EATING VEGAN IN LA – HONEST REVIEWS

I’m going to warn you now, this is a mammoth post, but hopefully an interesting read for vegans or those looking to enjoy great vegan food on an upcoming trip to LA. I haven’t been to LA since 2011, and this would be my first time as a vegan, so I couldn’t wait to sample what they have to offer, aware that they’re heralded at being at the forefront of plant-based cuisine.

It predicted it would be quite an adjustment to retrain my brain to not want to hit up In and Out as soon as I left LAX, but at no point did it feel a challenge to be vegan or to avoid my old meaty haunts.

The pictures in this post aren’t perfectly composed, well lit, or choreographed because it was so very important to me that this holiday was experience, living and tasting first, and content not even a close second. There will be a video about the places we dined and the vegan food we ate soon too, so any gaps felt from this rough around the edges blog post will hopefully be closed there.

Every single place we ate at had a charm, something to offer, or served a purpose at the time, but rather than keep it all artificially gushy and perfect I thought it was important to point out the less good things we experienced and the aspects of certain establishments that didn’t go down as well with us. Holiday’s are expensive, and LA felt particularly so this time round. So I really want to help you guys spend you hard earned money wisely, and ensure as many happy dining experiences as possible during your stay in this crazy town.

Little Pine

After a few false starts and changes of plans (that happens regularly on group holidays) I finally got to go to Little Pine, which was one of the main restaurants I wanted to try after finding out that 100% of it’s profits go to animal rights organizations. It was fate that it would end up being just a short walk from our final LA Air bnb, an adorable garden house within the trees owned by a super cool film director and his author wife. Described by it’s founder Moby, as a ‘vegan restaurant in a baffling little art-deco building in Silver Lake’, I’d been informed that it’s considered a cool space to enjoy food, and one for those that like to be seen a ‘hip’ places. As a vegan himself, Moby wanted the food at little pine to be mediterranean and California inspired, and ‘effortlessly plant based’. They also have an impressively extensive vegan wine menu for those who enjoy a slow and food enhancing drink with their dinner. My friend Mike Lewis (of No Devotion) who has lived in the LA area for many years now, listed it as one of his top vegan picks, and although others have mentioned that it’s food is a bit hit or miss, I was confident we’d have a nice time whatever the taste outcome . It’s not a huge space so be sure to book in advance, and they do  ask that any cancellations be made 24 hours before your allotted time.

We managed to get a booking for 6 at 9pm. Our waitress was absolutely lovely, with a great sense of humour and happy to banter with our very British selves. She was very patient as we struggled to make decisions (as always), advising us on portion sizes and her own personal and honest recommendations. She said that all things come when they’re ready so it makes sense to perhaps get a couple things each and maybe pick at them, share, and try each others dishes out. I went for the crispy smashed potatoes and the Spring risotto (with asparagus, peas, white wine, lemon zest, fresh mint ). The crispy potatoes were exactly as advertised, they had a very pleasing crunch to them and a healthy portion size. The risotto had lovely flavours but the consistency was a tad stodgier than I’d have liked. Si had the Caesar Salad and the Fennel Flatbread pizza (housemade sausage, fennel, romesco, spinach, parmesan) which had some lovely flavours but was a bit dry and could have benefited from some sort of dressing or sauce to drizzle. My friend Aly ordered the ravioli alle noci (artichoke spinach ravioli, toasted walnuts, cranberries, sage) but it’s best I don’t share the vivid way she described the taste of that one. Weirdly the sriracha glazed brussel sprouts that Ben ordered were perhaps my favourite thing amongst our extensive spread – and I don’t even like sprouts. I’m going to try and recreate these at home, so thanks for the inspo team Little Pine.

I was hoping to share a review on their dessert offerings but Si and Ben took so long having a heart to heart in the toilet by the time they returned to the table the kitchen had closed. Next time!

We did have quite a few misses during our meal in terms of the food, but it says a lot for the place that we all still agreed that we had a lovely time and said we would all go back. We went after sunset, so the space felt intimate and cosy with its twinkly fairy lights as we sat on our comfy cushioned booth area. I’d also go back for the Strawberry Mint Lemonade alone.

Ramenhood : Central Market.

When we’re at home in Surrey we have Ramen a few times a week. It’s perfect to instill some cosy inside your body after an outdoorsy day in the UK chill. We both love asian food in general, Si obviously grew up eating a lot of homemade Japanese food and I’ve always enjoyed the flavours. One of our favourite past times is to go to asian supermarkets for a look around and to come away with some new and unusual products to experiment with. We can even consider it resreach now as we are often on the look out for inspiration for new dishes for Nomads, the vegan stall we run. One of my favourite discoveries is Gochujang which has elevated my lazy 3 minute packet Ramen’s no end.

