This week we brought you a list of the 5 best vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, an update on last year’s list. But if a 100% vegan eatery isn’t on the cards for whatever reason, LA has a superb selection of vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurants, some of which rival or exceed the offerings available at vegan-only establishments. From a 60s-era hippie health-food store to a modern hipster hangout, LA has it all. Check out our top five vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurants and please let us know in the comments if you think any don’t deserve the list, or you have a favorite that should be on it.
This tiny restaurant without any signage on a busy section of Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park is quite the find. With seating for only a handful of people, and usual wait times an hour or more, there has to be something cool about Elf. And, indeed, there is. While vegetarian, many dishes are either vegan or vegan optional with everything prepared from scratch in the open kitchen. Being strictly word of mouth (I mean, a restaurant with no sign outside that doesn’t advertise anywhere has to be, right?) yet so busy shows that there’s something very special inside.
The menu is relatively diminutive, yet highly inventive. Some of the food items have been there for a while, and others rotate in and out as the chefs see fit. The atmosphere is dark, and romantic until, that is, the place fills up then it gets incredibly loud and busy and the tables are very close together so one can sometimes feel cramped. Also, they have a BYO policy so you can bring your own wine and pay a small ($4) corkage fee, which always works out to be a fraction of the price you’d pay for the normal 100%+ mark-up on restaurant wine.
UPDATE: hummus king in thee valley has closed down, but they are offering catering and free delivery until they hopefully re-open in silverlake!
I don’t know much about Kosher restaurant certification other than it’s difficult and expensive to get and involves visits from Rabbis etc. I’d imagine, though, that the certification is easier if there’s not meat served in an establishment, so I’m really pleased that Hummus King is 100% OU Kosher and 100% vegetarian (which means basically vegan except for some optional toppings).
Hummus king has a few things going for it, principally the BEST hummus in the 818, probably the BEST falafel (my personal favorite is the crazily spicy “fire ball” falafel) and the best meaty vegan shawarma available. The generous portion sizes, incredible value and beyond polite service make Hummus King one of my favorite places to visit. Whether you’re up for a full-on dine in meal or you just want to grab a stuffed pita to go, Hummus King has you covered. Don’t let the bright fluorescent lights and plastic seats fool you: what lies beneath the low-rent exterior is some of the best vegan food you’ll ever eat.
And, if you’re strictly Kosher, why not try Hummus King? Be cruelty free – it won’t hurt (you or the animals).
I’ve been to Cru a bunch of times, always enjoyed the food and atmosphere but for me it really defies classification. It’s a raw restaurant that serves some cooked food. It’s a vegan restaurant that serves honey (therefore proudly titling itself “vegetarian”). It’s also a small space that never really seems crowded, even though it’s frequently full with long hour plus waits on the outside. One good thing is that Cru seems to be dropping honey as an ingredient in many of its dishes, which is a great thing. Of all non-vegan ingredients, honey is perhaps the easiest to substitute and I’m looking forward to being able to eat more and more of the menu as time goes on.
The menu is pretty diverse, but seems to contain the same narrow list of root ingredients, so if you order a few things you may end up with strikingly similar appearing and tasting dishes. Normally that would be instant disqualification from a “best of” list, but because those base ingredients are so damn good everything works out to be excellent. You can taste the quality of the ingredients and the care that went into preparing them. I typically stick to the raw dishes for a change, but the cooked items are superb. Cru won’t disappoint you, but be careful for hidden honey.
We’ve had a hot and cold relationship with Samosa House in the past, but their inclusion on this list is proof positive that our earlier misgivings are all resolved. Located on the Western end of Culver City, Samosa House is an Indian vegetarian paradise. They not only serve the crispiest, tastiest samosas this side of Bangalore, but have a 20-item prepared food section that rotates regularly and is mostly vegan.
For only $7.99 you can fill up on rice, roti and three selections from the prepared food section, and occasionally there are some special extras like a burger or bhelpuri that’s been specially created by the chef. Although this is prepared food served at the back of a grocery store, don’t let that fool you, as the quality you’ll get meets or exceeds what most Indian restaurants in LA can offer, and for a fraction of the price.
One word of warning, the lines can get long at the counter, especially after 7pm so go early to avoid the rush. Your food will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, and heats up just fine in the microwave. Great food, great deal and some of the nicest people anywhere wait for you at Samosa House.
