• you can’t trust swingers.

    April 25th, 2011quarrygirlLA restaurants, swingers

    i hate it when this happens. i mean, we have SO many great vegan-friendly eateries in LA. i’m talking about omnivorous restaurants that are willing to bend over backwards to give us plenty of options, restaurants that take the v-word seriously. unfortunately though, every once in a while (as we’ve seen before) a restaurant comes along and throws around the vegan word willy-nilly in order to make a profit, without knowing or caring what it means. i’m sad to say, that i think our previous favorite swingers is in that category.

    we used to LOVE eating at swingers. in fact, years ago when we lived in weho we grabbed breakfast there at least once a week. the menu is ostensibly very vegan friendly, with a special symbol to denote animal-free items, and slew of vegan desserts. the trendy diner has loads tempting selections including a vegan breakfast burrito, vegan pancakes, a vegan cobb salad, a vegan burger, vegan nachos, vegan milkshakes…you name it! sounds like heaven, right? WRONG. wrong, because most of it isn’t really vegan.

    we’ve raved about certain items at swingers in the past. the “vegan” soyrizo scramble and burrito have been staples in our diet. our suspicions were first piqued with a late 2009 supervegan post, in which the author claimed that eating at swingers made her sick. she called into question the vegan cheese, and even suggested that quarrygirl investigate it, after the success of operation pancake! we didn’t think much of it at the time, so it was even more upsetting when a forum thread surfaced last year claiming that the soy cheese at swingers is in fact non-vegan. this is a common mistake at omni restaurants. many places carry “soy cheese” thinking that means “vegan,” when in fact the soy cheese contains milk protein. most vegans know this. when i called swingers to look into it, the guy on the phone assured me the cheese was vegan (no casein). he supposedly was staring at the ingredients as he talked to me, and even though he wouldn’t tell me the brand name of the cheese (red flag!), i put the problem at the back of my mind. then just one month later, another forum thread surfaced claiming that swingers didn’t even carry a bun…making the vegan burger that their menu promises an impossibility. this reminds me of the follow your heart drama!

    well the final nail in the swingers coffin came today when a reader emailed me claiming they use lard in their tortillas. LARD? do you know what that shit is? we aren’t talking about a soy cheese mishap here (which is still inexcusable!)…no, we’re talking about full on non-vegetarian PIG FAT. the reader asserted that the vegan soyrizo scramble which i’d blogged about contained lard and i thought, “no way.” after all, this isn’t a user error…swinger’s menu actually claims this item to be vegetarian at the very least, with a vegan option (tofu rather than eggs). so of course i called the restaurant (beverly location) to double check. the guy who answered the phone, without even consulting the kitchen, told me matter-of-factly that the flour and corn tortillas do contain lard. OH REALLY?! then why can you order them with a vegan/vegetarian breakfast?!

    per the swinger’s menu (please note the those two symbols next to the soyrizo scramble mean “vegetarian with a vegan option”…and the symbol next to the tofu chilaquiles means “vegan”):


    when i have (and other readers have) brought up the integrity of vegan dishes to the swinger’s staff, they all just seem completely clueless and ambivalent. it pains me to say this, because i used to love the place, but i wouldn’t trust ANYTHING at swingers. if they are selling LARD in vegetarian dishes, i doubt they give a fuck about cross-contamination…not to mention honey, whey, casein, and other sneaky ingredients.

    if you must eat at this place, stay safe with things like rice, vegetables, and tofu. don’t say i didn’t warn you.

    RIP swingers 🙁

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73 responses to “you can’t trust swingers.” RSS icon

  • They use LARD in their tortillas????!!!!!! Something that is so TOTALLY unnecessary and repulsive????!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sure wouldn’t want to order anything at/from such a place!!!!!!!!! Glad we’ve never eaten there!!!!!

  • It’s crazy how many restaurants are only referring to the burger patty or actual entree when they label something as vegan or vegetarian. Any idiot should know that you should be classifying everything that comes with the meal. Durrrr.

  • Totally bummer. It’s something non-vegans/vegetarians should be grossed out by as well!

