I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Anaheim, California, for Natural Products Expo West 2018 in March. It has been my dream (the show was like my version of Disneyland!) for many years, and I feel very fortunate that I was able to travel and attend (more on the actual show and my favourite product finds coming soon in a separate review!). Of course, my mother and I made the most of our time in the LA area to eat at some of the best, most fun, and innovative restaurants and stores before and after the show.
If you are after vegan food made with the best (yes, that means organic too!) ingredients, I would suggest you check the following places out in California. Please note, while some are really healthy, others are just healthier (and, as my mom calls them “kinder”) versions of some fun foods!
Gracias Madre – 8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood
This was our first stop, right from the airport, and we were so excited to enjoy lunch at Gracias Madre on their patio (my mother’s favourite!). Even though I had only been once before for dinner (see my review here), it has remained as one of my favourite restaurants (I do have a lot!), so I was crazy excited to indulge! Since it was only the first stop on our food tour of LA that afternoon before driving to Anaheim for the trade show that evening, I only ordered a burrito bowl (the Uno, with romaine, brown rice, black beans, tempeh chorizo, guacamole, pico de gallo, cashew crema, and pumpkin seeds), and, as expected, it was amazing! Everything Gracias Madre makes is vegan and organic – they claim 100%. How great is that? My mom and I also shared an order of their cauliflower with cashew cheese, it was so perfectly prepared! I shared the two small items my mother also ordered – the flauta (stuffed with sweet potato, caramelized onion, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese) and a jackfruit taco which was also a combination of delicious flavours. My mom’s favourite item was her CBD Cocktail. She usually orders this same kind of drink with organic tequila when at Gracias Madre, but they had a version without alcohol and with CBD instead, and she enjoyed it very much. Gracias Madre is always packed, but they do take reservations, their service is excellent, and the space, whether you sit inside or outside is beautiful.
Erewhon Market – 585 Venice Blvd, Venice; 7660 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles; 26767 Agoura Rd, Calabasas
Best. Grocery Store. Ever. Hands down! Erewhon is an awesmazing grocery store with a commitment to organics, with a variety of products like you’ve never seen! Over the course of our 3 days in LA, my mom and I went to two of their locations a total of five times, including two visits in one day! Not only are Erewhon’s shelves stocked with delicious goodies from companies who care, but their prepared food section is overwhelmingly incredible, boasting a huge selection of plant-based AND meat options! For the plane ride home, I got a turkey sandwich piled high with veggies and (of course) hummus – their food is always so good! Their cold-pressed juices are definitely among the BEST I have ever had – and definitely have the greatest selection I have ever seen including smoothies, shots and a huge variety of beverages with CBD! I am partial to their Apple, Lemon, Ginger, and Activated Charcoal juice! They always seem to have demos happening with innovative local brands, even at 10pm! I discovered a few great products including Pili Nuts and Zen Basil this way (more on those products to come in future blogs!). If you are in LA, Erewhon is a MUST for a great meal, stocking up on amazing eats or just finding the best of the best products!
Donut Farm – 2609 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
Vegan donuts made with organic ingredients, yes please! This little hole in the wall boasts some CRAZY good donuts with no holes. My mom and I tried the Vanilla Cookie and the Salted Caramel – not overly sweet (considering it was completely glaze-covered) and the cake part of the donuts were baked to perfection! A definite healthier and delicious version of a not-exactly-healthy food! If they were in Toronto, I’d likely be there too frequently! Their other location in Oakland actually has a full restaurant – it is somewhere I would definitely like to visit in the future!
Moon Juice – 8463-3 Melrose Place, Los Angeles; 507 Rose Ave, Venice; 2839 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
Moon Juice is one of LA’s biggest cold-pressed juice companies, AND boasts a variety of magic “dusts”, plant proteins, and probiotics which are available for purchase online or in their stores! Their stores are beautifully designed and their staff at both locations we visited were super kind and ready to sample anything and answer questions. My mom and I both enjoyed some interesting blends of juices and nut mylks and their nutrient-rich lattes are a must have. My favourite beverage was the Deep Chocolate Force mylk – it also made for a perfect quick breakfast pre-trade show! Pro-tip, ask for a fridge in your hotel room, and skip searching for breakfast, or having to eat something less healthy! The one downside at Moon Juice: their juices and mylks are unfortunately packaged in plastic bottles. Hopefully they switch to glass soon!
Plant Food and Wine – 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice
I’ve written a full review on Plant already, please check it out here! Spoiler alert: this is a “must” when in the area.
