Recently I returned to the land of my people (vegans) - California! Venice Beach to be exact; to engage in sun, surf and the most abundant vegan food you could possibly imagine. It was glorious!
Because the Santa Monica area is among the top 10 for vegan friendly cities in the United States, we only dined at only 100% vegan restaurants (let me tell you, that makes it really hard to come back to Cleveland and settle). Here's where we gorged & the feast that ensued....
Veggie Grill - vegan fast food, where veggies take center stage...
2025 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90403
Grilled Quinoa + Veg Burger: scratch-made blend of organic quinoa + kale + mushrooms, topped with chao cheese, house-pickled onions, arugula, veg mayo & drizzled cilantro pesto.
Chargrilled Street Corn: sweet corn grilled 'elote' style, garnished with southwestern vegan mayo, soy Parmesan & cilantro.
BuffaloWings: tossed in spicy Buffalo sauce with celery sticks & creamy vegan ranch dressing.
Crispy Chickin' Plate: fried chickin', cauli-mashed potatoes topped with porcini mushroom gravy with fresh rosemary & steamed green beans.
Mac-n-Cheese: organic, non-GMO rice pasta slathered in VG-cheese sauce & topped with breadcrumbs.
So much to choose from that we had to come back...
Mondo Nachos: 'chicasa' taco blend of veggie proteins + caramelized onions, mashed avocado, VG-Cheese, jalapenos, soy cream + corn chips.
Crispy Cauliflower: fresh cauliflower florets encased in panko breading, accompanied by a sweet + spicy orange dipping sauce.
Mexi-Mini Wrap: 'Chicasa' taco blend of veggie proteins + caramelized onions, avocado, lettuce, spicy sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Verdict: It's vegan fast food with a plethora of options to please any cravings. Nice to hit for a meal splurge, but nothing to make a habit out of. Once the novelty wears off, the food kinda tastes generic.
Real Food Daily - best food of the trip winner!
514-516 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Sorry for the lousy photo quality - it was late, it was dark and I was beyond tired...
Lasagna Napoletana: Italian pasta, creamy cashew ricotta, spinach, crimini mushroom, marinara sauce, basil oil.
Southwest Salad: romaine hearts, black beans, brown rice, jicama slaw, guacamole, pico de gallo, lime cilantro dressing, baked tortilla strips
Verdict: Loved the ambiance, loved the staff, loved the food! Don't miss the bakery counter!
Kreation Organic - whenever I travel, I try to get as much fresh pressed juice in me as possible to keep my immune system up. Since almost every vegan restaurant in town offers fresh pressed juice, this is really easy to do. It also help that there are juice cafes like this one wherever you turn - love it!
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd Venice, CA 90291
Enhance: Almond Milk, Maca, Coconut, Coconut Water, Cacao, Cinnamon.
Trinity Twist: Beet, Apple, Carrot, Lemon.
Feel Better Tonic: Lemon, Cayenne, Echinacea, Ginger, Himalayan Salt, Turmeric.
Verdict: Cute little shop, nice people, quality juice.
Vegan Joint - there's so many great breakfast options - and they serve it all day!
10438 National Blvd, CA 90034
Pancakes: served with maple syrup and vegan margarine.
Create Your Own Omelet: select 3 choice of fillings and cheese: mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, kale, onion or avocado, served with breakfast potatoes and toast.
Smoked Apple Sage Sausage: Yukon gold potatoes, apples and rubbed sage.
Verdict: Love the low key atmosphere and the creativity of the dishes. This is actually a place we hit every time we are in the area.
Seed Kitchen - little vegan cafe within walking distance of Venice Beach! Get it to-go & hit the sand!
1604 Pacific Ave. Venice, CA
Creamy Caesar Salad: romaine, crunchy croutons, cashew parmesan and pumpkin seed dressing.
Mediterranean Burger: Eric’s original bean & grain burger with baby greens, tomato, red onion and red pepper aioli spread.
Verdict: Food was descent. Seating is limited, don't expect to dine in. Parking is crazy at prime beach time (paid $30 to park). No bathroom!
Cafe Gratitude - where you are what you order - "I am..." I was a lot of things...just kidding.
512 Rose Ave. Venice, CA 90291
Open-Hearted: two gluten-free buckwheat flax pancakes with maple syrup and cashew whipped cream.
Trusting: barbecue tempeh scramble - gluten-free tempeh, seasonal vegetables, shitake mushrooms, spinach, scallions, cilantro, avocado with whole wheat toast.
Grounded: baked heirloom potatoes 9oven-baked potatoes.
Serene: cinnamon roll - gluten-free pastry, flax eggs, cinnamon, spice swirl, powdered sugar glaze.
Charismatic: chai latté - chai tea, almond milk, cinnamon.
Just had to come back for dinner...this time with friends - Hey McDougall Girls!
Awesome: eggplant parmesan panini - herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant, grilled panini bread, marinara sauce, cashew ricotta, tomatoes, brazil nut parmesan, arugula, basil, side of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette.
Surrendering: gluten-free brownie, vanilla coconut cashew milk ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar.
Verdict: Love the Zen vibe, good for when you're in the mood for ultra-healthy vegan.
Vegan World - hit this little place after visiting Universal Studios - I went with dinner, while my bf opted for breakfast, which is served all day.
11044 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
Pad Thai with soy shrimp, served with brown rice, salad & a Fresh Spring Roll: lettuce, bean sprouts, glass noodle, basil, soy chicken, cilantro, carrot
Country Hash Brown: chopped grilled potato with scramble egz & vegan Monterey Jack cheese.
Verdict: Great food, friendly staff, large menu. Parking can be a challenge.
The Grain Cafe - opens at 6am!!! Perfect for the early risers like me who just want to get their tennis & breakfast on before the city wakes around 11am...
4222 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
Pancake Breakfast: 2 pancakes served with hash browns, "sausage" and tofu scramble.
Classic Waffle with blackberry spread and powdered sugar.
Veggie Crepe: spinach, mushroom, zucchini, red pepper in a roasted garlic sauce served with roasted potatoes.
Verdict: So much to choose from! Loved the fresh pressed juices & smoothies. Don't be deterred that this is actually located in Crenshaw; I never felt unsafe.
By the time we got to the end of our trip, I was so over eating out. Luckily, I planned a beach day for our last full day. So, we hit Whole Foods (500 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica) which has a Vegan Cafe (enter store and go to the right corner, not the left where all the other food service stations are). We both got a grilled veggie wrap that was OK with potato salad & kale chips - again just OK. While there, we also nabbed some fresh pressed juice, cut fruit and vegan cookies & donuts (located in front of the registers with the other bulk bakery). Great way to end the trip! Sorry, no pics of our beach side picnic. But I did grab this shot...
I hope this helps you plan your trip to the vegan holy land...