Over a week and a half, I had the pleasure of exploring some of the best vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, as well as adventuring around the area with Jasmine of Sweet Simple Vegan. I did my best to recapture the highlights in a day-by-day post featuring some incredible vegan restaurants and some of the activities we enjoyed.
THE LA VEGAN FOOD TOUR BEGINS:
DAY 1: Friday, September 4th, 2015
I arrived just after noon on September 4th, and after a 4 day juice and smoothie cleanse, we were ready to eat (to say the least). Our first stop was to the renowned Gracias Madre, an all vegan Mexican inspired restaurant that crafts its dishes with local and organic ingredients. They also specialize in a wide array of house made cocktails, sodas, and speciality drinks. The decor was warm and welcoming. One of my favorite aspects of the space was the large outdoor seating area, which was perfect on such a beautiful day. I was overwhelmed with the variety on the lunch menu and found it difficult to choose just one thing. We decided to order two appetizers – the Gorditas: potato-masa cakes served with a warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew crema and the Flautas De Camote: two rolled tacos filled with sweet potatoes and topped with caramelized onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese, and a sprig of cilantro. Both were very tasty, but Jasmine and I both agreed that the Gorditas were more enjoyable. For our main courses, it was again a difficult decision. I decided on the Tres Bowl which is filled with quinoa, kale, roasted squash, pesto cashew creme, white beans, peppers and onions – it was good, but a little bland, I don’t feel as though I got the full experience of their menu from the dish. Also, the metal twist tie I found in my bowl didn’t help. Jasmine got the Uno Bowl: a mix ofromaine, brown rice, black beans, tempeh chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, cashew crema – I had a few bites and I thought it was better, but I’m a sucker for anything with black beans in it. For dessert we decided to try the Fudge Brownie and added a scoop of vanilla coconut ice cream. It was topped with salted mezcal caramel, coconut bacon, coconut cashew whipped cream. What a decadent masterpiece. You better believe that plate was licked clean.
DAY 2: Saturday, September 5th, 2015
The next day the food adventure continued. Starting the day off, Jasmine and I took a trip to Intelligentsia Coffee to grab some almond milk lattes. I’ve tried many different cafes, coffee shops, blends, etc, and this was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. From there, we took a trip down to Huntington Beach with Yvonne (@Yvonne_Deliciously_Vegan) to the Lei household for the most epic brunch I’ve ever experienced. Ted (@wokwildside) and his wife Traing (@thisistheveganlife), along with their two daughters, prepared such a lovely meal for us. This multi-course homemade feast consisted of the most delicious varieties. First, we had bagels with cashew cream cheese along with 3 different kinds of “lox” – one made with raw carrots, one with cooked carrots, and the last made with red peppers – all of which were delicious. To follow, Traing made a kale salad with a peanut miso dressing which was absolutely fantastic. Ted out did himself by making tater tots and a savory polenta rancheros topped with a cashew cream. For dessert Ted made Drumstix – you know, the chocolate coated ice cream cones from back in the day, all vegan (of course), along with mango sticky rice, both of which were fantastic. After brunch, we stopped in downtown LA briefly to enjoy the weather and take a few photos. Later that evening I flew solo over to Real Food Daily. Having heard many positive things about this restaurant, I was curious to see what the hype was all about. There, I had a supreme burrito topped with a ranchero sauce. I just realized now that this was my second ranchero experience of the day and I’m not upset about it. The monstrous burrito was packed with Spanish rice, black beans, cashew cheese, tempeh bacon, tofu sour cream, lettuce, gauc, and pico de gallo. Needless to say I didn’t spare even a crumb – it was that good.