Tocaya Organica – 8720 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood; 1715 Pacific Ave, Venice; 507 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica; 12150 Millennium Dr, Los Angeles; 10250 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles
Tocaya started as one small location, but they are opening everywhere for great reason – they offer a really delicious, Mexican-style “fast-food” menu that is great for anyone, whether you are paleo, vegan, gluten-free or just like good food! My mom enjoyed their veggie tacos that you can have on their classic shells or lettuce (instead of meat, they have an option to put on housemade veggie piccadillo or adobo tofu and both were very tasty), while I enjoyed the special Farmers’ Market bowl! We sat outside and enjoyed our food – the portions are not small and the food is filling! I look forward to going back and trying a burrito or tacos – there are so many different creative combinations in their dishes!!
Sage Vegan Bistro – 4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City; 1700 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles; 41 Hugus Alley, Pasadena
My mom and I enjoyed Sage both on the first day we arrived in California and for dinner our first night back in LA after Expo West. Sage’s menu includes a wide variety of dishes such as pizzas, sandwiches, burritos, soups, salads, and tacos! (They also have delectable soft pretzels – I highly recommend grabbing one!) Tons of variety allows you to go back as many times as you want without getting bored of the menu – try something new every time! Full review coming soon!
Flore Vegan – 3818 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
Flore is a small cafe on Sunset that serves delicious vegan food. My mom and I stopped there so I could try a few things (I’m not sure what meal this would be…we had already eaten at so many places at that point). It was our first day in California, and I wanted to try and review as many places as possible. We split a Club and Reuben sandwich, both of which are chock-full of delicious layers. Their Reuben is made with tempeh instead of seitan, making it a much healthier option – tempeh isn’t always amazing, but this one really was! The classic club was amazing, and ended up being my first of two club sandwiches that day! I would use the excuse that I was eating so much to be able to share what is worth eating with you, but I was also enjoying every bite!
Bareburger – 2732 Main St, Santa Monica
I miss Bareburger in Toronto so much, and although I have been very fortunate to also eat there in New York, I specifically biked (in the rain) to Bareburger because my mom wanted to try the Impossible Burger (vegan and innovative that looks remarkably and even tastes quite a bit like meat). The restaurant is on Main Street in a residential neighbourhood between Santa Monica and Venice, even though it’s considered officially to be in Santa Monica. The space includes a large bar, a partly open kitchen, lots of indoor full service tables plus a large patio out back. It is eclectically decorated and the owners are super nice – I was happy to meet them both and learn that they aren’t just running a restaurant for everyone’s tastes, and everyone’s ages, but that they are also running Bareburger as a community gathering space with movie nights, game nights, open mike and various other events. It is very inviting and welcoming, their menu is perfect for kids, and their bar is great for adult gatherings! Organic and really friendly with so many options – bring this back to Toronto, and if there is a Bareburger near you, GO!
True Seasons – 5675 E La Palma Avenue, Anaheim
I visited True Seasons last year when I was in California over the winter break, but didn’t have a full meal because I had eaten too much earlier in the day – in the name of my blog, of course! This time, my mom and I went with a few other amazing people we had been at the trade show with during the day for dinner and know from Toronto. It was Day 3 of the trade show, it was cool and rainy outside and this warm meal hit the spot. This unique restaurant features a very long “u” shaped bar with a few high top tables around the outside of the restaurant. All seats feature personal induction burners where you cook your own hot pot. Although the menu isn’t exclusively vegan, it is super vegan friendly, pushes fresh organic vegetables in every dish, and all of their meat, if you choose to eat it is organic. The restaurant even talks about healing on their menu, and the absence of frying and additives are all evident, but the presence of flavour and creativity are front and centre! The 5 of us dining all shared an order of truffled edamame to start (SO GOOD with massive flavour!!) and then my mom and I split the HUGE Veggie Hot Pot as our main. They bring you a large “pan” of broth of your choice, and the most massive platter of assorted veggies and you put it all in with your choice of noodles and protein and enjoy right out of the hot pot! True Seasons offers everyone a really unique experience in dining from the ingredients to the service. I was impressed. It’s a very simple concept that just works! If you ever end up at Disney in Anaheim and need to offset the day with a good, nourishing meal, this is the place to do so! If you are ever at a trade show in Anaheim, this is one of the few places to eat real food in the area!
