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May 7, 2010 12:13 PM

Vegan Hotspots

Where are some of the vegan hotspots these days? There are so many good ones across cuisine types - Bawarchi Indian in Culver City, Better Life in SM, Casa de Tree in Palms, Lotus Vegan in NoHo, Madeleine Bistro in Encino, Stuff I Eat in Englewood, SunPower Natural Cafe in Studio City.

Looking to add to my list!

Madeleine Bistro
18621 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, CA 91356

Lotus Vegan Restaurant
5038 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91601

SunPower Natural Cafe
Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, CA

Stuff I Eat
114 N Market St, Inglewood, CA 90301

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  1. Check out Tony's Darts Away on Magnolia in Burbank. Very good vegan sausages and chili and a wonderful selection of California ales and lagers on tap.

    Darts Away
    1710 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91506

    1. Babycakes just opened downtown, I believe. Rahel is my favorite Ethiopian restaurant and it's vegan. Not a vegan restaurant, but Mrs. Winston's has started carrying a local line of vegan baked goods called Sugar Beets and they're the best vegan baked goods I've ever had.

      I've never been to Better Life despite living in SM. What would you recommend there?

      4 Replies
      1. re: mollyomormon

        Babycakes is awesome, if expensive. I stay away from anything with chocolate frosting though, because the chocolate flavor is a little weak to my taste. The chocolate cupcakes are outstanding though, with little mini chips strewn throughout the little cake. I had a chocolate mint cupcake that was a great breakfast. The chocolate dipped doughnut is fabulous, especially if they've just dipped it and the chocolate glaze is still warm and gooshy. I do not like the "cinnamon bun" or the scone because they're dry.

        Ooh, thanks for the 411 on Mrs. Winston's. Will have to check that out.

        1. re: choctastic

          I was excited to try Babycakes after hearing that they were opening up here; I tried a couple items (I believe some sort of cupcake, maybe red velvet, and a cinnamon roll), and was really unimpressed. I don't think either were even gluten free, so can't imagine how horrible their GF stuff is. Honestly, if that was the only kind of vegan dessert I could eat, I would probably either shoot myself or start eating eggs and milk. Cinnamon bun was dry as a dog biscuit; the cupcake was also dry and unappetizing, and the frosting was nasty.

          If you're gluten intolerant, *and* vegan, *and* diabetic, or just want to be like the place's celebrity clientele, this is the place for you. Otherwise, you can probably find a better vegan dessert somewhere... anywhere... else.

          1. re: will47

            You happened to get all the worst stuff imho: red velvet cupcake is always dry and crumbly and pretty gross, the cinnamon roll just looks bad, but tastes even worse. You didn't get the cookies which are pretty crispy and underwhelming.

            I should have mentioned that I love the chocolate cupcakes and brownies and the doughnut and nothing else. Sorry about that. But I reallly like the chocolate cupcakes.

            I've had samples of the cornbread, banana bread, and were underwhelmed, but not disgusted, as I was when I had the red velvet cupcake. The carrot cake cupcake was unremarkable, but not bad, imho.

            I still think it's an awesome place though, if only for the freshly choco-dipped doughnuts. I could go gluten free for those.

            1. re: choctastic

              Oh and I forgot to specify something. While I LOVE the chocolate-dipped DOUGHNUT as well as the VANILLA frosted cupcake, I really don't care for the chocolate FROSTED items, like the chocolate frosted cupcake. The chocolate frosting they uses has only cocoa powder, and it really shows in the weak, barely-there chocolate flavor. I have the Babycakes cookbook so when I make up a batch of the chocolate frosting, I add in bittersweet chocolate to the coconut oil, and it really makes a huge difference. It makes something actually worth eating.

              The vanilla frosted items are really good in my book though. My favorite is the mint frosted (vanilla frosting based) chocolate cupcake. They put in little mini chocolate chips in the cupcake (which is really dense for a cupcake, hey it's GF and tasty, whddya want) and the mint frosting makes it all come together. Love it.