  • I live REALLY close to Swingers. I went there twice, and both times were SO disappointing, I never went back.
    I never understood why vegans loved it?

  • The only way to be truly vegan is to be grow your own food and cook it. You’re always rolling the dice when you’re eating food that you don’t prepare yourself.

    Thanks for the tip quarrygirl.

  • Yea… I recently had the vegan stir fry. I got it to go, and when I tried it, the tofu smelled and tasted like HAM! I was soooo disgusted. I called, and although the guy was very nice, told me that it was because they also make stir fry with meat… um, so???? Ya can’t use a different pan? Oy… not impressed.

  • “Swingers” is a name for a douchebaggy place ….now it’s confirmed.

    Glad I never ate there…

  • LARD? 😮 Totally unforgivable! Gross to both old-school vegetarians (read, “vegan”) and non-vegetarians, alike. Cya, Swingers! No more.

  • It’s not exactly easy to find late night food in this town, veg or not, oddly enough.

  • They always have been an odd bunch, over there. The place somehow attracts weirdos to work there. I almost think that the “ass, grass, or cash” slogan is NOT a joke to them.

  • Most omnis will list the use of lard as a perk. “That’s why it tastes good!” Don’t think that it’s something they don’t know about, because they do.

  • A place here in Tampa called Taco Bus is currently pulling the same evil trick on unknowing consumers. The shame is that this place also plays the vegan card and vegans and vegetarians are the people who created the hype around the place that has helped them expand to several more locations. The truth is the beans contain lard.

    The infuriating thing is that the manager used to come out and talk about how much he respected our (vegan) lifestyle. We trusted that he knew what a vegan was and what they choose not to eat, only because he talked to us about veganism at length every time we visited the restaurant. On a later visit, a Spanish speaking friend asked one of the cooks to see the beans they use. Sure enough, the beans contained in every vegan and vegetarian labelled dish were full of fat.

    The shame is that this place is still so popular. I told everyone I know about this, posted a Yelp review, and tried to mention it whenever Taco Bus came up in conversation. Vegan punks and vegetarian hipsters flock to this place in droves after shows and clubbing. Those who have been informed by me or friends are still in total disbelief over the revelations–they choose to believe they aren’t true and continue eating there! I think they make this choice not to believe it because this is the fashionable (and only 24 hour non-Denny’s type) joint in town for their late-night drunk food.

    My experience at Taco Bus is why I only eat at vegan restaurants or trusted vegetarian restaurants. Why waste my money and put my veganism in the hands of someone who is either negligent or is some kind of vegan-hating, macho jerk who gets a laugh from having me eat non-vegan food (I honestly think the latter is true at Taco Bus)?

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    I don’t want to eat anything made with lard! Gawd 🙁

  • My (your) kitchen is the best restaurant in town. I eat here every night : )

  • WTF? I just had tofu chilaquiles with tortillas 3 days ago and left blindly satisfied. I loved Swingers but am sad to see a lack of self accountability in providing honest food to its loyal customers. Boo.

  • That seems strange that a corn tortillas would have lard in it, but highly likely with flour tortillas. I always get the blue corn chips, do those have lard too? Totally lame!

  • As someone who used to work as a server in restaurants for many years and as a long-time vegetarian, I’m here to tell you that, in general, unless you get a server who is vegan or vegetarian, there’s no way to trust an omni restaurant. Unfortunately.

    I have overheard other servers (and corrected them) as they told people our guacamole was vegetarian (no, the sour cream was not vegetarian, never mind vegan), the cheese was vegetarian (no, the cheese was definitely not vegetarian because it had animal-based rennet and the rice was vegan (no, chicken broth is not vegan).

    A word to the wise, it’s pretty rare to find vegan rice. Many places put chicken broth in their rice. (The exceptions tend to Chinese and Indian restaurants.)

  • Dont know if I believe it…Many, many, and I mean many tortilla companies these days do NOT use lard. Especially if the person who answered the phone didnt even check, he obviously didnt know the gravity of his question. And if they are using them, its probably on accident, this too happens, we are all human. I was vegan for 8 years, and I realize its hard to trust restaurants, but to blast this all over the internet because of a tortilla is a little extreme. If the author of this article spent more time getting to the bottom of the SOLUTION, instead of writing articles like these, she may have come to the conclusion that she was wrong… you never know, do ya??

