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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.

Vegan at El Torito

This year, my bosses chose El Torito as the location for our company Christmas party.  I was a little wary about what my options would be because sometimes company parties are set menus and it can be difficult to order anything else.  In advance, I called and asked if there was a set menu.  The woman who answered the phone couldn’t answer many of my questions, but told me that she thought we could just order from the regular menu and she thought that the rice had chicken stock in it and the beans possibly had lard or cheese.  It wasn’t very helpful at all, so I started searching the internet for any information about what vegan options there may be.  I found out that she was correct, the beans and rice were not vegan.

The vegan options I found through online research are as follows:

Spinach Enchiladas, no cheese or rice or beans:  Sauteed fresh spinach, pasilla chiles, onions, pico de gallo, and fire-roasted tomatillo sauce.

Veggie Fajitas, no chile relleno:  Fresh zucchini, spinach, potatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, green beans, onions, fresh rosemary and mint leaves.

Supposedly there is a Veggie Burrito full of tasty veggies, but I couldn’t find that on the menu.

The guacamole is also vegan-safe.

I went with the Veggie Fajitas.  I didn’t take a picture because no one at work knows about my blog.  Most of them don’t understand the concept of vegan (my boss once told me about a whole, organic chicken she saw and thought I might be interested in, thinking it was vegan) and I tend to get teased in a way that your grandpa or an uncle might tease you about being vegan.

The fajitas came out on one of their sizzling skillets with the tortillas in a warm container.  I assembled them myself with generous heaps of guacamole on top.  The vegetables were julienned and the perfect size, plus they were cooked perfectly.  The rosemary and mint really added an interesting flavor dimension, too.

I surprisingly really enjoyed the meal and would be happy to return.  I just wouldn’t schedule another group meal at the El Torito in Woodland Hills because our waitress was horrendous.  She forgot to put the order in for my food, so myself and a few considerate people sitting around me had to wait a full 15 minutes after everyone was served.  She was also pretty pushy, telling me that I couldn’t get a blended margarita and bringing me one on the rocks, when people around me were able to order blended.  She even patronizingly told another diner that next time she needs to say “tostada” when she wants her salad in a taco shell.  The girl, shocked, mumbled, “but I did say tostada.”  I will definitely avoid her section if I ever go back.

Vegan at Falafel Palace, Northridge

Falafel Palace is a little Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant near Cal State Northridge.  I have driven past the place thousands of times over the years and sadly, never stopped in.  However, Eric and I were attending a comedy show on campus (Jo Koy, Natasha Leggero, and Josh Wolf) and arrived early and hungry, so we decided on Falafel Palace.  For those unfamiliar with falafels, they are very filling grilled or fried balls made of chickpeas, parsley, and spices.  I walked in knowing that Falafels and hummus are safe bets, but was thrilled to see a vegan section of the menu.  In fact, the restaurant was so vegan-friendly that they had labels on sauce containers identifying them as non-dairy.

Listed as vegan are the following items:

  • Falafel pita with lettuce, tomato, and tahini (sesame seed sauce)       $6.75
  • Chickpea wrap with falafel, tahini, avocado, lettuce, and tomato       $8.99
  • Garden burger with veggie patty, vegan mayo, lettuco, tomato, and grilled onions       $8.95
  • Vegetarian Gyro with falafel, hummus, tabouli, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, and tzatziki       $7.25
  • Falafel Plate with salad, rice, 2 sides, and pita       $9.95
  • Homemade Baklava       $2.25
  • You can also get falafel balls and dolma as sides.

I ordered the chickpea wrap because I had never tried falafel with avocado before plus a small side of hummus and 2 pitas.

I loved the wrap.  It was fresh and warm and the avocado added a great creamy element to the falafel, which often can be heavy and dry.

The hummus was a little on the bland side and slightly thin, but the pita were so soft and warm.  We didn’t need the side, though because we were both full from our respective meals.

Falafel Palace, Northridge | A Vegan in Progress

We will definitely be back.  It’s even close enough to my office that I may be able to squeak in a visit for lunch.

