Quick: Think of your five favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. That’s pretty easy. Now try coming up with a list of five great, strictly vegan restaurants. A little harder, right? Now try coming up with five in the San Fernando Valley, on the other side of the hill and removed from most of L.A.’s notable restaurants.
It shouldn't be as tough as you might think. According to HappyCow.org, half of all of the vegan restaurants in L.A. are actually in the Valley. And while they aren’t all worth a destination drive, many of them are. We tasted our way through all the strict vegan kitchens in the Valley (not just those where you can get a vegan meal) and found five great animal-free options worth a drive over the hill:
Vinh Loi Tofu
Kevin Tran, the super-friendly owner of this Vietnamese hot spot, is so welcoming you'll feel like you’ve known him forever. He’s notorious for his love of ordering for you, and he offers hundreds of secret house-special recipes that aren’t on the menu, so you should definitely let him choose your meal. His delicious, non-GMO, housemade tofu and mock meats — chicken, duck and ham — lend the salads, soups and noodle dishes a heartiness; rich spices and fresh herbs take the flavors to another dimension. 18625 Sherman Way, Reseda; (818) 996-9779, vinhloitofu.com.
H.O.P.E. Healthy Organic Positive Eating
Made with love and wholesome organic ingredients, this food is as nourishing as it is tasty. Mod and Kat, the owners of H.O.P.E., often shop at the Studio City farmers market for seasonal produce. Try the sweet and savory Muay Thai Wing Kicks, served hot and crispy and seasoned with fresh lemongrass, garlic and deep-fried basil. Other standouts include the creamy pumpkin curry and the refreshingly tart Papaya Salad. Parking can be tricky unless you valet, which is free with orders of $15 or more. Or you can just order online and pick up. 11943 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818)-506-9015, eatwithhope.com
The new location of Sun Café is the best place in the Valley to dine on living foods, such as lettuce-leaf tacos filled with a sunflower seed–based “chorizo” and a creamy cashew cheese, pico de gallo, avocado and basil ranch. If raw isn’t your thing, they have just as many cooked dishes, such as the incredibly scrumptious cornmeal tempeh sliders assembled with avocado, pickled radish, arugula and chipotle mayo on a mini wheat roll. Finish your meal with a sinfully sweet shake. The Mint Shamrock and Sweet Kale are equally heavenly. 10820 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; (818)-927-4100, Suncafe.com.
OK, so it’s a chain — one that might be a little too corporate for the anti-establishment types. But that shouldn't diminish the pleasure of eating meat-free renditions of “fish” tacos with a creamy Baja-style sauce or crispy “chicken” coated in a lightly spiced sauce on a whole wheat bun. 16542 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 788-2612, veggiegrill.com.
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If you’re in the Sherman Oaks area, stop by veStation for a healthy bowl with an Asian spin. The Superfoods Salad is a satisfying version of a kale salad, with avocado, cherry tomatoes, sprouts, curried almonds and a pomegranate-sunflower pesto dressing. The Buddha Wraps encompass a nice combination of crunchy, fresh and savory. And veStation's adaptation of Massaman curry is among the best dishes on its menu. Dine-in recommended. Easy parking. 14435 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 784-8388, vestation.com.