We knew that we wanted to sample some Ramen in LA but there’s a hell of a lot to choose from. But we decided to listen to our friend Felix’ reccommendations, seeing that he’s a guy that always seems to have his finger on the pulse for all things food and culture. I was pleased to discover our chosen Ramen destinaton was within a landmark that was already on my to-do list, Downtown’s Central Market, which featured as a date location for Ryan and Emma in LA LA Land . If you like food and eating, this place is a must, but good luck deciding where to spend your money!

We found RamenHood pretty quickly, and while the bar seats were almost full and there was a little queue forming by the till, it wasn’t long enough to put us off. I overheard that person ordering in front not being able to get her first three choices which tells you how popular this place is, thankfully my chosen dish was still available. They also have ice cold water you can help yourself to, which is great in the heat of day – and this afternoon was a particularly intense one.

I went for the Spicy Ramen (Sunflower seed broth, spicy paste, king oyster mushroom, bean sprout, scallions, chilli threads and nori) which at ten dollars seemed extremely reasonably particular considering LA’s current prices. It had a perfect level of spice for me, a kick without it being uncomfortable. The broth was an appealingly vivid bright but creamy yellow, and the noodles were perfect – the wide variety I prefer. Si went for the garlic ramen, which was very heavy on the garlic. We are more than happy with lots of garlic ourselves, but do beware the smell will be very evident on your breath the next morning. Ramenhood make their broth by simmering kelp and shiitake mushrooms to extract their maximum umami. Then they roast sunflower seeds with white miso and combine that mixture with the kelp/mushroom stock. Then it is all pressure cooked to release the natural oils and starches from the seeds. We were both really impressed with it’s richness of the broth – just as good as any meat based ones we’ve had in the past.

The vegan wow factor comes from the ‘egg’ which is placed on top. The “white” of the egg starts as locally made, GMO-free soy milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and gelled  with agar (a seaweed extract). The “yolk” is a combination of nutritional yeast, back salt and sodium alginate. They spherify the yolk using ‘a little magic’ and place it in the center of the white. We both agreed that this was fun and novel, but it didn’t add much in terms of taste.

While we were consuming our chosen Ramen’s Si was having a conversation over messenger with Felix, who said before we leave we have to get the Banh Mi Poutine (Potato Fries, Hoisin Gravy, Pickled Vegetables, Siracha, Daiya Cheese, Jalapenos, cilantro). He said it was something we could share and that it was incredible, but unfortunately by that point the queue had become quite long and we were already full, so that’s something we will look forward to for our next visit.

www.ramenhoodla.com

Eagle Rox Thai

I never think it’s completely fair to judge a place via their delivery because in many cases you’ll find the quality of the food much better when eaten within the restaurant at optimum temperate and with fresh out of the pan status. However, just in case anyone is looking to eat whilst in the confines of their Air bnbs, motels, hotel or rented holiday apartment, then I thought I’d mention the thai we ordered through another delivery app, GRUB HUB. The overall fees were about $5 on top of the food prices, but that didn’t feel too bad, particularly considering the food was very reasonably priced. We went for a Penang Curry with Tofu and a Tofu Pad Thai. The flavour of the Panang sauce was nice and what we are used to from our UK Thai offerings, but overall the food felt a tad basic, perhaps mainly because we had been spoiled by an absolutely divine vegan feast at My Thai is South Lake Tahoe – which was probably the best food we had while we were in the area. It did the job and was quite tasty, but nothing special I’m afraid.

Umami Burger.

While we had been recommended this by a lot of people when we put out requests for LA vegan destinations via social media, we had been told by other vegan pals that they use a brioche bun which isn’t vegan, so initially we didn’t put it down on our must-do list. But after our own investigations we found that while there are some vegan patties on the menu that do come with a non vegan bun, there are options that are completely vegan. So we saved this as our last bite of our holiday, thinking a tasty burger is the best and most stereotypical way to conclude any time spent in the US. Si wanted to spend our last morning there watching a Liverpool game in a pub with our friends Sam and Ben ( I know, I deserve a medal right?), luckily it was located just a very short drive from their Los Feliz restaurant. They actually have nine to choose from in LA alone, so your never likely to be too far from one if a burger craving hits.

