• February 21st, 2010mr meanergingergrass, LA restaurants

    There are few things more satisfying on a warn day than naturally brewed German beer. Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of beers, but there’s something about a Pilsener, Bock or Maarzen that quenches one’s thirst quite on a hot day like none other. German beer also has a huge advantage in that it’s almost always vegan, due to the strict brewing purity laws Reinheitsgebot, established in the 16th century, which mandate only water, barley, and hops should be used to make beer. Nowadays, and thanks to the treacherous European Community, that law is effectively repealed, but many breweries brew the traditional way which uses no animal products anywhere in the process.

    One the best places in LA to get German beer served in a (relatively) authentic atmosphere is The Red Lion Tavern, in Silverlake. Located on Glendale Blvd. this awesome mock-German bar is a fun place to visit. You have a choice of two places to drink – the lower bar is dark and cold – almost like a Bavarian beer cellar, with comfortable booths, stained glass windows and a friendly bar area with nine or ten German beers on tap at any time.

    If you’re feeling more al fresco, there’s a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) patio upstairs adjacent to the parking lot complete with its own bar. Decorated like a Rhone Valley beer garden, the patio, as with the lower bar, provides such an immersive drinking experience that I completely forget I’m in LA every time I visit. The Glendale Freeway, moments away, will change to an Autobahn right before my very eyes as I stagger out of the Red Lion.

    The staff at Red Lion are very friendly, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a REAL GERMAN person serving you while donned up in traditional national dress, complete with sashes and frilly collars. The fact that they can keep such a straight face when working there is awesome – to me, the entire Red Lion concept is so lovably, comically camp that I just can’t take it seriously, which is probably why I can’t keep away.

    A note of caution for vegans, though, is that the food menu is also traditionally German, consisting of boiled meat, fried meat, sausage-shaped meat, meat pies, meat patties and meat on a stick. The only non-meat thing on the menu is a potato cake, but even that is cooked in the meat juices for “authentic flavors”. Sometimes, as friends have pointed out, the place can bee a little too meaty smelling – especially the inside bar, so I tend to go earlier in the day before the lunch rush then fill up on drink before heading a few steps down the road to fill up on grub.

    A half-block away from the Red Lion, still on Glendale Blvd. is Gingergrass, an equally authentic establishment – but this time we’re not talking about Fraus in dresses, but a busy, non-nonsense Vietnamese cafe with a menu right out of a Hanoi street bazaar. I’ll start off by saying that Gingergrass is an omnivorous establishment, but is highly vegan friendly. The menu clearly states what can be made vegan (nearly everything), and our server was most helpful answering our picky, vegan questions.

    organic tofu noodle bowl served over rice stick noodles with shredded lettuce, pickled vegetables, herbs, and your choice of regular or vegan nuoc cham. $8.75

    On our visit we opted for the Organic tofu noodle bowl which was a hearty combination of noodles and vegetables in a tasty vegan sauce, topped off with lightly fried tofu chunks. The entire thing was absolutely wonderful, and everything was cooked just right. This dish alone would be more than enough to full up one, or perhaps two people, but we over ordered another two things, regardless.

    vegetarian pho: mushrooms, carrots, bok choy, ginger and baked tofu in a vegan broth infused with traditional pho spices over rice noodles.

    Next up was the Vegetarian PHÓ, a traditional deep bowl of soup crammed full of bok choy, carrots, ginger and baked tofu along with crunchy shredded lettuce and a generous side of bean sprouts, chilies and mint leaves. Again, everything was filling, healthy tasting, fresh and light.

    gingergrass tofu lunch plate: crispy organic tofu with shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy served with our vegan nuoc cham sauce. $8.95

    Finally, we ordered the Gingergrass Tofu Lunch Plate which was a healthy serving of chunky fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, noodles and rice along with dipping sauce and a diced vegetable slaw that was to die for. This is just the kind of dish you want to scrape up with your chopsticks and eat quickly. Again, I can’t fault anything in this dish – it was incessantly fresh, perfectly cooked and wonderfully tasty.

    So, what’s not to like about Gingergrass? Frankly, the only criticism I have is that the prices are deceptively low – only $9 for a HUGE bowl of noodles with sides and salad whereas on the westside a meal like this would be in the $11-$13 price range. You have been warned: the portions are huge.

    So, a nice outing on a sunny day would start off relaxing on the patio or in the cellar bar at Red Lion while drinking ice cold beer from Germany, followed by a 2 minute walk to Gingergrass where helpful people will busily take your order and bring you plate after plate of fresh, healthy food. I love omni restaurants that specifically state which items on the menu are, or can be, made vegan and a bar with a safe-haven of vegan beer is a godsend.

