• June 22nd, 2011quarrygirlLA restaurants, pizza cookery

    free. vegan. pizza. aren’t they the best words in the english language? well tonight is the night that all 3 of them come together, as the original pizza cookery in woodland hills will be giving out complimentary samples of their new vegan menu!

    we already love pizza cookery to bits….after all, we did include them on both our top restaurant list AND our vegan bucket list of 2010. my advice: get your ass over there and eat for free this evening. the vegan pizza at this place is truly special. (and be sure to try the vegan-cheese-filled garlic rolls, OMG!)

    here are the details:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Tags: , ,
  • Okay, so we’ve already posted about the best vegan and best vegetarian restaurants in Los Angeles, but sometimes we vegans HAVE to eat in omnivorous restaurants. That’s a part of life. What’s interesting, though, is when we find meat-serving restaurants that we WANT to eat in. That’s a whole different story, and LA has a few outstanding omnivorous establishments that go out of their way to cater to vegans. Here are our favorites, updated from last year’s list.

    Tony’s Darts Away

    The first time I heard about Tony’s Darts Away, I thought somebody was messing with me. I mean, a craft beer bar with an over 50% vegan menu? C’mon, people, who are you kidding? When I stepped into Tony’s on the night it opened I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure I was awake and not dreaming. First off there was a HUGE selection of California craft beers, including many of my favorites and some that I’m very glad to have discovered. Next up, there’s a menu with a ton of awesome vegan offerings including a build-your-own vegan dog with three different sausage flavors.

    Vegan Italian Sausage with slow-grilled onions, sauerkraut, Vegenaise, and aoili at Tony's Darts Away

    Seriously, what better way to wash down some awesome vegan food than with an equally awesome craft beer? Tony’s Darts Away is one of the best places to open in Los Angeles in years. Vegans, omnivores and everything in between should not hesitate to check it out.


    Chili Addiction

    Although firmly omnivorous with its menu items, Chili Addiction is a vegan’s delight in every way. At any given time there will be at least two vegan chili dishes available, and the selection of vegan dogs, burgers, sorbets, fries and plain ol’ chili is to die for. This is one of those places where everything on the menu is so good that you have real trouble deciding what to order. I usually go for an order of Chili Mac, and a dog or burger sometimes with a side of chili fries to share, and everything I’ve ever had has been top notch.

    Chili Mac at Chili Addiction

    In fact, I think Chef Johnny, co-owner and genius behind the award-winning dishes at Chili Addiction, could be one of the most talented and under-rated chefs working in LA right now. If he’s in the counter-service restaurant when you visit, he’ll happily give you a taste of anything on the menu as well as run you through the ingredients and even explain the concept behind the dish. On a recent visit I enjoyed some amazing hominy chili while Chef Johnny explained how he had come up with the recipe and how he was challenged to get the hominy texture “just right”. On another occasion, I enjoyed the best vegan sorbet of my life, and Chef Johnny took delight in telling me about a special machine he had obtained to make it!

    Chili Addiction has parking out back, and is only steps from the Beverly Center in West Hollywood so there’s really no excuse to go there and eat. Just do it, you won’t be sorry.

    Pizza Cookery

    it’s no secret that we love pizza here on this blog. I mean, who doesn’t? There would have to be something wrong with anybody that didn’t love a perfect crust, tangy sauce, fresh toppings and a yummy vegan cheese, right? Well, assuming that you’re on the same page as the above, you need to get over to Pizza Cookery in Woodland Hills ASAP. Unceremoniously accessed through a side entrance of a somewhat decrepit 70s-era shopping mall awaits some of the best vegan pizza you can get, as well as an environment and ambiance that feels more like Old Chicago or New York than deep in the 818. A combination of funky retro styling (old cast iron soda vending machines) and sawdust on the floor along with faux-gas lamps everywhere really evoke an intimate atmosphere that’s as suitable for a first date as it is an office party.

    Vegan Pizza with Daiya at Pizza Cookery

    The menu is hugely vegan-friendly with a selection of salads and breads most of which can be made vegan. Everything is stunningly fresh and very well prepared, from the vegan caesar salad to the amazingly tasty and filling cheesy rolls. The pizza crust is soft and chewy, while the brick oven takes care of nicely charring the bottom. All the toppings were bright and colorful and the sauce and Daiya cheese mixed perfectly together.

    Pizza cookery is the best pizza place in LA that serves vegan pizza and is dine-in. You’ll feel like you’re in a real pizza parlor of yesteryear, and leave very full and very satisfied.

    M Cafe

    With a totally vegan menu except for fish, M Cafe has a chic urban appeal, backed up with an A-list of ingredients (and clientele) all layered over an efficient kitchen and fair pricing, considering how great the food is. While the last year or two M Cafe’s items have been prepared by kitchen staff rather than chefs, their menu items are still some of the best in town.

    Vegan Benedict at M Cafe

    The Big Macro is arguably LA’s best vegan burger. The broccolini pepporochini is without a doubt LA’s premier broccolini, and the Vegan Benedict is constantly voted one of the “best” breakfast items on any local menu. There are plenty of vegan options at all times of the day, and the rotating menu constantly keeps one coming back for more. The deserts are out of this world, along with some of the best vegan tiramisu known to humanity. Check it out!!

