Vegan Los Angeles Food

Our vegan Los Angeles experts, Stephanie Lundstrom (left) and Jacky Wasserman.

The City of Angels’ vegan roots run deep. A century ago, the nation’s first raw vegan restaurant chain (The Eutropheon) opened up here. The historic Follow Your Heart Cafe has been around since 1970, and there are now more vegan and vegetarian eateries in California than in any other state. Options in Los Angeles are so plentiful that finding the choicest spots can get overwhelming. Sure, there’s the convenience of the ubiquitous Veggie Grill (which we love dearly, by the way). But what if you want to go beyond? To get an authentic feel for vegan Los Angeles, we sought out the wisdom of local experts. Stephanie Lundstrom edits videos at the West Hollywood-based animal rights organization Mercy for Animals and chronicles her food obsessions at @sapling_vegan. Her partner Jacky Wasserman owns the cult vegan Los Angeles apparel brand BEETxBEET (pronounced “beat by beat” — she’s been DJing since the age of 16). Together, they can’t imagine living anywhere else. Whether you’re just visiting or are a newly-minted Angeleno, let Stephanie and Jacky show you where to eat and chill in LA. 

 

Let’s start with the obvious: Breakfast!

Stephanie: The Grain Cafe in Mid-City has my all time favorite breakfast dish — their egg and bacon bagel. It’s right by our house, making it extra temping to stop in since they serve breakfast all day! I don’t know how they cook the tofu (the egg) but it’s working, and whatever sauce they use is to die for. My other favorite breakfast item is the biscuit from Moby’s restaurant Little Pine in Silverlake. I love me a yummy carb and this one comes with maple butter and strawberry jam. Dogs are allowed on the patio so, like, why would anyone sit inside?

Jacky: I took my non-vegan dad to Little Pine when he was in town, and he wanted to go back the following weekend. Between the two visits, we shared the Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes, French Toast, Breakfast Scramble, Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. Also, I’m a sucker for chai lattes and they’ve got one that hits the spot. All of their profits are donated to animal rights organizations. Another place on the Eastside would be Flore Vegan. They have a nice selection of breakfast items that don’t disappoint, like the Chicken & Waffles and Blueberry Pancakes.

Vegan Los Angeles Breakfast

The Chickn & Waffles at Flore (left). And the breakfast spread at little pine.

 

Which farmers markets should we hit up?

Stephanie: Jacky and I try to make it to the Larchmont Farmers Market every Sunday to get our fruit. Once we got berries from there and from Whole Foods to compare the taste and were blown away by how much more flavor the farmer’s market berries had. 

Jacky: At the Hollywood Farmers Market, the Ridiculous Baking Co sells all vegan pastries and breads. They usually make a sausage biscuit sandwich that sells out early. Dave’s, the only vegan Korean vendor I know of, is also there. India Sweets and Spices is a small grocery in Highland Park offering a plethora of hard to find Indian spices and products. They also have a great buffet that is super affordable and has a good selection of vegan dishes and sides.

 

Must-try grab & go?

Stephanie: M Cafe on Melrose is a full service restaurant with a little grab and go case of salads, wraps and treats. They have this macrobiotic tempeh wrap that I love. Pair it with a side of kale salad in peanut dressing and BOOM, you have a winning lunch.

Jacky: One of my favorite spots to have meetings or pop in for a quick bite is Green Table Cafe in Mid-City. One of my favorite things here is the Lasagna or the B…Loved Panini. And the Tiramisu and fruit tarts are a must! I also love Stamp Proper Foods in Loz Feliz which has lots of vegan options and delicious smoothies. My favorite is the Palm Springs Poolside — perfect after a hike in Griffith Park. Yeastie Boys Bagels food truck is usually posted up outside of Stumptown Coffee downtown during the week. They have a vegan bagel sandwich on an everything bagel with sprouts, red onion, and sun dried tomato spread called The Mishka. Its name is inspired by Greg Rivera, the vegan co-owner of the streetwear brand Mishka, which I think is rad!

Vegan Los Angeles Bagel

“The Mishka” from Yeasty Boys Bagels. Photo: Jacky Wasserman

 

We need nature and self-care. What’s our plan?

Jacky: One of my favorite hiking trails is Los Leones Canyon Trail in the Pacific Palisades. It’s a great workout and has a great view of the ocean. Not too far from that hike is Lake Shrine Meditation Garden where you can take in the gorgeous plant life as you stroll around the lake or sit quietly with your thoughts. I’m not the kinda gal who gets her nails done on the reg, but every now and then when I’m feeling a self-care moment coming on, I’ll hit up Base Coat because they are non-toxic and use vegan nail polish! The foot massage included in the service is a plus.