I went for the THE IMPOSSIBLE VEGAN BBQ (Espresso rub, coleslaw, thinly sliced jalapeno, house bbq sauce – (v) 100% plant based bun to bun) with their signature thin fries. This was probably my favourite burger of the whole holiday. So tasty, with a manageable kick, a perfect combination of textures and a mindblowingly meaty taste. It was also the perfect level of big – I could just about eat it without looking completely disgusting mess or dislocating my jaw. Considering we were in America we were a bit surprised at the portion size of the chips here though, I’d defo recommend a large portion for each person. The chips weren’t all that in general to be honest – too thin, not enough seasoning. I found that consistent throughout our trip sadly. LA’s chip game has definitely down hill since my last visit. Si went for the THE ORIGINAL IMPOSSIBLE BURGER (Two Impossible Burger patties, caramelized onions, american cheese, miso-mustard, house spread, dill pickles, lettuce, tomato) and was just as chuffed with it. Although the speed at which I had an empty plate would suggest I was enjoying mine the most.

The decor is cool but relaxed, its a style fusion of asian and LA street art, combining industrial metal and concrete. with homely dark wood and exposed brick.

This particular location is opposite the hospital and apparently daily it is filled with doctors , nurses, and staff looking to escape from the stress and to refuel before the next arduous shift. When we were there the nearest table had 12 people from the hospital laughing and joking, clearning finding it a place easy to relax and switch off.

Shout out to our great waiter here too, he was friendly but genuinely so. Very helpful with our orders and just had a nice natural way about him. It didn’t feel forced which it sometimes can with the ‘have a nice day’ culture over there.

P.S We also managed to find some street parking just outside the building too, which was very handy and feels like a real treat in LA.

Umami Burger Los Feliz
4655 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles , CA 90027

Real Food Daily

Perhaps our most ‘LA’ moment of the holiday was eating a vegan lunch next to legendary actor Christian Slater, who was there enjoying lunch in the company of his adorable dog who had the most incredibly ears. Dressed in a cap which hid his instantly recognisable dracula hairline, and cast a shadow over his distinctive arched brows, his presence made us slightly nervous. Despite not being easily thrown by celebrities, both big fans of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and True Romance, we found it a tad unsettling to have him sat so close he could hear every word we were saying and see every bit of food we might spill or leave on our chins. It was nice that he was very low key, consistently polite to the staff, and even smiled as I stared a bit too much at his dog. He does have a terrible ringtone though.

The menu is intimidatingly extensive, there’s salads, and bowls, pizza/calzones, all day breakfast options…the list is endless. Si was almost stressed trying to decide because we’re just not that used to be so spoiled for not just choices, but variants on top of the choices. In the UK is still feels exciting to see seitan (grilled or breaded) on menus, but here it could be found as an extra alongeside grilled Tofu, Marinated Tempeh, Almond Tuna, Avocado or Tempeh Bacon.

It’s a great place for people who are gluten free too, everything is very clearly labelled on the menu too ,alongside pointers indicating whether something is soya free or nut free too. Soya doesn’t agree with my stomach so I was grateful for these pointers.

I went for the Ramen Bowl ($17) minus mushrooms – a spicy sesame miso broth with garlic, Bok Choy, seasonal veggies, Siracha grilled tofu and noddles. It was a huge bowl and I’m sure my jaw dropped when the relentlessly perky waitress placed it on the table. I knew straight away it would defeat me, but the smells drifting off it made me want to make a hearty attempt to get consume it all. We were both (I say both, because of course Si dived in to try and finished everything I couldn’t manage) blown away by the broth. It had the depth of flavour and richness that many vegan broths we’ve tried have lacked – they can sometimes be a bit bland and watery. There’s no denying that meat juices deliver a thickness and intensity of flavour that is a challenge to replicate, but Real Food Daily has nailed it. In fact it was tastier than many non vegan broths we’ve tasted in the past.

I was a bit intimated by the size of the triangles of tofu. I’m very particular about tofu, if I eat it I do prefer fairly thin slices that are browned and have a slightly crispy outer. Si who is less fussy tried it and thought it was absolutely amazing though. Both fans of siracha, we both loved the healthy splashing of the inconic orange sauce on top.

Si’s choices were a a side of Mac and Cheese, which had a really pleasing crunchy topping and a creamy sauce which had a lovely flavour. In an effort to be moderately healthy he went for a Meditteranean salad for his main, but with extra breaded seitan. Again , a huge portion size but he was pleased because it was scrummy with its combination of textures, tasty vinaigrette and the bonus extra flatbreads .

The Strawberry Milkshake was so delicious I told my fellow travellers about it and urged them to try when they asked for LA food/drink reccomendations. Probably the best vegan milkshake I’ve had to date. The taste of real sweet strawberry teamed with coconut ice-cream made for a divine treat, one that I annoyingly had to share with Si after he tried it and realised one sip wouldn’t be enough. It was thick and indulgent, but the taste of real fruit kept it from being sickly.

There’s three locations of Real Food Daily that differ in their offerings, so make sure you check the website for menu’s if your’e after something specifically.

Doomies.

