Has this ever happened to you: You’re a meat-lover, but your date is a vegan, and you never been to a vegan restaurant before and have no idea where to go. Or, vice versa, you’re a vegan and you want to take your carnivore date to a restaurant they won’t hate. Here are some great vegan restaurants that I love, even though I’m a meat-eater.
1. Cafe Gratitude (Various Locations)
I was reluctant to try Cafe Gratitude (which has locations in Venice, Beverly Hills, Larchmont, the Downtown LA Arts District, and Newport Beach) due to the quirkiness of what I had heard about it. The menu items have names like “Devoted”, “Humble”, and “Grateful”, and when you’re ordering, you’re supposed to say “I am Grateful”, and the server will re-affirm that. This seemed kind of New Agey and weird to me, but when I finally went and tried the food, I became a believer. The food was amazing!! We had the cauliflower appetizer with buffalo sauce, a vegan version of buffalo wings. While I do love buffalo wings, I enjoyed this dish completely guilt-free! For my main entree, I had the SF Mission Burrito (“I am Original”) which was also great!
Unlike some vegan restaurants, Cafe Gratitude does not try to create fake meat out of vegetables. Instead, they use interesting flavors and combinations to create their dishes. Oh, and all of the main dishes have a source of protein, and all dishes are organic. Prices are very reasonable considering!
I also like the clean, inviting atmosphere of the Venice location. They also have great outdoor seating. Check it out!
2. Satdha Plant-Based Thai Kitchen (Santa Monica)
Their subtitle might not sound that appetizing, but the food at Satdha on Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica is excellent. Their pad Thai is great, but I’d really recommend their “catfish” eggplant, which is crispy battered eggplant in a flavorful sauce. Four-and-a-half stars on Yelp!
3. Sage Organic Vegan Bistro (Various Locations)
The food at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro is simply awesome. Last time I went, I was super hungry and left totally satisfied. I’ve been to both their Echo Park and Culver City locations. Their Echo Park location is less polished than their Culver City location, but it is keeping with the more hipster / grungier Echo Park / Silverlake vibe. It’s located in an old vintage shopping and athletic center building on 1700 Sunset Blvd. I’d say it’s fine for an informal date, but the ambiance is not there for a formal dinner date where you’re dressed up.
I had the Tempeh Sausage Florentine (pictured in the header) from their brunch menu. Wow, it was fantastic. So flavorful! One of my friends there had the pancakes which were topped with a sweetened granola and “butter”, which was amazing. They also have some great Mexican dishes. The Culver City location has a completely different feel; so much so that I initially didn’t realize that it was related to the one in Echo Park. The vibe is a bit more upscale – fine for a bit more formal date.
4. Gracias Madre (West Hollywood)
Many of the restaurants on this list, and a lot of vegan restaurants in general, tend to be pretty informal. Gracias Madre in West Hollywood ups the ante just a bit with a slightly more hip crowd and ambiance. This place is probably the one that I would most recommend taking a date to, with with both indoor and outdoor seating and a full-service bar. The prices are very reasonable as well! Main dishes cost between $12 and $20.
Their primary cuisine is Mexican but they have some other types of dishes. I’d especially recommend their crab cake appetizer and their street corn!
Afterwards, check out Verve Coffee Roasters next door, with a charming outdoor seating area.
5. The Butcher’s Daughter (Venice)
The Butcher’s Daughter on trendy Abbott-Kinney Blvd. in Venice has an amazing farmhouse ambiance. Most of the menu items are vegan and gluten-free.
They have a large selection of juices and smoothies, as well as breakfast items, salads, and pizzas.
6. True Food Kitchen (Various Locations)
True Food Kitchen has several locations in the LA Area, including the Santa Monica Main Place mall. They do serve meat, but they have many vegetarian and vegan options which are clearly marked on the menu. The seating area is airy, pleasant, and casual. Anyone into healthy eating will like this place. It’s great for a lunch date or informal dinner.
7. Real Food Daily (Various Locations)
Real Food Daily is probably one of the more popular and famous vegan restaurants in LA. They have locations in West Hollywood on La Cienega near the Beverly Center, and Pasadena. Unfortunately, the Santa Monica location closed, but they promise it will re-open somewhere else in Santa Monica. I usually have their vegan burger when I go there, and I’m always satisfied. They also have some great vegan desserts which you shouldn’t miss. The atmosphere there is not formal but fine for a mellow date.
8. Bulan Thai Vegetarian (Mid City)
Thai cuisine lends itself well to being vegan, so it’s not surprising that there are several on this list. I went Bulan Thai Vegetarian on Melrose with a vegetarian friend, we we were both impressed with the food. A majority of the items are vegan or have vegan options. Atmosphere was good enough for a casual dinner date. There is also a location in Silverlake.
9. The Vegan Joint (Culver City)
The Vegan Joint was my first experience with a vegan restaurants. One of my vegan friends convinced a reluctant buddy and me to go there, knowing we were carnivores. We gave it a try and loved it. Their breakfast dishes are great. Their chicken is awesome as well. They also have a selection of Thai dishes which I have not tried yet, but I hear are really good. The Culver City location is very casual with a “mom and pop” hole-in-the-wall vibe; I wouldn’t go there on a formal dinner date, but it’s okay if you just want some good vegan food.
More Recommended Vegan Restaurants
Okay, my friend Jessica, who is vegan, was kind enough to give me a list of her favorite vegan restaurants in the L.A. area! Here they are (in no particular order):
- Sage Organic Vegan Bistro (Echo Park) – See above.
- Donut Friend (Highland Park) – Donuts made without eggs or dairy!
- Flore Vegan (Silverlake)
- Cruzer Pizza (Silverlake) – The only 100% animal-free vegan pizzeria in Los Angeles!
- Green Leaves Vegan (Los Feliz)
- Scoops (East Hollywood) – Some say this is the best vegan ice cream in Los Angeles.
- Gracias Madre (West Hollywood) – Great vegan Mexican food, see above.
- Café Gratitude (Los Angeles, Downtown L.A., Venice) – See above.
- Real Food Daily (Santa Monica, West Hollywood) – See above.
- Sun Cafe (Studio City) – looks charming inside!
I can’t wait to try all of these! What are your favorite vegan restaurants? Leave a comment below! – Brian