• The Best Vegan Pizza Yet! New in Downtown Los Angeles.

    February 1st, 2009mr meanerLA restaurants, pizza, purgatory pizza

    After two weeks traipsing around the UK, we were completely set for a quiet weekend to be spent mostly at home. Until, that is, we read this post on Vegan LA. I mean, come on – one of LA’s most established and respected pizza joints, Purgatory Pizza, suddenly announces that all their pizzas are available with vegan cheese? And not the chemical mass that is follow your heart, but none other than the joint winner of the recent Vegan Cheese Pizza Challenge, Teese from Chicago Soy Dairy.

    purgatory pizza covered in teese cheese. the best vegan pizza in los angeles, or anywhere for that matter.

    purgatory pizza covered in teese cheese. the best vegan pizza in los angeles, or anywhere for that matter.

    So, after settling onto the couch with our slippers on, we were jolted to action and filled with a mission to check out Purgatory Pizza post haste even though we had a rather low expectation of what we might find, exacerbated by a 40 minute drive through Hollywood to downtown LA, on the purgatorious 101 freeway.

    Well, the visit to Purgatory Pizza is one of the most memorable vegan dining events I’ve had in a while, possibly since dining on a 50-year old London bus. We arrived at a brightly lit storefront with convenient alleyway parking adjacent, and strode valiantly inside with vegan heads held up high to be greeted by a very nice lady who seemed extremely pleased that we’d shown up as the first customers of the new vegan menu. Indeed, she told us that she’d only posted on Vegan LA a few hours before and was surprised that people were already asking for the vegan cheese.

    She was knowledgeable about the cheese/Teese, explaining that she had spoken with the manufacturer and tried several different vegan cheeses before settling on Teese as she felt it cooked and tasted the best. So, we placed our order of a large Teese pizza with garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes.

    It was only when we sat at one of the large, comfortable tables that we realized we were somewhere special. The walls were covered in wonderful avant garde murals saying things like “She is pure and perfect and she colors her hair with magic markers”, there were candles on the tables and some great classic rock deep cuts were playing (The Beatles, Queen, The Doors, Elvis…..). We rocked out, read the murals and drank our wine while we waited for the pizza to arrive, our drinking and rocking only punctuated by a wonderfully sweet and helpful teenage girl popping to the table on a regular basis with plates, napkins and an inquisition “Is everything OK? Do you need anything?”


    After about 15 minutes our pizza arrived, and for a split second I thought I was sitting in Ray’s Pizza on 7th Avenue at 53rd St. in Manhattan, one of my favorite pre-vegan pizza joints. I’m telling you – this was no ordinary mass-produced pizza but a real, NY-style hand tossed crust with the perfect ratio of toppings, “cheese” and sauce. The entire 16” pie was completely gone within about 5 minutes as we wolfed down bite after bite of crunchy crust, tangy basil-infused sauce and perfectly melted Teese.

    purgatory pizza with melted teese is heaven on earth!

    purgatory pizza with melted teese is heaven on earth!

    The whole experience is a million miles away from the usual vegan pizza experience, where a vegan restaurant attempts to create a pizza from bread dough, chopped vegetables and cashew cheese (ugh now I think about it). No, this is the real deal. Authentic New York-style pizza cooked and prepared perfectly but substituting soy for dairy. As a vegan, you’re dining on the edge here — as authentic a pizza journey as it gets, but screeching to a halt before any animal cruelty.

    Purgatory has a busy delivery and carry-out business (they must have fulfilled 5 or 6 orders in the short time we were there, which was around 6pm — hardly peak time for pizza orders!) yet the eat-in experience is really worth doing. One last positive note, Purgatory doesn’t serve alcohol, but they welcome a BYO-style system, and we fortunately had a bottle of wine in the car. It’s so much better spending $10 at a grocery store on a bottle of reasonable wine than $6 on a glass of franzia “house red” at a restaurant. This just makes Purgatory Pizza even better!

    Purgatory has probably always been a special place, but now it’s accessible to LA vegans, and I highly encourage you to check it out. Amazing pizza, BYO beer/wine, easy parking, 5 minute drive off the 101. Rather than Purgatory, I think I might just have found pizza heaven in downtown LA.

    Here’s the menu (redacted to protect the innocent):

    purgatory pizza menu (click to enlarge)

    purgatory pizza menu (click to enlarge)

    purgatory pizza
    1326 east 1st street
    los angeles, ca 90033
    323 262 5310

    open everyday 6pm – 11pm


    For a surreal moment, check out this video of the artist who made the mural:

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16 responses to “The Best Vegan Pizza Yet! New in Downtown Los Angeles.” RSS icon

  • That pizza looks amazing! And I mark out non-vegan foods on take-out menus all the time 🙂

  • It looks great and delicious pizza to eat. The additional add on top of the pizza is awesome. I wonder if I can get the pizza here in my place..or perhaps learning to bake one my own?! Lol.

  • I am going tomorrow! I just decided that.

  • Yay! I cry with cheesy joy!

  • Life just keeps getting better all the time!

  • Looks like a good place to stop after a night of drinking downtown. Cash only though is tough…

  • Man, maybe I’ll go to Purgatory for Valentine’s Day!

  • Hahaha, I love the edited menu!

  • this is like a mile from my recording studio! this will hold me and my clients over til doomies is back up and running ! thanks for the post.

  • I want to thank Mr. Meaner and Quarry Girl for this most spectacular review. I’d really like to offer some tasty options for vegans. If any of you do come by Purgatory, ask for Kelley, (hopefully I’ll be there. Ask for Tad if I am not. (my partner)) Also let me know if you have any suggestions for us. Thanks!

  • Happy for you all… and envious here in Tampa!

  • Purgatory Pizza has been my favourite since we moved to E. 4th a couplea years ago. Sadly, we had to move, and while we are now back in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, we plan to move back into the delivery diameter of Purgatory Pizza, before the year is out. Yeah, it is that good!

  • Very nice review and even though I’m a vegetarian, I do plan on trying the vegan pizza. It looks and sounds delicious. Just one clarification though, Purgatory is not in Downtown but Boyle Heights and more specifically the historic neighborhood of Aliso-Pico.
    I enjoy your site, thanks for all the reviews!

  • Thanks for the heads up and I chime-in with chimatli with saying that it is in Boyle Heights & NOT Downtown LA.

  • Ray’s in mid-town? Yeah, it’s pretty good, but the one on St. Mark’s is the one (of the three battling it out) that I pick. I usta walk up there round 7 in the morning to enjoy a wake-up slice, garlic knots and some beers before I stumbled round LES making trouble.

    Nevertheless, Purgatory is as good enough to the Ray’s of the west coast—now if we could just get them to be open from 6 a.m. until 5 a.m.!

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