Vegan Travel, Romance Novel-Style in Mendocino »
Up a small highway from the beach cliffs of Mendocino, surrounded by lush, color-popping gardens, sits the breezy Stanford Inn by the Sea eco-resort. I mean, don’t you already feel more relaxed?
Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve even visited? I went for the first time a few months back and I can’t believe it took me this long.
Full disclosure: while still a bit folksy, this was a luxurious vacation for me. I normally crash on friend’s couches or find the cheapest possible sun-bleached California motel. While The Stanford Inn is no such place, it’s also not a hyper modern or glam resort of the boutique hotel variety.
It does, however, serve you fresh, warm vegan chocolate chip cookies upon arrival, and every day after that. God, I wish someone would leave gooey cookies out for me nightly back in the real world.
There’s also a complimentary dessert and tea-time nightly for guests. And this was my introduction to the Stanford Inn at the Sea, after a windy drive from San Francisco. With my husband and rescue chug in tow, I walked past an already-crackling fireplace in the modest, lodge-like common area and devoured a rich chocolate torte with hints of orange along with a mug of hot mint tea.
When we made it to the room, there were vegan dog treats wrapped in plastic with a bow and the aforementioned chocolate cookie plate — because we needed more desserts — along with a rustic bedroom set and wood-burning fireplace, already roaring. We opened the picture window porch doors to views of endless greenery and far off waters. It’s all feeling very Danielle Steel at this point.
We traipsed through the gardens to meet the lodge’s elderly llamas, who lived up to their expected cuteness, along with a few donkeys and at least one pony. Below that we walked down to Catch a Canoe & Bicycle Too, on the edge of the river. The inn has a deal with Catch a Canoe, and guests can ride complimentary mountain bikes during their stay.
Later, we made it back to the saltwater pool and Jacuzzi at the Inn, essentially enchanted in the atrium trimmed with wild plants.
Throughout our stay, we munched complimentary breakfasts at the Raven’s Restaurant (attached to the inn) of delicious, decadent vegan Florentines and benedicts and the signature brunch dish: The Stanford Citrus Polenta over braised greens with cashew cream sauce. We returned nightly for the excellent tempeh burger, tamari-maple glazed tofu, and winter ravioli with butternutsquash filling in beurre blanc sauce.
Did I mention that our dog happily sat at our feet during the entire stay?
Perhaps it all sounds a bit (cashew) cheesy, but the comfort of knowing everything you’ll be eating is both vegan and yummy, matched to all those romance novel touches of crackling fireplaces, windswept beaches, colorful gardens, and secluded-feeling saltwater pools makes the Stanford Inn a rather irresistible spot for veg couples.
San Jose now has a Veggie Grill and an all vegan pizza joint! »
The South Bay is popping off, my friends! Let’s all move to San Jose! JKJKJKJK. But on the real, let’s visit.
First up, THE WORLD FAMOUS VEGGIE GRILL! Opened in San Jose a couple weeks ago, it’s the tasty bomb. Veggie Grill is a hit down in the Los Angeles area and recently made a move to Portland, too. This is our SF Bay Area first outpost of this relatively healthy and extremely delicious mini-chain! It’s on Santana Row which means nothing to me, but there you have it. I CANNOT WAIT TO EAT THERE. Until then, let’s stare at a picture of a Chicken Caesar Wrap from my last visit down South:
And there’s also a FULLY VEGAN PIZZA JOINT in San Jose! Plant Based Pizza looks to be the most delicious, and I want to eat everything on their menu. Calzones, stromboli, hamburgers, hot dogs, a million kinds of pizza! It sounds like paradise!
It’s in the Willow Glen area of San Jose, which, again, means nothing to me, but might mean everything to you. People on Yelp are all about the Hawaiian and Indian pizzas, and while this pic from their site looks like they’re not using Daiya, the Yelp photos tell a different story. Maybe they’re still ironing out who they’re going to be?! Either way, let’s check this shit out and support a vegan pizza joint, OK!?
ROAD TRIP YALL.
