Have you ever tried a vegan Reuben before? It's the kind of sandwich that might encourage a scoff or smirk from the hardened carnivore, but for the past three years it's been one of the most popular items at Locali, the city's first "conscious convenience store" in Los Feliz, which carries a bevy of organic snacks, vegan deli items, all-natural heath products and, of course, lots of kombucha.
Locali might have seemed like it held appeal only to a particularly crunchy, patchouli-smelling subset of the population, but after its kitchen upset the odds by taking first place at the 2010 Grilled Cheese Invitational, it began to gain a following for its creatively-engineered meat-free sandwiches.
Back in August, Locali co-owner Melissa Rosen opened Localita & The Badasserie downtown, a small take-out space located in a office building lobby on 8th and Los Angeles. It was previously home to Spring Street Coffee -- even then the space seemed too small to do a proper pour-over, much less serve a whole selection of organic smoothies, vegan sandwiches and macrobiotic salads. If the original location in Los Feliz was an eco-friendly version of a 7-Eleven, as some have called it, then Localita could well be the equivalent of a NYC corner bodega, re-imagined by Berkeley undergrads.
But back to the vegan Reuben, which has had a lot more thought put into than you might first imagine. (Surprisingly it's not the only one in town -- Los Angeles has more vegan Reubens than you could count on one hand.) In Localita's version, thin slices of tofu are marinated in peppery pickling spices and stained with beet juice, giving the tofu a deep red color akin to smoked pastrami. Add in some "Swiss" Daiya cheese, a bit of sauerkraut and two toasted slices of marbled rye, and you have yourself a more than passable substitute for something off the menu at Canter's. The Thai BBQ hoagie, made from barbecue sauce-drenched strands of seitan and a rough cucumber salad, is decent, provided it doesn't become too soggy on the way home.
But the real reason for Localita's existence -- and what separates it from its older sibling -- is its selection of "baaadasss" breakfast sandwiches, which inspired the addition of "Badasserie" to the space's signage. Lately, we've had a blossoming obsession with a sandwich dubiously titled the "Sir Nasty," consisting of a vegan sausage patty, a molten layer of soy-free cheddar, creamy chipotle sauce, Sriracha, red onion and a drizzle of maple syrup sandwiched inside a sprouted grain English muffin. All those flavors may sound like overkill -- and if there was a greasy pork patty with a slice of Tillamook cheddar inside it certainly would be -- but though some bizarre vegan magic, every spicy and sweet element meshes together beautifully.
Is this the best vegan sandwich in Los Angeles? We wouldn't argue with you. Those who swear by their Egg McMuffins should give these unique breakfast sandwiches a try. They deliver to most of downtown by bicycle too, in case you were worrying about your carbon footprint getting in the way of your mid-morning snack.
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