Comfort or junk food in a relaxed and unpretensious setting? Doomie’s have got your covered. I just love the name too, theres something punk rock about it, don’t you think?

Don’t judge a book by its cover is something you have to rememeber as you approach Doomies. Located in one of those complexes that are associated with and common to LA – you know the ones with Nail shops, pilates studio, frozen yoghurt, dry cleaners, lawyers offices  – basically the most random selection of business in one less than appealing location.

In this location you have the OG, where there will be all our fave pig-out delights (vegan versions of course) –  burgers, chicken wings, philly cheese steaks, Mac melt and bacon cheese fries, chocolate cake, oreo cake…just to name a few from the menu. We had a burger elswehere the day before, so we were looking to tick Mexican flavours of our list, so instead chose to go to Doomies Next Mex which is located next door. But if you decide to go for this one make sure you ask for the secret menu (just a tip).

Again, its not exactly plush inside  either, but they’ve made considerable effort to give it some festive mexican touches. I actually loved that it’s not too swish, I feel far more relaxed in places like this and less inclined to worry about making a mess of myself while wolfing down my food. The service here is pretty unique too, in that you order via a computer screen at the counter. We both found the menu a tad confusing, purely because it lacked descriptions of what the dishes were, but the lovely female member of staff was happy to explain the different type of tacos, and the different ways the burritos are cooked until we were happy and settled on our choices.

I ordered the Mexican coke, which by the way is massive. I used my really long horse face to offer a reference for scale. In my book, more the better when it comes to Coca Cola, so I was very happy about that.

I went for the Nachos fries and had zero regrets when they turned up piled mountain high and sponthered in gooey orange cheese. The cheese here is also the best vegan cheese I’ve tried, in terms of it’s meltability (that isn’t a word I’m sure, but you get what I’m saying). Boy was I happy tucking whilst tucking in to these. Carbs, plus dairy (well fake dairy) plus spice…..now you’re talking my language.

The next arrival was the Quesadillas, which at 8 dollars was very good value for the amount you got. These had a texture I look for (unlike the Gracias Madres ones coming later) with a nice crunch and golden brown outside. Add a bit of hot sauce to your plate and dip in as you go and it’s even better.

Si went for a Burrito, which proved to be a very brave choice. When you order one of these you can choose to have it normal style, deep fried, wet, or deep fried and wet. Si opted for wet meaning it’s completely doused in the sauces and cheese. We both actually gasped when it arrived. I know they say a camera adds pounds but let me tell you this was much bigger in person. Taste wise it got a huge thumbs up, but Si was already ready to pop at about a third of the way through. It wasn’t a problem though, all restaurants in LA are prepared/expecting you to ask for take out boxes after your defeat, so don’t hesitstae to ask to take any leftover away with you. We were able to use the remains to feed us two more times – now that’s value for money!

He had also foolishly ordered another thing from the menu – the Taco with the korean filling. This ended up being one of Si’s favourite things from our entire holiday and he said next time we go to Doomies he’d probably just all the different Taco flavours they options because his one was delicious and not too heavy on the tum.

I’m actually almost dribbling on my newly fixed laptop while I reminisce. I can’t wait to gorge out at Doomies again one day!

Crossroads

Out of all the places on my to do list, this one that was most on my radar. Lots of my friends have had dates there, dined whilst holiday, or as LA dwellers go there regularly having crowned it their fave vegan food in the city. It’s just the place I always think of when someone pairs LA and vegan food. I guess its heady link to music meant that I was super aware of it’s presence – Travis Barker of BLINK 182 is an investor for example. Prior to spending time in LA I presumed it would be the place I would sample my first ever Impossible burger, as at that point I had no idea that Impossible was just a brand of faux meat now, and that many restaurant use it as the ‘meat’ element of their vegan offerings, serving up their uniques versions, examples and creations. They only serve their impossible burger for their lunch or after hours bar menu that starts from 10pm, so at the time I was disappointed that the time we’d only managed to book and fit our visit to Crossroads in our schedule for dinner. I needn’t have worried.

What I should have been more concerned about was my attire. For some reason, perhaps because of it’s ties to music, I thought it would be a super relaxed dining space, more of a retro diner type feel. The prices on the menu’s online were slightly dearer than the LA norm but alarmingly so, so I didn’t consider that it might be a bit ‘posh’. I didn’t bother showering or doing my hair after an afternoon in the pool of our hillside Air bnb. I also just put a top over my damp bikini meaning I had two darkened areas of material entering the restaurant before I did. As soon as a rather serious and hench security guard let us in and we went to the reception area, we knew that we both felt uncomfortable with our presentation. Si felt similarly underdressed in his t-shirt and distressed denim shorts. Even though no one was super fancy or smart in there, there was just this feeling that people who went here were either cool, famous, successful or well off – and well, we felt like none of these. After being sat down at a table, which are quite tightly packed together in the darker of the two dining rooms, we spent the next few minutes trying convince ourselves that we looked fine, and that if we were people of note no-one would bat an eyelid (and for all they know we may be super famous in the UK).

