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Category Archives: Adventures in Dining Out

Organix, Eagle Rock

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I had recently heard of Organix via an Instagram post from Vegan Fat Kid.  The burgers looked amazing, so I made a mental note to try it sometime soon.  Eric and I went to see his mom in Echo Park and stopped in Eagle Rock to pick up some Organix to go.  It’s a seriously tiny restaurant in a small market, so we picked up a few things to try and some nacho cheeze sauce I had been craving.

I ordered the Castro burger, described as, “our Mildly Spicy Signature Burger made from Butternut Squash, Black Beans, Quinoa, Pumpkin Seeds, Oats and many herbs and spices, spicy jalapeno cheese, Grilled Onions and our signature house made Chipotle Aoli, Lettuce and Tomato on a wheat bun.”  It was a little messy, but very good.  I loved how the elements in the burger worked together.  The spiciness and cheesiness were really my favorite parts.

Organix - Castro Burger | A Vegan in Progress

Eric ordered the Southern Belle, “Battered and Panko Fried Vegan Chicken Patty, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy on a Potato Bun.”  I stole a bite and found it really tasty.  He loved it – mashed potatoes, gravy, this was right up his alley!

Organix - Southern Belle | A Vegan in ProgressThe fries were a little soggy due to the 20 minute drive from the restaurant to my in-laws, but were seasoned well.

We also got some zucchini fries…

zucchini friesAnd the vegan chicken tenders

Chicken fingersOverall, it was a really tasty meal and the staff (I think it was the owner, actually) was really friendly.  I will definitely be back.

Ramen Yamadaya, Sherman Oaks

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Eric and I went with a friend one night a few weeks ago to get ramen.  Ramen Yamadaya is a tiny place in Sheman Oaks that offers Vegan Ramen.  The broth is soy milk based and the noodles are spinach.

I had never before eaten proper ramen and didn’t know what to expect, but the broth was extremely flavorful and the  noodles were great.  I mixed in a little chili paste for added spiciness and some pieces of tofu that I ordered on the side.  In the bowl you get your broth, noodles, corn, tomato, mushrooms, cabbage, and green onions as far as I could tell.  It wasn’t very expensive at $8 for the bowl and while I’m still not a major ramen fan, I would definitely eat this again.

Ramen Yamadaya - Vegan Ramen | A Vegan in Progress

Food Lab, Silverlake

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Eric and I were visiting his mom this weekend and decided to go out and pick up food.  They are always very gracious and willing to stop at more than one place so I can get something vegan and satisfying.  The great thing about their neighborhood is that there are so many vegan and vegan-friendly cafes in the Echo Park/Silverlake area.  I think I’m going to try a different place each time we are in this situation.

FoodLab is a vegan-friendly restaurant, so it’s a great place to take non-vegans as well.  It’s very cute, but small, like pretty much every Silverlake cafe.

FoodLab, Silverlake | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered the Vegan Sandwich, which is described as hummus, roasted veggies, and dried tomato with basil pesto on 5 grain bread.  From what I could tell, the veggies included eggplant, mushrooms, squash, bell peppers, and zucchini.  I am not a big fan of squash and I just don’t like zucchini, but the sandwich was still delicious.  I loved that it was grilled on a panini press and the 5 grain bread was perfect.  I only ate half, and Eric had the other half later that night and he liked it as well.

This photo was taken at Eric’s mom’s house.  Their presentation is a lot prettier in FoodLab, but we got it to go.

The reason I could only eat half of the sandwich is because I also got 8 oz. of their cous cous salad which was basically cous cous and veggies.  It was so fresh and delicious – the salad was my favorite part of a good meal.FoodLab - Cous Cous Salad | A Vegan in Progress

There’s only one other vegan sandwich at FoodLab, the Garden Sandwich, which is described as hummus, avocado, watercress, tomato, cucumber, and carrot on 5 grain.  There are also two vegan salads (see this menu, the vegan items are noted with a U).  So it’s not a place with a huge amount of vegan options, but it’s tasty and a good place to take non-vegans.  I also liked that their website states “we are proud to announce that our eat-ware, ranging from plates, cutlery, cups, and packaging are 80% environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It is extremely important to us to be a leader in keeping this planet clean and beautiful, and therefore have made every effort in finding items that are not only attractive but also harmless.”

