Search This Blog

Monday, June 2, 2014

Vegan Food Adventures: Los Angeles & San Diego

Fitting in in Los Angeles as a vegan wasn't hard to do! I felt right at home in that respect. I met many vegans and ate at lots of 100% vegan restaurants in both Los Angeles and San Diego. I didn't even get to try to all of the restaurants I wanted to because there were so many and I found several spontaneously that I didn't have on my list. Yes, guys, I succeeded at being spontaneous, which was my goal if you read this post. Anyway, Los Angeles is truly a vegan's paradise! I posted most of the food pictures on my Instagram, so they make look familiar if you follow me. :-)

I visited a friend who I've known since elementary school and who isn't vegan, by the way, so it was a pleasure to introduce her to restaurants she may have never visited otherwise. She was so kind to be so open to my lifestyle. If you're a vegan you know that doesn't happen often or that easily. Luckily, she was so impressed with plant-based eating & raved about many of the restaurants & said she'd definitely be going back. Yay! It makes my heart happy every time a non-vegan is pleasantly surprised with how delicious and fun plant-based food is.

The only real negative was accessibility. It was quite the task to find parking at every Los Angeles restaurant and juice/smoothie bar. You have to pay for parking everywhere. I'm not used to that at all so it was frustrating, but the food was so top-notch at most restaurants that I forgot all about the parking nightmare. Pretty much everything was expensive but the majority of the restaurants and juice/smoothie bars used high-quality, organic ingredients and the portion sizes were quite large at most places so the value was fair overall.


1. Shojin in Downtown LA/Little Tokyo. Ambience: Casual & romantic. Service: Outstanding.
Shojin won the Los Angeles Times 2012 Readers' Choice Best of Southern California Best Japanese Restaurant. I can totally see why! My friend's boyfriend had the ramen revolution (top), my friend had the dynamite roll sushi (middle) and I had the purple treasure sushi (bottom). We also had the pumpkin croquettes as an appetizer. Everything was delicious! My friend's dynamite roll sushi had too much of a smokey flavor as it had been torched so when we went back on my last night in LA (yes, we went back again), she asked for no torch and it was much better. Mine was wonderful. The sushi was made with brown rice, avocado, tempeh, and had fried eggplant on top with shredded chili and a sweet miso sauce. It is also gluten-free. I actually don't like eggplant at all and still really liked this sushi! Maybe it being fried had something to do with that. ;-) I did go back for a second time which says a lot! I also had the purple treasure for a second time. My friend tried the spicy "tuna" on crispy rice as an appetizer and really enjoyed it. We also had their raspberry chocolate cake. It seriously melts in your mouth. So creamy and delectable.

2. Flore Vegan Cuisine in Silver Lake. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
This was a spontaneous find. A cute, small cafe. I had the B.L.T.A: tempeh "bacon", green leaf lettuce, tomato, avocado, and eggless mayo on gluten-free millet bread with a side of coleslaw. Incredibly delicious all around. I loved this place! It inspired me to make my own version of a B.L.T.A at home. :-) Will be posting that awesome recipe shortly!

3. Elderberries in Hollywood. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
This was one of my favorite restaurants. It's a small, cute place on Sunset Blvd. Really lovely staff. I had the razzle dazzle panini: fig chutney, melted Daiya cheese, avocado, & "honey" mustard between grilled gluten-free bread. One of my favorite meals I had during my trip. Ridiculous combination of flavors! Sweet + savory. I also had the peppermint patty smoothie. They ran out of peppermint extract & used fresh mint leaves instead. Heavenly!

4. Cafe Gratitude in Larchmont. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
We started with the roasted yams and cashew cheese dipping sauce. So great, so great. Amazing on their own, even better together! I had the tacos with sautéed baby squash, pinto beans, tomatillo pico de gallo, guacamole, creamy salsa verde, and raw cacao mole. They were decent, not the best I've ever had (that'll come later). For dessert, we shared the brownie drizzled with chocolate sauce topped with coconut ice cream & coconut whipped cream. Mmm, it was so tasty and perfectly rich.

5. Sage Vegan Bistro in Echo Park. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
My friend & I came here twice. The menu is extensive and so creative. The first time, we had brunch. She had the spinach, avocado and walnut sausage florentine served with roasted potatoes. It was amazing! I could see myself getting that next time. I had the gluten-free biscuits & gravy which was great as well, but quite heavy for breakfast. I knew what I was getting into though. Biscuits & gravy isn't a light meal ever. For dessert, I had the raw superfood "kind kreme" (vegan ice cream) with raw salted caramel on top. It was awesome. My friend had an espresso + ice kreme dessert that she really liked, too. The second time, we came for dinner and we started with the brussels sprouts, summer squash & tempeh "bacon" sauteed in garlic sage butter. To die for!!! That could've been my entree, really. For my entree, I had the gluten-free bowl of soul: roasted sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, okra, baby corn, sautéed kale, gluten-free biscuit, horseradish, and mac & cheese ball topped with wing sauce and pickled jalapeño cabbage. Phew. It was a LOT of food. I couldn't finish it. I didn't need the appetizer but I'm glad I did because it was so tasty. I loved the bowl of soul & all of the different flavors and textures. The mac & cheese ball and roasted sweet potato were the highlights. It could easily be 2 meals though.

