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Top 5 Old School Indie L.A. Health Food Stores

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Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

Close your eyes and breathe. Deeply. Smell those bulk whole grains commingling with the aromas of spirulina, alternative pastas, sprouts of all types, and freshly juiced wheatgrass? Now take a look around. See the earnest hand-painted signs promoting health tips? Notice the knotty pine and exposed wood surfaces that were installed in the days before "reclaimed" wood became all the rage?

So, where are you? In an old school health food store, of course. We're not talking about these newfangled, traded on Wall Street, passing-for-enlightened mega grocery stores. We mean ones that were byproducts of communes, 1960s counterculture, and actual places that could have inspired Woody Allen to come up with a few well-targeted anti-Los Angeles digs. When Whole Foods is based in Texas and is OK with Monsanto tinkering with plant genetics, those wacky California stereotypes hardly apply. But good to know we have some independent markets that are still going strong while promoting "natural" lifestyles. Must be all the wheatgrass. Turn the page for our favorite Top 5 Old School Indie L.A. Health Food Stores.

click to enlarge An authentic specimen of exposed wood use from the pre-Dwell mag days. - J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz
  • An authentic specimen of exposed wood use from the pre-Dwell mag days.

5. VP Discount Health & Food Mart, Beverly-Fairfax:

The name doesn't do much to class up the joint since Erewhon (see #2) left the dark exposed wood-clad spot. But at least VP keeps it real with the O.G. health food store look, which is all the better to contrast with the cool, barely-there color tones at Bistro LQ next door. The shop has a good supply of vitamins, snacks, plus a sandwich counter and juice bar.

8001 Beverly Blvd., Beverly-Fairfax/Mid-City; (323) 658-6506.

4. One Life Natural Food, Santa Monica/Venice:

One Life certainly has location on its side. Take your pick of many popular yoga studios within walking distance. And then there's the healing energy of the beach just a couple blocks away. This place has been doing its groovy thing for many years now, before kombucha took over a chunk of the refrigerator shelf space.

3001 Main Street, Santa Monica/Venice; (310) 392-4501.

click to enlarge The Nature Mart parking lot: a great place to check out late-model Subarus and Priuses. - J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz
  • The Nature Mart parking lot: a great place to check out late-model Subarus and Priuses.

3. Nature Mart, Los Feliz:

Nature Mart at the corner of Hillhurst and Ambrose in Los Feliz is divided into two storefronts: the main grocery store that contains the vitamin shop, and the bulk bin and juice bar next door. This market might be small, but it provides a big dose of that authentic, classic Health Food Store Smell many of us crave -- or quite possibly actively avoid -- from our childhoods. We love going to the bulk section because we can stock up on items like yogurt covered malt balls and carob covered raisins, and convince ourselves that these junky foods are still healthy. For a real kick order a Green Machine smoothie, which combines kale, cucumber, celery, ginger, lemongrass, and apples. Whoa! Adrenaline rush! Bonus: the bulk section has household cleaning supplies with which to refill your plastic bottles.

2080 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz; (323) 667-1677.

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