It’s a pure coincidence that the last two entries on this list are both supermarkets as well as restaurants. You can fill up on groceries as well as yummy food on one visit, which is a good thing in my book, especially at Follow Your Heart, an amazing vegetarian oasis, established in 1970 in Canoga Park, which has LA’s premier (= only) vegetarian grocery store with a TON of vegan products (some of which can’t be purchased anywhere else). Not only that, it has a cosy restaurant and patio where some of LA’s finest vegan food is waiting for you.
Don’t miss the Reuben Sandwich (make sure you ask for extra 1,000 island dressing), as a human being has to try this out at least once in their life! There are many, many dishes with home made fake meats, and vegan entrees such as breakfast burritos, benedicts etc. Follow Your Heart does a SUPER job with the restaurant food and you pretty much can’t go wrong. If you’re averse to honey (hopefully you are, bees are cool), the buns have honey in them, so be sure to order your delicious burger on VEGAN bread.Tags: curry, falafel, hummus, raw, reuben, top 5
looking for authentic and vegan indian street food? look no further than LA’s very own samosa house in culver city. in addition to their dinner combo menu (which is hard to veer away from but often worth it), they also offer a vegan version of the classic vegetarian street dish: bhelpuri.
bhelpuri is a popular indian dish which consists of hot puffed rice, chopped vegetables, boiled potatoes and tamarind sauce. does that sound weird?! well it should because it IS. it’s like a savory rice krispies treats vegetable dish for dinner, but it’s really fucking good. go try it out at the samosa house. and be sure to say that you want it made vegan (otherwise they may put yogurt on it, ew!) seriously, this stuff is worth writing home about.
the samosa houseTags: culver city, curry, indian food, westside
1510 W. Washington Blvd
Culver City CA, 90066
The plethora of vegetarian Indian kitchens in and around Culver City is a wonderful thing. I’m often known to leave work and head to Father’s Office for a Pliny The Elder or two before hitting up Samosa House (both locations) or Bawarchi for a box full of great value meatless Indian food to take home and eat in front of the TV.
Frankly, the original Samosa House (which has been in Culver City for over 30 years) is quite a trek for me, and has had an historically spotty reputation for the taste of its food and quantities served. But perhaps due to competition from the newer Indian kitchens, or even the shitty blog post I wrote back in October 2008, Samosa House has transformed itself into a paragon of scrumptious food, value and excellent service. The staff are friendly and helpful when asked about vegan items, and take pride in piling your food choices into the containers with a smile. They always have a vegan bread, tasty rice and have recently added things like veggie burgers, dosas and rotating specials just to spice things up a little.
Lately, though, I’ve found myself going to Bawarchi more than Samosa House purely because it’s a couple of miles closer and (crucially!) east of the 405, meaning that I can get there much faster from where I live and work. I’d been bitten by the Bawarchi spell: closer location, exact same food offerings, smiling staff and great service that I began to wonder why I’d ever have an excuse to visit Samosa House again. Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago when I found myself running an errand closer to Samosa House so I popped in, just like the old days, and ordered a couple of combination meals to go.
When I got home and opened up the meals, I realized that I was getting far, far more for my money at Samosa House than I was at Barwarchi. More curry, more bread, less rice (making room for more curry!), less raita (non-vegan stuff Bawarchi always manages to sneak into the bag) and the food was, frankly, better. It wasn’t as dry, tasted much fresher and had a fuller flavor without being overly saturated with spice.
Just to be sure, I went back to Bawarchi a couple of days ago and ordered my usual – the exact same dishes at the same price as Samosa House. This time, though, I watched the friendly bearded gentleman behind the counter spoon my food in. He was unbelievably diligent in ensuring that he put the absolute minimum of food in each compartment (except for the rice, of course, which filled 80% of the large compartment). At one point, he actually TOOK OUT some jackfruit that he put in, while all the time talking to me so I’m distracted from his hand action like the victim of some Victorian illusionist.
The lentil dal was probably the worst example – he put so little in the box that it only filled one regular shot glass!
Of course, cramming a box with rice (factually, the world’s least expensive food crop) and 25-30% less food than one’s competitors goes straight to the bottom line – and in today’s economy, who doesn’t want to keep costs under control? Exactly.
I continued to watch him serve a couple of other customers, and I seriously think this guy has a Ph.D. in “food service cost control”: Measly portions, lots of rice and some clever slight of hand lead me to dismiss Bawarchi as a cost-driven business dealing in bait and switch techniques to the uninitiated.
I’m going to avoid Bawarchi for a while — until they improve the portions and put their customers first. and if, like me, you’ve dumped Samosa House for Bawarchi, try switching back for a while and see the difference. I promise you, it’s worth the extra 1.65 miles however you cut it.