 Top: Bowl of Soul. Bottom: Biscuits & Gravy.

6. Lemonade in Venice. Vegan-friendly but many offerings include dairy and meat. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
This place is quite unique. You first choose how many portions you want - 1, 2, 3, or 4. It is cafeteria style but better quality of course. I had the quinoa, roasted butternut squash and cauliflower curry. The food was just okay. The guava lemonade was good but too sweet for me.

7. Cruzer Pizza in Los Feliz. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I had the 10" pizza on a gluten-free crust. All of their pizza is made using Daiya cheese. Then I just added lots of vegetables + vegan sausage. My friend ordered the Indian kima gourmet pizza which was really spicy but she enjoyed it tremendously. We also had the potato wedges sprinkled with garlic, melted Daiya cheese and vegan ranch. Ohhhhh man. This was another one of my favorite items that I had. No words can properly describe how delicious they were! My friend kept saying how shocked she was that the ranch was vegan -- "how do they make it taste the same as normal ranch?!?" She also said she wouldn't have been able to tell that the pizza was vegan if she hadn't looked at it, because the Daiya cheese does look different than traditional cheese. It didn't freeze that well so it's best fresh. They have lots of options other than just pizza, too.

8. Veggie Grill in University City (San Diego) & Hollywood. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
We started with onion rings which were totally sinful but so worth it. Yum! For my entree, I had the bombay bowl: herb-roasted veggies, super grains, steamed kale, cannellini beans, cilantro/green curry sauce with coconut milk, almonds, and hemp seeds. Incredibly tasty. Perfect combination of flavors and textures. My friend had a "chickin'" sandwich and really liked it. I went back a second time and had their mac & cheese and sweet potato fries. Both were pretty good. For dessert, I had the strawberry parfait. Now, that was great!

9. Native Foods Cafe in Point Loma (San Diego). 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Outstanding.
This was another one of my favorites. The staff there were so beyond friendly. Because my meal took a long time to make, they gave us a free dessert. Above & beyond service is what makes me a loyal customer. Besides that, the food was mega tasty. My friend had the nachos and let me tell you, it is a HUGE portion. It could've fed 4 people. I tried them and loved them. I had to compare them to my favorite restaurant in Dallas that serve my favorite nachos and they were certainly comparable. ;-) I had the gluten-free baja blackened tacos: two grilled corn tortillas filled with tempeh, chipotle sauce, salsa fresca, cabbage, and guacamole. Talk about flavor explosion. These were the best vegan tacos I've ever had. I also had the gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip parfait and my friend had the brownie. Both were delicious! My friend was in love with the brownie.

I loved the cute art work inside!

10. Peace Pies in Encinitas (San Diego). 100% raw vegan, gluten-free & soy-free. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
I had the bliss burger: sun-dried tomato & walnut burger topped with cashew cheese, pickles and homemade ketchup served on onion bread with a side of kale chips. I also had coconut water from a young Thai coconut. Can't go wrong with pure coconut water! Overall, it was expensive for the small portion of food. It was decent. I loved the laid-back feel of the place & the outside seating area.

11. Green Earth Vegan in Pasadena. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I really wanted to love this place because it's a family owned restaurant and it has such great reviews but honestly, I just wasn't crazy about the food. I had the nachos and quinoa sushi. I know they look delicious but they were very bland to me. And once you've had Spiral Diner's vegan nachos, the standard is sky high. Those were appetizers, however, so next time I'd try something someone really enjoyed. I would definitely give it another shot because I loved Old Town Pasadena! That was one of my favorite areas that I visited in California.


1. Babycakes NYC in Larchmont. 100% vegan & gluten-free. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
Y'all. This bakery was everything & more! For someone like me who loves sweets but tries to stay away from them, Babycakes was a danger zone. I really could've gone crazy in there but I contained my inner wild child. On their website, the owner does say that she uses as little sugar as possible, which I appreciate. I tried their lemon & chocolate coffee cupcakes as well as their chocolate iced & toasted coconut donuts. Seriously amazing. My friend said that the cupcake was much better than the non-vegan one she had earlier that day. Woop! I brought a red velvet cupcake back for my very non-vegan uncle and he really liked it as well. They also have brownies, cookies, loaves, and bagels.