Los Angeles vegan eating, in pictures! I love L.A.! I love it! »
I was recently in L.A.
taking meetings just to eat (lez be honest), and here are some of the really, really delicious things I ate. As usual, I turned to Quarrygirl for advice, because girlfriend knows her vegan eating, and I was not led astray. Man, I ate so much, I really love Los Angeles. On the travel panel for Vida Vegan Con (miss you, VVC!), we were asked what our favorite vegan eating city is, and most everyone said Portland (valid) or New York City (valid), and I had to be the sole voice of dissent (I’M SO BRAVE), and went with Los Angeles. Seriously, the vegan eating in L.A. has really stepped it up, and it’s UNSANE. We’ve written about it before, but here’s more. In pictures. And words, I guess, because I can’t shut the fuck up!
All this shit is delicious and I highly recommend eating it immediately:
2) MIND-BLOWING Biscuits and Gravy from Flore Vegan Cuisine:
3) SO DAMN GOOD Fried Mac and Cheese Balls (!!!), Chef Salad, and Bahn Mi Spring Rolls from Sage Organic Vegan Bistro:
4) EXTREMELY TASTY Chicken Caesar Wrap from Veggie Grill:
5) Case of delicious house-made vegan meats at Vinh Loi Tofu. YOU MUST GO HERE:
Vegan road trip: San Diego! »
When going down to San Diego, I had no intention of eating my way through the whole city. Lie: YES I DID! I also didn’t go on a “road” trip: I FLEW! I whisked myself away for the weekend via Virgin America, which means I got to check out the new Terminal 2 at SFO. Two words: PLANT CAFE. Yes, it’s there. Now, normally I would not pay $8.25 for spring rolls, but my vacation started the second I wasn’t late for my flight, so I indulged. Shiitake, tofu and veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce—my getaway was off to a delicious start!
After much consideration (waking up in our clothes from the night before and drinking a couple more PBRs) my San Diego
tour guide friend Matt and I chose to eat at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza for lunch.
The location in Mission Bay is located in a strip mall. Usually, I find this incredibly tacky, but I knew there would be beer once we were seated, so I decided to let it go.
Stone IPA is a San Diego brew, vegan and incredibly strong. Naturally, I loved it.
Sammy’s has vegan cheese (Daiya, of course, though the waiter was unsure) and a vegan gluten-free crust available. I got my pizza with spinach, mushrooms, and Daiya on the gluten-free crust. Very tasty. So much in fact, I packed this whole thing in my stomach. And two IPAs. I didn’t much feel like going to the beach afterward, but we did anyway. Another awesome thing about my Sammy’s experience is that the waiter was incredibly friendly about all my vegan questions—he checked with the back before he put my order in and wasn’t put off about anything. And he was hot.
Next meal on the agenda: Rancho’s. Matt and I went to the location in North Park, it’s super cute! It has the kind of atmosphere where you could bring a date, your family, or your friends. Plus, the prices are super reasonable with large portions — so, you know, 5 stars in my book. Two drinks and two entrees plus a side of guacamole came to about $35. I felt as though I had eaten like a KING.
I consumed the Veggie Trios Enchiladas topped with Daiya! Oh, and the black beans—so good! I’d never had them spiced so well at a restaurant. My friend was so impressed by this place, he couldn’t wait to come back with his roommate. And I can’t wait to get back to San Diego for another round!
Pokez, in downtown SD, was brunch the next day. Not in the traditional sense of a Sunday morning champagne-filled brekkie, more like a let’s-drink-a-PBR-and-start-our-day-at-one-in-the-afternoon kind of deal. What? I was on vacation!
I had heard rumors about
hipsters bad service, and unfortunately, the rumors are true. I knew to expect it, so I found it funny, but forgot to mention this to Matt. Luckily for me, we are friends because we find the same things funny! Be prepared to wait/be ignored. We put money in the parking meter for 50 minutes thinking that surely that would be more than enough time. Wrong. And Pokez doesn’t serve alcoholic drinks so…that wasn’t the hold up. Food is definitely worth it though. Trust me.
It didn’t matter I had enchiladas the night before—I needed more! Two tofu-and-mushroom-stuffed enchiladas with cabbage salad on the side. The menu doesn’t specify that the entrees come with cabbage salad, so being the glutton I am I ordered—
—a tofu, potato and mushroom taco! Vegan Mexican food heaven. Except for the whole no-beer-on-the-menu thing. And slow service.