  • You’re kidding me! Not another one…

  • They’ve proven untrustworthy in the past. Checking into the matter, period, is already above and beyond (and redundant) in the case of Swinger’s. We already knew we shouldn’t be eating there.

  • I’ve always wondered why they serve dairy butter with the vegan pancakes. Has anyone checked the pancake ingredients?

  • agreed

  • just called the restaurant again. spoke to another employee. they read the package and verified that flour and corn tortillas contain lard. honey do not. i didn’t ask about honey.

  • NOW I DO!!!! you were right all along. sigh :/

  • Ex Swingers Employee

    I can’t speak to the lard situation, but as a vegan who used to work at Swingers, I can tell you that many items on the menu that are specified as vegan are not. As suggested earlier, the soy cheese isn’t vegan, and they definitely fry the soyrizo with the meat. Not just that, but I know for a fact that about 2 years ago they were knowingly selling baked goods with dairy and marking them as vegan. The lard doesn’t surprise me.

  • sometimes being right sucks!

  • you so called it. i am gonna edit the post and link to that…

  • FYI, got this email from a reader:


    I saw it for myself.

    I eat at the one on Beverly all the time. Recently, I ordered a soyrizo scramble and my buddy said, ‘Dude, you can’t that! The tortilla’s not vegan. There’s lard in it.’ No one ever bothered to tell me for all these fuckin’ years…!!!!

    I freaked and asked to see the package and sure enough on the label is ‘LARD.’ Couldn’t believe it. I’m …Go in and check out the flour tortilla pack for yourself and you’ll see…”

  • Must be illegal, but I know that we’re super low on the health inspector totem pole. They don’t have enough people to inspect all the places in town, much less investigate stuff like this.

  • A friend of mine mentioned that it’s HARDER to find tortillas made with lard these days than without. Hilarious.

  • That’s awesome! Thx!

  • GROSS! It’s time for a class action lawsuit!

  • This is heartbreaking. Utterly heartbreaking. I eat at Swingers all the time. It’s a great place to meet all the omnis in my life. Or at least it was… I’ve always asked about the cheese and they’ve assured me it’s vegan, which I guess it isn’t. And now lard?? With most Americans concerned about cholesterol there are very few tortillas with lard anymore. Terrible that they seek that out!

    I agree with Laz above. I worked in restaurants for years and customers were always given the wrong info about what was veggie. The cooks would put chicken broth in the “vegetarian” black bean soup, there was raw egg whipped into all of our vinaigrette dressings, and chicken broth in all of the cream sauces unless requested otherwise.

    But when a dish is specified as vegan and then isn’t, it’s 10x worse to me, because those are the places I am seeking out–places that cater to both me and my omni friends, who seem to understand what vegan is.

    Btw, Alcove has a “vegan burger” but the bun isn’t vegan. You have to order it as a wrap! I was told it was a “mistake” on the menu.

    Nothing is as bad as the two years I worked at Real Food Daily and I’d keep catching non-vegan ingredients in what as supposed to be a vegan restaurant. Ann (the owner) would buy chicken sandwiches from the place next door and eat them inside RFD on the supposed “all vegan” plates. When I brought it to her attention that the tortillas had whey, she said , “If people are that allergic they should grow their own vegetables and eat at home.” That was when I left.

    Thanks for exposing Swingers, though it breaks my heart, sigh. Why is integrity so hard for people?? I’ll be calling to let them know my displeasure.

  • And I agree with Bradley–Hindus and vegetarians won against McDonald’s for putting lard IN the fries before frying them in vegetable oil. I feel totally duped and betrayed by Swingers. They deserve to be sued.

  • Hindus won a lawsuit, not Hindus and vegetarians. They won because it goes against a religion. That holds A LOT more weight to the world than the “Well, that’s just your choice, stop being difficult” of vegetarianism. Unfortunately.

  • It is too bad that places that are considered “good for mixed company” are often the most the most scandalous. It’s too bad that people can be so steadfastly unwilling to go to a fully vegetarian restaurant where TRULY EVERYONE can eat.