DAY 3: Sunday, September 6th, 2015
With such an epic brunch the day before, Jasmine and I met up with her friend Taryn (@Vegetaryn) and a few others for round two on Sunday, at Crossroads Kitchen in Hollywood. It’s a well known vegan restaurant that everyone raves about. After experiencing it, I can see what all of the hype was about. I ordered the Tuscan Eggless Frittata, which is a combination of organic tofu, baby kale, mushroom bacon, almond ricotta, truffle cream sauce, and soy mozzarella. It was served in a mini cast iron skillet and it was oh-so-delicious! The serving size wasn’t the largest and it sure didn’t last long. A few of the our brunch buddies got the croissants, which I had my eye on – they looked so good…I am looking forward to going back to try them! After brunch, Jasmine and I took a trip to Venice Beach. We stopped at Moon Juice, which is a funky medicinal cold pressed juice shop that serves a wide variety of juices, elixirs, and potions. I ordered the Date Shake, a “moon milk” made with their house made hemp milk, blended with dates, almond butter, maca, espresso bean, and cardamom – it was soul-satisfyingly-good. Jasmine ordered the fennel, frond, and herb juice which was also quite
delicious. We washed both of our juices down with shots of fresh ginger and “noni fire” which is an anti-inflammitory enzyme blend of noni juice used to enhance endurance and combat fatigue. Both of these together were rather intimidating, and burned all the way down, but the best kind of burn. Now that we were energized, Jasmine and I headed down to the beach and strolled the “boardwalk” of artists, vendors, and shops. This was the first time I had experienced a west coast beach in almost a decade and it felt great to be back. Upon arrival, we realized that we made it just in time for a drum circle that was happening e on the beach. We gathered with an eclectic bunch of souls as everyone danced and played different instruments. It was such a unique thing to be a part of. After awhile, we worked up an appetite and made our way to Cafe Gratitude. My first experience here was a great one, the vibe was so positive – from the friendly workers to the welcoming decor and delicious food, I was very satisfied. I ordered the “I Am Extraordinary” which is the house BLT wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla, coconut bacon, shredded romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and served with a side of wild rice summer bean salad. I throughly enjoyed the flavors and textures this wrap had to offer, I also thought the wild rice summer bean salad was deliciously flavored. From there, we headed back to the beach to enjoy the beautiful sunset. It was the first time I had experienced a West Coast sunset right on the beach and it was magical. Shortly after sunset, we headed back to my place to get ready for a rowdy evening at some ratchet club to see DJ Mustard…I won’t go into detail.
DAY 4: Monday, September 7th, 2015
The following day started bright and early. It was an extra special occasion, Jasmine’s Birthday Fruit Luck! I was very excited for the highly anticipated event. It being my first fruit luck, I wasn’t sure what to expect…just lots and lots of delicious and exotic fruit, fun, and good vibes. My expectations were exceeded. Not only was there a vast array of fruit, but Jasmine’s family prepared these beautiful fruit sculptures, it was very impressive to say the least. Also, being surrounded by so many genuinely awesome people, the beautiful weather, and even a visit from a Corgi, it was a truly gratifying experience I won’t soon forget. As the fruit platters emptied, and the sun began to set, the fruit luck began to wind down and into the evening we rolled. That night, Jasmine and I met up with Jackie (@veganyackattack) at Rahel, an all vegan Ethiopian restaurant. It had been a long while since I’ve had Ethiopian food, and the fact that this place was all vegan had me even more excited. We ordered the platter for 3 which was a large variety of almost every meal they had available. We did our best to eat the whole thing, but it was HUGE. We came so close, but Jackie rolled up the leftovers in to an Ethiopian Burrito of Wonder, and took it home. Stuffed to our hearts content, we decided that was enough for one day.
DAY 5: Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
The next day, it was somewhat back to “reality”. I had been off of work for the first half on my LA adventure, however, today I was back at it. Fortunately, I have the convenience of working wherever wifi is available, so my job travels as I do. I worked through morning and around noon it was time to go in on some lunch. I met up with Jasmine and we made our way over to Organix, an all organic vegetarian grocery store that also has a full vegan deli menu filled with incredible mouth-watering burgers, burritos, tacos, sandwiches, salads, and more. There, we joined Yvonne (@yvonne_deliciously_vegan), Sarah (@ahnestveggie), Eric, and Yvonne’s British friends (@tokyopony and @karluk29) for a delicious lunch. I ordered the Puerco (marinated slow cooked shredded jackfruit smothered in homemade BBQ sauce and topped with homemade slaw, vegan mayo and pickle, served on Ciabata Bread) sounds delicious, right?! It was…I couldn’t believe the unbelievable tastes and textures I experienced packed into each bite, it was a serious sandwich to say the least. Jasmine couldn’t even resist trying it! After that serious lunch sesh, we headed over to York Studio to hang with Tim (@veganfatkid) real quick, then it was back to work for the rest of the day. As the evening rolled around it occurred to me that it was Tuesday! Jasmine suggested we head over to Plant Food for People, an all vegan taco truck that has some of the best tacos around. I wish I could remember what the specific names of the tacos I got were, but the real important thing is that all 3 were ridiculously delicious…Taco Tuesday was a complete success. As the sunset, we headed up to Griffith Observatory to overlook the city as the day faded into night. What an incredible feeling it was to be accompanied by such a wonderful person, surrounded by a beautiful view – it was truly elating. We explored the observatory, saw a tesla coil in action, and got to gaze through a really really (really) large telescope into the night sky. After we were all spaced out for the evening (literally), we headed over to Verdugo, a local bar, in hopes of finding the elusive Pliny the Elder, which they sometimes have on tap. We were let down to find out they were currently out, but it’d be back the week after I left (what luck). We stayed for a bit to enjoy ourselves in the outside area of the bar where Jasmine ended up kicking my butt time and time again at connect four…she’s got some serious skills.
DAY 6: Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Back to work again! But today was unlike a traditional workday. It was time to play a game of “Adventure Around LA & Work As You Do It”…One of my favorite games to play. We started the day at this little juice shop called Juice Served Here with a round of juice flights. Each flight
consisted of a variety of 10 different juice shots (I think they’re 4 oz each?), giving us an opportunity to sample a wide variety of juices without breaking the bank. They were all unique and delicious in their own ways, but one had honey, so we didn’t drink it (we later found out we could’ve substituted it for another flavor…good to know for next time). We sat outside and worked from our computers as we enjoyed the juice tasting. It was a beautiful day in LA, but started to heat up before noon. Once it got too hot, we headed over to Real Food Daily for some food and shade, while we continued to work. I ordered the Banh Mi sandwich, which was the current special and Jasmine had a green smoothie – both were fantastic :P We ended up spending several hours at RFD just working, talking, and enjoying the atmosphere. A little later on, we headed over to The Springs, an old warehouse space that was transformed into a spacious and welcoming juice bar / restaurant & wellness / yoga center. It was the perfect place to post up for the rest of the work day while enjoying some delicious eats. The entire menu is prepared raw from scratch, and everything we had was entirely satisfying. To start, I ordered the Mountain Chai smoothie, which is a blend of banana, almond milk, chai spice, maca, vanilla powder, nutmeg, and agave – damn was it good! Jasmine ordered the Lantern: a blend of pineapple, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeño – and what a serious kick that fluorescent drink packed! After we enjoyed our drinks, I ordered a Ruben which had marinated mushrooms, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut, and dill pickles, served on caraway “rye” bread – I couldn’t believe my tastebuds, it was bursting with flavor and the texture was just right, very impressive indeed. Jasmine ordered the Sweet Miso Salad which was a mix of massaged kale, mixed greens, miso dressing, sea palm, cucumber, cilantro, green onions, orange segments, avocado, and sesame seeds. It looked fresh and fantastic. I really enjoyed how unique their menu was, I am excited to head back someday soon! After we finished up our tasks for the day, we used the space to have a quick photoshoot modeling Jasmine’s new “Dat Hass” T – which you can get here.