Vegan at The Brite Spot, Echo Park, Los Angeles – Post 2

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

The Brite Spot is a cute little diner in Echo Park that we pass all the time when visiting the in-laws.  This time, I ordered a bowl of vegan chili and vegan nachos.

When the chili first arrived, I was worried that it had beef in it because the imitation ground beef looked so much like the real thing.  I double checked with the waiter and he said it’s definitely vegan, they only make vegan chili, so you can rest assured that they haven’t mixed them up.  It was hearty and flavorful and not a bad deal at $5.50 for the cup.  It was pretty large.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I also ordered the vegan nachos wish their awesome soy chicken.  They were great, although a little dry.  I still don’t understand why they only have a lactose free, but not vegan cheese.  They need to get on that to improve their vegan dishes.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

The soy chicken was amazing, I couldn’t get enough.  It both looked and tasted a lot like chicken.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

We’ll definitely be back.  This would a great place to meet non-vegans for dinner so that you could have a satisfying vegan meal without making a big production out of it.

Vegan at BJ’s Brewhouse

I so appreciate the work that other vegan bloggers have put into researching vegan foods at chain restaurants.  Eric and I went to lunch with out of town family and his great grandmother had her heart set on ribs from BJ’s Brewhouse, so I checked out Quarrygirl for a rundown of vegan options.  Luckily, their pizza crust and marinara sauce are vegan, so I just had to choose a pizza and ask for no cheese or meat.  I went with the Mediterranean mini pizza with deep dish crust.  I asked for no chicken, no cheese, and marinara sauce instead of pesto (thinking it may have cheese in it).  The Mediterranean pizza comes with roasted garlic, Kalamata olives, sun-dried and seasoned tomatoes, and sliced peperoncinis.

Mediterranean Pizza - BJ's Brewhouse | A Vegan in Progress

Mediterranean Pizza

I think there may have been some confusion about the sauce request.  The waiter brought my pizza with a side of marinara sauce.  As you can see in the above picture, there”s just a brushing of marinara sauce and, therefore, the toppings didn’t stay on the pizza in the least.

Everything tasted really great and I ended up dipping the crust in the extra marinara sauce, but it was pretty annoying to have to scoop up the toppings and eat them off of my fork.  I don’t think I would go out of my way to eat there again, but Eric likes their food a lot and it’s nice to know that this opens up our dining options.

Vegan at Rustic Eatery in Valencia

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Eric was working for a while in the Valencia area and got to try out a few of their restaurants during that time.  I have never personally been to Rustic Eatery, but Eric picked up dinner for us on his way home one night.

Rustic Eatery has one of the simplest menus I have ever seen.  You pick your style, pick your protein, and pick your marinade.  We both had rice bowls with tofu and oven roasted vegetables.  I tried the grilled tofu with Sweet & Spicy Red Chile marinade while Eric got the fried tofu with Yakiniku Sweet Soy Sauce.

We aren’t likely to end up getting their food again, but it was tasty.  There was a good ratio of rice to vegetables to tofu and the spicy tofu was very spicy and flavorful.

Vegan at Swingers Diner, Santa Monica – Post 2

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

My youngest sister, Alli and I went for a night out in Santa Monica this weekend.  We chose Swingers for a fun and casual meal.  This time I tried the Vegan Nachos, which their menu describes as “blue corn chips, soyrizo, soy cheese, homemade guacamole, black beans, green onions, and salsa.”  They totally hit the spot.  I loved the blue corn chips and soyrizo.

Swinger's Diner - Vegan Nachos | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan Nachos

Alli got her favorite, the pancakes.

Swinger's Diner - Vegan pancakes | A Vegan in Progress

She’s crazy about them pancakes!

We decided to share the vegan chocolate cheesecake.  Oh man, was that a good choice.  It was super dense and creamy.  I think I may just continue ordering appetizers so I will have room for this cheesecake for dessert on each visit!

Swinger's Diner - Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan at Auntie Anne’s

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Vegan at Auntie Annes | A Vegan in Progress

Every once in a while, it’s nice to feel like you’re the same as everyone else and enjoy a little guilty pleasure mall food.  I have always loved Auntie Anne’s pretzels, so I was happy to find that I could still enjoy their Cinnamon Sugar pretzels.  According to the very helpful Vegan Guide on the Auntie Anne’s website, the Original, Cinnamon Sugar, Sweet Almond, Garlic, Jalapeño, and Raisin pretzels are all vegan when ordered without butter.  However, for those who stay away from sugar filtered using bone char, you should know that all of their pretzels include this type of sugar.

