• Pub ‘n’ Grub: CNY edition – Village Idiot and Mao’s Kitchen

    February 14th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, mao's kitchen

    In our inaugural Pub ‘n’ Grub, we stumbled from a student infested Irish sports bar to Native Foods, in the “scenic” district of Westwood, under the shadow of the UCLA campus. This time around, we decided to shun the down-to-earth college vibe and go for something a little more quixotic, perhaps exotic and certainly chaotic: LA’s Melrose Avenue. Also, in celebration of Chinese New Year, we decided on an Asian angle too.

    First, the pub. Rather than the sticky carpets of O’Hara’s, we’re going to pay a visit to the polished wood floors and chrome accents of one of my favorite LA-area watering holes: The Village Idiot, a faux-English style gastro-pub smack bang in the middle of Melrose Avenue’s hubbub of activity. Occupying a grand position on the corner of Melrose and Martel, The Village Idiot has an earth shatteringly good beer selection, great bar vibe, private dining and comfortable booths in front of 20 foot high windows.

    Of course, there’s rarely a vegan offering (and those that are leave something to be desired), but you can get a seat at the bar, sample one of 12 beers on tap, indulge yourself with a glass or five of fine wines and/or enjoy a superb selection of top-shelf spirits while people-watching on Melrose — certainly an entertaining prospect, believe me!

    Village Idiot usually has some of our favorite vegan beers on-tap, including the excellent Craftsman 1903. While service is mostly snappy and polite, even though the place can get horrendously busy later in the evening, the bartenders rarely forget my name or my favorite tipple.

    As with the Westwood experience, I’d advise getting there early (around 11:30am to noon is good) before the lunchtime crowd arrives, drinking as much as you can and then slipping away to walk the short two blocks to one of LA’s best secret vegan experiences: Mao’s Kitchen.

    We’ve been regulars at Mao’s for years, starting with the original location in Venice, but opting these days for the smarter and quieter Melrose spot. The menu is “traditional Chinese” by name, but (according to a Chinese friend) is about as traditionally Chinese as Sauerkraut, so I wouldn’t go there expecting all the trappings of an inherently meat-based cuisine… which, of course is a GREAT thing for us vegans.

    Mao’s is an omnivorous restaurant, but is very vegan friendly. Their menu states that any dish can be made vegan due, in no small part I’m sure to the fact that most of their sauces are naturally vegan. Also (and I’ve seen this with my own eyes) they clean all the woks and food preparation area between each cycle in the kitchen so that meat-based ingredients are kept well away from vegan dishes.

    Oh, and a nice thing about Mao’s is that you can BYOB, so if the beer in Village Idiot didn’t give you buzz enough there are a couple of liquor stores close by where you can pick up a nice bottle of vegan Yellow Tail wine to go with your meal.

    Other than the vegan friendliness at Mao’s, other highlights include oversized portions (great for sharing), complimentary fried chips as an appetizer and super friendly service. All this, though, is on the surface as Mao’s really is one of the very best places to get vegan Chinese food in LA. There’s every type of vegetable known to man, exotic mushrooms, three kinds of tofu and eight different sauces you can choose from, as well as vegan spring rolls, crispy salads and at least one (excellent) vegan soup bubbling away in the terrine at all times.

    Everybody I know who has patronized Mao’s has been a repeat customer. The only criticisms I’ve heard are the odd mix-ups with carry out orders (which admittedly can lead to some VERY nasty surprises for us vegans!), and that the place can be a little busy and understaffed late in the evenings.

    After a lazy day browsing the stores of Melrose, get a tattoo of your favorite 80s rock band at one of the many tattoo parlors then hit up Village Idiot to drown your sorrows followed by a trip to Mao’s to fill your belly.

    You just know it makes sense.

    village idiot
    7383 Melrose Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90046-7526
    (323) 655-3331

    mao’s kitchen
    7313 melrose avenue
    LA, CA 90046

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5 responses to “Pub ‘n’ Grub: CNY edition – Village Idiot and Mao’s Kitchen” RSS icon

  • I tried Mao’s lunch special based on your last post, and it was so good! Thanks for bloggin it.

  • I love these beer posts. Being a vegan, there is basically nowhere to eat and drink at the same time.

  • stop these stupid posts. buy more frozen, fatty meals and blog about them, PLEASE!

  • I must say the village idiot always has vegan dishes when I have gone. I think the vegan entree is always on the flavorless side, but they can make all their salads and veggie sides vegan and the pita plate, grilled cauliflower and brussel sprouts are very tasty I think. Though if you want pub grub with your brew the nearby 8oz burger bar has veggie burgers, sides galore.

  • too bad Mao’s uses MSG in alot of their “vegan friendly” dishes. yeah its not animal derived, but its not friendly either. its in some of their sauces, don’t believe me though, ask them, id stay away unless you want to get dosed.

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