• The LA Vegan Bucket List 2010: Ten things every vegan needs to eat in Los Angeles

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    While we usually cover LA’s extraordinary selection of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants (vegan, vegetarian and vegan-friendly), some individual menu items in our city stand out as exceptional, and we thought they deserved their own post. We also opted to choose entirely new menu items from those of last year’s list as there are so many new things to check out on the LA vegan scene.

    We chose no-compromise vegan foods: menu items that make no apology for being vegan and that, with only a couple of exceptions, you can order pretty much any time.
    Have some things to add to the list, or stuff you don’t like? Let us know in the comments!

    Masa of Echo Park Chicago deep dish pizza with Teese

    Vegan Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

    Undoubtedly my favorite new thing on this year’s list. The combination of Masa’s 100% authentic Chicago crust, super tangy and chunky sauce and cooking method combined with real Chicago SoyDairy Teese (yeah, even the vegan cheese is from Chicago) is a mighty fine dish. The thing tastes almost the same as the real Chicagoland staple (and I should know, I’ve eaten a LOT of them over the years) but can be prepared entirely vegan (sub Teese for cheese, and ask that they use olive oil rather than butter in the pan).

    I advise going for the medium or large even though you’ll not be able to eat it all, but it travels well, re-heats like a champ and will even freeze for weeks. It’s especially nice with a couple of low-key toppings like spinach or mushrooms, but the real star here is the crust and texture.

    Native Foods Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger

    There are a lot of vegan burgers in LA. Most of them are pretty darn good, but one stands head and shoulders above all others: The Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger from Native Foods. It seems as though Chef Tanya has studied those high-end burger joints and gone vegan mediaeval on the recipe. She’s taken the Native Foods Seitan (perhaps the best money can buy), sliced it thinly and soaked it in a special sauce topped with crunchy tempeh bacon, lettuce, two types of onions, ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, carrots, tomatoes and even crunchy fried dill pickles.

    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

    Yes, this burger has every ingredient you can think of perfectly proportioned and excellently presented. A meal unto itself, the burger is heartily filling yet not unhealthily so.

    Shojin Dynamite Roll

    The dynamite roll started out as a special item available only on Monday sushi nights, but the dish was so popular that Shojin quickly added it to the normal menu. Having eaten this roll several times, I can say without a doubt that it’s some of the best vegan sushi I’ve ever tasted, and definitely the best in Los Angeles.

    dynamite roll: spicy "tuna" and avocado inside, spicy mayo and green onion on top. with spicy sauce. $10.95

    The rice-based roll is filled up with avocado and Shojin’s genius spicy “tuna” mixture – a creamy, hearty blend of vegetables and soy that’s so good I could eat a bowl of it straight. Each slice is then topped with a dollop of spicy vegan mayo and slivers of green onions. Usually when dining out on sushi, I like to get a several rolls and share them around the table. At Shojin, however, I always make sure to get a dynamite roll just for myself.

    Elf Cornmeal and Herb Dusted Spicy Oyster Mushrooms

    Cornmeal and herb dusted spicy oyster mushrooms (made vegan): Our version of "hot wings" crispy oyster mushrooms served with marinated celery salad. $10

    Every once in a while, you come across a dish that changes the rules of cuisine a little. You get exposed to something new, perhaps a taste, texture or presentation that’s so different and tasty that you remember it forever. The Spicy Oyster Mushrooms at Echo Park’s Elf is just such a dish. It’s described on the menu in a low-key way that almost makes it sound unappetizing: “Our version of ‘hot wings’ – crispy oyster mushrooms served with marinated celery salad and bleu cheese cream reduction”. Clearly, it has to be ordered without the bleu cheese for the vegans, but I can tell you this dish can stand on its own with or without the cheese.

    The texture is crunchy yet soft and the flavors are so complex and delicate that this will be quite a unique experience. Even the celery is amazing – I don’t know what it’s marinated in, but I can tell you that I could eat a plate of just the celery any time! My only beef with the dish is that there’s no vegan substitute offered for the bleu cheese. I mean, some vegenaise and herbs wouldn’t go amiss, would it?

    Pizza Cookery Vegan Bread Rolls (they’re FREE!)

    Yeah, one of our top omnivorous restaurant choices also carries a bucket list item, and it’s actually something served for free when you show up to get a pizza. Just be sure to ask for the vegan bread rolls, as the default ones are filled with dairy cheese. BE WARNED, though, these rolls are so freakin’ amazing that you are in danger of filling up on them (as did I) and not wanting to eat any of your pizza (as did I) and so end up taking it home (as did I). Assuming that you can exercise restraint here, these rolls are an awesome way to start off your meal.