Stephanie: My friend Kate rides her bike everywhere and sees the city through a whole other lens. She has taken me on the most beautiful urban hikes and walks. One of most memorable was in Franklin Canyon Park, where we lingered until dark and found ourselves surrounded by the croaking of frogs.

 

Let’s pivot to pizza.

Stephanie: Oh pizza pizza pizza. I’m all about this perfect food, and if you think pineapples don’t belong on pizza, never talk to me or my dog again. Cruzer holds a special place in my heart. They are all vegan, never charge me for a side of ranch and are just plain yummy. They are mostly a take out place, so call it in and pick it up for the perfect Netflix and chill kinda night.

Jacky: Purgatory Pizza has a pie named after iconic lesbian group Tegan and Sara called “Vegan And Sara.” All of their vegan options have interesting toppings, and they have a punk rock vibe which is up my alley.

 

Most reliable dinner spot in town is…

Stephanie: My go to is usually Araya’s Place for Thai. I’m a Thai food freak, and they have the best Pad Thai. It’s super tiny inside, so I recommend a reservation. Also, Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine never lets me down and it’s great for large groups.

Jacky: If you’re looking for great date ambiance or a $20 CDB cocktail (worth it), then Gracias Madre is your place. Otherwise, Pura Vita is the new vegan Italian restaurant that will keep you coming back for more.

 

What about the sweet stuff?

Jacky: PBJLA has old fashioned Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches made with the crusts cut off in these delicate round pockets stuffed with love. They have interesting flavor combinations and make all their jams and butters from scratch! And everything is vegan. They’re located in Grand Central Market downtown, which is a fun place to walk around.

Stephanie: As a sugar addict, I feel qualified to speak on this topic. Magpies Soft Serve has some pretty unreal vegan flavors, my favorite being Pandan. They switch it up every month and always have anywhere from 4-6 vegan flavors at any given time. Also a new vegan donut place just opened in DTLA called Donatsu and they have some really exciting flavors like Creme Brûlée, Ube, and Samoa.

Vegan Ice Cream

Soft serve from Magpies. Photo by Jacky Wasserman.


Any fun happenings we should put on our calendar?

Stephanie: On Tuesday nights, York Blvd in Highland Park turns into a vegan’s dream. On the sidewalk between Donut Friend, a vegan build-your-own-doughnut shop, and a bar called Block Party, a handful of vegan vendors pop up for the night. You can usually find Cena Vegan with burritos and tacos, Señoreata serving up Cuban food, Madame Shugah with ice cream cookie sandwiches, along with a bunch of others. If you’re over 21, you can take your food into Block Party and play shuffle board on the back patio.

Jacky: Vegan Street Fair started up a weekly Sunday event with rotating vendors in North Hollywood, which I’ll be a part of throughout the year. There’s also Green Saturday, a small marketplace usually held in Long Beach.

 

Where’s can we eat really good Mexican food?

Jacky: I love the enchiladas at Un Solo Sol in Boyle Heights. They have a lot of vegan options and make the vegan food in a whole separate side of the kitchen!

Stephanie: Having lived in San Francisco for three years, where vegan burritos were half my diet, I found LA to really be lacking in this area. That is, until I discovered the massive burritos from Vegatinos. They pop up all over LA at different events. If you need a burrito fix, this is your place. And my heart belongs to all things Todo Verde. The owner, Jocelyn Ramirez, is focused on making healthy and amazingly flavorful food. I took my Mexican grandparents to try her cuisine, and they couldn’t get enough. My favorite is the Ceviche, made from heart of palm, but I also love her Jackfruit Tacos and mole. They just finished a massively successful crowd funding campaign to open a brick and mortar in south LA so they can share plant based food with folks who have not had much access to this way of eating and all its benefits. 

 

Which Los Angeles makers should we support?

Jacky: Thought you’d never ask! You can visit me at local vegan events around town — check out the listings on our site. Some other cool shops to support in Los Angeles are Vegan Scene (Female owned), MooShoes, Galerie.LA (Female and Black owned, but not all vegan just FYI). And markets and popups include Renegade Craft Fair, Unique LA, The Rose Bowl Flea Market, Melrose Flea Market, and Shepard Fairey’s art gallery Subliminal Projects .

Stephanie: Obvi I’m going to say my babe’s online shop BeetxBeet.com. She makes cool-kid vegan clothes that have a street wear vibe, and the screen printer she uses is owned by a couple of badass lesbian women in DTLA.

 

Time to donate our time. Where should we volunteer?

Stephanie: I suggest visiting Saving Grace, about an hour outside of Los Angeles. They have the cutest miniature ponies, two fluffy cows and lots of fancy chickens, goats with some serious sass and lots of other adorable animals. Make sure you ask to see Janet the Basset Hound — she’s a snuggler. The sanctuary is run by Erich and Kathy, a couple who used to volunteer at another sanctuary and wanted to open their own to dedicate their lives to caring for, and loving, animals in need.