  • swingers fucking sucks.

  • Yeah, even fucking Del Taco tortillas don’t have lard!!!!

  • So glad Trader Joe’s corn tortillas do NOT—unsurprisingly enough—contain lard. Nor do Mission tortillas, which we sometimes buy at Ralphs. Wonder where Swingers purchases their tortillas! Do they make them themselves?!

  • Wish I could say I was surprised about RFD….

  • This is all part of the reason I say that I eat a PREDOMINANTLY vegan diet….Gotta be truthful!

  • “…late-night drunk food.” That sums it up nicely. It’s been my experience these past few decades or so that most long-term vegans and vegetarians are not likely candidates for the all-night party and clubbing circuit.

  • The fact they didn’t even bother to use separate pans and utensils between meat and vegetarian, vegan or pareve food items tells you they seriously don’t know what they’re doing. They’re also putting their customers at risk for food poisoning.

  • Swingers need not be sued to be put out of business. They’re doing that to themselves and by means of social networking, the word is getting out among devoted and long-term vegetarians and vegans in the LA area and nearby counties and communities. I also know a lot of non-vegetarians who would not eat something if they knew it was prepared with lard.

  • It’s not just vegetarians. I hear constantly from all types, “Ew, Swingers, really? That place is terrible.”

  • yep, I only eat steamed quinoa & veggies (which I have them make special)! I hope their whole wheat tortilla is fine! I’ll ask for the package next time. I have LONG KNOWN Swingers is brain damaged vegan. They’ll put bacon in vegan sloppy joes, etc. Unless a restaurant is owned by a die hard vegan that you see attend vegan events and you’ve had an intellectual conversation with, or followed their blog and can gleen from their writings that they know what they are talking about and have at least been vegan for a considerable number of years and learned all these things the hard way you can never trust any restaurant.

  • “… brain damaged vegan.” *lol* 😀 That’s a good way to describe them, especially if Swinger’s is preparing meat and non-meat menu items with the same utensils and in the same cookware.

  • It’s weird. Lard is a traditional tortilla ingredient, but since so many people can’t eat it (not just vegans and vegetarians, but Muslims and Jews, etc) and it seems more trouble than it’s worth, I imagine it’s fallen out of favor.

    But now you have that annoying, douchey culture of, “OMG bacon is a vegetable! Everything is sooooo good with bacon!” so I wouldn’t be surprised if meat-obsessed hipsters think lard in tortillas is cool. I can’t wait for the bacon craze to be over.

  • Why, yes. And, given the restaurant’s NAME….who could possibly be surprised if many of its customers DID want things like lard and bacon in their orders?

  • I just called the Santa Monica Swingers and spoke with the manager, and she assures me this isn’t true about their location. She says she will reach out to quarrygirl. I hope at least the Santa Monica location honors its vegan labels…she swears it does, and that in addition to using vegan tortillas, etc., they have a part of the grill dedicated for the vegan options.

  • poorfuckingvegans

    Oh boo fucking hoo, fucking vegans

  • Although I assume you’re just trolling and don’t actually care, I want to point out that it’s not just about vegans. Evidence of restaurants lying about ingredients should be of concern to everyone. It’s a public health violation.

  • Waaaaaa!!!! You expect some place that is in business because they clean up drunks’ vomit quickly enough to cater to your “I won’t eat it because animals are cute” high maintenance crap? Cry. Eat Food, not what Food eats! I’d love to see how quickly all vegans change their tune after a huge natural disaster….What, you don’t want a piece of this pigeon? fine. STARVE!

  • I wouldn’t count on it. Last time I got the vegan cobb I was very suspicious of the soy cheese, I was just at Swingers SM on Saturday and asked if it had caesin, the waittress said she checked and it didn’t, but after reading about the list of lies on their menus and from their servers I’m certain it does.

  • I don’t expect them to cater to me unless their menu states that they do, which it does. By all means, just remove the “vegan” tags from the menu and I’d be perfectly content.