Doomie’s Home Cookin’ – Post 4

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I have already talked about Doomie’s, but I am doing multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Doomie’s Home Cookin’.

Eric and I have been craving Doomie’s Home Cookin’ for a while, so we decided to drive out last weekend.  I got the Spicy Chicken sandwich, which I have tried before and I loved, but we also ordered a side of fried avocado to give it a try.  They were alright.  The batter coating was perfect, but I think they were only good when dipped in sauce.  The barbeque sauce worked well.  They were worth a try, but I don’t think I would order them again.  The chicken fingers are far and away a better appetizer.

 

Doomie's - Fried avocado | A Vegan in Progress

Exciting News

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It has been well over a month since I have posted anything and there’s a good reason.  I am three months pregnant!  Eric and I decided we were ready and succeeded on the first try!  This is our first baby and the first grandchild on both sides, so it’s a very exciting event for everyone.  My first trimester was a little rough.  I had a lot of fatigue, nausea, and heartburn, but I’m starting to feel much better.  I was coming home from work every day, throwing together some kind of meal, then laying down on the couch and staying there pretty much all evening.  I hadn’t felt the drive to write at all, so the blog has been quiet.  I plan to step it up now while I still can, before the third trimester and the arrival of our little munchkin, when I’ll have no time whatsoever.

Oh, and an important note.  When talking with my Certified Nurse Midwife about eating healthy during the pregnancy, I told her I was vegan and she was very pleased to hear it.  She kept saying that I was eating a very healthy diet, so all should be well.  I did admit I had been eating a lot of bread lately, because it helps settle my stomach.  She told me that the first trimester is pretty much a free pass because you eat what you can.  All blood tests so far have come out great – further confirmation that a vegan diet is nothing but healthy.

Anyway, that’s my news!  I’ll report back on being vegan while pregnant!

Native Foods, Costa Mesa + Native Foods, Santa Monica

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I have already talked about Native Foods, but I thought that I could do multiple reviews of restaurants as I make subsequent visits.  Click here to see previous posts about Native Foods.

Every Spring, my parents and I make a joint appointment with our accountant to take care of some tax preparation.  They have been seeing the same accountant since I was a kid and used to play on the floor of his office during the appointments.  We always make lunch plans while we are in the area and last year we went to VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe.  While we loved VegiLicious, we decided to try something different.  We had made plans to go to Seabirds Kitchen, but at the last minute, I listed some items on the Native Foods menu and my dad was pumped to try it.  The Native Foods in Costa Mesa is located in a shopping center called “The CAMP.”  It was so cute how every parking space had a little message of affirmation painted on it.

There were a lot of eco-friendly stores, restaurants, juice bars, and other cute establishments.  I really wish we had more time before our appointment to explore.

To start, we shared the Butternut Polenta Bites, “pesto baked polenta topped with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions and toasted pumpkin seeds in balsamic over arugula.”  They were tasty, although a little tough to eat without making a mess.

Butternut Polenta Bites - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

I ordered the Twister Wrap with Crispy Native Chicken.  I had been eyeing it on my last few visits and I was excited to try it.  It was perfect.  I could eat that weekly if I had the budget.  I also got my favorite Lavender Lemonade.

Twister Wrap with Crispy Native Chicken - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

My dad ordered the Bistro Steak Sandwich and got a cup of the Watermelon Fresca.

.Bistro Steak Sandwich - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

My mom ordered the Southwest Chipotle Chop and really enjoyed it.

Southwest Chipotle Chop - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

I don’t see how we can get away with trying a new restaurant next year, because they both really loved Native Foods.

I popped into the bathroom before leaving and saw that they use Further soap, distilled from the waste grease from their kitchen.  That’s so clever, I don’t know why more places don’t do it.

Further Soap - Native Foods, Costa Mesa | A Vegan in Progress

Native Foods is consistently yummy.  I just wish there was one in the Valley!

