Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22, and regardless of where you stand on the dietary spectrum, consider curbing your carbon footprint with a meal free of animal byproducts. Nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group found that eating one less burger per week for a year equates to reducing 320 car miles driven. Even if you only swap out one meal in observation of Earth Day, that's six miles you just saved.
This meal need not stray too far from your preferences. Not when there are such wide-ranging options like vegan ice cream, pizza and com ga hai nam available. Turn the page for our 10 Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants, keeping in mind that, ultimately, one person's pumpkin seed chorizo wrap is another's jackfruit taco.
Stuff I Eat is located diagonally across from the now-closed Inglewood Fox Theatre and blocks away from the Forum. Despite its proximity to landmarks steeped in modern cultural history, this family-run neighborhood favorite is focused on reinterpreting tradition. Regional American food — mostly Southern and Tex-Mex — comes in vegan form: organic soul food platter, enchilada pie and Kilimanjaro quesadilla. Keep in mind that the half portion is already generous for one person. 114 N. Market St., Inglewood; (310) 671-0115.
Chinese vegetarian restaurants are a good source for vegan fare, with the cuisine's propensity to lay off of dairy. Happy Family, an elder among similar establishments across the San Gabriel Valley, is no different. Six dollars will buy a complete meal of soup, entrée and a traditional carb, like mung bean porridge. Eggs may pop up here and there, so it's advisable to check with the staff before ordering. 500 N. Atlantic Blvd., Ste. 171, Monterey Park; (626) 282-8986.
Like many vegan restaurants around town, each of the menu item works double — sometimes triple — time at Eric Leschasseur and Sanae Suzuki's Venice spot: All of them are listed as vegan and macrobiotic, with a number also gluten-free. Tempeh and seitan make repeat appearances dressed up in various cultural guises, like the saisai donburi, Italian “soysauge” panini and blackened tempeh burger topped with mango salsa. Leschasseur extends their eco-sensibilities to kitchen tools, forgoing the use of microwaves and nonstick pans. 1604 Pacific Ave., Venice; (310) 396-1604.
Turn the page for #7, etc…
Along with Tanya Petrovna, Ann Gentry is part of the vanguard that cemented vegan dining as an accessible experience for Angelenos. Her organic menu is a mix of the familiar and the new in the form of entrée and dessert specials. And Real Food Daily is expanding east, with a Pasadena location scheduled to open next month. 514-516 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 451-7544.
The Veggie Grill converted American favorites like mac 'n' cheese, buffalo wings and nachos. For the uninitiated, these familiar classics are the culinary equivalent of a tentative toe dip in cold water. The chain even categorizes its mock meats as veggie protein, which for some can be more approachable in vernacular. 8000 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 822-7575.
Flore Vegan Cuisine's weekend brunch menu is no side note. Serving some of the best brunches in L.A., Flore treats the meal with the same earnestness as Square One Dining and John O'Groats. The offerings cover the brunch gamut from diner to dining room, joining country breakfast and Denver omelette with veggie frittata and eggs benedict. The breakfast-averse can check out the tempeh reuben or the B.L.T.A. (a tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich). 3818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 953-0611.
No list on vegan-friendly dining in L.A. can neglect to mention Native Foods Café. Founded by Tanya Petrovna, the chain is now owned by married couple Andrea McGinty and Daniel Dolan, who moved the headquarters to Chicago. Though the globally inspired menu has been tweaked over the years, it has retained recognizable elements such as Earth bowls and handholds. Food allergies are taken seriously, with menus available in nut-free, soy-free and wheat-free versions. 9343 Culver Blvd., Culver City; (310) 559-3601.
Turn the page for #3, etc…
There is tofu and then there is fresh tofu turned out by Kevin Tran. His Reseda restaurant doubles as a tofu factory, which uses ingredients untouched by genetic modification. Expect to find a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes like mieng ga, banh cuon and lemongrass fish with noodles. If nothing else, check out a spicy bowl of noodles, imitation meat and seafood garnished with lima and bean sprouts, aka the house special soup. 18625 Sherman Way, #101, Reseda; (818) 996-9779.
The name is a nod to the cuisine created by founder of the Soto Zen school Dogen Zenji, known as shojin-ryori. Like its inspiration, Shojin refers to more than its food. Tucked near a third-floor corner of a Little Tokyo mall that has seen better days, Shojin turns the ambiance from desolate to tranquil once inside, with sleek furnishings and subdued lighting throughout. The restaurant prepares impressive macrobiotic vegan sushi, ramen and even yoshoku. It is particularly impressive given how much Shojin retains in the way of the traditional notes associated with sushi and ramen without relying on either seafood or meat. That they use organic ingredients along with seitan, dressings and sauces made in-house only reinforces the shojin path. 333 S. Alameda St., # 310, Los Angeles; (213) 617-0305.
And for our top pick…
Technically vegetarian, the current menu is more than vegan-accessible, with 17 dishes listed as either vegan or adaptable. In a cozy space next to Mohawk Bend, another vegan-friendly spot, chef Scott Zwiezen is serving dishes with mostly Mediterranean flavors. Those who balk at seitan and tempeh will appreciate that Zwiezen uses neither, choosing instead to explore ingredients of the vegetable, grain and legume genre. His customizable baked tart with thyme and garlic is too plush with the trappings of great comfort food to dislike. Reservations are highly recommended, as an open table is rare. 2135 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 484-6829.
Café Gratitude is a NorCal institution and has all the markings frequently associated with its roots. Like most of the dishes, the I Am Grateful bowl is part daily affirmation, part social activism. Still, it's tough to dismiss the goodwill of allowing diners to pay what they can (suggested minimum is $7) for a bowl of organic quinoa topped with shredded kale, black beans and tahini sauce. After a spate of legal woes that hit Café Gratitude late last year leading to talks of closure, founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart won't be closing up all of the restaurants up north after all. 639 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 580-6383.
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