Until the last few years, eating vegan in Long Beach meant ordering a pizza without cheese or getting a side salad and hoping it didn’t come covered in a cream-based dressing. And if you subscribe to a raw diet, good luck — you were better off buying straight from the Big Saver produce section.
In this blue-collar city with working-class roots, animal-free cuisine was an afterthought, if it was considered at all, meaning that for more than a decade, Long Beach only had one restaurant that could claim to be entirely vegan and accommodating to raw diets (Zephyr, which is now Ahimsa, where Indian-lilting dishes abound).
As of this month, though, there are seven, making Long Beach a bona fide vegan and raw dining destination. These are restaurants that also double as juice bars, coffee shops, bakeries and more — some marking second locations for popular spots in L.A. and Orange counties, others entirely homegrown. Here are the six newest vegan and raw restaurants in Long Beach, places all worth a trip for carnivores and specialized dieters alike.
Most juice bars are content to just sell cold-pressed fruits and vegetables, perhaps a tonic or wellness shot if they're feeling fancy. But Salud Juice wants to do more than just serve its glass-bottled core lineup, which sits in a fridge behind a counter, where friendly (and knowledgeable) staffers will pour you samples before ringing you up for a bottle of your choice. In a grab-and-go fridge on the customer side of the counter, an increasing array of raw and vegan foods have been appearing: cold oatmeal with house almond milk, chocolate-chia pudding, fruit-and-nut salads and several kinds of zucchini noodles, appropriately stamped “SEND NOODS.”
1944 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 528-8444; saludjuice.com.
It was the height of the food truck craze in 2010 when Seabirds Truck started roaming around Orange County, making it the first local animal-free options on four wheels. Signature dishes such as the beer-battered fried avocado tacos and barbecue jackfruit sandwiches anchored the menu when owner Stephanie Morgan decided to ditch the truck and open Seabirds Kitchen at the LAB in Costa Mesa. And since August, Morgan and her progressive take on vegan food have been perched on an unlikely corner of Fourth Street in Long Beach, where she serves everything from vegan bibimbap bowls to purple potato taquitos (topped with house-fermented curtido) with a view of the McDonalds across the street.
975 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 317-5545; seabirdskitchen.com.
The Grain Café/Viva Falafel
Hiding in plain sight on a bustling stretch of Pico Boulevard, the original Grain Café is a Mid-City hideaway. An all-vegan café run by a Oaxacan family, it’s one of the few places in L.A. with build-your-own macrobiotic bowls, and definitely the only one to offer them alongside savory crepes, animal-free Mexican breakfasts and raw cheesecakes (rumor has it that the owner once worked at Golden Mean Natural Foods in Santa Monica, which may explain the presence of Daiya cheese and Gardein mock meat). In Long Beach, the Grain Café sits on a corner in the mellow Belmont Heights neighborhood, serving much of the same menu as it does in L.A. But last month, the owners doubled down on their Long Beach intersection, opening a new Middle Eastern vegan concept across the street called Viva Falafel, where fake meat gets the kebab treatment and four different herby-sweet Persian rices are available as sides.
4403 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 386-2922; graincafeonline.com; 4400 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 588-9292; vivafalafelonline.com.
Many have tried to do something imaginative with the closet-sized, 140-square-foot retail space that HipPea now occupies along Long Beach’s famous Retro Row. A wine bar wouldn’t work. An espresso bar was too big. But a few countertop deep fryers, some boxes of chickpea batter and a register to ring up people for hundreds of Israeli falafel sandwiches a day seems to be the winning formula. The menu has only three items — fries, hummus and the signature crispy-crunchy gluten-free chickpea ball — all of which are vegan, gluten-free and delicious. Douse as needed with green tahini, curry-mango amba or shatta, Egypt’s answer to salsa roja.
2023 E. Fourth St., Long Beach; (562) 343-7722; thehippea.net.
Under the Sun
After four years of selling cold-pressed juice to friends, yoga studios and local coffee shops, the power couple behind Long Beach’s Rainbow Juices finally opened their own storefront, in downtown Long Beach, in 2015. This summer, Chrissy Cox and Dawna Bass expanded their concept with Under the Sun, the city’s first all-raw restaurant, located next door to Rainbow. All high ceilings and succulents, the restaurant serves tonics, elixirs and a dizzying array of raw, vegan cheesecakes and truffles directly from the walk-up counter. But order a meal and you can choose from a creative lineup of so-called “living foods” — activated-almond and veggie toasts, spiral-squash pastas and fish-free sushi rolls that are filled with fermented cauliflower rice and cultured-cashew cream cheese instead.
244 E. Third St., Long Beach; (562) 912-7500; underthesunlb.com.