Howdy and happy springtime! Long time no see.
If you follow my blog regularly you’ve probably scratched your head a time or two wondering where I have been. With close to two years of blog writing under my belt here at Cowgirls & Collard Greens, this is the longest I have ever been away from my “baby”. I pride myself on writing a blog post every week, but while my blog content may have lacked recently, I assure you that my journeys and experiences have not.
Where have I been? I have spent almost a month traveling to Southern California in search of vegan food and vegan friends, but I’ve also been hosting several guests in my home. It’s been a very busy month, but it’s been a good one. In addition to galavanting between Los Angeles and San Diego, I subsequently did some much needed healing as the first couple months of the year proved to be particularly challenging for me emotionally. I’ve been back home in Northern California for about a week now and I brought with me a fresh perspective and overall I am feeling much better than I have in months. My trip refreshed me, gave me the opportunity to get away from my small town life and provided me with a much needed break (escape). I was able to sample exciting plant based foods in new-to-me restaurants, attend the largest natural products convention (Natural Products Expo) in the world, nosh on tasty treats at the first annual Vegan Street Fair and visit with my vegan tribe of friends. While I’ve been constantly on the go, my travels have been both wonderful and insightful.
But just as it’s taken me over a week to settle back in to being back home, I realized I needed a bit more time to immerse myself back into blogging as well. Thankfully my friend, fellow vegan, blogger and foodie has come to the rescue and stepped up to the plate by contributing this week’s blog. Let me introduce you to Los Angeles native Elana Lavine of Klean-Slate. I had the pleasure of spending some time with her while in L.A. the last couple weeks. I am forever grateful that she’s sharing some of her top favorite vegan restaurants and dishes from and around the City of Angeles (which is quickly becoming the new vegan mecca if you ask me!). Welcome and take it away Elana!
These days it seems every city has at least one local spot we vegans can find save haven in. I feel I can make this statement because I recently ventured to a small town in West Virginia and was directed to a humble, yet mighty, mini (very mini) Whole Foods if you will. I was beside myself with glee as I walked up and down each aisle pointing, awing and throwing everything into my little basket (most of which I didn’t even need, but purchased anyway).
I like to pride myself on being “The Traveling Vegan”–always being prepared, getting creative when I need to be and always documenting that it CAN be done.
When it comes to the place I call home, I am fortunate enough to live in a city where I don’t have to work that hard.
Los Angeles has become a vegan playground for those willing to go the extra mile to be “in the know”. Putting yourself out there, doing a little research (even though now in LA the word “vegan” isn’t a completely unknown subject) you will begin to see the abundance that lies right outside your front door. Events are always being created, groups are always forming and restaurants are catching on. The ripple effect is real! BUT, unfortunately, it’s not that much of rarity to find most people still uninformed. I won’t lie, I was one! After years of being “not in the know”, I came back from a yoga retreat, ready to embrace full-heartedly Klean-Slate’s motto; Klean-Karma- Eat klean, innovate the cycle, kreate the shift. I swear it wasn’t a hippie dippie trance I was in; I just woke up to reality. I began to kreate my own shift and since then, the ripple effect has been the most rewarding journey I could have ever imagined.
I immersed myself fully; researched, experimented, failed, succeeded, grew a vegan backbone and began to call the vegan community my family.
So with all that being said, I try to “bring it back to the plate” as much as possible. I normally make my own food from my farmers market haul, but there are times were balance calls for tasty fare around town and luckily, I’ve become a bit of a headquarters for knowing What’s Up in LA.
I will let you in on my top 7 restaurants in Los Angeles. I’ve covered all of the basic options one needs to survive. Why a top 7? Because I couldn’t narrow it down to a top 5 and I didn’t want to over do it by giving you a top 10 or 20. Here they are in no particular order:
1028 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
The perfect bohemian café located in Santa Monica has a menu that features one of my favorite burgers in town. The loaded burger (I get it in a gluten-free cactus wrap) is comprised of smoked tempeh bacon, vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, special sauce and a homemade 27 fresh ingredient patty. Other notable favorites are; Strawberry Cake, Pumpkin Bar, Roasted Maca Latte and the Carrot/Ginger Kelp Noodles. On the weekend, you may catch me hauled up upstairs with my laptop.
