I just returned home from a trip to sunny Southern California where I spent three full days at my very first Natural Products Expo in the city of Anaheim. The Expo is held every year on both coasts and is considered the largest natural products trade show in the world. And, after attending I can see why. There were thousands of people and hundreds, if not thousands of booths covering every natural product you could ever imagine from toothpaste to mascara to eco-friendly water bottles and of course lots of food. I attended to connect with fellow vegan friends old and new, to meet up with companies I have done work for, and to scope out the latest and greatest new vegan products so I could bring them back to showcase to all of you! It was a whirlwind trip that consisted of early mornings and late nights, including some fun after parties (thank you for the good times Fieldroast and Tofurkey!). While I am still putting together my top picks of vegan products from the event, I thought I’d share some of my favorite discoveries in the world of vegan eats, Southern California style.
1. Seabirds Kitchen ~ Costa Mesa, California
Located in Costa Mesa, in the heart of Orange County, this sweet little 100% vegan urban eatery was formerly a food truck turned brick and mortar restaurant. I love the chic modern, yet simple decor of the restaurant and the fun anti-mall like setting where it resides, complete with adjacent restaurants, an outdoor mural and walkways strung with white twinkly lights.
Seabirds Kitchen menu is out of this world in terms of selection. They believe in providing local and organic food that they serve up on both their brunch and seasonal menus. And if you live locally, they’ve got you covered for catering as well. From healthy salads to beer battered Avocado Tacos and BBQ’d Jackfruit Sliders, you’re sure to fall in love at first bite. I guarantee any omnivore will enjoy this quality fare. Because I had been living on sampled foods at the Expo for three full days, I opted to go the healthy route and enjoyed their beautiful Seasonal Kale Salad.
2. Evolution Fast Food ~ San Diego, California
Nestled in downtown San Diego, this funky little drive-thru is worth the drive wherever it is that you are coming from. This 100% vegan joint has a wide variety of menu items from the Portobello Sandwich to Black Bean Burgers to Chick’n Tenders and made to order smoothies as well. And if you lean more towards raw foods, they have a several raw food plates too. Even though there is a drive thru, you don’t have to take your food to go. There are a few select seats inside the restaurant as well as on their outdoor patio. If you are on the go, they have pre-made items in their grab and go cases right near the check-out counter.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when a friend suggested that I try out vegan fast food, but I must admit that the only item I tried ended up being the best I have ever eaten in the raw food category. However it is that you get to Evolution Fast Food, by plane, car, train or horse, just do it! They have the best Raw Burger that I’ve ever had. It was so crispy that I wished I had more time to ask about how it was made.
Located in the pretty downtown of Anahiem, Healthy Junk is just as their name suggests. It’s the perfect eclectic mix healthful and comfort foods and it too is also 100% vegan. The cafe is situated in a food court with other restaurants, complete with a bar that serves both wine and beer on tap. The atmosphere is definitely something to write home about. You feel as if you’re in between old-fashioned and modern shabby chic. They have plenty of open seating and a great bar where they serve up wine and beer on tap.
I opted for a healthy menu option as opposed to “junk”. I started with a green juice, and finished with their Mango Tango Salad which did not disappoint.
4. Dark Horse Coffee Roasters ~ San Diego, California
A few miles away from Evolution Fast Food, you can find a quaint little coffee house that is totally vegan-friendly and is situated right on the main drag in the super hip Normal Heights area of San Diego. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and convenient street parking.
While not 100% vegan, there are a multitude of vegan options from every type of coffee they roast to dairy-free milks and of course, the true reason I visited, vegan donuts. Ok, that’s not totally true, I also felt a a strong desire to check out Dark Horse Coffee simply because of their name. Once a lover of all things horse, always a lover of all things horse. Back to the donuts, they aren’t made in-house, but are created by Papa G’s and delivered fresh each morning. What I loved most about the donuts, aside from their creative flavors, was the size. The donuts fit in the palm of my hand. I sampled the Vanilla with Sprinkles and the French Toast flavors. I am not a coffee drinker so I can’t comment on their coffees, but I do know they roast their own and have a wide array of roasts to chose from.
While not completely in Southern California, it’s pretty close considering it’s in the bottom half of the state and is six hours from my home in Northern California. Right off the main drag in beautiful beachy Morro Bay lives a sweet little cafe that’s 100% vegan and is adjacent to Sunshine Health Foods. The cafe has a woodsy, hippy feel, plenty of indoor tables to sit at and outdoor street parking. All menu items are made to order and there’s a fair share of both cooked and raw food. I couldn’t pass up their special, the Raw Tacos probably because they were wrapped in collard greens. I was shocked at the size of my plate, truly worth every cent.
While I have barely scraped the surfaces of vegan eats in Southern California because there are so many, these are most definitely a good start, especially for casual or budgeted dining. The next time you venture to Southern California, I suggest you take this cowgirl roundup list with you. Happy healthy eating and yeehaw!