    Finally, as always, if you’re unsure that your favorite tipple is vegan, check out Barnivore.com where you can quickly look up most alcoholic drinks. Also, a few weeks ago I discovered the awesome veganbrew.com, a blog run by a couple of vegan beer and food lovers that show not only how beer is brewed (cuz they actually brew it step by step on the blog) but have some tasty recipes (beer battered seitan, anybody?!) as well as crucial advice such as the timeless: “DO NOT SQUEEZE YOUR SACK”. Check it out.

    red lion tavern
    2366 Glendale Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90039
    (323) 662-5337

    2396 Glendale Blvd
    Silver Lake, CA 90039
    (323) 644-1600

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  • February 6th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, mandoline grill

    the wait is finally over, and the vegan-friendly vietnamese food truck mandoline grill is ready to hit the streets of los angeles. we were at their launch party today at the verdugo, and although they are still working out some of the kinks, the food was overall bomb!

    mandoline grill was supposed to start serving at 3pm today, but sadly they didn’t start taking orders until around 3:40. thankfully, the verdugo is a great bar with plenty of beers on tap and a comfortable atmosphere where you can easily lose yourself. when the truck finally began taking orders, it turned into a bit of a clusterfuck. we waited in line for awhile, placed our orders, and stood waiting about 50 minutes for our food to be ready. oh well, considering it’s mandoline grill’s first day on the job, we were definitely willing to cut them some slack.

    i was with a grip of hungry peeps, so we literally ordered everything vegan on the menu. here’s a rundown of our haul (in descending menu order of course…)

    vegan cha gio. $4

    first up, my dining companions sitting opposite me ordered the cha gio, some fried spring rolls stuffed with fake meat and vegetables. since our last visit, mandoline grill has upped the portion size of the cha gio. this stuff is tasty, huge, fried, and cheap…win/win/win/win.

    lemongrass tofu banh mi. $6

    next up, my husband and i shared a lemongrass tofu banh mi. at 6 bucks, this sandwich cost a dollar more than the mandoline grill banh mi we had last time, but was a full 6 inches longer as well! the sandwich was massive, hearty, fresh, and full of some of the most amazing marinated tofu i’ve ever eaten.

    rice vermicelli lemongrass tofu bowl. $6

    we also got a lemongrass tofu noodle bowl, which tasted good… but not nearly as good as the banh mi. it came with the same perfect tofu that the sandwich did, but on a bed of thin cold noodles to be eaten w/ chop sticks.

    cha gio noodle bowl. $6

    lastly, my friend sitting beside me ordered the cha gio noodle bowl which was basically like the tofu noodle bowl, but w/ spring rolls plopped on top rather than tofu. she agreed that it was tasty, but the banh mi was better.

    although we waited ages for our food today, i really want to encourage y’all to check out mandoline grill asap. they are a small food truck and almost half the menu is vegan…that alone deserves our support.

    today they may have been a bit overwhelmed by the long lines…

    and the spotty rain on their launch day.

    best of luck, mandoline grill!!!! we can’t wait to eat more of your food.

    be sure to follow mandoline grill on twitter and check out their website regularly.

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  • February 4th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, mandoline grill

    remember way back in the day, when we blogged about amazing vietnamese food from mandoline grill? well the vegan-friendly food truck is finally ready to start roaming the streets, and they are having their launch party this saturday at the verdugo bar from 3-8pm. i highly suggest you stop by and fill up on some lemongrass tofu banh mi sandwiches and noodle bowls, then wash it all down with some quality craft beer.

    vegan lemongrass tofu banh mi. $5

    and there isn’t just gonna be awesome food and beer at this event—but also live djs and prize giveaways. sounds like a swingin’ shindig to me!

    don’t miss this. the food at mandoline grill is excellent. let’s give them a warm welcome to the food truck club.

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  • January 16th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, vinh loi tofu

    it’s a whole new year, and that means a whole lot of new food at vinh loi tofu. if you haven’t heard of vinh loi, they are an amazing tofu factory/vietnamese eatery that we named one of the best vegan restaurants in los angeles. seriously, this place is incredible. not only do they make their own tofu and tofu-based products…but they have the best, spiciest, and most authentic meat-free asian cuisine in town.

    kevin tran is the mastermind behind vinh loi tofu…and like any genius, he is always perfecting his art. in the new year he decided to add a whole slew of items to VL’s menu, and they are items that you would only really know about if you befriended the restaurant on facebook. practically everyday kevin posts a new crowd-pleasing special, appetizer, or noodle dish on his “wall”. (after all, that’s how i found out about vinh loi’s amazing holiday turkey!)