Like I said before, on first glance the prices are a tad more expensive that other places we have visted on our vegan schedule, but not terrifyingly so, but things soon changed when we found out that even if you go for the large plates they suggest you get 2/3 of those each person. We both felt our hearts and stomachs sink, but as soon as the waitress left decided we’d just relax the purse strings a bit, and just enjoy the night and worry about it later. It’s not everyday you’re in LA afterall, and this was a restaurant we’ve wanted to try for years (we even have the cookbook at home) so we might as well do it right (or as right as our limited funds would allow).

In absense of the impossible burger we decided a good alternative would be their Impossible cigars which are listed as a snack (14 dollars). Think spring rolls with a beefy taste incased inside, that has a lovely soft but not mushy texture which is lovely combined with the crunch. They served it with a yoghurt, which was nice and fresh and gave the dish a morrocan vibe, but we both said we would have prefferred a dipping sauce with a stronger flavour or bit of spice – that’s just a personal preference thing. Still absolutely delicious.

Si chose the spicy meatball pizza (housemade meatballs, calabrese peppers, almond ricotta and micro basil) which isn’t something that appealed to me, but he absoltuely loved it. It obviously fired up something in him because since he’s been back he has been working to perfect his own vegan meatball recipe. I opted for the grilled fresh baby corn and it was incredibly delicious. Harissa, Tobasco shallots and a corn puree elevated the humble baby corn to something special, mouth wateringly delicious and more-ish. I was so glad I opted for the Fettucine Carbonara as it served to reignite my love for the dish after a very disapointing and overpriced version I suffered through in Lake Tahoe one night. The pasta was faultless and perfectly cooked, the faux egg on top with it’s vivid orange yolk made the dish look so instagrammable I was said I didn’t feel comfortable to get my camera or phone out to document, and the sauce was better than any I’ve tasted. They somehow used mushrooms to incorporate a really hearty pork flavour and a bacon like texture, and the sauce was more impactful than any carbonara I’ve ever had. Traditionally this dish can tend to be sickly in it’s creaminess, and you can often feel a bit gross after a large portion, but this one wasn’t like that at all. It’s flavours were way more complex, yet it still felt comforting. This was a big hit with both of us!

The persuasive waitress convinced us to get desserts despite the voices in our heads screaming at us to stop spending money. The voice in our stomachs sided with her and proved to be a lot more influential, so we went on to order. Howevere mine was just okay in the end – my chocolate cake was just a tad dry. However Si’s Key-Lime pie packed a punch and had a yummy crumbly biscuit base.

I think overall this came out of top as the best for food from our entire time in LA. As long as you’re aware of the amount you are likely to spend you will enjoy a great nice consuming some of the best vegan flavours Los Angeles has to offer in a setting that might deliver more than a few exciting celeb spots, and that feeling of being treated to something a bit special.

Mohawks Bend

There must have been about a dozen of us for dinner on this evening, and Mohwaks Bends is the perfect place for a large party booking. This was a BRITS night out with many of the Ben’s UK wedding guests (family and friends) coming together to catch up and hang out before the big day, with time to see the beautiful bride before things get really hectic. Although Ben and Jenn are always pretty hectic to be honest, some of the most hard working people I know!

Mohawk Bend is a restaurant and bar in Echo Park dedicated to bringing fresh, locally-sourced food and drink. They only use California ingredients to create pizzas, seasonal salads, elevated pub food, and delicious desserts that appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and meat-lovers alike. This nights group was split about 50/50 vegans to non vegans so this place provided something for everyone.

The open kitchen boasts a custom-built Woodstone oven and dedicated vegan and non-vegan food prep areas. From our 72 taps of craft beer, 6 stainless steel wine taps, and artisanal spirits, the drinks menu is a tribute to local, small-scale breweries, wineries, and distilleries.

This is where I chose to have my first burger of the holiday because I’d heard they had a double patty option, and when you’re in LA you start to adopt the more is more approach to life. THE BIG MOHAWK, as it is has been rightfully coined, consists of two Impossible Burger patties, shredded lettuce, special sauce, vegan American cheese, pickles, onions, sesame seed bun (18 dollars). With it’s sesame seed bun, the square cheese, and the green thing I always remove,  it managed to taste exactly like a Big Mac, and it tasted ruddy gorgeous for that. I know it seems a lot of money to spend on something that taste like a budget fast food favourite, but weridly since going vegan (for me at least) McDonalds burgers have been one of the things I’ve missed the most. I don’t know whether it’s because I grew up on that burger and those flavour to me make for the quintessential burger, but either way it’s something I still crave and still get fomo about. This was the first time I’ve felt that craving met in so long, and it was an almost orgasmic experience, or it would have been had I not sat opposite Ben’s parents, and decided to pull myself together.