After my body had to go to the work of digesting everything I’d eaten in the last 48 hours, plus a little time frolicking in the Pacific, I was ready for more beer! Hamilton’s it was.
Hamilton’s, located in South Park, offers tons of beer, and a vegan burger called the Cattle Decapitation, so bring your sense of humor. I was too full to eat it, but I’ve had it before and I remember it being really good. I thought I could will myself to work up the appetite to order it, but that just didn’t happen. Oh well! All the more reason to go back to San Diego!
I’ve been home about a week and half now, and I’m still full/digesting. San Diego, how did you do it? I’m always hungry in San Francisco!
North Bay vegan eats: Slice of Life »
I arrived in California 16 months ago after a four-day trip, with two cats, across the country from New York. When we pulled into town, we were disgruntled, like only a five-hour drive through the blizzarding wilds of southern Wyoming in January can make you, and deeply in need of some comfort and quiet. Through some trick of fate, we ended up by the Whole Foods in Sebastopol on that quickly-darkening and drizzly winter evening, having resigned ourselves to a dinner of cold, prepackaged food. Have I mentioned that I’m a total food snob? I am. Then, as we headed into the bright grocery store from the gloom and damp of the parking lot, I spotted a sign on a small restaurant storefront, tucked snugly between a video store and a hair salon. A cursory glance at the menu confirmed my hopes: Pizza. And it was goooood. I’m not going to lie to you.
Slice of Life, Sebastopol’s comfortable little diner, has since become a staple for us. This all-vegetarian restaurant features a varied menu with macrobiotic salads and platters, Mexican, Italian, all-day breakfast, and, of course, pizza. The pizza’s a little pricey. A large with a few toppings and soy cheese will set you back a cool $30. But the crust and sauce are all fresh and homemade, and they have veggie pepperoni! Bring on the fake meats! Of course, one can’t get a $30 pizza every day of the week—if you can, I want to hunt you down and kill you—so we were eventually obliged to explore the rest of the menu.
Unfortunately for you, I’m so single-minded that I order the same things over and over again. Fortunately for you, that means I am completely qualified to sing the praises of the Slice of Life breakfast menu. Particularly wonderful are the Tofu Om-lets. Though (much to my chagrin) available only on weekend mornings, these are tasty and available in a standard configuration of onions, mushrooms, and cheese or as a Greek version of the same with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. They don’t always get the cheese as melty as I’d like it, and believe me when I tell you I am freaking well acquainted with the trials and travails of melting vegan cheese. I suspect that this is due to their exclusive use of Follow Your Heart mozzarella, which is excellent news for the Daiya-haters among us. (I know you’re out there. I don’t understand your ways.)
Should you find yourself at Slice of Life outside the Tofu Om-let window, don’t despair; order the Tofu Rancheros or the Tofu Parmesan. Add soy cheese to either for a paltry sum and relax back into the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with supporting a vegetarian business. And because you’ve only got just the one life to live, you might was well order a pancake or two. That’s right: vegan pancakes. Incidentally, these are also wheat-free for our grain-challenged friends. Then go home and join me in wondering why pancakes aren’t vegan everywhere. It’s SO FREAKING SIMPLE.
Marla Wick lives in Sebastopol, a small community in Sonoma County, Calif., where people never change out of their yoga pants. She spends her time cooking, baking, knitting, and raging about politics when she’s not working as a freelance editor and writer. She blogs about food, animal ethics, cultural politics, and horror movies at Vegan-Squared and Bully Pulp.
Guest post: Eating vegan in Los Angeles! »
My beau and I set out on a three day eating extravaganza adventure to eat as much tasty Los Angeles vegan food as we could possibly fit our mouths around.
Our journey began as soon as we stepped onto the tarmac at Burbank airport, and my kindly obliging parents brought us some Veggie Grill. We got my fave, the chipotle BBQ burger, and the All-American Stack (live out all your burger junk food fantasies - it’s got onion rings on it!!). The bf thought the two burgers tasted too similar, but I say they’re probably the best damn veggie burgers I’ve had. Plus Veggie Grill has won over many an omnivorous friend.
