Restaurant Tour: Eating Vegan in LA

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We just got back from a quick trip to Southern California to visit Jim’s mom and step-dad. It was barely a long weekend, really. Between visiting the folks, we ate at as many restaurants as we could.

Still feeling groggy from the plane ride, we almost didn’t find Native Foods. The location on Gayley Avenue is in two narrow spaces. You order and grab your drinks on the left, then go out the front door, walk all the way to the back of the space next door, go up some stairs, and eat overlooking the open kitchen.

I overheard a conversation between a couple of the cooks:
“So, I heard you don’t eat vegetables.”
“Yeah.”
“What’s that about?”

I ordered the quesavilla, to which I added Native chicken, plus the soup of the day, posole. Jim had the special, a French dip sandwich of thinly sliced seitan and avocado. The first bite I had of my quesavilla was surprising, as the food here is really low on salt. I’m used to restaurant food being a lot saltier than my cooking. Once I got used to it, I liked it. The fresh flavors of the food really came through.

The Native chicken in my quesavilla tasted like chickeny seitan I’ve made at home, with a really nice texture from being thrown on the grill. There was cheese that tasted just like dairy mozzarella would if it’s best friend were a lemon slice. Rounding it all out was sweet, soft, roasted broccoli and carrots, surprisingly not at all weird in a quesadilla, and caramelized onion. The quesavilla was served with some pico de gallo, quacamole, and the best non-dairy sour cream I’ve ever tasted. The posole had more seitan with chewy hominy in a broth spiked with mild dried peppers. It was topped with a chiffonade of cabbage, red bell pepper and cilantro. I didn’t get a chance to taste Jim’s sandwich – he ate it so fast – but I stole a sweet potato fry from his plate every chance I got. These were crisp and topped with cinnamon, sugar, salt and a dusting of parsley.

I forgot my camera, so I only have a pictures of the leftovers I had the next day for breakfast. If they looked this good sitting on the trunk of our rental car, imagine what they must have been like in the restaurant. 

Afterward, we took in some sights. Here’s a quick snap out of the car window. 

We visited Real Food Daily in Santa Monica, a few blocks north of the pier.

First, we walked around and built up an appetite. 

It was a beautiful day – no chance of rain, unlike back home. 

The Santa Monica RFD has a bakery next door. You are seated by a hostess. I was facing the front of the restaurant and had fun watching interesting people come and go.

I ordered the Total Reuben with a Caesar salad, and Jim had the Salisbury seitan, mashed potatoes with golden gravy and Caesar salad. My sandwich was made from mild tempeh, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, a tiny schmear of nut cheese, and avocado between two thin slices of bread. It tasted just like a Reuben should. Jim commented that the seitan wasn’t as good as mine, but he didn’t seem to have any trouble finishing it in record time. He’s a mashed potato fiend and was taken with the two pillowy scoops and the rich gravy topping them. The croutons in our salads were unusual. I’m not sure if they were made from rye bread or gluten-free bread, but they were dark and dense and sweet. The dressing was perfectly garlicky. This was Jim’s favorite place. 

Next, we headed inland. This adorable couple was the real reason for the trip. Seriously, aren’t they adorable?

There is beautiful scenery wherever you go out here. 

Here’s a California jay. 

A tree in bloom.

After the visit, we headed back to the coast and Seed, in Venice. This is another fast-casual place like Native Foods, where you order at the counter, sit wherever you want, and they bring your food to you. Unlike Native Foods and Real Food Daily, they serve beer and wine, but it was early so we didn’t partake. We ordered lunch, and food to go for dinner. The man at the counter volunteered that all of Seed’s food travels well. Since we were headed back to Texas in just a few hours, this was welcome information. 

I was tired of sandwiches, so I ordered the Mango Tango. This a bowl of short-grain brown rice and crisp-tender steamed broccoli. These are then topped with a huge, crisply fried eggless eggroll of cabbage and rich seitan. Finally, there is a drizzle of mango salsa. I spiced my bowl up with some curry gamashio and sriracha sauce I found on the side table. I brought Jim some African hot sauce which I snuck onto my rice, too. Jim had the Southwest burger, a house-made black bean and grain burger with soy cheese, quacamole and an ancho chili spread. I think this is the most popular thing on the menu, by far. Everyone on the phone ordering take-out seemed to be requesting this burger. 

A local character.

We took a quick drive up the Pacific Coast Hwy.

We stopped in Malibu before heading back south to the airport. 

At LAX, we threw away the cole slaw that came with our Seed paninis and packed them in one box. When we got to Phoenix, we found an airport bar and opened our box of sandwiches. 

How delicious-looking are these?

This is the Italian soysage panini and the roasted vegetable panini. We each had a half of each sandwich. They were both delicious. It was hard to pick, but in the end, I liked the roasted vegetable one the best. Also, Seed was my favorite restaurant of the three. 

Dessert!

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4 Responses

  1. Well that brings back memories! I miss RFD a lot. I don’t think Seed was open when I lived there, though.

  2. You guys lived in San Diego for a while, right?

  3. Yeah, I’m from San Diego and Mac moved there for grad school. I went to undergrad and grad school in LA so I lived there for five years.

  4. What lovely trip! I’m jealous that you got to eat at RFD. I have their cookbook and I love it.

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