a joint, vegan or veggie joint in echo park
what's that vegan restaurant in that strip mall on sunset (it's like really orange and brightly colored)? I forget where the cross street is, like near Coronado. The sign outside literally says "vegan" restaurant or something generic. What's this place about? Has anyone tried it? What's it like?
It's one of the [...] Vegan restaurants. I think it all started with Vegan Express on Barham (near Cahuenga Pass). The owner's relative (I think her sister) opened a place on Sunset called California Vegan, which now has two locations. Then her niece (or something) opened a place down on Beverly. At some point, I believe Pia (owner of Vegan Express) sold her place to other family members. There are some other places (The Vegan Spot, "Green Leaves Vegan" (formerly "Hollywood Vegan"), etc. etc.). They all have virtually identical menus, featuring a lot of Thai stuff, plus some American and vaguely Chinese dishes. Some of the dishes at some of the restaurants are pretty good. But it bugs me that these places are cropping up like roaches - if these restaurants can succeed, why can't other, more interesting (or at least different) vegetarian restaurants?
In any event, the one you're talking about is called The Vegan House or something like that. http://myveganhouse.com/ is their site. They deliver and are really close to me, but I almost never go there, because it's not that good IMO. I haven't been there since right after they opened, so maybe it's improved a little. The one on Hillhurst is better.
I don't trust the fake meat at any of them as far as vegan-ness- there was some drama a little bit back: http://www.livingvegan.org/Articles.html - there was mention of the situation on LA Foodblogging too.
While I was initially kind of annoyed by the "Living Vegan" site's tactics, it does seem like the restaurants were being shady beyond cultural differences. Read the article and decide for yourself.
Kind of ironic since the restaurants feature "vegan" in their name. If you're going to represent yourself as a vegan restaurant and even use the word in your name, you'd better know what that means and make sure everything on your menu is vegan.
I think the Thai have an equivalent word / phrase to the Chinese phrase roughly translated as "100% vegetarian", which could be translated (more or less) as "vegan" - no fish, eggs... my understanding is that in those cultures, small amounts of eggs and dairy (in processed food, at least) aren't really considered to be a big deal.
Dishes I recommend at those places:
Thai noodle dishes, esp. Pad Kee Mow / Pad Ci Ew
Pancakes (w/ soy chicken
Spicy Mint leaves w/ seitan or tofu (or whatever)
Soy Fish Sandwich (generally non-vegan)
And the coconut palm juice (not the whole coconut, but the sweet coconut palm juice in a glass bottle)
I don't know if the font will come through, but the common form of vegetarianism - not the more ascetic form - is called mungsawirat - in Thai, that is: มังสวิรัติ
The mungsawirat place I used to at regularly in BKK would be considered veggie here, but probably not cool for vegans. The more ascetic version of vegetarianism is a set of religious strictures that is similar to Jain strictures on food, so things like onions get dropped out of the menu. That latter style of food is unlikely to make it to the US.
The Thai-run 'Vegan' places in LA are probably safe for lacto-ovo vegetarians, but could be iffy for true vegans - go figure.
I ate there a couple weeks back. It was tiny ( don't go with a lot of people. Someone showed up with a group of 7). Me and my friend had to wait forever and sit at the bar. It was a fun experience and the staff was great ( plus you can bring your own wine for a small corkage fee) BUT the food is mediocre at best. It was like something I can make in my own kitchen.
However, it was fresh and healthy and a pretty cute place!