Hello and a belated Happy New Year to you!
For an introduction to your author I thought I would begin with a little bit of restaurant talk. A lot of sites about veganism either spin a certain type of vegan eating (Raw til 4, etc.) or have loads of yummy vegan recipes for you. I plan to do a little bit of everything because that’s life and I wish someone would have figured some of this out for me before I transitioned.
As a stay-at-home mum of a squirmy, one-year-old boy and wife to a full-time working hubby in the San Fernando Valley, I was very grateful this year to have over a week of daddy time at home to help with the munchkin this holiday season. This entailed a lot of eating out, family-friendly venues, spending too much money & time researching what each of us would be eating.
I am vegan.
My son is vegetarian.
My husband is an omnivore.
We are transitioning our son to vegan and Mr. V is becoming more and more conscious as a result of my recent switch. But I am constantly thinking of recipes and restaurants to feed and please everyone. And although the general direction is vegan, I always give my husband that option of making his own choice.
When I’m not cooking fabulous vegan recipes for the family on rainy days as I have this past week, I am going to some of my favorite vegan stops for the yummiest cruelty-free eats.
Here are a few of them:
1. Lotus Vegan in North Hollywood
This local favorite of mine is a mostly Thai restaurant with American diner classics thrown in for good measure. And the result is a casual but delicious eating experience that will make you wonder why every restaurant couldn’t just be vegan. Truth be told, this was the first restaurant that made me feel normal because every item on the menu was vegan and yet nobody was burning incense or playing Native American flute music. Not that any of that is good or bad, but this restaurant allowed me to be myself as a vegan and not the idealized hippie vegan that only wears hemp and has a ring on every finger with semi-precious stones.
My neighborhood is packed with Thai restaurants and I love eating Thai food because they always cook it so quickly (seems I’m always eating in a hurry!) and it’s always packed with flavor. Also, vegan eating is a well-understood practice in Thailand called Jay เจ food which even though it also means you miss out on garlic, onions, and other strong flavors the Thai kitchen will never leave you with a bland plate. The spices and flavors are rich, palate-pleasing, and full of interesting gems for your pie hole!
Some must-haves are the classic Pad Thai noodle dish, Panang curry with brown rice, and oddly enough — the vegan hot wings here are so good you will want to fill your cheeks up with these bad boys and stock up for winter like a chipmunk! Order your young coconut from the waiter and you are in Thai paradise.
P.S. This place has been my cornerstone and has inspired the header atop the blog! Thanks kitchen and crew of Lotus Vegan!
2. Donut Friend in Los Angeles
Now, I didn’t go since the new year started but I did have some for my 30th birthday last month and it definitely took my mind off emotionally blowing out 30 candles. “Donuts done differently.” This cool little vegan donut shop in Highland Park out near Eagle Rock has been on my radar before I made the switch for good and has pleased many an omnivore! Donuts here can be ordered as is, customized, and there is a specialty and seasonal side to the menu that is not to be pushed aside! The quirky staff, mural, and cute donut names are just enough dosage of L.A. hipster without making you want to crochet a cupcake scarf or brew some artisan beer at home.
This is not a place I go regularly. Granted NO donut shop should be eaten at regularly if you’re eating cleaner, but for my birthday it was more than appropriate. My favorites are the Jets to Basil and the Green Teagan and Sara. The first is a vanilla and balsamic reduction-glazed donut with vegan cream cheese, fresh basil, and strawberry jam. The strawberry jam and basil taste so fresh together in this donut. The second has a matcha tea glaze and sprinkling of toasted black sesame seeds. I dig the tea flavored yumminess in this donut. Hello diabetes… No, how about we say goodbye diabetes. These donuts make me seriously question fasting for the day just so I could have more than one in a sitting.
However, for the inventive donut eater – orders can be made with your choice of donut, fillings, and toppings. An example would be a chocolate cake donut, filled with fresh bananas, coconut cream, vegan chocolate ice cream, topped with coconut bacon and sea salt! They top their donuts with glazes like molé, sriracha, and rosewater. GO doNUTS!
Even though this place is a bit of a drive from my neck of the woods, it is well worth it for the vegan options they provide in the sweet form of a donut. Or ice cream donut sandwich…
3. Follow Your Heart Natural Foods & Market in Canoga Park
Right Picture Credit: Taking Fountain
I simply LOVE going to Follow Your Heart because I can have lunch, pick up a few tough-to-find vegan products (vegenaise, good vegan cheese, maybe a couple pints of vegan ice cream…), and keep my conscious eating intact in one convenient stop. The cafe reads classic California in its menu with burgers and sandwiches, salads, soups. However, the interesting part is in how it’s all made to fit the herbivore’s needs. On bread, thanks to daddy’s ordering, the Nut Burger (veggie and nut patty) and the Reuben (thinly sliced wheat meat) are hearty and delicious and there are a number of vegan cheeses and sauces offered. Still on my to-do list is to eat breakfast here because they have an array of pancake plates and an interesting-looking Tofu Benedict with my name on it! Or Benedict’s rather… Eggless breakfast, whoda thunk?
The cafe definitely convinced me that even diner food could be made cruelty-free and healthy and the added bonus of getting to make a quick grocery run makes this busy mom a happy camper.
The Handy Vegan,