You Won’t Miss the Meat at These Top L.A. Vegetarian Restaurants
While L.A. still loves meat as much as ever, many Los Angeles restaurants are doing innovative things with vegetables, creating exceptional plant-based meals. Whether you like your beef or don’t eat meat at all, you don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to fall in love with the meatless meals at these top restaurants.
The original Fountain Valley location of this raw, vegan, Vietnamese restaurant has been a neighborhood gem for many years, but they finally opened a second location in downtown Los Angeles. You’ll find egg rolls (made with an eggless wrap) filled with mushrooms, taro and carrots, vegan pho and fusion dishes like the tostada wrap. The “tirawmisu” for dessert is made with fluffed macadamia cheese, cinnamon, espresso, dark cacao, and maple syrup.
One of the old school restaurants of vegan cuisine, Café Gratitude is an institution from Northern California that has made its way down to SoCal in 2012. Yes, the server will ask, “What are you grateful for today?” but beyond that the food proves why Café Gratitude has been the biggest name in vegan restaurants throughout California. The menu items are named with positive adjectives like “Confident” (a wedge of pan-seared cauliflower with almond romesco sauce). The “I Am Grateful” on the menu is a “community bowl” of kale, quinoa, black beans and garlic-tahini sauce. Beer, wines and sparkling cocktails are also available alongside pressed juices and “wellness elixirs.”
Tal Ronnen’s high-end vegan restaurant on Melrose is reinventing vegan cuisine with imaginative dishes that draw vegans and carnivores alike. Crossroads may well be the only vegan restaurant that was named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Los Angeles Magazine while Oprah calls Chef Ronnen the best vegan chef in America. Vegans can now go to Crossroads for a celebratory, white tablecloth meal instead of the casual cafe eats most vegan restaurants tend to offer. One of the signature items mimic oysters on the shell: artichoke leaves are topped with pureed artichoke and a fried oyster mushroom garnished with kelp caviar and Bearnaise sauce.
For vegetarian dishes unlike most others, head to Jordan Kahn’s Destroyer in Culver City. Kahn serves up some of LA’s most interesting dishes of late, both at his futuristic fine-dining restaurant Vespertine and at the breakfast and lunch-only spot, Destroyer. The modern Scandinavian-inspired menu here is mostly vegetarian (with a couple of meat dishes) and may be the most exquisitely prepared and presented for a neighborhood lunch spot.
Flore Vegan Cuisine
With an extensive menu that is both vegan and has plenty of gluten-free options, Flore is a homey neighborhood standby in Silverlake. Start the morning with a veggie frittata, waffles, or gluten-free blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Lunch and dinner boast options like tacos and burritos, seitan pastrami and many more sandwiches along with pizzas, burgers, and grain bowls. You can opt for the pressed juices or shakes for drinks or be healthy and adventurous with the whole leaf elixir tonics.
No Angeleno should be deprived of good Mexican food, even vegan Angelenos. The swanky and festive Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, opened by the Café Gratitude group, offers Guatemalan style tamal, spicy mole enchiladas, and coconut ceviches. Gracias Madre also has one of the strongest cocktail programs in Los Angeles, vegan or not. Mixologist Jason Eisner has done wonders recreating and reinventing cocktails into 100% vegan and 100% delicious. His cocktails are some of the most inventive in the city with ingredients such as sherry infused with shiitake mushroom, homemade pumpkin butter, and more.
While n/naka is not a vegetarian restaurant, Chef Niki Nakayama’s vegetarian kaiseki menu is one of the best meatless experiences in Los Angeles. Lauded as one of the best tasting menus in Los Angeles, vegetarians can also partake in Nakayama’s refined dishes with her 13-course tasting menu (she politely declines vegan requests), which may include a “sashimi” course of tofu, watermelon, cucumber, or konnyaku, a truffle pasta or a mocha and tofu skin with miso in lieu of a meat course. Chef Nakayama tries to never serve her guests the same dishes twice.
With heavy hitters like Orsa & Winston and Bar Ama under his belt, Angelenos can expect excellence from Chef Jose Centeno’s vegetable-centric restaurant, P.Y.T. The food here is comforting, seemingly simple, and not fussy, but the flavors are complex and bold and the vegetables are the stars. The menu is, of course, seasonal, but you may find roasted sweet potato with nori butter for dinner, or the most beautiful persimmon toast for brunch when it is in season.
Sage Vegan Bistro
The founder and cook of Sage, Mollie, was raised vegan on a farm. With two L.A. locations – in Echo Park and Culver City – and another in Pasadena, Sage has become one of the leaders in the vegan food industry. On the menu, you will find that jackfruit is used instead of meat or fake meats, there are vegan pierogis and zucchini lasagnas. The Culver City location is the most impressive yet with 25 beers and wines on tap, an all-organic cocktail bar and a wood-fired pizza oven. Since KindKreme was also founded by the same person, the menu offers vegan ice creams made with cashew, almond, and coconut milk for dessert.
Vegan and health-conscious diners in the Valley can rejoice with SunCafe serving raw and vegan items made from scratch. The casual spot is offering burgers made with sunflower seeds and BLT sandwiches with tempeh bacon. Brunch calls for an “omelet” made with silken tofu and raw cinnamon bun with pecans, walnuts and dates topped with cashew cream cheese icing. Don’t miss their popular smoothies, juices, and kombucha on tap. SunCafe’s all vegan and organic beverage program also features 38 wines (including 20 available by the glass), 10 beers on tap and a variety of creative cocktails and sangrias.