Aside from the burger, what really impressed me about Mohawk Bend was the venue and just the feel of the place. It’s a 100-year old Vaudeville theater given an amazing makeover, the section we were sat within, with it’s high ceiling and an unlit fireplace we knew would make the room incredibly cosy come winter time. But there’s lots of different spaces within it – you can take in the fresh air on the patio, sink into the booths in the quad, or dine in the skylit atrium of the Ramona Room.

Sage Kitchen

This was booked by our friends Ben and Jenn so we can’t take credit, but it was a place many had mentioned as a spot we needed to check out and we can now see why. As soon as I stepped in the door, I loved the feel of the place. It had a great atmosphere, a nice buzz, and is the perfect middle ground of feeling casual enough to go with friends and feel relaxed, but nice enough as a date pick too.

Sage offer up a generous menu of organic, sustainable, plant-based food without pretense, located in in Culver City, Echo Park and Pasadena. Much to Si’s interest they also have a Sage Food truck that can also be found at festivals up and down the coast or on a street.

The lack of pretension perhaps stems from Molly, A self taught prodigy from a family of culinary phenoms, who refers to herself as “executive cook” not the “executive chef”. Raised vegan on a small farm in upstate New York, her affection for food and cooking and passionate for animals and the environment is evident in this varied and crowd pleasing menu of plants based scrumminess.90% of the produce comes from local farmers who are committed to practicing organic, pesticide free farming and regenerative agriculture. they get daily deliveries directly from the farms; so when you’re eating a kale salad at Sage, it was likely picked that same day or the day before!They offer a variety of menus w/ gluten free, nut free and soy free options. Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner & Dessert Menus available at their respective times throughout the day. They are also now serving house brewed beers at all locations which some of the lads and gals indulged in during our evening, but they also have a full menu of craft beer, wine and signature cocktails – they made me a lovely mojito.

Anyone that knows me knows my love for a spicy arrabiata sauce. I find it almost impossible to order anything else if I spot that it’s on the menu. As an experimental eater it drives Si up the wall that I’m so devoted to this one humble dish. But on this night he agreed that it was a good call, because Sage’s version was fantastic and the whole group agreed as they twirled their forks in for a taster. There’s is an Eggplant Arrabiata – with breaded eggplant served over linguine with spicy tomato sauce and topped with cashew cheese. It had a noticeable, lip tingling level of spice and was simply scrumptuous. I also love that they decided to bread to the eggplant to give the dish some nice textures for your tongue to dance with.

Before tucking into our individual mains (that ended up being for the table as a whole becausse we wanted to share the joy of each of our successful picks) we relished the Jalapeno Poppers ( tempura battered Jalapeno with cashew dill cheese with a side of ranch and habenero cream ‘cheese’) and the 3 ‘Wing’ Platter which consisted of buffalo, sweet and sour and bbq cauliflower with a side of celery, carrots and ranch. These wings were so delicious and we couldn’t believe how fast we got through them. Would definitely reccommend getting them if a group of you are dining.

Unfortunately our memories of Sage were slightly tarnished when one night a couple of weeks on we decided to use Post Mates to order some food in, after a particularly tiring day where the intense sun and an unexpected puncture in our car rental meant that weren’t in the mood to go out. Si something he’d tried before after stealing a mouthful of bens plate and in an effort to not order what I did before (despite it being delicious) I ordered their vegan margherita pizza. Due to the fees the app puts on the order of just two mains came to about £59 dollars which completely shocked us. A warning to tourists thinking of using new apps while abroad – check all added fees before committing to order. It arrived and was pretty dreadful – this food did not travel well. But shout out to Post Mates customer service who DM’s after I tweeted my disappointment.

Cafe Gratitude

This was a bit of a divisive choice, not that we knew that on the morning we decided to walk their from our first Air bnb in the adorable suburb of Larchment to get our first cooked brunch in LA. There’s more than a bit of controversy surrounding this spot which can be easily delved into after a quikc google, but to make things easier for you this paragraph I copied and pasted from just one of the articles I found. This  should tell you all you may need to know to at least get the gist of what it stems from.

‘The California-based husband and wife founders of celebrity-endorsed vegan restaurant group Cafe Gratitude say they have received death threats after it was revealed last week that they are raising, slaughtering and eating animals on their farm north of San Francisco.’

While I know it won’t have an impact on whether many of you will wish to pay them a visit, I know many of my vegan friends wouldn’t want to support this business in light of this revelation, so I thought it was important to mention in this review post.