11510 W Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
BawarchiTags: culver city, curry, indian food, westside
10408 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
yep, i shit you not. you gotta get to the samosa house and try this thing.
i didn’t even know the samosa house had burgers—i’m usually too caught up in the cheap and delicious dinner combos to notice anything else. but last time i was there, i saw a paper sign hanging up at the counter advertising a veggie burger for just $3.99. i asked them if it was vegan, and sure enough it was!
i ordered one to go, and to be honest i didn’t expect it to be very good. i mean, who orders a veggie burger at an indian restaurant?! i am pleased to report though, that this thing was better than good—amazing even! i’ve never had such a tasty and uniquely spiced burger. the patty was thick and meaty, not full of vegetables and grains like some vegan ones are, and it was topped with chopped up roasted peanuts. add that to an indian sauce, some fresh vegetables and coriander leaves and you have pure delicious.
i will definitely, definitely be back to order this again. and i encourage you to try it out as well. if you like burgers and indian food, this is the perfect intersection.
11510 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
oh and BTW, this burger is only available at the old school samosa house (the one with a market attached to it). they don’t have the veggie burger at the new samosa house east.Tags: burger, culver city, indian food, westside
as of yesterday, there is yet another takeaway indian vegetarian restaurant on the scene in culver city (on washington at overland) and it’s called samosa house east. run by the same people who are behind the quarrygirl approved original samosa house just blocks away, the east location occupies a more simple and modern space with a menu that’s similar but with a larger focus on mock meats. with ample seating and no market attached to the restaurant, samosa house east is a great alternative for on-the-go diners who don’t want to muck about with people lining up to buy groceries, etc.
i hit up samosa house east this morning, and on their first full day of being open they were still working out some kinks but served me some damn decent food. i ordered a vegan samosa chat which consisted of a crispy fried indian pastry pocket topped with chutney, coriander sauce and curry, all for just $3.50. it was absolutely delicious. plus, the dude behind the counter told me that as of tomorrow, samosa house east will be offering a vegan soy yogurt as an alternative to all dishes that come with real yogurt. so awesome.
when i was there, samosa house east was still setting up and didn’t have all their dishes out yet. but according to their twitter account, by the afternoon they were serving veggie fish, jackfruit, and smoked cauliflower—just to name a few things! i am so stoked that this restaurant has opened, and once they hit their stride, i think they will absolutely amazing.
cheap, fast, delicious, meatless, takeout. i fucking dare you to find something wrong with that.
right now, this restaurant does not have a phone number and they are still getting their hours sorted out. they should be open from 11am-11pm…but don’t quote me on that.
here is the samosa house east address, along with the original samosa house website and phone number in case you have questions!
samosa house eastTags: culver city, indian, samosa, take-out, west side
10700 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-3314
it’s no secret that we have a checkered past with the samosa house in culver city. we’ve written two posts about them, both complaining that the food was bland and uninspired. well, i’m here to set the record straight because over the weekend we gave the restaurant another try, and walked out with a feast that was plentiful, inexpensive, and absolutely awesome tasting.
as you can see from the picture above, samosa house serves one hell of a lot of food for under 8 bucks. they have a large selection of 100% vegetarian dishes, most of which are vegan…and a combo consists of 3 dishes of your choice, plus a portion of rice and 2 pieces of roti bread. on a previous visit, we complained that our meal consisted of mainly rice and not enough curry, but this time that was clearly not the case. pictured above is our first combo, overflowing with curry dishes including lotus root, soy tikka masala, and a potato & pea dish.
all of these selections were delicious, but the stand out for me was definitely the lotus root. this stuff was cool, crisp and crunchy and coated in a perfectly-oily sauce…i can’t even tell you how much i loved it. if i could, i would get a whole tray of this stuff and eat it all. the soy tikka masala was also damn good as well, even if the lotus root did upstage it a bit in my mind. the soy clumps were moist and slightly chewy, and the sauce was rich and flavorful.
in our second combo, we got a spinach dish, some lentils, and my personal favorite, the JACKFRUIT. i’m just gonna say it (and this may shock you), but i think samosa house’s jackfruit is even better than the stuff at pure luck. it’s hearty, yet soft…and sooooo delicious mixed with the indian seasoning. if you go to samosa house, this is the one dish you must get no matter what!
while i loved the food from the samosa house on this visit, there was a secret ingredient that was needed to make it 1,000x better. you see, the place isn’t just a restaurant, but an indian market as well…so we picked up some fresh hot chillies to add to our meal at home in order to combat thee inherent mildness of the dishes. these things added loads of spice, and improved our meal greatly. if you like any kind of heat in your indian food, adding chillies is a must.
after this great experience at samosa house, i know i will be back soon. we had more food than we could eat for just $16…and i don’t think i can go very long without some more curry-flavored jackfruit.
the samosa houseTags: culver city, curry, indian food, westside
11510 w. washington blvd.
culver city, ca 90066
Following the outpouring of disagreement following my post on Samosa House in Culver City a few weeks ago, we decided to wipe the slate clean and try again. This time, we did everything right. Rather than ordering the “combo plate” (where they put a little of everything in a container), we went completely a-la-carte.