On Saturday, we tackled some Los Feliz/Silverlake delicacies: Cruzer Pizza and Scoops ice cream. Cruzer isn’t the best vegan pizza I’ve ever had, but it’s damn tasty & affordable, plus they’re an all-vegan pizzeria! We got it to go and ate it in Griffith park, where we were serenaded by drum circles and the carousel organ.
Next up was Scoops. Hoo, boy. Scoops always has four vegan flavors, which are all crazy inventive and wacky and ridiculously awesome! Scoops takes customer suggestions for flavors, so you never know what to expect. We got pomegramate tiramisu (I know, holy shit, right?!), banana oreo, and pear champagne sorbet. Just in case you’re some sick masochist who needs additional incentive to go to Scoops (what part of pomegranate tiramisu ice cream don’t you understand?), it’s right across the street from another amazing vegan restaurant, Pure Luck. They have jackfruit carnitas burritos! And sweet potato fries! And sweet potato fries in a jackfruit carnitas burrito! [Ed.: It looks like Pure Luck is closing. We cry a million tears]
We took a short break from gorging with the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I know, it’s not food or vegan-related, but if you appreciate humor and/or conceptual art, it’s the best tourist attraction in L.A.
Then more gorging at the beloved Native Foods Cafe. We split the Native Nachos: infinite layers of deliciousness! It’s listed as an appetizer, but it’s enough for two people to get completely stuffed. Native Foods founder and head chef Tanya Petrovna is completely adorable. Every table has flyers with what she’s up to and this month it included building a tree house out of recycled materials for her rescued cats. Come on. Plus, the bathrooms have info on why elephants shouldn’t be exploited for entertainment. Tanya’s clearly got the right idea; lure people in with delicious food, then convert them to animal rights.
We culminated our gustatory odyssey in a run-down mall in Little Tokyo. Past all the Karaoke bars and Korean BBQ restaurants lies a vegan heaven. Shojin. The restaurant itself is beautiful and peaceful. Deciding what to order was a painful and lengthly ordeal, but well worth it.
We started with appetizers: pumpkin croquettes, and stuffed shiitake mushrooms. I have never tasted such an amazing combination of new flavors and textures as the pumpkin croquettes with homemade ketchup.
Then we reached le petit mort: the dynamite roll, a spicy tofu “tuna” roll with spicy mayo and green onion on top with spicy soy sauce. It lives up to its name; it has an explosively spicy and charred flavor—incredibly savory and satisfying. We got the dragon roll too, but it couldn’t hold our attention when we had the dynamite roll sitting right in front of us.
It’s not really fair for anything to follow Shojin, but we had to keep go(rg)ing. For dinner we went to Vinh Loi Tofu House in Reseda. Don’t let the whole strip-mall-in-Reseda thing scare you; they’re all vegan, make their own tofu and soy milk, and are Vietnamese fake meat heaven. I’ve heard the soups are souperb (sorry), but haven’t tried them yet.
Since it wouldn’t be L.A. without gratuitous driving, we had dessert at My Vegan in Pasadena. Coconut ice cream, banana spring rolls, and carrot cake. BONUS MEAL!
I couldn’t pass up a chance to go to Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, an all-vegan restaurant whose motto is, “If you don’t want meat, try the Stuff I Eat!” It’s like Souley Vegan + Mexican food on high-quality acid. Case in point: the Kilamanjaro Quesadilla topped with vegan cheese sauce, organic wild and black rice, seasoned tofu, black beans, mock chicken salad, carrot un-tuna, organic sauteed portobello mushrooms, sauteed broccoli, tomatoes, corn, and guacamole.
Katie C. is a former Los Angelino who’s forsaken the smog and best vegan food ever for Berkeley. She works with autistic kids, and gives presentations on the evils of factory farming. Check out Vegansaurus’ previous L.A. coverage here!