      2. Try Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda. The food is all vegan Vietnamese and chef's specialty is mock meats. Particularly good is the BBQ "duck".

        Also, Garden Wok also in Reseda - all vegan Chinese food.

        Vinh Loi Tofu
        18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

        Garden Wok
        6117 Reseda Blvd Ste B, Tarzana, CA 91335

        1. I second Vinh Loi Tofu in Resenda. The curry chicken meatballs are to die for.

          Vinh Loi Tofu
          18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

          9 Replies
          1. re: kayeyeem

            Yes! That is on my list as well. I'm not a huge huge fan of mock meats, just think that's weird, but I hear he makes his own which is interesting.

            1. re: sparkyk

              I don't think he makes his own mock meats; just his own tofu and soy milk.

              1. re: will47

                No he also makes his own mock meats, including these mock oysters that are actually quite oysterlike in soup (which is how I ate them).

                1. re: choctastic

                  Sorry, but I don't believe that for a second. I know he likes to talk about himself a lot, but you can tell that a lot of that stuff is very standard frozen imported mock meat. The duck tastes like the canned gluten. Does not taste like house-made wheat gluten.

                  He told you directly that he makes *all* of the mock meats he serves at the restaurant?

                  I'm not knocking the place... I like eating there, and he is an interesting personality. But c'mon....

                  1. re: will47

                    Yes he did. Hmm, though in the spirit of trying to give him the benefit of the doubt... well, never mind.

                    In fact, I always ask whenever I come into the restaurant, whether or not he makes everything at the store and he ALWAYS says yes, he made everything. I even made a point of saying I bought the oysters only to try them out, as I haven't seen another product elsewhere that is exactly like the "oysters" he sells. If you know where to get that particular product elsewhere, I would definitely love to hear about it so I can compare.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      I haven't seen the oyster thing, so not sure what exactly you're thinking of. But I'm really, deeply skeptical that he makes everything that he serves there, down to all of the fake meats (and, for the record, I have also never heard him make that claim). Maybe a misunderstanding? I know he says he makes the broth from scratch, as well as the tofu, soy milk, doufu hua, dipping sauces, marinades, etc. Of course he doesn't make "everything" - the noodles, bread, the rice part of the banh cuon, etc. I'm almost certain come from elsewhere.

                      Some of the stuff I've seen served there is not the kind of thing you can easily create in a normal kitchen with normal ingredients. But hey - go peep in his freezer or check out his dumpster sometime if you're really curious.

                      In terms of a general place that stocks the same or similar stuff, I would check out the Viet / Chinese Buddhist vegetarian supply store (not Bodhi) that's around Hellman / San Gabriel (IIRC).

                      Maybe he's changed ingredients, or starting to make more stuff in-house recently... I know that last time we were there, he didn't have those squiggly french-fry looking "fish sticks" anymore (those are my girlfriend's favorite). It's possible he's under increased scrutiny about food ingredients from the vegan police.

                      There is a video interview ( ) linked to from his site about making mock meats, but it's fairly short on detail, and doesn't explain whether (or how) he makes all of the different mock meats he serves. What he's calling "tofu fiber" is already fake meat - it appears to be the vegetarian dried "loose meat" or "meat floss" which you can buy at Asian supermarkets or vegetarian supply shops. There's another thing he calls "tofu paste", though from the look of it, I think it's some soy product that's a bit more processed than just tofu, unless it's tofu blended with a gelatinous agent of some sort.

                      In any event, I don't have any special knowledge one way or the other. It just seems unlikely to me that he has time to make every single one of the types of mock meat he serves in-house, and, beyond that, that he would bother, since most of this stuff is already available commercially. And generally, when places have mock meats that are made in-house, they have a different look / feel / texture than the processed stuff. All I can say is that if he truly makes *all* the mock meats in-house, I am very impressed and surprised.