DAY 7: Thursday, September 10th, 2015
The following day we were up before sun to prepare for a 6 mile hike up to the top of the Hollywood Sign with our friends Chelsea and Joe. It was a long and monotonous hike on a large desert-like road, but finally making it up to the top was worth it. Looking over the city of Los Angeles first thing in the morning was a spectacular feeling. We worked up quite an appetite from the hike so right after, we decided to grab breakfast at Cafe Gratitude. I ordered the “I Am Bonita” breakfast taco platter – which containted sprouted probiotic brown rice & quinoa, black beans, salsa fresca, avocado, cashew nacho cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, and side of four corn tortillas – it truly hit the spot after the hike! Jasmine ordered the gluten-free buckwheat & flax pancakes that were topped with fresh fruit – what a treat those were too! We ate to our hearts content and then had to sleep off the food coma. Later that evening we were ready to eat again. This time ist was time for Shojin, an all organic vegan sushi spot in the heart of Downtown LA. The vibe here was elegant and the employees really took pride and care in the food and environment. They handed us cards before each course that outlined the integrity of the ingredients and highlighted the overall quality of the food. We ordered a ramen bowl, miso soup, and two extravagant rolls. I was floored with how delicious everything was. The first roll was called “Pirates of the Crunchy 2.0” which combined tempura fried tempeh, cucumber, shiso, and avocado in a brown rice roll and was topped with spicy mayo and dynamite sauce. The second roll was the “Crunchy Tiger, Hidden Dragon” which had BBQ seitan, tempura asparagus, avocado, and crispy potatoes, served with a wasabi mayo and sweet tamari sauce. Both of these rolls were some of the best I ever had. I can’t wait to go back again and try more. After our sushi experience, we headed over to Angel City Brewery to meet up with some of Jasmine’s family and enjoy the night. The atmosphere of the brewery was artsy and relaxed. The walls were adorned with various displays from local artists, and the open floor was filled with tables, benches, and games. Both of the brews I tried were very enjoyable and I am excited to go back again soon. From there, we headed over to Bar 82, which resembled the NJ/NY area spot Barcade. This bar has two large rooms filled with old-school arcade games and pinball machines. It was a little over crowded, but otherwise it was a lot of fun!
DAY 8: Friday, September 11th, 2015
The next morning we headed out to Venice to catch some sun. We started the day off with acai bowls from Kreation, a cafe / restaurant in the area. From there, we headed over to attend a class at The Yoga Collective, grabbed some juice from Cafe Gratitude, and headed to the beach. Looking to cool down from the intense yoga session, we both jumped in the ocean right away. I honestly expected the water to be colder, but it was the perfect temperature and felt the most refreshing after the class. Afterward we laid out and soaked up the sun before we headed over to Plant Food + Wine, a higher end vegan restaurant just a few minutes away. There, we received a tour of the restaurant which had a beautiful outdoor area with a garden, as well as a full cooking school on the top floor. The decor was very simple and elegant and the food was out-of-this-world good. To start, we ordered a sourdough spelt bread appetizer which featured mix of kale, cashew cheese, and an assortment of veggies. To follow, we ordered a cheese plate featuring two delectable flavors – A white truffle macadamia nut / cashew blend and a mixed peppercorn cashew blend. These savory selects were plated with pickled fruit, mustard seeds, and fennel crackers. The combination of everything together was deeply satisfying, the only downside was that we couldn’t try all of these cheeses – next time, I have my eye on the mixed herb and smoked cheddar blends. For our entrees, I ordered the mushroom vegetable burger served on a spelt flatbread and topped with pickles, lettuce, and carrot ketchup (tomato free!). The taste and texture of the burger was fantastic, one of the best vegetable burgers I’ve ever had, second to the Deluxe Burger from Veganized Foods in New Brunswick, NJ. Jasmine ordered the Market Greens Salad which featured grilled romaine, green beans, cherry tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, green olives, and served with a mustard dressing. For dessert, we had the seasonal sorbet trio featuring the summer flavors or blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry – all of which were delicious. I decided to be extra-indulgent and ordered the ice cream sandwich too, which was house made cashew ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies – it was definitely worth the food coma! Later that evening we got all dressed up and headed to the Thrive Magazine Release Party, which also happened to be a birthday celebration for Moby at Wanderlust Hollywood. It was nice to see a bunch of familiar faces there and connect with some new friends as well.
DAY 9: Saturday, September 10th, 2015
It was officially the weekend again, you know what the means…Brunch time! Jasmine and I headed over to Gracias Madre to start the day off right. To start, we ordered the homemade biscuits topped with a “bacon” gravy, caramelized onions, and cracked pepper. I couldn’t believe it was real life after taking the first bite. The biscuit melted in my mouth and the combination of flavors was out of control. These will now forever be a Gracias Madre brunch staple for me. To follow, we ordered a fruit salad which was topped with chili, lime, and salt along with the Chimichanga which was packed with red pepper, potatoes, tempeh chorizo, black beans, and topped with guacamole, cashew chipotle aioli, and smoked tomato sauce. Jasmine ended up eating most of the fruit and I ended up eating most of the chimichanga (who would’ve guessed?). Everything was so tasty, I was very impressed to say the least. I am looking forward to returning soon. To wash everything down, I ordered a Mexican Mimosa, because what is brunch without a mimosa? and Jasmine ordered a green smoothie – brunch was definitely considered a success! After brunch, we both had to work through the
rest of the day, however the fun continued later on when we went to the Highland Park Art Walk and Bloc Party bar. Before that though, I had to stop by Organix one last time and try their Mac Daddy which was a monstrous stack of 2 Vegan house made beef patties, 3 sesame buns, cheddar cheese, house made thousand island dressing, grilled onions, lettuce and pickle – DAMN!
DAY 10: Sunday, September 13th, 2015
My last day in LA 🙁 We had a lot left on our list so we were off to an early start and headed to the Hollywood Farmers Market to stock up on some fresh fruit for breakfast. We got a bunch of figs, peaches, plums, and raw sugar cane juice for our ride up to The Gentle Barn, a farm sanctuary in Santa Clarita, CA . Upon arrival to the beautiful sanctuary, we met up with Taryn and her boyfriend and headed up the hill to hear the founder of Gentle Barn, Ellie, give her touching talk. I was moved by her powerful words about compassion, kindness, and respecting all walks of life. Their mission to rescue animals that would otherwise be put into harms way as pawns of the factory farming industry. After her speech, we headed up to the top barn to spend time with the animals. It was amazing to see up close and personal how each different being has their own personalities. From cuddling up with the Sage the baby calf, to spending some quality time with Biscuit the big, our experience at The Gentle Barn was indeed a rewarding one. I am looking forward to spending more time there, as well as other sanctuaries, in the future. After that fulfilling day at The Gentle Barn, we headed over to get cultured at the LACMA (Los Angels County Museum of Modern Art). This was really nice to experience on the last day of my trip. We walked through each of the spacious rooms and marveled at the different art installments that adorned the walls. After our art-fix, we headed over to Sage Organic Bistro in Culver City, to enjoy our last dinner together for a little while. We started off with an avocado bruschetta appetizer that was delicious-looking and even better tasting. To follow, we both got personal pizza’s, I had the caprese pizza topped with dill cashew cheese, fresh basil, heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Jasmine built her own pizza marinara sauce, eggplant and artichokes. Both of them were so delicious in their own right, but I think I enjoyed hers more 😛 After dinner, as our time together was slowly coming to an end, we decided to revisit Venice Beach to watch the sunset as we did on one of my first days in town. The weather was perfect and it was beautiful to witness the sun sink past the horizon and give birth to the night. As the sun faded away, I realized that my trip was coming to an end. As sad as it was, I was so grateful for the experience. Over those 10 days I’ve never had so much fun and experienced so many amazing things with such an incredible person. I am very grateful for every moment. The best part is, I am heading back this Friday, October 16, to relocate to Los Angeles and I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds.
What Jasmine and I included in our adventure was 5 of the top 52 #Vegforward Resturants in the US , and we want to give you a chance to try out some of these restaurants near you! We’ve teamed up with OpenTable to offer $100 Visa Gift Card to 2 lucky winners (one on my page, one on hers)! Head over to our Instagram accounts @consciouschris & @sweetsimplevegan to enter – there are just a few simple steps!
I hope you all enjoyed reading about our experience!