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On another visit to the Native Foods in Santa Monica, I ordered the Yo Amigo Taco Salad with guacamole.  It was delicious and totally hit the spot after recovering from a quick bout of the flu.  Bonus:  this Native Foods location is one block from Viva La Vegan Grocery.

Yo Amigo Taco Salad with avocado - Native Foods, Santa Monica | A Vegan in Progress

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood

For my birthday this year, I told my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law that I would love to go out for lunch.  I had suggested a place with both vegan and omnivore options, but after some research, my mother-in-law very thoughtfully suggested Gracias Madre.  Gracias Madre is a 100% vegan restaurant that began in San Francisco and recently opened another location in West Hollywood.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

My first impression was that the restaurant was really pretty – very light and airy.  It was a beautiful LA day, so the restaurant was open to the patio.  The seating was very comfortable, with a variety of benches and chairs at every table, and it wasn’t too crowded.  We were seated on the patio.

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood | A Vegan in Progress

We were offered a water as well as sparkling water and were brought a carafe of both.  It took a while to order and I think it was for a couple of reasons.  For me, I’m not used to being able to order literally anything on a menu, but for Eric’s family, I think it was a little foreign for them to be navigating a vegan menu.

We started with a couple of appetizers – the Gorditas and the Papas al Horno.  The Gorditas, described as “potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew crema,” were wonderful.  I loved the potato-masa cakes and the toppings were very fresh.  The Papas al Horno, described as “roasted potatoes with olive oil and garlic topped with chipotle cashew nacho cheese,” were cooked well and tasted fine, but not worth ordering them again unless you love potatoes with cheese.

I ordered a Tamal because I have always loved tamales and don’t get to have them often since they aren’t usually vegan.  Their tamal is a “stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with sautéed butternut squash, poblano peppers and onions, served with beans and escabeche.”  The tamal was the right texture, with flavorful filling, but there wasn’t enough of it.  Mostly, I tasted masa and the salsa I topped the tamal with.  The beans that accompanied it, though, were creamy and delicious.  My sister-in-law ordered the same thing and liked the dish as well.

Eric got the Enchiladas con Mole, “spicy mole enchiladas topped with mushrooms and cashew cheese, served with sautéed greens and beans.”  He absolutely loved them and let me have a bite.  I’m definitely not a fan of mole in regular circumstances, I don’t really understand using cinnamon and chocolate in a savory sauce.  However, this stuff was amazing!  I could taste every little thing in the sauce, kind of like when I had a bowl of Emeril Lagasse’s gumbo from his Steakhouse in my pre-vegan days.  Next time we go to Gracias Madre, I may order this dish for myself!

My mother-in-law got the tacos, “three corn tortillas topped with seared cauliflower, grilled calabaza verde, and mushrooms. Topped with cashew crema, served with beans.”  I had a bite and thought that they were very tasty, but I’m not a huge fan of mushroom texture.  However, I think I might order these in the future, they were that good.

My grandmother-in-law ordered the El Plato, which was a little of everything and came with tortillas.  The menu describes it as “butternut squash, cashew nacho cheese, plantains, cilantro pesto, escabeche, rice, pico de gallo and beans.”  She really enjoyed her fresh and plentiful dish.

Overall, I was very impressed with Gracias Madre.  The service was very good and timely throughout the meal and the food was all very fresh and well-prepared.  The prices were also decent for the upscale feel of the restaurant.  Despite having ordered fresh-squeezed juices and appetizers for a party of five, we spent only about $30 more than the time that three of us dined at Mohawk Bend.  I will definitely be back to Gracias Madre!

Vegan at Disneyland – Hungry Bear Restaurant

I have posted about Disneyland before and will continue to update as I try different vegan options in both Disneyland and California Adventure.  Click here to see all posts about Disneyland.  Eventually, I plan to put together my own comprehensive list.

My sister and I were looking for a new vegan place to try on our recent trip to Disneyland, so we consulted the impressive 23-page Vegan Cowgirl guide to vegan options at Disneyland.  It’s dated 2013, so the information is pretty current.

We went over to the Hungry Bear Restaurant (located near Splash Mountain and the Winnie the Pooh ride) to try the Fried Green Tomato sandwich.