    Perfectly cooked, stuffed with vegan cheese (Follow Your Heart as it happens, but this is one of those occasions where it actually works very well) and dipped in garlic olive oil with real garlic bits these will take you to a different place for sure.

    Flore Biscuits & Gravy

    biscuits and gravy: two biscuits topped with vegan gravy and served with your choice of tempeh bacon, fruit, or potatoes. $9.9

    Take two humongous biscuits, perfectly crunchy on the outside yet smooth and steamy on the inside then cover them with juicy and tasty gravy (with sausage bits!). That’d be a meal on its own, but Flore lets you add a serving of their legendary tempeh bacon, fruit or potatoes, and the dish comes with a delicious bed of steamed kale to boot. All for $9.95. All organic. And all fucking amazing! Unfortunately, this is a weekend brunch only dish, so you only have 2 days per week to get your fill.

    Mandoline Grill Tofu Banh Mi

    Tofu Banh Mi: 12" French baguette topped with lemongrass marinated tofu, cucumber slices, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapenos, vegenaise and scallion oil. $6

    There are a few vegan Banh Mi’s out there, but nobody does it like Mandoline Grill, and I’m really pleased that this vegan-friendly food truck has a menu item that made it into this list. First off, the Banh Mi is absolutely HUGE. It’s a 12″, vegan French-style baguette with all the usual Banh Mi fixin’s including cucumber slices, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapenos, vegenaise and scallion oil. Despite the fact that the bread and ingredients are fresh and tasty beyond belief, the real kicker is the slyly named “lemongrass marinated tofu”, which comes in thick chunks and is unquestionably one of the most tasty things you’ll ever eat. I don’t know how chef/owner Mong Skillman can prepare such a gourmet experience from a tiny food truck, and frankly I don’t care how she does it. I’m usually too busy eating the thing to worry about the details!

    Zpizza The Tuscan (veganized)

    Tuscan Pizza (veganized): homemade roasted garlic sauce, daiya cheese, cremini, shiitake and button mushrooms, caramelized onions, truffle oil and thyme.

    Yes, we’re pizza obsessed. Yes, there are two pizzas on the bucket list and YES, this one is damn good, but couldn’t be further in concept, taste and style than the Masa Chicago Pizza up top. The Tuscan is going for that Italian intersection of thin crust, oils and mushrooms that Zpizza does so well. The regular pizza isn’t vegan, but they will sub Daiya for the mozzarella and leave off the feta if you ask, and you will be home and dry with an absolutely stunning pie.

    This thing has a bunch of ingredients. In addition to Z’s incredible crust, there’s homemade roasted garlic sauce, Daiya cheese, three kinds of mushrooms (cremini, shiitake and button), sweet caramelized onions, drizzles of truffle oil and fresh thyme. If you think this SOUNDS delicious, wait until you taste one – you will be blown away. For extra spice, pile on the dried chilies (they go especially well with the muted tastes of the oils and shrooms).

    Shin BBQ Seitan Bulgogi

    Seitan Bulgogi: vegan seitan served in shin's secret marinade. $18

    I was as shocked as the next guy to discover Shin BBQ’s vegan-friendly options, headlined with the incredible Seitan Bulgogi. Although clearly modeled on meat-based entree, this dish has a character all of its own, and even omnivores are ordering it regularly now. Slices of chewy seitan are marinated in something called “Shin’s secret marinade” – I have no idea what this is, but all I know is it’s 100% vegan and 200% tasty. The dish goes perfectly over some rice and don’t forget to pile on some of the excellent kimchi that will arrive in abundance at your table.

    Tender Greens The Happy Vegan

    happy Vegan: tabbouleh, hummus, pasta pearls, farro wheat, young kale, tender greens. $10.50

    This is another dish that I feel the need to eat on a regular basis, so I’m really happy that the WeHo Tender Greens is on my way home, and I can park for a dollar! Tender Greens is an upmarket, salad-oriented restaurant where you order at the counter, they make your salad and then bring it to your table. The Happy Vegan is so aptly named, as I don’t believe that any vegan would be something other than very happy post-consumption.

    There are a ton of seemingly exotic ingredients in the salad: tabbouleh, hummus, pasta pearls, farro wheat, young kale and the eponymous “tender greens”. There’s also some crispy baguette slices dribbled with extra virgin olive oil to boot. For a salad, the price of $10.50 may seem high at face value, but I’d think nothing of paying $20 or more for this dish in a fancy restaurant.

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34 responses to “The LA Vegan Bucket List 2010: Ten things every vegan needs to eat in Los Angeles” RSS icon

  • I can’t believe how few of those dishes I’ve tried! Thanks for the great list.