It’s a lovely light any airy space to enjoy the first food of the day, with the morning sunshine radiating through the large glass windows. There are beautiful tiles on the floor, lush plants, and lovely wall hangings too which add the to the relaxed zen feel of the place.

I was craving something sweet so went for the French Toast which comes with strawberry raspberry reduction, cashew crème fraîche, maple syrup, powdered sugar with a glass of fresh orange juice. Si was in an opposite mood so went for Breakfast Wrap which was constructed from chickpea frittata, spicy cashew aioli, escabeche cashew mozzarella, whole wheat tortilla and breakfast potatoes.

What I haven’t told you guys yet is something which will either be a cute selling point, or a reason to avoid this place. It depends on what kinda person you are I guess. Everything on the menu has title next to it which is a feeling. The waitresses and waitors ask that when you order you say ‘I feel, or I am “insert feeling” to let them know what you wish to eat and drink. So to order my french toast I had to say ‘I am Thrilled” and Si had to say ‘I am nurtured’ to ensure his wrap came to the table. Our waitress also asked us to ponder a question, ‘what teacher has taught you the most in your life” which lead to Si and I having a rather deep conversation to distract us from our morning hangry-ness. Si found this all a bit prentensious and cringe. I could kind of get on board, whilst seeing why many could find it gimmicky or vom-inducing, but perhaps that’s mainly because I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying super hard to be mindful and grateful, and anything that reminds me of that is quite useful.

Si loved his wrap, like really loved it. My french toast was really nice too, but I think I detected a banana flavour in my toast and I hate banana, so that slightly hindered my enjoyment of this sweet treat.

When the bill came we couldn’t help but feel that it was a lot to spend on brunch, but like I keep mentioning within this post LA in general seems to have become a fairly expensive place to eat now which is a shame.

Gracias Madres

This was probably the most aesthetically beautiful restaurant we went to all holiday. Located at the end of Melrose Avenue that is frequented by celebrities, the cool and the well off, something you can just tell from the amount of valet serviced restaurants, designer stores, and severe lack of on street parking. We had booked, but as you can see from the empty inside and outside area it wasn’t necessary for our trip at 11am on a wednesday. Apparently on weekends when they have their brunch menu it’s far less easy to get a table though, so keep that in mind.

We were first in, getting pick of the plush inside with it’s beautiful wood floor, lantern style light ceiling lights, painted brick wall, and monochromes tiled bar ,or the beautiful al fresco garden area with its terracotta flooring and shletering parasols. It was our first proper day in LA so we were still at the point of absolutely loving feeling the heat so decided to eat outside, which made us really feel like cast members of The Hills – which by the way is making a return if you haven’t heard!! EEEEK

In terms of service this place was next level. Our young waiter could answer every question thrown at him about the dishes and their ingredients and was very helpful in guiding us towards options that would please our individual desires. After much deliberation I went for the Quesadillas de Calabaza (butternut squash, caramelized onion, cashew nacho cheese, pumpkin seed salsa) for $13 and the Street Corn (chipotle aioli, pumpkin seed parmesan, lemon) $11. We also shared the Gorditas – potato-masa cakes, warm salsa verde, avocado, cashew crema.

The Street Corn was probably the best thing I put in my mouth all holiday. I actually miss it. I’m positively grieving. Sweetcorn is always pretty fantastic, but this crum concoction on top made it an out of this world experience. I will dream of this corn to the day we are reunited.

Huge shout out has to their homemade lemonade to which also wins the crown of my favourite lemonade of all time. Also note the cute, and non plastic straw!

The Gorditas was nice, but a bit too dense for my personal liking. They were a bit heavy to get through, particularly for a starter.

The flavours of my Quesadillas de Calabaza were lovely,  it was very easy to eat and the presentation was beautiful. However I love a Quesadilla to have a crispness to it, a browning on the outside, so there is a contrast between that and it’s soft centre. With this dish it’s was all quite soft apart from the seeds on top, so I would have liked a little more bite somewhere.

Overall we loved this place. The service was fantastic, the setting was beautiful, and the food was good. So if you want to eat Mexican food with a level of sophistication this is the place for you. However me and Si did confide that we kinda enjoy eating this kinda cuisine in a no frills way generally.

As an arty farty person can I just mention that I loved the graphic design on the menu’s….That is all.

graciasmadreweho.com

Smorgasburg

Smorgasberg LA is open every Sunday on the five-acre site of the weekday Alameda Produce Market in Downtown Los Angeles, which is part of a larger, new development called ROW DTLA. This place is worth going to anyway for it’s cool cafe’s and trendy shops set in brick buidldings that feel refreshingly different from those found in the heart of LA.

