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Veggie Grill, Los Angeles Farmers Market

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Veggie Grill is as close to a vegan fast food place as there is – in terms of it being quick and inexpensive, not greasy and unhealthy.  They have both comfort food options and healthier ones, so it is good for people with all types of tastes.  I have only been once, but really enjoyed it.

Eric and I were at the Grove and I was getting frustrated at a lack of real options other than $12 falafel plates, when I remembered that there was a Veggie Grill in the adjacent parking lot.  We ventured over to the bright and clean Veggie Grill restaurant.  I wrestled over what to order and finally settled on the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ burger.  I feel like “chicken” sandwiches and vegan burgers are a pretty accurate test for a vegan chef, so I often like to try those first.  It was moist and filling with a yummy avocado spread throughout.  I’m not really one for sweet potato fries but theirs weren’t bad.  It was definitely a preferable choice over an entire vegetarian platter from a booth in the Farmers Market.  It was really satisfying.

I can’t wait to go back and try many more menu items!

Vegan at Tony’s Darts Away, Burbank

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For my youngest sister’s 21st birthday, we all got together and did a little bar hopping (if you can call hopping from one bar to a second bar a night of bar hopping).  We arranged to have two designated drivers – safety first – so that no one would have to worry about getting home safely.

Me and my two sisters

Me and my two sisters

We started at The Blue Room in Burbank (where they make a damn fine Cable Car) and then went to Tony’s Darts Away.  I had never been to Tony’s before, but I really liked it.  First of all, it was a really casual atmosphere – free of pretension.  They have a good sense of humor (they were able to put up with our ridiculous selves) and a heavy pour (I ended up with clearly more than 6 oz. of “Not Beer” in my glass).

Not Beer

They had all kinds of board games on bookshelves, plenty of seating, and a pool table.  We were getting drunk at this point, so Trivial Pursuit was pretty fun.  Anyway, since the birthday girl and her two sisters are vegan, we ordered some vegan appetizers for the table.  I got a chance to try the seitan buffalo strips (not on their online menu) and really loved them.  They were loaded with buffalo sauce and very spicy.

tonys darts away - Seitan Buffalo Strips | A Vegan in Progress

I had no idea that Tony’s Darts Away, Mohawk Bend, and Golden Road Brewery were owned by the same guy: Tony Yanow.  He’s like the vegan king of LA or something.

It’s nice to know of a casual bar not too far away where you can get drinks and vegan food that won’t put you in the poorhouse.  Non-vegan folks also have a ton to choose from as well.  We will definitely be back.

Vegan at Sawasdee, Simi Valley

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My family is lucky enough to have the quality Thai food restaurant, Sawasdee, in their area.  When ordering a meal for all of us, it’s often our go-to because omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can all find something that makes them happy.  It’s a small place in a strip mall; pleasant to dine in and easy to get take out from.

Sawasdee, Simi Valley | A Vegan in Progress

I’m a creature of habit, so I almost always order the same thing.  You can opt for tofu instead of any other protein, but you MUST ask for everything you order to be cooked “without fish sauce”.

This is the Spicy Tofu Cashew Nut dish.  It comes with onions, carrots, water chestnuts, and cashews.  I ordered it with brown rice.  It’s lots of food and I always end up stuffed because it tastes so good that I don’t want to stop eating.

Tofu Cashew Nuts - Sawasdee | A Vegan in Progress

Pad Thai - Sawasdee | A Vegan in ProgressI have tried their Pad Thai many times and it is very tasty.  I don’t even particularly like Pad Thai.  Make sure to order it without fish sauce or egg.

I’m positive we will eat at Sawasdee again.  For a city that doesn’t have a lot of vegan options, this is a good restaurant to try.

Vegan at Chipotle

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It’s no secret that it’s easy to get a vegan meal at Chipotle.  It’s my favorite casual dining restaurant because I don’t feel like I am compromising by having a flavorless, boring meal or making anyone else compromise by having to eat the same food as me all the time.

Up until recently, eating vegan at Chipotle has meant simply ordering a meatless bowl, salad, burrito, or taco, without pinto beans (cooked with bacon) and without cheese or sour cream.  It’s not a bad arrangement, either.  The meatless option means free guacamole!

However, now California Chipotle locations are offering Tofu Sofritas as an alternative to meat and simply meatless meals.

Vegan at Chipotle | A Vegan in Progress

Thank you, Chipotle!

According to their website,

“We start with organic tofu from Hodo Soy that we shred and then braise with chipotle chilis, roasted poblanos, and a blend of aromatic spices.

The result is a delicious, spicy tofu that will give vegans and carnivores something they both will love.”
A close up of my burrito with delicious Sofritas and an assortment of salsas.

A close up of my burrito with delicious Sofritas and an assortment of salsas.

It’s no joke, either.  Sofritas are filling and spicy and make for an awesome option that everyone can enjoy.  Hopefully they will do well in California and Chipotle’s corporate heads decide to offer them at all of their locations across the US, the UK, Canada, and France.