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    So far, I’ve only tried the vegan cheeseburger from NF and The Happy Vegan plate from Tender Greens. (I’ve been to some of the other places but I ordered different things.) So lots of catching up to do!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • WTF, I haven’t had ANY of these?!

  • Hey QG, do you know if the kimchi served at Shin BBQ is 100% vegan? I’m asking because either fish sauce or oysters are common ingredients found in kimchi.

  • @wallie: yep, it’s vegan! I asked the waiter twice, and even followed up with the restaurant after our visit. They don’t use fish sauce in their kimchi. :)

  • How did Chili Addiction’s Vegan Sausage and Vegan Chili Sundae not make this list!

  • I’ve had most of those and you are spot on! Can’t wait to try the rest!

    Really happy to see Shojin, Native Foods and Mandoline Grill on your list. All deserve “big ups!”

  • Man, I have a ways to go! I’ve had the OK Cheeseburger (love it!), I’ve had a Berkeley at Z Pizza, but I can’t wait to try the veganized Tuscan! I don’t live in the LA area, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to fulfill this bucket list!

  • Yes! The Oklahoma Burger from Native Foods is out of hand.

    I think pickles are really the clincher for a good veggie or vegan burger. Restaurants always them like alien burgers, packing on the sprouts and other non-traditional stuff. And that’s fine sometimes, but I prefer a good, old-fashioned burger.

  • i think the tempura rock mushroom appetizer at shojin needs to be on there!!!

    i agree 100% with the masa deep dish and the mando sando. nommerz.

  • Great list. Makes me want to start driving all over town!

  • It’s hard to believe you omitted Madeline Bistro. I know you love them.

  • @Mindy: did you check the list from last year? Madeleine Bistro is still our favorite restaurant in town. We are just spotlighting entirely new places, as we mentioned in the post.

  • What? No love for Veggie Grill’s El Dorado?

  • can’t wait to try some of these things! i would add m cafe’s kale with peanut sauce, and sunpower natural’s cookie dough pie:
    http://theactorsdiet.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/sunpower-natural/

  • x2 for britt’s comment:

    “i think the tempura rock mushroom appetizer at shojin needs to be on there!!!”

    i’m also a huge fan of veggie grill’s “all hail kale” salad…i like it better than the “happy vegan” because I can’t stand watching the employees with greasy meat hands making salads at Tender Greens!!!

  • I’ve had a few of these, and I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of them! Great list.

  • The Masa deepdish definitely change my life!

  • Couldn’t agree more about Mandoline Grill’s tofu bahn mi. It is the best vegan sandwich I’ve ever had. Period.

  • I can’t wait till the wedding is over and we’re out of No Spending mode. One month countdown begins…

  • How about next, an “LA Vegan Desserts Bucket List”! ;-)

  • SunPower Natural Cafe’s Raw Pesto Pizza is one of my faves.

  • Holy Guacamole Batman, I need to move to LA!

    Every single dish looks DELISH. And I bet there’s more where that came from.

    YUM! Thanks for sharing.

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    “How about next, an “LA Vegan Desserts Bucket List”

    This sounds marvelous idea!! :D

    Thanks for all these blog post QG, even though you must be so busy in London.

    “SunPower Natural Cafe’s Raw Pesto Pizza is one of my faves.”

    I must try this next time I’m there.

  • Thanks for the info. I MUST try that Chicago Pizza!

  • everything looks sooooo amazing… how about the the stuffed chilli bell pepper at Sunpower… missed that one? Soooo good

  • I tried the Dynamite roll at Shojin yesterday – oh my. AMAZING. and amazingly spicy!! the Dragon roll was also divine (avocado, shiitake and seitan) and much milder!

    Agree completely about the pesto pizza at Sun Power. YUM.

  • I’m lovin’ all of your lists. I was in LA in March, but you’re making me want to come back sooooon.

  • Drove 40 miles to check out the Chicago Deep Dish w/Teese at Masa of Echo Park. They were out of it at 7PM on a Sat. night. Very very disappointed, had some great beer though. Warning to call ahead about the Teese.

  • Holy Moses does that look delicious.

    Thanks so much for posting this! Your website is outstanding.

    Cannot wait for a Vegan Tuscan Pizza for tomorrow’s lunch!

    OM NOM NOM!

  • So excited to tackle tis list!

  • The Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger is my best pic last time in LA i gained 2 much of a weight. great stuff!

  • Masa is def. on my list to try. Didn’t know they had a Vegan pie. Awesome! I do eat meat (I know, I’m terrible, maybe one day I wont) but in the meantime I break it up and gotta do the vegetarian or vegan or dairy free options sometimes.

    Shojin rocks!

  • I’m going to do this all in one day!!! How to document it is the only question.


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