friends and readers, i’ve found a vegan paradise in altadena and it’s very aptly named oh happy days. the tiny hole in the wall establishment acts as both a vegetarian market and an entirely vegan cafe, and offers up incredible food at unbeatable prices, not to mention friendly service. it’s a bit of a hippie hang out and the fare is super healthy (no fake cheese here!), so it may not be everybody’s cuppa tea…all i know is, it’s now one of my favorite restaurants and i can’t wait to go back.
i was first alerted to oh happy days on twitter of all places (if you have any vegan tips, @reply me!) when i saw a tweet that called it “the best vegan restaurant in LA” and mentioned that they had soul food for $6 per plate. we wasted no time and headed over on saturday for lunch and were absolutely blown away by the awesomeness. the super small market is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for—we almost walked right by it!
Tags: altadena, pasadena, potato, yams
you know how there are like 8 million vegan thai places in los angeles? well, i seriously wish i could swap them all out for vegan soul food joints. i seriously can’t get enough. i hit up one of la’s few vegan soul food restaurants over the weekend, vegan village cafe, and it was tasty as fuck. this place boasted totally authentic home-style cooking: juicy fake meats, creamy mac and cheese along with tender leafy greens and all the fixins’. yumMMMm.
lemme start off by telling you all about the food. when ordering, i was debating between the soul plate and the village sample plate, but decided to go with the soul because the village option came with fake shrimp. i dunno why, i just haven’t been able to bring myself to eat a fake shrimp…yet. i am freaked out by the fake little shrimp bodies, but for some reason don’t mind chowing down on faux chicken. sigh.
anyways, everything on the soul plate ended up being delicious. the buttered corn was tasty and surprisingly light, and the greens were insanely yum. the candied yams were thick and really saucy. i’d never had candied yams, and these things were sweet and very cinnamony. i liked them, but they were a little too much like a dessert for me—they tasted exactly like pumpkin pie.
the stand out thing on the plate though, had to be the soy chicken. this is the most meat-like vegan thing i’ve ever tasted, and it was really good. it had a weird crispy shell/skin wrapped around it, and the inside was extremely moist and tender. it didn’t taste like flesh, of course, but it really got dangerously close to the texture and experience of animal protein. whatever it was fried in was incredibly wonderful as well. salty and crunchy followed my chewy and soft. i don’t know how they do it. if only someone could come up with a fake cheese that was this convincing…
my husband veered from the traditional soul food and ordered something from the mexican portion of the menu, a burrito.
the burrito turned out to be splendid, and totally held it’s own with all the other amazing shit on the table. filled up with well-seasoned soy ground meat and lots of vegetables, this plump little entree went down really well with half a bottle of hot sauce. score!
of course, we couldn’t drive all the way to mid-city to check out a new soul food place without getting an order of mac and cheese. to me, mac and cheese is the bench mark by which all vegan soul food establishments should be judged. if done right, it’s always hands-down the best thing on the menu, and no two places cook it up quite the same. vegan village scored pretty high in the mac and cheese category. i gotta say, it’s some of the best i’ve ever tried.
this mac reminded me a little of the mac over at a taste of life, but with more seasonings. it was rich and creamy just like the mac i’m used to, and had a slight krafty cheesey kind of taste. don’t leave without trying it.
so it’s safe to say the food at vegan village totally rocks. go prepared though, it isn’t your normal restaurant. vegan village is located on the somewhat sketchy corner of pico and crenshaw, and fills a large windy space that’s a vegan restaurant by day and dance club by night. tables and chairs are scattered across a wooden dance floor, lit just barely by sunlight from one window as a disco ball hangs from the ceiling. the place is massive with a full bar, several rooms, and computer stations lined along the wall. it has its own large parking lot, so you needn’t worry about parking on the street.
once you adjust to the somewhat odd interior and the fact you are dining in a nightclub, it’s actually quite lovely. the staff is beyond friendly—our waitress introduced herself and made pleasant conversation, as well as provided great service. when she wasn’t waiting on us, we could hear her chatting to regulars at the bar about veganism and the importance of not eating animals. it was all very reassuring.
this place definitely has a bit of a doomie’s vibe: delicious vegan and unhealthy-tasting food with the kindest service imaginable…all in a disused nightclub.
now, while the food was great and we had an amazing experience at vegan village, i must warn you…the prices are shockingly high. the online menu isn’t representative, because many of the prices have been raised. for instance, the soul plate was raised from $12.95 to $13.95. while i loved the soul plate, it just wasn’t a lot of food for $14. it was mostly corn and greens, with a pile of yams and 2 small skewers of soy chicken. i can’t help but think of places like pure luck (and even they have raised their prices!) where i can get a sandwich with a side and an appetizer for less money. i’d say the soul plate should have cost $9, max.
the cost of the burrito was excessive at $8.95, considering it didn’t come with a side or anything, just a lonely wrap on a big plate.
and lastly, the mac and cheese was well pricey too. their online menu advertises a side of mac for $3.95, but that price has been raised to a whopping $5.95. damn! 6 bucks for a side of mac, when it was originally $4?!?! that’s a big increase. it was fucking good though, so i’m not saying i wouldn’t order it again.
overall, even with the high prices, vegan village cafe was a great find. i know i will be back. let’s see…incredible authentic-tasting soul food, delicious and creamy macaroni and cheese, friendly service, a full bar with tap beer, and a parking lot. definitely my kind of place.Tags: burrito, greens, macaroni & cheese, soul food, yams