    Hugo’s Restaurant

    With two locations (West Hollywood and Studio City), and a full-on meat-oriented menu, one might be surprised to find that the Hugo’s chefs have created some seriously innovative vegan cuisine. Not only do they have loads of options, but the menu has several clearly marked animal-free alternatives, as well as dishes that can be optionally veganized. If you can get past the trendy atmosphere, long waits and constant celebrity sightings you’re in for a vegan treat.

    Although I’ve long been a fan of the tofu scramble, I also love the Very Green Casserole (one of the best vegan burgers I’ve ever tasted atop stewed vegetables and sauce in a pot) as well as the salads, tikka masala veggie patties, stir-frys and wraps. Make sure you specify “VEGAN” clearly when you order, while the restaurant is extremely vegan-friendly, there may be butter hiding in unsuspecting dishes.

    Vegan Pasta Carbonara Special at Hugo's Restaurant

    Since the last time we voted Hugo’s onto this list, they’ve introduced some astounding vegan specials that rotate in and out, and usually stay on the menu for a week or two before being replaced with something new. This is a very welcome addition, and the specials have been some of the best vegan dishes we’ve eaten anywhere.

    Tags: , , , , ,
  • 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.

    Tags: , , ,
  • August 3rd, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, pizza cookery

    pizza cookery in woodland hills has been on our radar since way back in november when we learned that they had a separate vegan menu. however, we resisted making the trek out to the valley just to eat there for quite some time, because the restaurant was using follow your heart vegan cheese. i’m not a huge fan of that product, and with all the vegan pizza available much closer to my house, i just couldn’t justify the trip. anyways, those days are over now because pizza cookery now offers both follow your heart AND daiya…so everyone can enjoy some vegan pizza! we finally hit up pizza cookery recently, and found their vegan food to be absolutely fantastic—this place is definitely one of my new favorite spots.

    an amazing vegan pizza

    pizza cookery is your normal old school pizza joint in almost every way. they’ve been around since the 70s, with their sawdust-covered floors, pitchers of tap beer, huge private booths, and delicious food at a good value. the fact that a place like this is catering to vegans (and also gluten-free diners), is almost unbelievable.

    the moment we were seated, we were presented with both “normal” and vegan menus, and a plate of complimentary rolls were placed on our table. we asked if they were vegan, and our waitress apologized that they weren’t…and offered to make us a dairy-free batch. we took her up on it, and i’m so glad we did. wowza.

    the piping hot rolls arrived in one huge clump at our table about ten minutes later, and they were visually stunning. gooey vegan cheese was bubbling out of them and glistening in the light, i don’t think i’ve ever seen such beauty. shockingly, they tasted even better than they looked. they were filled up with melty follow your heart cheese, which actually worked well, and brushed with a thin coat of oil. if you go to pizza cookery, you GOTTA REQUEST the free vegan rolls! they will blow your mind to bits.

    we also ordered a small salad as an appetizer–the caesar with vegan dressing and daiya cheese. we loved it!

    vegan caesar salad. $8.35

    i’m glad we ended up going with the small, because the salad was huge! the large would probably be enough for several people. plus with all those rich rolls, we barely had any room for pizza. we ordered a small 11″ pie to share with daiya cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms, and it was more than enough. in addition to loads of vegetable toppings, pizza cookery offers vegan pepperoni and chicken as well–both of which i’m looking forward to trying. please note, if you order vegan pizza at this place it comes with follow your heart by default. daiya lovers (like myself) need to specify.

    the pizza itself was exceptional—by far some of the best vegan pizza in LA. super top notch crust, flavorful sauce, nicely melted cheese, and fresh vegetables. basically, it was everything a pizza should be and more. it would have been PERFECT, but they slice it up strangely at pizza cookery, so it was a little difficult to eat. (i like my pizza slices shaped like triangles, thank you!) but anyways, that’s a small complaint considering how incredible the pizza was.

    pizza cookery also serves wine, and has beer on tap…which is very important. the selection isn’t great, but it sure hits the spot. everything is pretty cheap too—we had 2 drinks, salad, and pizza for around 25 bucks!

    when you visit pizza cookery, and i really hope you do, be sure to wander around and check out all the relics scattered around the restaurant. they’ve got some really neat stuff in there like vintage soda machines…

    gumball dispensers (remember those?)…

    and even a cigarette machine advertising the vegan menu. lol!

    i seriously love pizza cookery so much. the atmosphere, the food, the prices…everything there is wonderful. and i will be dreaming about those damn vegan bread rolls for months!

    pizza cookery
    6209 topanga canyon blvd.
    woodland hills CA 91367
    (818) 887-4770

    PS: there are a couple other pizza cookery locations in the valley, but they are not affiliated with this one, and don’t have vegan options. so beware.

    PPS: has anyone ever been to earth, wind, and flour in santa monica?!?! it is SO MUCH like pizza cookery on the inside (right down to the playing cards glued to the ceiling), and the pizza tastes very similar. i can’t find any tie between the 2 pizzerias online, but i’m just throwin’ that out there.

    Tags: , , , ,