in repairing antique typewriters and has restored a few for movie studios. It is one of three businesses located in the old Sunbeam Theatre.
- The Old LA Certified Farmers Market – Opened in 2006, this market operates adjacent to the Highland Park Gold Line Station and provides a new nexus of community activity.
- Movies – Are you a movie buff? Well, Highland Park has been the host for multiple movies that have been shot here including Reservoir Dogs, The Lincoln Lawyer (location for the bar, The York, is on York Blvd.), Gangster Squad (In early 2012 the entire Highland Park downtown area along Figueroa Street was redone to look like post-WWII-era Los Angeles for the film), Yes Man, and Cyrus. Scout the streets and see if you can recognize your favorite scenes.
- Heritage Square – Check out these unique and cool heritage homes that are brightly decorated and amazingly restored.
- The best way to get around LA is by car, but if you don’t have your own car then you can also grab an Uber. And in this city, you’ll have no problem getting an Uber ride. But, if you need something a little cheaper you can always take the LACMTA Gold line train to Highland Park Station.
Photos courtesy of Kylina Matteoli and Plant Food for People