Hungry Bear Restaurant, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

It’s cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes, layered with heirloom tomatoes and jicama-mango slaw and served on a multigrain roll.  Just make sure to order it without sauce or cheese.  Unfortunately, even though I said the exceptions twice, she didn’t get that I didn’t want cheese, so I had to wait for them to re-make the sandwich.

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich - Hungry Bear Restaurant, Disneyland | A Vegan in Progress

It was worth the wait, though because this sandwich was tasty!  I loved the fried green tomatoes (never had those before!) and the batter was a little bit salty, which went so well with the rest of the sandwich.  I was worried that without sauce or cheese the sandwich might be dry, but it was actually really moist because of the tomatoes.  It tasted really fresh and was filling without being heavy.  The fries were fine, especially with some barbeque sauce.

Bonus points for being less expensive than the Vegan Gumbo at Royal Street Veranda and the Tofu Rice Bowl at Lucky Fortune Cookery in California Adventure.  There’s also a cute little area to sit and eat, with a view of the Mark Twain riverboat as it goes by.  It’s never all that crowded on this end of the park, whereas finding a place to eat your gumbo can be a nightmare in New Orleans Square.  I will definitely be ordering this one again, particularly on warm days since it’s not too heavy.

Vegan at The Counter

I have been to The Counter, a burger chain restaurant in the past, but it was before I went vegan.  Early in my vegan days, I did some online searching and found that their veggie burger patty wasn’t vegan (I believe it had egg in it), so I didn’t think about going back until I heard recently that they now offer a Vegan Veggie patty.

Eric and I were out shopping and passed a location of The Counter, so we stopped in on a whim to try it again.  I tried to quickly look up if any of the buns were vegan, but their website isn’t very mobile-friendly.  I asked the waitress and was told that none of the buns were vegan.  I was initially really irritated.  What is the point of having a vegan patty if you don’t offer any vegan buns?  Buns don’t need animal products.  I just don’t get it.  They’ll be getting an email from me about that.

UPDATE:  The always knowledgeable Insufferable Vegan has since let me know that the ciabatta buns are vegan.  The CEO of The Counter has confirmed it.  I knew I had seen this information somewhere, but we just stopped in on a whim, so I didn’t have time to check into it in advance.  Good move, The Counter, offering a fully vegan burger option!  However, I have to say that my husband has told people since our visit that you just get so much more food when ordering it in a bowl and I have to agree that it was pretty great that way.

I opted to have my vegan burger in a bowl (this costs an extra $1 – what the hell, The Counter?!) with organic mixed greens, tomatoes, roasted corn and black bean salsa, roasted green chiles, roasted red peppers, and housemade guacamole (a premium topping for $1.25 extra) with Sweet BBQ sauce.  I ended up with a sorta Tex-Mex BBQ salad.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for a list of all vegan options.

Build Your Own Burger, The Counter | A Vegan in Progress

It was actually very tasty and extremely filling.  The patty was warm and had visible pieces of veggies in it.  You can see what looks like spinach, red pepper, carrots, black beans, and corn in the second photo.  The patty was really hearty and immensely preferable to the microwaved veggie patties at Red Robin.

Eric and I ordered large fries to share, which turned out to be way too much.  They were shoestring cut and I commented that they were well cooked, since shoestring fries tend to be floppy or burned.  Eric said that it’s because they are twice-fried.

Large French Fries, The Counter | A Vegan in Progress

The burger in a bowl option is really tasty and I look forward to trying their ciabatta bun on a future visit!

FYI:  the allergens are listed on their website, and the following items are marked as vegan.