Little Tokyo Shopping Center 3F, 333 Alameda St #310 Los Angeles, CA 90013
12406 West Washington Boulevard Culver City, CA 90066
My fine-dining option is one that merges pure creativity and genuine hospitality back into what so many restaurants lack. Shojin understands customer service; from the placing of your belongings in a basket under your chair to carefully reciting your detailed dish before serving. This can be a romantic dinner, a fancy brunch with the girls or just two foodies looking to enjoy a well-crafted meal. My favorite dishes include: Baked Scallop, Yellow Orchestra (a must!), Pirates of the Crunchy, Pumpkin Castle, Dragon Roll, Green Forest and the Sea Vegetable Salad.
1507 N Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Now this is where you may begin to hate me. LA has a raw, organic to-go option! If you’re ever on the go (when are we not?) and Veggie Grill is just not cutting it in the tasty, raw, organic department; you can head down to Lifefood for daily fresh fare including juices, smoothies and snacks. Think high quality with flavor.“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”-Hippocrates.
My favorites: Taquitos with a side of guacamole, Breakfast Burrito (a must!), Dragon Wrap, Green Burrito, Spaghetti Carbonara, Tiramisu (that says a lot because I’m not a tiramisu fan) and the Chocolate Dream Cake.
8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069
We vegans definitely need a spot where we can bring skeptical non-vegans who still think we only eat twigs and berries in a stereotypical vegan café. Enter Gracias Madre to break that stereotype. The space is trendy, big, well designed, comfortable and just plain perfect for a summer brunch…well, we are in LA, so a brunch any time works just fine AND dinner, let’s not forget about their delicious and filling dinner options.
My favorites: Quesadillas de Calabaza (a must!), Guacamole and chips, El Plato, Flautas de Camote, Enchiladas con Mole, Mushroom Taco, Pumpkin Spice Cake, Cobbler and Wedding Cookies with Chocolate Ice Cream.
10820 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
From a small valley hidden gem to an expansive vegan destination, Sun Café has pushed its way to the top…and rightfully so. While still keeping their loyal followers, a bigger location with a new bar and a cozy patio has brought about a new wave of customers.
My favorites: Lettuce Leaf Tacos, Nachos (a must!), Sun Bruschetta, Mushroom Soup, Marinated Beet & Quinoa Salad, BLT (A) on raw bun, Sun Burger, Farmer’s Market Pizza, Mac & Cheese, Side Kale Salad, Brunch Omelette, Shamrock Shake and the Coffee Shake. I need to add, I could write a whole separate section discussing the desserts. Some favorites: Almond Butter Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Truffle and three Raw Cheesecakes- Blueberry, Cookie Dough and Pina Colada.
1731 Colorado Blvd, Eagle Rock, CA 90041
A family owned neighborhood market/deli business in the heart of an emerging city like Eagle Rock is one of the founding reasons why I created Klean-Slate. I support locally run, conscious businesses that have morals, values and damn tasty fare.
Another nifty fact about Organix is they are home to Plantfood for People– the best jackfruit tacos I’ve ever come across. Too much? I think not, try one and tell me I’m wrong.
My favorites: El Puerco (a must!), Carne Asada Fries, Mac Daddy, All American, Bacon Western and when the holidays come around the Thanksgiving Sandwich.
14435 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
I find something very comforting about Asian cuisine. It could be due to the fact that I use to travel to Asia as a child and the flavors trigger memories of a simpler time…or it could just be Asian cuisine is a downright savory, gratifying fare! Whatever the reasoning may be, VeSTATION is on my list. This tucked away restaurant is home to my favorite coconut soup in Los Angeles. I don’t mind if it’s 90° or 50° outside, I still order it.
Other notable favorites are: Superfoods Salad, Papaya Salad, Buddha Wraps, Quinoa Sticks, Seaweed Soup, Pad Thai, Pad See U, Green Lover, Massaman Curry, Black Rice Pudding and Mango with sticky rice.
There you have it! If you want to learn more, I have created a “Favorites in Los Angeles” tab on Klean-Slate.com that details out options in all categories; including those that are not solely vegan but have vegan options.
Elana Lavine is a native Angeleno who is continually working on evolving, creating, and finding a balance through her blog, Klean-Slate. A traveling vegan, 9-5er, devoted yogi/fitness buff, and a vegan nutritional enthusiast with an eye on all things foodie related, Elana believes that all is possible when you have the mindset to know that all is possible: Klean Karma- Eat klean, innovate the cycle, kreate the shift.
Feel free to keep in touch with Elana and what she’s up to over at Klean-Slate through her social media pages: