Los Angeles has always been a bastion of health food, evolving from its seventies reputation as the hempseed granola capital of the world to become the birthplace of modern nouveau-wellness cuisine. Farm-to-table, plant-based, vegan, raw—L.A. chefs have familiarized restaurant-goers with a host of dining styles that require a good deal of ingenuity in the kitchen to execute well. In order to thoroughly understand and appreciate the city’s contributions to cuisine, visiting food lovers must sample L.A. vegan food—at its finest. Here, recommendations for where to dine in true Angeleno style.
Two-time James Beard Award-nominee chef Matthew Kenney is a celebrity in the raw, vegan culinary-sphere for his work with local, seasonal food and wine. Plant Food + Wine (with locations in Venice and Miami) is the most upscale of Kenney’s restaurant projects—the Californian location’s beautiful, fairy-light strung patio is regularly star-studded. Using vegetables from their own onsite garden, Plant Food + Wine serves dishes like truffle berry mousse, curried cauliflower tacos, and ramen in sunflower-leek broth with miso-roasted eggplant and kimchi—all raw and vegan, making it ideal for health-conscious foodies seeking a glamourous night out.
With three locations, Café Gratitude is L.A.’s most quintessentially “L.A.” organic, plant-based local chain. Each dish on the menu is phrased as an affirmation—take the “I am flourishing” braised asparagus with basil hempseed pesto, or the “I am grateful” shredded kale and quinoa bowl. Claim to fame: Beyoncé and Jay Z celebrated Jay Z’s 44th birthday with lunch at the Larchmont Village location (word is they had the tempeh tacos—or the “I am transformed”). It’s a bit of a hippie-gimmick, but for upscale, healthy food fast, Café Gratitude really can’t be beat.
With a backing from celebrity investors like vegan techno musician Moby, Crossroads Kitchen was opened in March 2013 by chef-owner Tal Ronnen, and specializes in Mediterranean-inspired small dishes. An autumnal chopped salad with persimmons, pumpkin leaves, pomegranate, and apples followed by a porcini-crusted roast eggplant dish with caramelized onions and some heart of palm “crab cakes”, enjoyed in a luxurious setting with wing-backed chairs, handmade chandeliers, and a vintage glass bar, will make one forget bacon exists (at least, for the moment). The artichoke “oysters” topped with kelp caviar are a must-try for their convincing briny flavour.
Hailed as the top vegan Japanese restaurant in the city, the Shojin provides flavourful yet healthy cuisine in Downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo district (with a second location in Culver City). The restaurant emphasizes its “clean” menu, with all dishes free of refined sugar and artificial additives. Their popular dynamite roll comes with spicy beet sauce, and tofu replaces the tuna in a tasty spicy tuna roll. Some may feel eating fish-free sushi in one of the few American cities with truly good Japanese food is sacrilege, but for nigiri-deprived vegans, the Shojin could be worth travelling for in and of itself.