    earlier this week we trekked all the way out to reseda in order to try some of kevin’s new creations, and boy, we were not disappointed!

    soup 2010: udon, vegan duck, sesame seeds, chilis, lemongrass, peanuts, cilantro. $9.50

    we shared a couple entrees, the first being kevin’s facebook advertised daily special: the soup 2010. like most of vinh loi’s delicious liquid-based meals, this consisted of a spicy broth along with thick noodles, loads of fake meat and fresh cilantro. i am a big fan of kevin’s soups, but this was better than any i’ve tried before. not just was it tasty and uber satisfying, but the soy duck was better than any of his other fake meats and the to-go packaging was perfect: VL packed the liquid in a huge container protected by a plastic bag, with the noodles and vegetables all stowed separately to maintain ultimate freshness. i appreciate that.

    beef udon salad: thick udon noodles, vegan beef, salad greens and vegetables, chilis. $9.50

    our next main dish was a new item that kevin highly recommended, the vegan beef udon salad. wow, this thing was the perfect—full of vegetables, greens, salty soy meat, fat ass noodles, and special seasonings. what more do i require?! at under 10 bucks, this was also a bargain. seriously, go to vinh loi and request this dish pronto!

    vegan ham roll: tofu ham, brown rice, seaweed, nori. $4.50

    we also tried the “ham” roll sushi, which was probably my favorite find of the evening. leave it up to kevin tran to give vegan sushi a completely new take—this was the meatiest, stickiest, most flavorful roll i’ve ever had. with no vegetables, it relied solely on the vinh loi vegan meats for flavor, which i love more than anything! plus the seaweed was excellently sticky, and each roll held together just perfectly. guh, i should have gotten some of these to stockpile!

    veggie bun: wheat flour, cabbage, mushroom, soy bean oil, seasoning. $2

    aside from trying the new menu items, we also tasted some vinh loi classic dishes, the first being the veggie steamed bun. whoa, this things is all kinds of yum! it reminded me a lot of the seitan bun from the new year’s eve menu at madeleine bistro, except this was full of vegetables and served in a to-go fashion. it was a whole mess of savory vegetables and sauce encased in a sweet sticky bun, PERFECT.

    lemongrass and chili $1.25

    lastly, as usual, we had to get an order of kevin’s homemade tofu. he has several flavors to choose from including plain, lemongrass and chili, and mushroom….all for just $1.25 per serving. i am not kidding when i say this is the best tofu i have ever had, and every time i visit vinh loi i have to buy at least a couple portions. this makes normal tofu taste like ugh. this is the BEST TOFU EVER!

    so the moral of this whole story is: if you haven’t checked out vinh loi tofu already, you are missing out. AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE CHECKED OUT VINH LOI TOFU, you are probably still MISSING OUT!
    the only way to get the full on low down/experience is to befriend vinh loi on facebook. it’s so worth it for the daily specials, holiday offers, and new menu items.

    come on, be a vegan in the know!

    vinh loi tofu
    18625 Sherman Way #101
    Reseda, CA 91335

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  • October 7th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, vinh loi tofu

    vegan sandwiches are awesome, and they just don’t get enough attention. what’s the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten? if you live in los angeles, the answer very well could be a banh mi sub from vinh loi tofu.


    although vinh loi is an entirely vegan restaurant, their sandwiches aren’t filled with vegetables. no, no, no…they specialize in sturdy, meaty subs that would satisfy any omnivore.

    ham sub. $5.50

    ham sub. $5.50

    take the enormous “ham” sub, filled with pink faux meat and spicy chilies, measuring around 9 inches for just $5.50.

    or the extravagant vinh loi sub, which comes stuffed with “chicken”, “beef”, AND tofu for just 6 bucks.

    vinh loi sub (chicken, beef and tofu) $6

    vinh loi sub (chicken, beef and tofu) $6

    these banh mi are massive, the price is right, and they are packed with taste. what more do you want from a sandwich?

    you probably already knew about the bad ass subs at vinh loi tofu…but i thought you needed a reminder. i hereby name today vegan sandwich appreciation day. now what are you gonna do to celebrate?

    vinh loi tofu
    18625 Sherman Way #101
    Reseda, CA 91335
    (818) 996-9779

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  • December 10th, 2008quarrygirlLA restaurants, vinh loi tofu

    the best tofu you will ever eat lives in reseda.