Sauces

  • Apricot Sauce
  • Dijon Balsamic Dressing
  • Ginger Soy Glaze
  • Habanero Salsa
  • Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Red Relish
  • Sweet BBQ Sauce

Sides

  • French Fries
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • 50/50 – Fries/Sweet Potato Fries
  • Side Salad
  • Grilled Vegetable Plate

Patties

  • Vegan Veggie Burger Patty

Buns

  • Ciabatta (according to the CEO, but not yet listed on their allergens page)

Toppings

  • Baby Spinach
  • Bermuda Red Onion
  • Black Olives
  • Carrot Strings
  • Dill Pickle Chips
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Grilled Onions
  • Grilled Pineapple
  • Jalapeños
  • Lettuce Blend
  • Organic Mixed Greens
  • Roasted Chiles
  • Roasted Corn & Black Bean Salsa
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Scallions
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Spicy Pepperoncinis
  • Sprouts
  • Tomatoes

Premium Toppings (extra charge)

  • Avocado
  • Housemade Guacamole
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Beverages

  • Fresh Iced Tea
  • Still/Sparkling Water
  • Soda – All

That’s the entire list from their website as of 2/8/14.  I haven’t left anything out, anything I didn’t list isn’t vegan.  You can use this post as your mobile-friendly cheat sheet since their website doesn’t work well on mobile devices.  You’re welcome!

*Marinated Artichokes is oddly listed as not vegan, but it doesn’t say what’s in it.  It might be worth clarifying with the staff if you’re interested.

Follow Your Heart, Canoga Park

I’m very lucky to live near one of the best vegetarian health food markets in LA.  Follow Your Heart is a vegetarian market with a restaurant as well as a yoga studio.  The company is responsible for the many popular Follow Your Heart products including as Vegenaise, Vegan Gourmet Shreds, and various vegan salad dressings.

FYH Exterior | A Vegan in Progress

The first time I visited Follow Your Heart, I wasn’t vegan.  I went with my younger, longtime vegan sister and I had a hard time finding anything I wanted to order.  I was a little less than willing to try new things.  I don’t know if I ordered something that just wasn’t all that good (I don’t remember what it was) or if it was because I went in with a bit of a closed mind, but I was not a fan.

However, my sister very graciously invited me to dinner after staying over at our place and she loves Follow Your Heart, but doesn’t live close enough to dine there regularly.  So, I was looking forward to trying it again, this time with an open, vegan mind.

Be warned if you happen to visit, when you walk in to Follow Your Heart, you will feel confused and lost.  You enter in the market, near the registers… just walk past them and all the way to the back.  In the back corner is the entrance to the restaurant.  It is even tinier than the market.  Don’t let that discourage you, it’s perfectly fine that way.  In fact, this just means that you will be in closer proximity to the celebrities who dine there.  Seriously, one time Allison and I saw Travis Barker and his son there.  We were led to the patio out front, which was nice.

I ordered the Nutburger, vegan.  It’s described as “A Nut and Vegetable Patty on a Toasted Whole Wheat Bun, Baked with Raw Rennetless Cheddar Cheese, and Topped with Sprouts, Tomato, Pickles, Vegenaise, and our Special Sauce.”  It tasted great, especially with the Wizard Sauce (request it – that stuff is tasty).  The nut and vegetable patty was not very firm.  It wasn’t sloppy, but it did fall apart just a little bit.  I’m not usually a fan of big piles of sprouts, but they went really well with the burger.

Allison always wants us to look like we are insane diners for blog photos.  Don’t mind our insanity.

Allison ordered the Organic Tempeh Tacos, vegan.  They are decribed as “Two Organically Grown, Stone Ground Corn Tortilla Shells, Filled with Seasoned, Grilled Organic Tempeh, Jack and Raw Rennetless Cheddar Cheese, Tomatoes and Fresh Cilantro. Served with Organic Spanish Rice, Organic Black Beans Guacamole, Sour Cream and Lime Wedges.”  She loved it, especially with some added Wizard Sauce.

We both ordered the vegan chocolate shake, after confirming that it doesn’t contain bananas (I’m allergic); Allison ordered extra chocolate.  I found them really bland, not all that creamy.  I’ve made better vegan chocolate shakes myself (check out the post on that), so I don’t think I’ll order that again.

Vegan chocolate shake, Follow Your Heart | A Vegan in Progress

I’m will definitely be dining at Follow Your Heart again if Allison has anything to say about it!  I’m also likely to stop by to pick up hard to find vegan products since the market is on my way home from work.  Definitely worth stopping in if you’re in the area!