Tal Ronnen has made a career of presenting vegan food in such a way that it doesn't seem vegan. The chef of West Hollywood's Crossroads doesn't even like the word "vegan," because of the bland, hippie reputation the term conjures — he prefers to say "plant-based." At Crossroads, the food is anything but bland and the vibe is anything but hippie. The glam restaurant recently launched a late-night menu, a kind of night owl's happy hour, which starts at 10 p.m. and features plant-based bites from $6 to $14, cocktails for $10 and beers for $5.
We wondered which non-vegan restaurants in town Ronnen loves, where he can find plant-based food without stress. Here are his five picks.
5. Kawaba Ball
"This is a great spot I hit up on the way to work. The rice balls are a handy, handheld lunch I can eat in the car. The rice is served warm and has an incredible texture. They have a great selection of fillings. My favorites are the jalapeño miso and the umi (pickled Japanese plum)."
7368 Melrose Ave., Fairfax; (323) 272-4510, kawabariceball.com.
4. Bar Amá
"I live downtown, so many of Josef Centeno's restaurants are literally a block away. I love the cashew queso at Bar Amá. ... It's got a great tequila menu too. It is a great place to unwind at the end of service."
118 W. Fourth St., downtown; (213) 687-8002, bar-ama.com.
3. Mr. Ramen
"I've been going to Mr. Ramen in Little Tokyo for about 10 years. I started going with a friend who knew Shinobu-san, the chef and owner. There wasn't much for me to eat when I went there first, but over the years he slowly started adding more and more veg-friendly dishes. And now with shiitake gyoza and three different kinds of vegan ramen, it's a great spot to eat on my way back downtown."
341 E. First St., downtown; (213) 626-4252, mrramen.menutoeat.com.
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2. Mohawk Bend
"Mohawk Bend is always great for a casual night. I love the Angry Vegan pizza with fresh serrano chilies. The buffalo cauliflower is always good and the beer selection is well thought-out."
2141 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 483-2337, mohawk.la.
"Michael [Voltaggio] is one of the most creative chefs working today, and cares as much about his vegetable dishes as he does his meat-centric dishes. My favorite is his corn dip with homemade Cool Ranch "Doritos," which are the size of my hand. His coconut ice cream and riff on bananas Foster with plantains is vegan, but you would never know it!"
8360 Melrose Ave., Beverly Grove; (323) 651-5866, mvink.com.