L.A. Urban Food Crawl: Eat everything, walk forever, you gotta do this!  »

We love Los Angeles! They’ve got insane amounts of delicious vegan food, a delightful temperate climate, and celebrities! Who doesn’t love celebrities? Pretentious assholes/people who lead more fulfilling lives than we do.

On Nov. 11, our pal Jon participated in the L.A. Urban Food Crawl. He said it was an awesome and intense experience, one that led him on a trek in search of good vegan food all over downtown Los Angeles. Like, all over. Like, they walked a long time. Possibly forever. But he didn’t complain! This is more of a food hike than a food crawl. So if you’re in shape and love to eat, and like to burn off what you eat, this is for you. If your goal is to get so large that the only way you can get around is via Lark mobility scooter, maybe take a pass? Or actually, get that scooter and then hop back on the eating train! Either way, it sounds like it was a marvelous, gluttonous, exercise-filled day. These were his findings:

PREPARATION: Wear comfy walk-around clothes and shoes [Ed.: don’t forget shoes!], bring a light sweater or umbrella (depending on the weather, season), and a camera.

THE DETAILS: The tour starts at Pershing Square downtown, and meanders through downtown L.A.’s Historic Core (cultural epicenter of the city until around WWII); ours ran from around 2 to 7:30 p.m. The best way to get there is to take the Metro Rail Red Line to the Pershing Square stop ($1.50 each way!); otherwise, there are plenty of affordable-ish public parking lots. All eating stops were within a few blocks of Pershing Square.

People say to arrive hungry, because you’ll be eating A LOT of food. Lies. Even when you’re stuffed to the gills and think you can’t eat another bite, you’ll find a way to make room for the next tasty vegan dish, because they’re all so ridiculously delicious. Part food experience, part lesson in L.A. history—walkin’ and learnin’ between food stops is a good opportunity to (re)discover downtown (which is estranged from and totally foreign to many Angelenos), and rebuild your appetite.

You’ll make friends if you go alone, but it’s probably better to go with friends—it’s a super-fun experience with a group of pals.

Bring a few extra bucks for booze/treats/distractions (wine and chocolate at Two Bits; tequila at Más Malo; fare for Angels’ Flight cab ride afterward).

Now, onto the good stuff: where and what we ate!

Two Bits Market (210 W 5th St. at Spring Street)

What we ate: Rupee sandwich—white bean puree with artichokes, black olives, squash, and arugula on artisan baguette.
What this place is about: East coast-style corner market and deli. Local! Organic! Fresh! Healthy! Awesome produce in general. Be sure to check out their nice selection of wine.

Nickel Diner (524 S. Main St., between Fifth and Sixth streets)

What we ate: Stuffed avocado with quinoa, pinto beans, red peppers, squash, corn, cilantro, onion, and vinaigrette (from the lunch menu).
What it’s about: Fifth Street is “the Nickel,” hence, “Nickel Diner,” a little American short-order-style diner. The building began as an opera house, then became a burlesque theatre, then a series of restaurants. The owner bought the space during a “transitional” period of downtown L.A.; while the diner was being renovated, they peeled back the wallpaper and discovered the original menu and poetry on the walls, so they restored them. Small space with limited seating; arrive early to beat the lines, rush.

Más Malo (515 W Seventh St., between Grand Avenue and Olive Street)
What we ate: Vegan menudo (chiles, onion, hominy, tofu, lime, tomato broth), crunchy vegan beef taco.
What it’s about: This space was a jewelry store in the 1920s; it has beautiful architecture, including the ceiling and wall adornments; the 400-lb. steel TEQUILA VAULT downstairs has a fancypants tequila tasting room that was the old jewelry store vault. Be sure to inquire about their awesome drink specials—recommended: the Piñata Smash or the Spicy Cucumber margarita)

Pitfire Pizza Company (108 W. Second St. at Main Street)

What we ate: Pumpkin and winter squash pizza (seasonal item!) with Daiya mozzarella, field mushroom pizza with Daiya mozzarella.
What it’s about: Wood-fired artisanal pizzas. Yes, good pizza in L.A. We were all VERY FULL by the time we got to this stop, but the pizza was so delicious that we scarfed it all down in like, 12 seconds. Pretty sure they can veganize any pizza on the menu if you ask. Locations on the Westside and in the Valley, also.

Syrup (601 S. Spring St., between Broadway and E. Sixth streets)

What we ate: Pear and champagne sorbet, Boston iced tea with black tea, cranberry juice, fresh fruit.
What it’s about: Cozy coffee shop with assorted coffees, teas, desserts, etc. People love the sorbet because it’s not too sweet or filling (the not-too-filling aspect is key, ‘cause we had had plenty to eat). Board games and stuff upstairs, wi-fi.

Babycakes (130 E Sixth St., between Main and S. Los Angeles streets)

What we ate: Frozen blondie (frozen frosting sandwiched between two chocolate chip blonde brownies).
What it’s about: All-vegan, gluten-free baked treats, a la NYC Babycakes. New location opening in Larchmont in December. Last stop on the food crawl, so get an extra cookie or three to go. They deliver!

So concludes the food tour. But wait, there’s more! Since you’re already downtown, why not check out this other stuff in the area:

  • L.A. Central Library
  • Grand Central Market
  • Angels’ Flight
  • MOCA
  • Japan Arcade (Little Tokyo)
  • Devil’s Night Drive-In
  • Santee Alley/Fashion District
  • Redcat Theatre
  • Shows at The Smell
  • Bars/old speakeasy joints (the Edison, the Varnish, Library Bar, Seven Grand, Perch)
  • Downtown Artwalk/bajillions of galleries

For those of you not into going downtown, there’s a new tour on the horizon. Organizers Jen and Sheri are starting a Silverlake vegan urban food crawl around the Sunset Junction, which will probably be a little less walk-y than the downtown version.

Yay! Thank you so much to Jen, Sheri, and Jon! And everyone in L.A., go on an urban food crawl right now!

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