• Pub ‘n’ Grub: Westwood style and substance

    February 1st, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, native foods

    Very, very few decent bars serve food suitable for vegans. The best we can usually hope for is french fries or a limp salad, and even then the chances of them being vegan are usually 10-1 against. Likewise, most vegan restaurants don’t have a beer and wine license, let alone the city certificate and capability to make you a gin and tonic to sup down with your Gardein burger.

    So, while a bar can serve up some alcohol and a vibe you’re in the mood for, your favorite vegan, or vegan-friendly restaurant can feed you until you’re full, butthere are very few that can do both. What’s a boozy vegan to do?

    Well, we set out to find a range of cool bars in LA that are no more than a few steps away from some of the best vegan restaurants in town. Figuring that one might go for a beer or cocktail before dining, we start with the bars first.

    In the mid-90s I used to frequent an archetypal student bar half a block from the UCLA campus in Westwood. Back then it used to be called “Maloney’s on campus” and was a dirty, rough and tough bar that only the brave would survive. Hard drinking, $2 Jack Daniels chasers and the cheapest beer east of Santa Monica or West of Beverly hills was the order of the day. Add in 100 or so rowdy students (mostly making out), loud football games on old TVs and you pretty much get the idea.

    A few years ago, Maloney’s closed down allegedly with the assistance of the LAPD (all those under age drinkers must have been a business risk, if indeed that’s why they closed) to be replaced with a facsimile bar in the same building called O’Hara’s. We’re talking cleaner facilities, nicer staff, better food, flat-screen TVs and even a tap beer menu that’s more than a Miller Lite keggerator stuck in the corner of the bar.

    These days, the students are all still there, but seem better behaved and there’s a strict ID check in progress – even I get my ID scanned and I’m as old as the grand canyon. If you’re lucky you can settle into a comfy chair at the low bar, and get a great view of the TVs and friendly bartenders. There are super value 1 liter beers ($8.00) and the happy hour delivers suds for under 5 bucks a pint. Add a reasonable wine selection with full-on cocktail capabilities and you can have a great time drinking away in this relaxing, dark environment. If you’re super lucky, you might meet your future wife there (as happened to a friend of mine) or for the single ladies find a wealthy, cute foreign student to hook up with (I’ve heard that happens too).

    After you’ve filled your skin with beer, a mere hop skip and jump away is one of LA’s greatest vegan fast-food restaurants: Native Foods. I usually hit up O’Hara’s around lunchtime when it’s relatively quiet (before the big games start) then just as it starts to get crazy slip away to Native Foods, just after their lunch rush, around 2:30pm.

    Of course, in between O’Hara’s and Native Foods is the busy Westwood branch of Whole Foods Market, with a parking lot adjacent to the bar. Although I’d never condone others to do the same, I usually park at Whole Foods before my beer, pop in after the pub to get some groceries, shove ’em in my trunk and then head to Native Foods for lunch. This seems to confuse the parking attendants (who presumably think I’m a slow shopper) so I’ve never been ticketed or towed, and have parked, for hours on end, in expensive Westwood for free.

    Of course, if you’re a vegan living in LA you will have heard much about Native Foods, and have probably even been there on a few occasions. The restaurant, though, has been upgraded lately and is now twice the size, which is a great job as the menu has also been upgraded with some mouthwatering new items from Chef Tanya’s repertoire.

    What is the ideal thing to eat after filling your belly with beer? An Oklahoma Bacon Cheese Burger, that’s what. While the inebriated jocks back in O’Hara’s are clinging to the wall with one hand and stuffing meat and cheese into their faces with the other hand, you can be stuffing YOUR face with an entirely plant-based burger that’s as tasty as they come.

    oklahoma bacon cheeseburger: thinly sliced original seitan, melted cheddar, caramelized onions, crispy tempeh bacon on a bun slathered with BBQ sauce and ranch dressing, lettuce, carrots, onions, and tomato and topped with crunchy battered dill pickles chips. $9.95

    Layer upon layer of Chef Tanya’s seitan under home-cooked tempeh bacon that’s topped with vegan cheese and smothered in a creamy sauce will knock your socks off. Add in some of Native Foods’ exclusive hot sauce, a side of spicy fries and you’ll have the same “I’m full” buzz as the O’Hara’s customers, but with none of the guilt.

    native fries: thinly cut potatoes cooked in pure vegetable oil and dusted with a fun blend of garlic and spices. $2.95

    The pub-grub style of Native Food’s menu is uncanny: They have chicken wings, nachos, chilly cheese fries, tacos, tons of burger options and healthy salads. If only they had a full bar and a bunch of drunk students I could avoid the 300 yard walk from O’Hara’s.

    Do enjoy a happy afternoon in Westwood for Pup ‘n’ Grub: you know it makes sense!

    1000 Gayley Ave
    Westwood, CA 90024
    (310) 208-1942

    native foods
    1110 1/2 Gayley Ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90024
    (310) 209-1055

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9 responses to “Pub ‘n’ Grub: Westwood style and substance” RSS icon

  • I know Native Foods isn’t on everyone’s faves’ list, but I’m seriously addicted to a few menu items.

    Particularly, the taco combo (one ‘fish’, one ‘beef’) plate with fries…I can’t get enough!

    And their fries are as good as anyone’s in town, IMO.

  • I spent every week of my college career hopping between Maloney’s and Native. Especially on Tuesdays, when liters are the drink special.

  • native foods is the shiz-nit. i gotta go try the oklahoma bacon cheese,please! i concur with EricM the fries are a must have. i don’t care what i order. i grab a side of fries everytime. Good lucking Mr. Meaner.”if it’s plant based put it in me face” one love!

  • AWk: right on!

  • good looking place love t visit one day

  • “I know Native Foods isn’t on everyone’s faves’ list”

    Whaaaaat? Who are these heathens?

    Oh, and they really need to bring back the Abalone Burger. The Moby Dick just isn’t the same.

  • I just made dinner but that is making me hungry.

  • Doesn’t Native Foods now serve beer?

  • Douglas Novack

    Native Foods is a great place. The food is always consistently good, the prices are very reasonable and you can count on freshness and great service. I have met the owner Tanya several times and I am impressed with her creativity, dedication to the vegan lifestyle and animal rights movement….Native has added some new items like the Waldorf salad and the fresh artichokes. They are really amazing. Also the seitan and tempah bowls are great and they have quinoa. I know they are expanding as they have a winning formula.

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