Sugar Plum Bakery and Never Felt Better Vegan Store in Sacramento! »
This should totally be a Road Trip Friday post but put fuck it, let’s all cut out of work and head to Sacramento righthisminute to enjoy the most amazing vegan treats at Sugar Plum Bakery (with their VEGAN WEEKEND BRUNCH and yo, a coupon for a free vegan cupcake!), at 2315 K St. And now there’s even more reason to visit our state’s crapital: a new ALL-VEGAN shop above Sugar Plum Bakery, Never Felt Better (2315½ K St.). That’s a link to Yelp because the website is under construction but you can fan them on Facebook and find out about specials and all sorts of other magical crap so DO IT.
ENOUGH OF THAT, what can I buy at this store, LAURA!??! Well, FRIEND, Never Felt Better has lots and lots of goodies. You can get handmade vegan bath and body junk, T-shirts, accessories like belts and wallets, cards and postcards promoting veganism, and most importantly, snacks and pantry staples and cookbooks and ‘zines. It’s the only vegan store in Northern California. GO NOW!
This place is straight adorable and you want to buy everything in it to support them and keep them alive and healthy for a long time. I mean, if we can’t use our vegan dollars to support others LIVING THE VEGAN DREAM, what are we good for? That’s a serious question for you to ponder on, I cannot provide an easy answer. If you want to rap on your existence and its worth, holler at your pro-bono (unless you can pay? can you pay? this might not be legal) therapist. UNTIL THEN: Visit Sacramento! Eat cinnamon rolls! And tempeh reubens! And then buy wallets! And mimic creme! Oh, and while you’re in Sacramento, get your vegan on (yes I did!) at Chipotle with gardein (only place to get it in Northern California!), Noble Vegetarian, Andy Nguyen’s Vegetarian, Au Lac Vegetarian, The Green Boheme, and the glorious East African Veggie Burger at Tower Cafe. Sacramento is bringing it! Let’s all move there! JOKE I’D RATHER DIE xoxox, total snob asshole. But really, I could see living in Sacramento if a gun was pointed to my head. That’s progress, people! Ask Laura from 2008 to choose between death and Sacramento and she’d choose death, hands-down. But Laura from today? She’d choose Sacramento. Followed closely by death. PROGRESS!
[photo via Yelp]
Psycho Donuts! Let’s all move to San Jose! »
Move over, San Francisco! Make room, Berkeley! San Jose is a hotbed* of vegan activity. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in downtown San Jose regardless of your reason for coming here, be it a nerd-fest comic convention, a quick pit stop on the way home from scoring weed in Santa Cruz, or that you actually live here (YES, AWESOME VEGANS DO LIVE DOWN HERE**). If you’re into hipsters straight off the SJSU campus, head over to Good Karma for some honey-free baklava—IT’S THE SHIZ. If you’re into some Asian awesomeness with a touch of cult-creepiness, head over to Vegetarian House for some non-dairy FRIED ICE CREAM. If you’re into cute girls in nurse costumes (AND WHO ISN’T?) then head over to Psycho Donuts for some unusually flavored vegan donuts.
Psycho Donuts is the newest vegan-friendly addition to downtown San Jose, and this fat vegan’s new obsession. They offer two vegan donut choices: one constant, and one that changes weekly. The RazVeganPucker, available every week, has a strange combination of freeze-dried berry powder and lime juice over a cake base. The special when I went for reviewing purposes was a cake donut with blueberry frosting and fresh*** blueberries on top. Both donuts were tasty, and clearly marked vegan.
Psycho Donuts’ asylum theme is complete with kitschy Halloween-esque décor, including eyeball lights and traffic cones. If you’re in the mood to release some aggression, ask for some bubble wrap to pop; they always have a stash handy. Their hours are amazing—open before I wake up, and closed after I go to bed. They also offer soymilk with their organic Tony’s coffee and Numi tea. With plenty of seating both indoors and out, you can be sure to find a table. There is no need to worry about parking, if you’re not lucky enough to live within walking distance, as they are located at the base of a parking garage, and offer validation. My only complaint is that they need MORE VEGAN DONUTS, both in options and quantity. I’ve been there three times since they opened a couple of days ago: once they were sold out (TRAGIC!), and the other two times their vegan stock was dangerously low. So if you want to guarantee yourself a feast of donuty goodness, make sure to call ahead and place an order.