                      1. re: will47

                        The oysters I spoke about are in the refrigerated case, immediately in front of you as you walk in the door. Each "oyster" has a little seaweed knot inside, which I'm sure some Buddhist monk invented and he copied, but it was a nice touch nevertheless.

                        FWIW, there is a vegan blog that did a lot of testing for animal ingredients and Vinh Loi came up clean, unlike quite a few other Asian vegan restos. This suggests, at least to me, that he's either getting his supplies elsewhere--but to his own specs--or that he indeed is somehow making this stuff on his own.

                        I know of other restaurants that claim to get their mock meats from Taiwan--like everyone else-- but have them custom-made to their own specs. For instance, Wok & Roll in Long Beach makes this claim, and I must say that their veggie chicken is maybe a little softer than usual, but I don't eat there enough to be sure about it.

                2. re: will47

                  Another "Hells YEAH" for Vinh Loi Tofu. I think Kevin said he procures the mock meat and they make the tofu.

                  Vinh Loi Tofu
                  18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

              2. re: kayeyeem

                everything i've ever been served at vinh loi tofu has been very good to excellent.
                since it is a long drive for me to get there, my ordering strategy is to order practically everything on the menu and to stuff myself silly.
                their prices are so amazingly low, that this strategy works out fine financially .

              3. M Cafe De Chaya in Culver City
                Mendocino Farms in Marina del Rey (vegan sandwiches - the Indian-inspired sandwich was really good today - a little sweet)
                India Sweets and Spices in Northridge (can't vouch for the others)
                Samosa House in Culver City
                Akasha in Culver City
                Green Peas in Culver City
                LA Vegan in Mar Vista

                9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                M Cafe De Chaya
                9343 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                LA Vegan
                4507 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                Samosa House
                11510 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA

                Green Peas
                4437 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA

                Mendocino Farms
                300 S Grand Ave Ste Lp40, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                7 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  m cafe is amazing. i've only been to the one in hollywood on melrose and la brea. but there is something so delicious about their sauces and dressings. i think that's what makes or breaks a lot of vegan food. and their dessert selection is awesome!

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    M Cafe is a pretty regular stop for us when my vegan sister is in town. She also really likes LA Vegan. It's small, classic hole-in-the-wall, and serves stuff that seems to satisfy the vegan's desire for crunchy and savory tastes.

                    LA Vegan
                    4507 S Centinela Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                    1. re: nothingswrong

                      I love M Cafe too! Particularly the Madras Tempeh Wrap and the Big Macro. YUM! The fries and ketchup are surprisingly not bad either.

                      1. re: sparkyk

                        their ketchup is out of this world.
                        it is NOT the usual stuff from a plastic bottle.

                      2. re: nothingswrong

                        I think the M Cafe in Culver city is a little tastier / more consistent. Have had some bad experiences at the Hollywood one. I tend to make the extra drive to Culver City when I crave a bbq seitan sandwich.

                        There are a few things I really like there (cinnamon rolls, aforementioned sandwich), but overall I think it's only Ok.

                        It's not entirely vegan / vegetarian, but definitely agree on Akasha. Their selection of vegan stuff isn't huge, but it's all pretty well executed. I like their house-made veggie burger and their onion rings.

                        1. re: will47

                          >>It's not entirely vegan / vegetarian, but definitely agree on Akasha. Their selection of vegan stuff isn't huge, but it's all pretty well executed.<<

                          I recall reading professional bio info on Akasha (you probably know it's the name of the owner which is the namesake of the resto) during the press build-up before Akasha's open. Here's a slightly more condensed version directly from their website:


                          She obviously has a deep resume for this kind of cuisine and has had some very demanding clients. My vegan sister considers Akasha to be a great stop.

                          9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                          1. re: will47

                            just so you know, Akasha no longer offers the veggie burger you recommend

                            9543 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232