1. Glow Bio in Fairfax. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great.
I was school girl excited to go to Glow Bio because the owner, Kimberly Snyder, is one of my greatest inspirations. She is the reason I discovered the healthier, kinder way of living through her blog and books. Even though she wasn't there (sad face), it was still a lovely experience. I was first introduced to green smoothies thanks to her famous glowing green smoothie recipe, so I was stoked to finally able to try it the way she makes it! It was delicious, filling and energizing and the best smoothie I had in California. It was made with organic seasonal leafy greens, apple, banana, pear, and lemon. I also tried her chia seed delight: chia seeds, raw cacao, raw coconut nectar, and almond milk. It was like dessert, kind of like a chocolate tapioca pudding. It was super delicious! Better than I expected. Smoothie cost: $8.75. 

2. Kreation Juice in Beverly Hills. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Decent.
I had the orange sunrise smoothie: coconut milk, frozen mango, frozen mango, and almond butter. The interior of this place was really cool. It just screamed "eco-friendly" and healthy and was very clean. There are tons of juice, smoothie and bowl options there. You can create your own but I just chose one off of the menu. Lazy. My smoothie was expensive at $9.67 without any additions.

3. Naturewell in Silver Lake. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Subpar. No image.
I had the coconut kale smoothie. It was pretty good but would try something different next time if I went back. The service was almost non-existent so I'd probably go elsewhere.

4. The Punchbowl in Los Feliz. 100% vegan. Ambience: Casual. Service: Great. 
The interior is cute & cozy. I had the greeña colada: coconut meat, kale, pineapple, avocado, coconut water, and coconut nectar. Very creamy. The pineapple really stood out. I enjoyed it but would get something different next time. This place was too expensive! Cost: $10.

5. Juice Kaboose in La Jolla (San Diego). Vegan-friendly but many offerings include dairy. Ambience: Casual. Service: Poor. No image.
I wrote a review for this place on Yelp here. I used to write reviews on Yelp (before I was a vegan) but hadn't in awhile. I had such a terrible experience with their customer service that I felt compelled to write one. :-( One good thing is that the price was right. Cost: $6.50.

Needless to say, I was floating on cloud 9 in California! The traffic & parking couldn't even get me down and I even got a parking ticket... "welcome to LA, sucker!" :-P

Taking into consideration the overall experience of each establishment (service, food quality & taste, price, and value), my top favorite restaurants, in no particular order, were Shojin, Flore Vegan Cuisine, Elderberries, Sage Vegan Bistro, Cruzer Pizza, and Native Foods Cafe. My favorite juice/smoothie bars were Glow Bio & The Punchbowl. I also loved Babycakes NYC bakery, of course. I hope you'll check these gems out if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles or San Diego, whether you're vegan or not! <3

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." David Brinkley


  1. Loved your restaurant round up Claire :) Looks like you discovered the best vegan food in LA and SD! Crazy how many options LA has huh? I am visiting my hometown of Redondo Beach (which is in LA county) this weekend and celebrating my graduation at Sage so seeing this post made me so excited to return there! I haven't ever been there for dinner (only for brunch and lunch) so I was happy to see your suggestions. But I am also super eager to try Flore and Elderberries, I've had both bookmarked on my Yelp for a while but had the chance to go yet. After seeing your sandwiches though I think I will definitely try to go this summer :)

    1. Thanks so much, Karissa! :-) I am so happy you enjoyed it. I clearly had a blast trying all of them. Let me know what you get when you go to Sage! There are so many options there it's crazy. I wanted everything. My friend who I visited told me she wants to go back so badly, ha. Fortunately for her, she can go any time! Congrats on graduating by the way. <3

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you!! And yes I definitely will be Instagraming what I get :) Sage never fails to impress! Your friend definitely is lucky she lives close by. If you end up moving to SD you'll be much closer to Sage which would be awesome!

    1. Ah yes, that is a huge plus! Dallas is so slacking in the area of vegan restaurants. I was impressed with San Diego's options. There were several others I didn't get around to but if I do move there, fingers crossed, I'll have plenty of time to enjoy them. :-D

  3. Love this post! Love you! Thank you for coming out and taking me along on your food journey! It was truly an experience I'll treasure and never forget. I hope you can come out again soon! Until then, keep up the great posts. I apologize on behalf of LA for the horrid traffic and parking fees *sigh* I miss TX parking lots and easy-to-follow street signs...

    OK...So when will you be back? ;-)


    1. Ahhh, I'm so happy you liked the post! :-D You were such a huge part of my experience. You have no idea how much I miss all of those restaurants & the accessibility to vegan food... ughhh. Btw, every time I hear our road trip jams on the radio I rock out. 8-) Since I'm planning on moving to San Diego this fall (YAY) I'll be able to see you much more often. Love you too! <3


designed with love by beautiful dawn designs