*By “hot”, I mean sunny, sweaty, find-me-some-air-conditioning hot!
**If, like me, you live in the Valley of Silicon, holler at me! I’m always looking for awesome vegans to hang out with.
*** Fresh fruit on a donut; so WRONG, and yet so RIGHT!
Marie Dadap is a fat vegan extraordinaire whose life won’t be complete until someone makes a vegan brie. You can reach her at marie [at] dadap [dot] net. All these awesome photos are by Marie, too!
Road trip: Vegan in Los Angeles! »
Two vegansaurs hit up Los Angeles this holiday season and lived to tell the tale, which is definitely your gain! Here, for your enjoyment, are our field notes, guaranteed to make you hungry.
I have a secret. You guys would probably never have guessed it, and I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this, but did you know that there are vegans in L.A.? Yeah. I know. It turns out they have about 80 billion vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants even! I was lucky enough to get to try a couple of these strange and new establishments this month on a whirlwind trip, and I’m here to share my findings with the good people of San Francisco.
First stop was a place called Pure Luck. PL is the kind of place that San Francisco is sadly lacking in (GET ON IT, VEGANS) - cheap, all-vegan food, and great all-vegan beer in a casual atmosphere served up by cute and highly capable servers. Pure Luck is famous for their jackfruit “carnitas” tacos, so that’s what I had. For the uninitiated, jackfruit is a tropical fruit that, when young, is largely tasteless and has a weird, fibrous-yet-tender texture, which makes it a perfect candidate to replace the gross-ass stringy meat that gets stewed down into carnitas or pulled pork or whatever. Pure Luck does jackfruit up right - the texture is perfect, and the flavor is satisfying and perfect with the corn tortillas, cilantro, onion, and salsa verde that make up the rest of the taco. Get a couple of these with some caesar salad (bomb-diggity!) for under $10. Add any of the hand-picked Belgiany-skewing beers that happen to be on the rotating beer menu, and you’ve got yourself a first-class A-1 meal.
If you’re lucky enough to spend the night in LA (or get there in the morning or early afternoon), then you are lucky indeed because you can avail yourself of the fine brunch options available to vegans in LA. Not to bash SF or anything, because I love the hells out of this city, but there’s a SERIOUS lack of fully-vegan brunch options here. Yes, we have some pretty great tofu scrambles at Boogaloos and St. Francis Fountain, but they don’t have vegan home fries, and that, that is a serious problem. So, if you’re one of the lucky jetsetters who gets to have brunch in LA, do it up right - go all out, and HAVE HOME FRIES. The place to do this that I recommend is Flore. Granted, it’s the only place I’ve had brunch in LA, but it’s cheap, the portions are huge, and they have great potatoes, so I don’t know what more you could possibly want. I had the tofu benedict, which was 3 big pieces of lovely bread with broiled (I think) tofu, tomato, kale, and a lake of hollandaise sauce. The benedict was so big they had to give me my potatoes in a bowl on the side. Also, the coffee was great, and I drank about 90 cups, so I suppose you should watch out for that, but there are worse things than spending the afternoon jittering running to pee every 20 minutes, right? Greatness comes at a price! Anyway, the service is a tad slow, but it’s brunch, so don’t go if you are in a hurry. Brunch is for layabouts, and don’t you forget it!
Finally, on my way out of town, I got to check out VegiSoul, LA’s vegetarian soul food place. I haven’t had a lot of soul food in my day (I’m from Canada, where neither soul nor food exists - kidding! But no, we don’t have soul food up there and certainly not vegan soul food), but I’ve had enough to know that I fucking LOVE IT. If I could eat only one meal for the rest of my life, it would probably be all the deep-fried-smothered-in-barbecue-sauce stuff with greens from Chicago’s SoulVeg, and I wouldn’t be unhappy at all. VegiSoul isn’t quite as mind-blowingly pants-wetting awesome as SoulVeg, but it delivers a very solid meal and has super nice people working there. I had the Fibs (fake ribs!), greens, and mac ‘n cheese. The mac was a bit different than the super creamy stuff I’m used to getting (and loving) from Souley Vegan in the East Bay. VegiSoul’s mac had tiny diced-up bits of green and red pepper in it, which lent a nice flavor to things, and instead of a super creamy sauce, their mac fell more into the greasy awesomeness camp. It had nice flavor and went really well with the fibs, which were meaty (kind of oddly so - not that I suspect they had actual meat in them, of course; they were just a different texture than I’ve encountered before, which is good!) and smothered with a tangy, not-too-overpowering barbecue sauce. The star of my meal was the greens, which were perfectly cooked and salted just right, which just serves as a double reminder that I can’t cook those kinds of greens at home for shit. Ah well.
