Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mian, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
For those who follow a specific dietary lifestyle like veganism, or maybe are in the midst of transitioning into it, the idea of not having your favorite comfort foods can be a bit daunting. Even as awareness of veganism has grown, there remains an underlying perception of it as being a particularly ascetic way of eating. For ominivores, self-professed carnivores and even vegetarians, it's tough to imagine avoiding large quantities of ingredients — many of which compose at least a handful of favorite dishes.
In Los Angeles, veganism has often been a call for some restaurants to be creative, becoming even more so as of late (see: Crossroads and Kind Kreme). The list of choices is growing to the extent that you can find vegan by cuisine — whether it's Japanese or Thai. And so it makes sense that you can find quite a few vegan or at least vegan-friendly restaurants with plant-based comfort dishes that recall the familiarity of favorites while remaining true to the dietary credo. Turn the page for some of the better vegan comfort dishes here in town.
3. Corn chowder at Elderberries Café
It's easy to miss Elderberries Café, an unassuming café to the right of a tattoo parlor on Sunset, especially if you're just trying to keep up with traffic on the busy thoroughfare. If it's your first time, you might be offered elderflower juice in a small jug to try. The café is compact, with the kitchen right behind a counter serving up vegan, gluten-free sandwiches, wraps and salads. The standout is a corn chowder peppered with chopped kale and minimally seasoned with salt. It's creamy without being cloying, a balance often difficult to achieve. Call ahead to see if the café has any, as they've been known to sell out. Sundays might be the better day of the week to stop by for a bowl, when a guitarist trained in jazz standards might perform songs from either Ray Charles or Etta James' catalog. 7564 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 851-0700.
2. Fried chicken dinner at Doomie's Home Cookin'
Unless you grew up eating vegan, there are times when you might yearn for certain foods — fried chicken, Philly cheesesteak, barbecue pulled pork — you gave up to transition into a plant-based diet. That's where Doomie's Home Cookin', nestled in the corner of a strip mall off Fountain and Vine, can help stave your craving for, well, fried chicken, Philly cheesesteak and barbecue pulled pork. They're all there on the menu, curated it seems for those with the worst case of classic comfort food withdrawal. Even for those who grew up on vegan food, there's the curiosity for foods much celebrated and hardly experienced. It's not improbable to sit next to a party of four, one of whom has been a vegan all four years of her young life — and intensely curious about mac-n-cheese and burgers. Doomie's Southern fried chicken plate arrives with mashed potatoes, a small cob of corn and a dinner roll. Made of soy and satisfingly crispy, the fried “chicken” is close to the real deal; you'll even find a part of a wooden skewer in the “drumstick” to complete the impression. 1253 Vine St., Los Angeles; (323) 469-4897.
1. Meatloaf sandwich at Flore Vegan Cuisine
One of the newer menu items, the meatloaf sandwich at Flore Vegan Cuisine won't remind you of the source of its inspiration per se, but the quinoa and tempeh-based loaf is seasoned accordingly and more than hearty enough. The sandwich, on focaccia, comes with grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and a mock no-egg mayo. For omnivores already on the fence about meatloaf, you might like the vegan iteration that much more. Each order comes a choice of potato salad or side salad with dressing options such as miso and Thousand Island. As good as the miso dressing goes with mixed greens, the potato salad is a no-fail choice. Portions are generally large at Flore, so maybe set aside a part of your meal to be boxed for later — that way, you can leave room for a slice of chocolate peanut butter cheesecake or, even better, the cream pie. 3818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 953-0611.
See also: Adventures in Veganism: Fatty's & Co.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Follow the author on Twitter at @chrstnchiao.