    fried tofu (lemongrass and chili) $1.25

    fried tofu (lemongrass and chili) $1.25

    it is a good time to be a vegan and live in the san fernando valley. they’ve got everything over there. follow your heart, madeleine’s bistro, hugo’s tacos and a slew of vegan thai huts. i didn’t think the valley could possibly offer anything better than all of that. well, i was wrong. after months of putting it off because i didn’t want to make the drive to reseda, i finally checked out the 100% vegan vietnamese restaurant and tofu factory, vinh loi tofu.

    you see, foodeater over at to live and eat in la (the vegan blog i frequent most) had been singing the praises of this place forever. she has gone on and on about the noodles, soups, sandwiches, even the non-GMO soy beans. i kind of took it all with a grain of salt, thinking, how good could some vegan asian food be….right? i get plenty of that! well, i was wrong. all the stuff she said was 100% true. vinh loi tofu is an odd gem in an a huge sea of fried udon, faux meat and salty broth. i can’t possibly describe to you how fucking good it is.

    it’s the kind of food that you start chomping on with another person and for the next half hour the conversation is littered with outbursts like, “no, really this is so fucking good,” “….i know, right? god this is amazing,” “wow, this food is much better than i thought would be…” and then various chewing noises.

    the best thing i tasted from vinh loi tofu was of course the tofu itself. created in the tofu factory within the restaurant by the mad scientists/chefs/magicians, the soybean concoction that vinh loi comes up with is utterly perfect. and when they fry it up with lemongrass and chili for just a buck 25, it’s enough to have you on your bloody knees begging for more.

    but that’s just the tofu. they have tons of other drool-worthy dishes on the big, vegan, vietnamese menu. stuff that looks like run-o-the-mill asian foodz like noodles, soups and rice dishes are completely reinvented.

    house special duck soup: yellow noodles with bean curd seasoned in a duck broth. $8.50

    house special duck soup: yellow noodles with bean curd seasoned in a duck broth. $8.50

    the duck soup (everything is totally vegan, so need to even ask) was insanely delicious. flavorful meat with delicately cooked noodles, swimming in a savory broth. garnished with fresh vegetables, this garlicky and spicy dish was honestly i think the best soup i’ve ever had. seriously, it’s true! i know you won’t believe me…unless you’ve had it as well.

    same goes for the stir-fried udon noodles. cooked up in the most scrumptious sauce, covered with thick faux meat and fresh chilis, this dish packed so much flavor and so much heat. i really don’t think we knew what we were getting into. a fight went down and spoonful was divided until the bitter end.

    stir-fried udon: wheat noodles stir-fried with chicken or beef, tofu and vegetables. $9

    stir-fried udon: wheat noodles stir-fried with chicken or beef, tofu and vegetables. $9

    and, ummm….not to sound like a broken record, but the veggie spring rolls were also the best ever.

    veggie spring rolls (3): green leaves and shredded fried tofu wrapped in rice paper. served with coconut sauce. $4

    veggie spring rolls (3): green leaves and shredded fried tofu wrapped in rice paper. served with coconut sauce. $4

    most spring rolls have a clear, thin and moist skin. not these. the wrappers on these were thick, tough and stretchy. the vegetables were crisp and the fried tofu was all kinds of wow. 3 of these could easily be a meal on their own. they are also packed with a lot more food than most rolls. all the ingredients must be shoved in so tight, because there is so damn much inside.

    seriously, if you are a vegan in los angeles you can’t say shit about anything until you’ve tried vinh loi tofu. they take a cuisine (vegan asian food) that is usually so meh, and they make it spectacular. i don’t think i’ve ever in my life eaten soup, noodles, spring rolls, or tofu that has gotten me so enthusiastic. i mean, i love talking shit on restaurants. but i just can’t with vinh loi tofu. there is nothing negative to say.

    even the owner, kevin tran was working the counter when we went in. chatting away to customers and answering all kinds of questions about the food, he was more friendly and helpful than any restaurant owner i’ve ever seen in action.

    PLUS, owner kevin tran was even sporting a shirt picturing the webmaster of quarrygirl.com, the one and only tofu robot. we knew we were in good hands. here is a spy iphone pic to prove it:

    kevin tran, owner of vinh loi tofu wearing a shirt picturing tofu robot, the mascot of quarrygirl.com

    kevin tran, owner of vinh loi tofu wearing a shirt picturing tofu robot, the mascot of quarrygirl.com

    so no matter where you live in la, vegans, make the bloody drive to vinh loi tofu. they are in the valley, so of course, they are located in a strip mall. kevin excitedly told us though, that they were planning on opening a restaurant in silver lake. oh how awesome that would be. we can only hope.

    vinh loi tofu
    18625 Sherman Way #101
    Reseda, CA 91335
    (818) 996-9779

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