Each Sunday, there’s dozens of exciting food vendors at Smorgasburg LA, plus sophisticated shopping from the realms of design, craft, style, vintage, wellness, and more. Cultural events, pop-ups, and other surprises transform the vast site into a new node in Downtown LA’s burgeoning scene, and a unique destination for the area.

For once parking isn’t something you need to spend ages trying to find, as a new parking garage for more than 4,000 cars is available to park.

It was a particularly hot sunday so immeditately after stepping on to the plot we knew we needed to get a cooling beverage so we went for the lemon slush with Melon. Boy did it his the spot!

But one drink wouldn’t be enough hydration to see us through.

I remember the last time Si went to LA and visited Smorgasberg with his good friend Jo, one of the first things he mentioned when we were catching up via Whatsapp was an amazing lychee drink that he’d had. Therefore it was his mission to try and locate it on our first visit together. Unfortunately The Base (natural sweetener co)which  is Vegan and Gluten Free, was one of the most popular stalls and had a huge queue the whole time we were there. I knew Si wouldn’t be satisfied if he didn’t have one during our visit so urged him to bear with the sweltering heat and join the line. What’s cute is that it comes in a jar which you can take home and re-use and even bring with you next time you want one of their amazing drinks. It looks absolutely beautiful but the flavours were a bit washy to my personal taste – a bit like palma violet, but Si was in heaven sitting on a bench in the shade sipping from his jar.

Si got some rice rolls, from a Japanese stall too, which annoyingly I didn’t write down – I’ll ask Si when he comes in from work. You could see them handmaking them from scratch at the back of the stall, so you know what you are getting is completely fresh. The wait was quite long for these though. It’s a popular stall and it takes care to create them as beautiful as this.

My favourite thing of the day was from a stall that actually didn’t stand out in terms of its aesthetic and plot appeal. Goa Taco don’t serve up the normal breaking and snapping Tacos. These are paratha tacos and they are one of the most comforting and tastiest things I’ve ever put in my mouth. You trade in the crunch for a golden brown crispy outer with a pillowing bread centre encasing all the flavourful fillings. They aren’t a vegan stall but they do have a vegan option incorporating a mushroom ingredient, which of course put me off – mushrooms are food of the devil afterall.But  I’m glad I wasn’t deterred, you couldn’t actually detect it was a mushrom pate, it was unreal. I also loved the crunch the peanuts gave it.

Workaholic serve up handcrafted Mandu (korean dumpling), and the whole menu is focused on Korean fusion. I went for the Spicy Fried Tofu option – Fried tofu, spicy gochujang marinade, bean sprouts, cabbage, sweet potato noodle, green onions, spinach and red beet pocket. Once I got to the front of the queue the food was delivered extremely fast and looked beautiful with the magenta flower on top. I’m not a big fan of dumplings as a rule, I find the soggy texture unpleasant, so I loved that these ones were crispy, chewy and brown rather than the usual anaemic pale yellow colour I used to. Inside is Mandu is where you find the noodle element of the dish, in this case made from sweet potato. They were delicious, but frustrating in their small quantity …I wanted more!! You don’t get a lot of substantial food with this dish (it won’t fill you up) but if you are going to the market to be able to experience lots of different tastes and cuisines it’s a good choice that will leave you room to try more dishes elsewhere.

Si got a dairy free coffee lolly, and I got a dairy free cookies and cream milkshake from a macaron stall to top off the day. It was very rich and I felt a bit sick by the end, so I kinda regret not trying some of the vegan ice cream that was located in this sweet section of the market.

We’d both very much reccommend taking a trip here if you happen to be in LA on a Sunday. It was so nice to escape the chaos of the inner city and spend time in a different environment for a bit, especially one filled with so many amazing aromas. There’s also a great atmosphere thanks to the DJ’s who ensure the market is very loudly soundtracked throughout the day.

Hours: Sundays, 10 AM – 4 PM

Location:  ROW DTLA (777 Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90021).

No pets allowed.

That’s the majority of our vegan eats detailed. There were a few more but I’ve already written a disseration in this post, so I’ll wrap it up like a Doomies Burrito. We found ourselves thinking that there’s just no excuse not to be vegan if you live in LA, it’s just so, so easy. You’re not spending more and you certainly aren’t having to hunt for hours to find something you like – it’s everywhere. It also made us realise how far we still have to go here in the UK. Sure, we’ve come on leaps and bounds, and new restaurants, markets and vegan menus are popping up all the time, but we still got a lot of atching up to do to rival the options, flavours and sophistication of LA’s offerings. I hope anyone going to LA in the near future finds my honest reviews helpful. Please so share any of your personal findings and reccommendations in the comments below.

Leave a Reply