Cafe Gratitude – 639 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles; 300 S Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles; 1980 Kettner Blvd, San Diego; 512 Rose Ave, Venice; 1617 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach; 419 N Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Cafe Gratitude, a sister restaurant to Gracias Madre, has many locations around California – and I’m sure based on their goodness and popularity that they will be opening many more! I had the amazing opportunity to visit Gratitude in Newport Beach for dinner and in then Venice for breakfast (twice, once right before heading to the airport!). The space at the two locations were very different in terms of ambience, however, both were beautiful, clean and very comfortable. The Newport location is designed in a fancier way, while the Venice location is more laid back and bright. Their menu items all feature names like “I am Joy” or “I am grateful”, as they want us to connect to the positive in our lives and on our plates – and hopefully for the company you are dining with! This restaurant is a must for vegans and non-vegans alike! Check out my full review here!
Kippy’s – 110 Navy St, Venice Beach – they also have a location in Tokyo, Japan!
Kippy’s is a small organic and non-dairy ice cream shop located in Venice. They claim to make the world’s first non-dairy ice cream and sorbet combining raw coconut cream, organic fresh fruit, and raw unheated local honey. Kippy’s is the evolution of ice cream; they make a raw super-food that is dairy free, additive free, & sugar-free and after trying it, I can tell you that it tastes super creamy and INCREDIBLE. If you are vegan or do not eat honey, there are honey-free, vegan flavours. My mom and I visited here our first night back in the city after the trade show for a late night treat. I indulged in the vegan double chocolate cookie dough with their chocolate shell (think chocolate-dipped ice cream cones, but with just 3 ingredients – raw cacao, raw coconut oil and raw honey), a chocolate sauce that hardened on the surface of the ice cream in seconds, creating a delicious and crunchy treat! My mom loved how much nutritional, ingredient sourcing and positive information was shared about their product and process on signage for all to see. I would recommend Kippy’s for a delicious cold treat on a hot California day – or just when you are craving ice cream!
Van Leeuwen – Ice Cream Truck on Abbott Kinney in Venice (2-10pm, Friday-Sunday) and The Broad Museum, Los Angeles (11am-7pm, Tuesday-Sunday)
Van Leeuwen is a NYC-based ice cream company that started with a small truck in 2008. Now, they have trucks in both LA and NYC, and their pints are available in a lot of grocery stores in LA and NYC, with plans to expand to the rest of the US. They have both vegan and dairy-based ice creams, both of which are made with organic ingredients – how great is that?! The vegan flavours are based with cashew and coconut, and the non-vegan are based with organic milk and eggs. I recommend the vegan chocolate chip cookie dough – I had it with vegan hot fudge drizzled on top while walking along Abbott Kinney in Venice – it was awesmazing! If you are in NYC or LA, look them up – and watch for their pints to hit store freezers soon!
Fala Bar – 7751 1/2 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood; 1146 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice (THIS LOCATION IS CLOSING AND MOVING TO WESTFIELD CENTURY CITY)
Wow, another falafel restaurant that I absolutely love, who knew? Well, it was bound to happen, especially when this spot has a neon sign hanging up that claims “No Fake Sh*t” right when you walk in. Fala Bar is an AMAZING falafel restaurant, using organic ingredients, and super-friendly service with two locations in the LA area (see my review here). Immediately after arriving in Venice Beach from Anaheim, we stopped here for a delicious “snack” (we were kind of eating all day, every day, so meals kind of blended together :). My mom loved that she could get her falafel in cabbage leaves instead of pita, and I loved devouring and definitely recommend their spicy falafel in the traditional pita – it’s HUGE in addition to being fantastically enjoyable to eat! I can’t wait to go back and hopefully check out their new location very soon!
The Butcher’s Daughter – 1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice Beach
This is another restaurant that I had reviewed in the past (see here), and loved, but this time my mom and I went to try their dinner menu. This very cool spot on Abbot Kinney (there’s a lot to eat on this one street!) serves amazing, creative vegetarian fare – even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, this food should delight you. The space in the evening is dim and buzzing with good energy with spaces to sit at the bar, on banquettes and in a little indoor/outdoor space almost on the street. Since we are inside so much in Canadian winters, we always opted to sit outside or open windows whenever that was an option! My mom and I enjoyed a bunch of dishes for dinner: the Impossible Burger (which we tried at Bareburger but it was prepared in a totally different way here), an amazing spicy kale Caesar salad with crispy onions and tons of avocado on top, and their special pizza of the week that we wanted vegan (cashew cheese is an option to avoid Daiya (winning!), garlic confit, corn, harissa, and jalapeno).
Los Angeles is a city FULL of delicious food, and it is definitely worth a trip there even if you do nothing but eat! Click here for a collection of my past LA reviews for even more good food in the city that you shouldn’t miss trying! Here’s to good food, made by good people everywhere!