Within the past few months, Native Foods has really been undergoing a lot of changes. Their Westwood location (by UCLA) opened up a to-go side of the restaurant, offering take-out orders for people on the go. They also changed their name to Native Foods Cafe and switched their logo. And they’ve also created a rewards card - rewards cards are awesome until you think about the big-brotherness of it all, how you’re acting as some guinea-pig for marketing purposes and then the company turns around and acts like they’re doing you a favor. But at the end of the day, Native Foods’ Scorpion Burger, in my opinion, makes it all worth it. They have an expansive menu full of burgers and bowls and salads and tacos, a dish to please any palette.
Whenever I make a trip back home to LA, I always manage to go to M Cafe at least once. Sure, they serve fish; I’m sad that it’s not an all-vegan establishment—though luckily its sister restaurant Seed in Venice is!!!—but the vegan stuff it does pull off, it really pulls off. I went to the 7119 Melrose Ave. at La Brea Ave. location. Parking there is reasonable, especially considering the area (curse you, West LA!!). Sadly, a previous visit to M Cafe got me a delicious $10 sandwich and a not-so-delicious $50 parking ticket.
The cafe is really casual. You order up front and you get your food delivered to your table a la a number card. Just so you know, your table does get bussed for you (just to ease any confusion… I always manage to forget this each time I go there!). One night, my friend and I had a lovely dinner there. Our appetizer? Mint chocolate cupcake. Fuck yes, we eat our dessert before dinner. Get over it. The texture was impeccable, the frosting perfectly piped. But the flavor was just not there. When I think “mint chocolate,” I think mint! I wanted so badly to have that punch, but it was sorely missed. The other flavors they had available were strawberry and chocolate—I wish we had gotten the chocolate :(.
For my main course, I got a teriyaki tempura bowl with tofu. I could have gotten the vegetables steamed or sauteed, but the tempura seemed just so tempting! I couldn’t finish the fried veggies though; the oil was just too much for my stomach. Luckily, my dining companion was more than happy to eat up my leftovers. The flavors and textures in this dish were incredible. The tofu even had adorable grill marks that added some much-appreciated char flavor. The bed of brown rice at the bottom completed my meal. It was so rich and satisfying, I could eat it any day of the week (except maybe next time with sauteed veggies instead of deep-fried).
My dining companion got a burger called the Big Macro. I had a bite and it totally hit the spot. As far as veggie burgers go, though, it was pretty standard. It scores some healthy points for being macrobiotic, but I think that overall it was exactly as it should be. If you’re in a veggie-burger-mood, this will totally fill you right up!! It also came with a yummy side of kale with spicy peanut sauce. I almost ate all of his kale, I swear. It was the most delicious, yummy part of the meal, in my opinion. I was half-tempted to get a side of it to take home it was so good! If you’re a kale-lover, you must get that deli item!
[photos by Brianna]
We’re enjoying the local climate* in Santa Cruz at the moment, including these homemade barbecue riblets from the hot food bar at Staff of Life. <3 <3 <3
*local climate = hella bountiful vegan food, honies in bikini’s lookin’ fly (and mad shirtless bros. Hotness of peeps in Santa Cruz outnumbers hotness of peeps in SF, 5 to 1), and delightful chill attitude (extends from richest yuppie transplant to nastiest homeless dudes). Minor complaint: What’s up with the dogscrimination here? Hazel has been kicked out of hotels, the boardwalk and Pacific Avenue. Please to explain, Santa Cruz! My dog is super chill and looks amazing topless…why you hatin!?