So, we ordered the signature Jack Fruit curry, Saag (Spinach) curry, Channa Dahl (lentils), and Aloo Gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower), along with the requisite roti, and a side of basmati rice.
Maybe the staff at Samosa House recall the days of the Raj when they hear my English accent, or they hate Brits, bald people or dudes over 40. I don’t know, but when I (over-politely) asked where the jackfruit curry was, the lady said “It will be out in a five minutes!” with an expression like a bothered parent who has responded “soon” 50 times when a kid has asked “are we there yet?” from the back seat of the cay. Now, I’m not being paranoid here as she was very, very nice to the person behind me, when asked the same thing: “Oh, I’m sorry, we’re just preparing some more now. It’ll be out in two minutes. Can I get you something while you’re waiting?”.
Anyway, I decided to rise above the brush-off and to kill the waiting time browsed the aisles full of stuff I used to eat when I was only a lowly vegetarian (particularly the British chocolate – sorry, Americans, your Twix ain’t as good as ours, and that’s the way it is).
Finally, the jackfruit arrived, and we headed home with some boxes of warm curry in the trunk. After unpacking the dishes, we served ourselves to heaps of gorgeous-looking food, and settled down to a movie with a nice bottle of vegan wine.
Oh boy. Within 3 seconds I was on my way to the spice closet so I could get some TASTE into my curry. I sprinkled on curry powder and cayenne pepper, cuz I’m telling you that this food is so bland it’s an insult to the great cuisine of India.
The beans tasted like one of those complimentary side dishes you get served at a crappy Mexican restaurant while the cauliflower/potato was so overcooked that everything had turned into much and I honestly could not tell if I was eating a potato or a cauliflower. The spinach was watery (it even had a layer of green water on top of it – UGH) and finally the roti was overcooked on one side, and undercooked on the other.
Sorry, Samosa House, but you guys don’t know how to make remotely tasty Indian food and that’s a pity because you charge high prices and have a front of authenticity.Tags: curry, samosa house
It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of Indian cuisine. Growing up in the UK where it is, of course, the national dish has enabled me to be quite discerning when Indian food is placed in front of me. So, I was delighted at the prospect of visiting the Samosa House in Culver City this past weekend to try their extensive vegan selection (they have seven vegan and three vegetarian entrees).
Well, I can tell you that the experience started off really well. The restaurant is deli-style, where orders are placed and served from heated containers right in front of you in a very clean and orderly environment. The service is excellent – the nice man behind the counter described all the dishes, including which were vegan. We could not decide which of the seven to taste, so we ordered them all as two 3-side samplers (with rice and bread) for $7.99 each, and one side (for the odd man out, final entrée: more to come on that).
The seven dishes were as follows:
Potatoes: Pretty much as the name suggests – lightly spiced potatoes served dry in no sauce
Chickpeas: Your common chickpea curry served in a light sauce
Lentils: Usually my favorite side, lentils served in a dark, creamy sauce, of which more later
Potatoes with Long Beans: The name says it all – again, not a very saucy dish
Bitter Melon: Seemed to be small fruits in a tangy sauce. Much more of a condiment than a side, if you ask me
Spinach Tofu: Creamed spinach and small tofu chunks (although there were al most no tofu chunks in ours)
Jackfruit: Pure Luck style jackfruit in a dry curry sauce
We also had a very hearty serving of rice with each sampler (in fact, the rice accounted for around 60% of the volume of each container) and two small chapatti breads. Of course, we couldn’t help but order two of their signature samosas which were wrapped and fried right there. No microwaved samosas wrapped in foil here!
We ordered the dishes to go, and hightailed it through West LA as fast as we could to get home – largely because carrying Indian food in your car leaves a lingering odor that lasts in direct proportion to how long you carried the food for. Although our journey was only about 20 minutes, I could still smell the curry in my car the following morning — even though we carried it in the trunk!Tags: chickpea, curry, indian food, jackfruit, lentil, melon, potatoes, samosa, spinach, take-out, tofu, veganmofo