Not only does cutting the butter make these pretzels vegan, but it saves quite a bit of calories and many grams of fat.  To my tastebuds, the Cinnamon Sugar pretzel tasted just as delicious without the butter and – vegan or not – I would have always ordered it this way had I known.  The only difference is that it’s less greasy and the sugar has a slightly tougher time staying on the pretzel.  Added bonus – when you order it this way, you will likely get a very fresh pretzel because they will make yours separately.  In my case, I only had to wait three minutes.

Vegan at The Brite Spot, Echo Park, Los Angeles

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The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

The Brite Spot is a small diner located practically walking distance from my in laws’ home.  While visiting one weekend, Eric’s mom suggested we visit the establishment for dinner.  We sat on their cute little patio off of Sunset Boulevard.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I was very pleased to see that there were vegan-friendly items on the menu and then noticed the ever so exciting “vegan menu available upon request” line at the bottom of the menu.  The vegan menu isn’t too shabby; including oatmeal, granola, fries, vegetable soup, vegan chili, nachos (strangely, without vegan cheese), 4 salads, a veggie ciabatta, 2 burgers, pasta, and enchiladas.

vegan menu - The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I noticed that the standard menu listed a Veggie Club Sandwich with soy chicken, veggie bacon, soy swiss, and house made veganaise.  I was surprised to see that the club wasn’t on the vegan menu, so I inquired… the soy cheese is lactose free, but not completely vegan.

bagel burger with vegan potato salad - The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I ended up ordering the Bagel Burger, which is a flame grilled soy patty (kind of a sausage consistency), lettuce, tomato, red onion, vegan cream cheese, and chipotle veganaise, on a toasted bagel with a side of Vegan Potato Salad.

bagel burger - The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I loved the sandwich, but it was on the dry side.  The chipotle veganaise was good, but I think they may have been out of vegan cream cheese because I didn’t see or taste any.

vegan potato salad - The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

The Vegan Potato Salad tasted incredibly fresh and yummy.  I was never a fan of potato salad, but I loved this vegan version with its mix of chunky potato pieces with more mashed potatoes, fresh dill and mustard flavors.  I would order it again for sure.

French Fries - The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

I also had a french fry or two from my husband’s meal.  We both commented that they seemed double fried because they were crunchy without being overcooked.

If I were to give one suggestion to The Brite Spot, it would be to offer a vegan cheese option as well to add cheese to their vegan nachos as well as make a vegan club sandwich.  I mean, since when do nachos not have cheese?  And what is the point of a soy cheese that isn’t vegan?

The Brite Spot has been at this location longer than I have been familiar with the area.  Our waitress informed us that the restaurant had not changed ownership, but the owners had made significant changes to their menu.  The bottom line is that this diner is a great place for dining with omnivores.  There are more than a handful of vegan options and everyone leaves pleased.  I would definitely recommend it.

The Brite Spot, Los Angeles | A Vegan in Progress

Vegan at Mae Ploy, Silverlake, Los Angeles – Post 2

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

Last time I tried the popular Garlic Pepper Tofu.  This time around, I decided to try their Spicy Tofu.

Spicy Tofu - Mae Ploy | A Vegan in Progress

It was appropriately spicy, but not as flavorful as the Garlic Pepper Tofu.  I enjoyed it, but preferred the Garlic version.  It had more veggies in it than the Garlic Pepper Tofu, but that wasn’t saying much.

A note about their service… we ordered our food, waited the 30 minutes, plus another 15 before heading over to pick it up.  It then took more than 20 minutes to get the food.  I don’t believe they made it until we arrived to pick it up.  Just a word of warning, maybe call them before picking it up to confirm that it is actually ready.

I also snagged a menu so that I could include a picture of the vegetarian menu since I can’t seem to find their official website.

Mae Ploy vegetarian menu | A Vegan in Progress