    I don’t know what natural disaster you’re envisioning, where people are starving if they don’t get their rifle and start hunting. I look at pictures from Japan every day and I don’t see anyone eating pigeons. Odd, that. If you were more familiar with food charities during disasters, you would know that many of them deal strictly in produce. I’m confident that your local produce department is doing better than your butcher is, trying to keep things refridgerated, during a disaster.

    Not that arguing about hypothetical situations ever got anyone anywhere. Man, I should quit being vegan because a disaster might hit someday that could threaten it. I suppose the Jews and Hindus should quit, too, in case they’re someday kidnapped and force fed pigs and cows. We should plan for all future contingencies.

  • Gahhhh! I got their quinoa/spinach/black bean burritos ALL THE TIME! That is all kinds of fucked up! Bleggghh 🙁

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    ^ You know Fritz, I should start saying that too.
    I don’t cook too often, so I frequently buy things marked as vegan or pick up vegan take-out for quick/simple lunches and dinners. Who knows how often there are restaurant and deli mistakes which result in multiple non-vegan dishes being sold that someone like me would buy without knowing.
    I don’t have any allergies or health concerns at all. It’s only about the animals for me, they are the only reason I’m attempting to be vegan. I just do not want to hurt them or kill or eat them ever again.
    So to cut my stupid rambling short, this is all kind of very worrisome 🙁

  • the menu was too big and meaty for me to consider them a safe place for vegans to eat.

    so i’ve never been there…seems like a place of last resort for me.

    fuck ’em.

  • Jennifer Farren

    Terrible! I have at Swingers many times! I am going to stay away from restaurants that use processed stuff from now on.

    I am going to try that Savyon Cafe vegan buffet you have been talking about this Sunday. Supposedly, they don’t use any processed stuff (i.e. soy cheese, tortillas, etc). That buffet seems to be TRULY VEGAN!

  • i probably know the guy who answered the phone. i’ve been in the swingers kitchen. they have a separate grill top, pans, and utensils for cooking the veggies. they keep everything separate. if the tortillas have lard, it’s simply a mislabeling of the menu.

  • Yes, Savyon seems to be offering a really GREAT vegan buffet, and from what I’ve read, the owner seems to be a VERY good, caring man! I just wish he would open a restaurant in Hollywood, because then we would definitely go there sometimes. But I still applaud this man and hope that he continues to offer the vegan buffet! God bless him!

  • I hear ya, Gauri! But please don’t worry; you’re too kind and gentle a person to worry! : )

  • Jack Bee Garland

    Last October I ate at the SM Swingers and ordered the “vegan bacon”. I even checked with the waitress to make sure that there wasn’t any dairy. They gave me Morning Star bacon which as we know is filled with dairy. gross.

  • And if you complain after all that, YOU’RE the difficult one. “Fucking vegans.” Sucks.

  • I’ve had more than 1 waitress there inform me that only the wheat tortillas are vegan without my even prompting them for the information. they heard me order something vegan and made sure I knew what was up. I actually kind of can’t believe you never thought to ask.

  • why on earth would anyone think to ask when it says “choice of tortilla” and there are three listed under a VEGAN item on the menu? seems pretty clear…right? damn swingers!

  • Somebody should sue.

  • Have you checked the ingredients yourself? I have a vegan family and we frequent Swingers. We were there this morning, and after ordering vegan items from the menu the manager came out and told us about this blog post and assurred us that all of their vegan items are in fact vegan. She presented us with a binder full of ingredient lists to verify.

  • I went to the Beverly location and saw the flour tortilla package with my own eyes. The ingredients said lard. The staff then told me that the wheat tortillas were vegan, though I didn’t see the package for those. I trust the package more than I trust “a binder full of ingredient lists”.

  • I’m past the point of no return on this. If numerous employees are confirming lard, and managers are denying, they need to get their story straight. This is one situation where I don’t give benefit of the doubt. When things are this wishy-washy and I’m not fully convinced, I’m out.

  • I’m still wondering where an omnivore would have to go to even BUY tortillas made with lard! WHERE?….

  • I used to eat there for yearrss. I only trust the raw vegan restaurants now. They tend to be really vegan (the restaurants and the owners) Refreshing.

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