Jacky: Burrito Project Los Angeles has different chapters around the city where you get together in a group and make vegan burritos to then pass out to the homeless as a team.

 

For more bonus vegan Los Angeles recommendations from Stephanie and Jacky, check out LAIKA’s Patreon page.

Become a Patron!

 

Editing and photo collages by Julie Gueraseva. Photos courtesy of Jacky Wasserman and Stephanie Lundstrom.

Actress Harley Quinn Smith LAIKA vegan magazine coverDear readers, it is with great joy that we bring you LAIKA Magazine’s 7th issue: the Haven Issue. It’s a shelter from turmoil where justice, equality and empathy are firmly upheld. The Haven issue invites you to create a world in which all are safe and valued. Gracing the cover is vegan actress and passionate animal advocate Harley Quinn Smith, who represents beautifully her generation’s optimism and determination. Inside, she shares a heartfelt open letter to Gen Z about the importance of allyship and the urgency of animal rights.

Harley Quinn Smith LAIKA Magazine vegan fashion

Through fearless journalism and unforgettable photography, the Haven Issue disrupts oppression. We underscore the connection between animal liberation and human liberation in stories like “United We Rise,” which features Aph Ko and Sunaura Taylor, among other brilliant voices from the movement. The stunning feature “She Matters” makes evident how essential asserting animals as individuals is to dismantling speciesism, and why this matters so much to feminism.

Rescued farm animals at sanctuaryIntersectional animal rights activism

Throughout the issue, we celebrate dynamic vegan women like Jenné Claiborne and Madelynn De La Rosa, who are broadening vibrant spaces of creativity and compassion. We demonstrate the beauty of standing up for the vulnerable in stories about kitten rescuer Hannah Shaw and rhino defender Damian Mander.

Sweet Potato Soul YouTuber Jenne Claiborne

The innocence of animals in the Haven Issue reminds us that on this earth, there is no need to dominate anyone. Life is at its most complete in peaceful co-existence. This is wondrously showcased in “The Last Place on Earth,” which tells the incredible story of how the First Nations communities of the Great Bear Rainforest protected their sacred land, its wildlife and our environment from a destructive pipeline.

Great Bear Rainforest

Every page of the Haven Issue is an artistic statement intended to uplift, energize and provoke discourse and action. With gorgeous imagery and resonating storytelling, LAIKA is an uncompromising source of independent media that provides you, our dear reader, with an immersive experience. Order your copy of the Seventh Issue of LAIKA or subscribe today.

On the Cover: Photography by Ryan Pfluger; creative direction by Julie Gueraseva; styling by Jessica Zanotti. “She Matters” photographed by Sammantha Fisher. “United We Rise” illustrated by Camila Rosa. “From the Soul” photographed by Paige Carter. “The Last Place on Earth” photographed by Jennifer MaHarry.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Photo by Clara Polito

Writing a book is no small feat. Now imagine doing it while still in your teens. LAIKA’s one-time cover star Clara Polito has accomplished just that. Her first cookbook, Clara Cakes: Delicious and Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone! was just published by powerHouse Books. It’s chock full of recipes for a dizzying array of creative desserts, with an entire chapter dedicated to frosting, plus sage business advice, a super handy guide to kitchen gear and egg substitutes, even a spread about why she’s vegan.

Photo by Logan White.

Polito is a serious pro with a heart of gold, but she’s no overnight sensation. She’s been running her LA-based company Clara Cakes since the age of 12, selling her creations at stores, restaurants and countless events across the city, as well as doing many brunch and dinner pop-ups. Her hard work has rightfully earned her treats a loyal following. The artist and skateboarder Ed Templeton says it best in his introduction to Polito’s cookbook, “Clara is the kind of girl that gives me hope for future generations. She didn’t wait for anything happen to her, she made it happen for herself.” Indeed.

Polito shares her S’mores Bar recipe with LAIKA, followed immediately by our Q&A with her.

Photo by Clara Polito

 

S’mores Bar
“I rarely ate traditional s’mores growing up because: 1) Marshmallows have gelatin, and 2) I’ve never been camping in my life. What I can remember of these sweet snacks is that the marshmallow always swallowed up all the other flavors. It was too sweet to be able to enjoy the perfect graham cracker and melty chocolate combo. These s’mores bars give you a balanced ratio of a lot of graham-cookie-bar crust, just enough chocolate chips, and a bit of melty marshmallow to tuck it in. I honestly don’t have much of a desire to ever go camping since I can just make these bars in my oven…”

Ingredients
1 cup crushed Nabisco plain graham cracker crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips*
1 cup Dandies Marshmallows,* torn in half
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup v. butter, melted
1 tablespoon coconut vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
* Specialty ingredient, buy ahead

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9 baking pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar and baking soda with a fork. The baking soda will dissolve. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder.

4. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

5. Add the vinegar and baking soda mixture to the butter and beat on high until the vinegar is fully incorporated, about two minutes.

6. Slowly add in the dry ingredients on medium speed and beat until it looks like cookie dough.

7. Reserve 1/4 of the dough and set aside, you’ll use this later for the topping. Press the remaining dough into the baking pan.

8. Sprinkle chocolate chips and marshmallows evenly onto the cookie dough layer.

9. Take the cookie dough you set aside and scatter grape-sized pieces over the marshmallows and chocolate chips.

10. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Place on cooling rack, serve warm.

 

Then and now. Clara covers our Summer ’13 issue (left); and is the author of her first cookbook four years later. Photos by Sylvia Elzafon and Logan White.

LAIKA: Veganism has become a lot less stigmatized in recent years. Do you even still feel the need to explain that you’re a “vegan” baker?

Clara Polito: It depends on who I’m talking to, or where I’m selling. Most of the time, I like to let my cooking speak for itself and win people over, and then tell them afterwards that it’s vegan which is always very much to their surprise! I think because being vegan is second nature to me, and such a part of my inner moral compass, I don’t have to work too hard on integrating it into my identity. Changing the way people eat is ultimately why I do what I do.

LAIKA: It’s a pretty crazy time, with this country’s government trying to escalate the oppression of both human and nonhuman animals. How does all this affect your craft and your sense of urgency to make the world better?

Clara Polito: I feel that being vegan is so important, especially now, as a way to express compassion. Our country is so accustomed to feeling disconnected to cruelty, corruption, etc. I think being vegan is the simplest, everyday activism you can do that touches on so many different issues beyond animal cruelty. I think it motivates me to make my recipes accessible. It makes me want to hold tight onto my craft and work harder.

LAIKA: The cookbook is so impressive. It must’ve been a ton of work to put together.

Clara Polito: Other than jotting down recipes, I had no prior cookbook experience. I think I needed someone to say, “Let’s do this, here’s what I need from you,” and from there it was a blast. The problem I run into is narrowing down recipe ideas, so coming up with new ones was fast. I took most of the dessert photos (Logan White took some as well), so there would be nights where I’d have four different cakes in my fridge calling my name.

LAIKA: The design of the book is also very eye-catching. Did you collaborate with the publisher and designer on it?

Clara Polito: My publisher was really open to my ideas for the book design. They’d send over different versions of possible designs and really listened to my feedback. The designer asked me to send over different tablecloths and aprons I use, and that’s where the flowers throughout the book come from. The handwritten old English was a tribute to the first business cards I made, and I love how modern it feels in the book. I love how much the book design represents myself and my baking.

LAIKA: And your best friend is a part of the book too, is that right?

Clara Polito: Sophia [Longo] is an extremely talented writer, and about a year ago she wrote a zine called Dessert Haikus. She wrote several different haikus having to do with desserts and then we put them together with photos of my baked goods. A couple months later when I started working on the book, it seemed like the perfect addition to it! She’s been a part of this adventure since I started baking, so it makes the book even more special and meaningful.

LAIKA: That’s so cool, and such a great example of young women’s camaraderie. So, people new to vegan baking are sometimes intimidated by the lack of eggs. What’s your take on that?

Clara Polito: My favorite egg substitutes are applesauce, coconut vinegar, and Mori-Nu silken tofu. I think texture and taste both taste more fresh when not using eggs. Isn’t it weird how non-vegan cake is technically chocolate eggs?!

LAIKA: Yep! What’s the top advice would you give young women your age who have a hobby or passion and yearn to turn into a career?

Clara Polito: I would say to embrace your passion and know your self-worth. People might offer you advice, which is nice, but you don’t have to take it. Do what you want to do.

LAIKA: Ok, final question — what’s inspiring you these days, and what are your must-eat vegan dishes around LA?

Clara Polito: Stella McCartney’s latest collection, both womenswear and menswear. I keep going back to the lookbook for inspiration! And specific dishes at particular places are: Organic Puff Pastry Tart with Market Green Salad at Elf Cafe (Elf is vegetarian, request this dish vegan); the Sweet Potato Falafel at Fala Bar; Spicy Sweet Potatoes at Azla; Masa Echo Park’s vegan Deep Dish Pizza (request vegan); the vegan pupusa combo that comes with fried plantains and black beans at Delmy’s Pupusas (request vegan); and the Jackfruit Taco with Chipotle Mayo and Tomatillo Salsa at Plant Food For People.

Clara Cakes’ latest pop-up dinner is in Detroit this weekend, and the NYC book launch is on March 23. Get to know this inspiring young woman even better in our Issue Two cover story. Pick up her stunning new cookbook online or at stores nationwide.

Interview by Julie Gueraseva

Save

Save

Save