UPDATE:

Sofritas were ruled a success in test markets and plans are in place to make them an option at all Chipotle locations!

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

Vegan at Vegetable Delight, Granada Hills

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This semester I actually had a final on a Saturday, Mother’s Day weekend.  While that sucked, I planned to hang out with my mom for the afternoon afterward.  We went to lunch at Vegetable Delight in Granada Hills.  The restaurant is entirely vegetarian and mostly vegan, with an extensive menu.

Every time I have been there, it has been mostly empty, but the people that do go there really like it.  They have great reviews on yelp, happy cow, and urban spoon.

Vegetable Delight, Granada Hills | A Vegan in Progress

My mom and I ordered Pan Fried Vegetable Dumplings to start off.

They were really, really good – all warm and crispy.  I would definitely order these again.

We also shared the Mu Shu Vegetable, which is always a favorite of ours.

Mu Shu Vegetable - Vegetable Delight | A Vegan in Progress

The waitress very cutely called these “Chinese burritos” and encouraged us to ask for those if we forgot what they were actually called.

For our entrees, we ordered Lemon Veggie Chicken…

Lemon Veggie Chicken - Vegetable Delight | A Vegan in Progress

Lemon Veggie Chicken

And Veggie Chicken with Cashew Nuts.

Veggie Chicken with Cashew Nuts - Vegetable Delight | A Vegan in Progress

Veggie Chicken with Cashew Nuts

I’m not usually a fan of fruit sauces (orange or lemon, usually) on savory meals, but the lemon chicken tasted good for what it was.  I love cashew nuts and veggies, and the Veggie Chicken with Cashew Nuts was delicious.

Although we didn’t try any, they offer a ton of vegan desserts.  They have a flip menu listing ingredients including things like organic rolled oat flour .

  • Vegan Chocolate Lava Cake
  • Vegan Organic Carrot Cake
  • Vegan Tiramisu
  • Raw Vegan Raspberry Chocolate Cake
  • Raw Vegan Raspberry Lemon Cake
  • Raw Vegan Lemon Chi-z Cake
  • Raw Vegan Chocolate Banana Cake

I really like this place.  They have a lot to choose from and never rush you.  The whole family likes it, so we will definitely be back.

Vegan at Tomato Joe’s Pizza, Valencia

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My sister Alli and I were sort of in the area for another visit to Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres, so I looked up a few places for good vegan food on our way home.  We decided on pizza after seeing that Tomato Joe’s Pizza in Valencia offered gluten-free crust (Alli’s preference) and vegan mozzarella cheese.

Here’s what I got:

Tomato Joe's, Valencia | A Vegan in Progress

My pizza from Tomato Joe’s

I ordered a whole wheat crust (only available in 14″ or larger) with vine ripened tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, black olives, and sun dried tomatoes with vegan mozzarella cheese.  I thought it was really good, but I still prefer Cruzer’s.

Alli ordered a pizza with the only crust they offer for an 8″ personal pizza, the thin crust.

Tomato Joe's, Valencia | A Vegan in Progress

Alli’s pizza from Tomato Joe’s

She got the bar-b-que sauce with onions and artichoke hearts.

Their menu offers a variety of items, not just pizza, but the only vegan non-pizza options are salads.  Their fresh garden salad without croutons and with balsamic dressing is vegan, as is their greek salad without cheese or croutons, but this would also have to be with balsamic dressing since it is the only vegan choice.

They have many specialty pizzas, but it’s simpler just to design your own pizza with all vegan ingredients.  Choices are as follows:

1.  CRUST

  • Thin crust
  • Beer batter crust
  • Whole wheat crust
  • Gluten-free crust (made with rice and potato flours), additional charge

2.  SAUCE

  • Vine ripened tomato sauce
  • Creamy dijon sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Bar-b-que sauce
  • Chipotle pesto sauce (I will definitely be trying this one next time!)

3.  TOPPINGS

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Fresh spinach
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Roasted garlic
  • Green peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Olives (black, kalamata, spanish green)
  • Pepperoncini
  • Pineapple
  • Red onions
  • Tomatoes (fresh and sun dried)
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Cashews
  • Almond slivers
  • Canned mushrooms
  • Vegan italian sausage, additional charge
  • Vegan pepperoni, additional charge
  • Vegan chicken, additional charge
  • Vegan mozzarella, additional charge

Prices are as follows:

photo(1)

Their website suggests asking for a multi-topping discount if you order 3 or more, since the cost adds up quickly.

The company has made an effort to convey a kooky and friendly atmosphere, as evidenced by their sales pitch on the website:

photo

I will likely go there again for the rare vegan pizza with vegan cheese as opposed to the standard cheeseless pizza from Papa John’s.

Vegan at Hugo’s Tacos, Woodland Hills

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Hugos logo

Hugo’s Tacos is a small restaurant chain that recently opened a location walking distance from our home.  I hadn’t realized the many vegan options that they offered until my husband stopped by one night to pick up something for himself and excitedly called me, asking if I would like to try anything.

The chain’s three locations are in Atwater Village, Studio City, and Woodland Hills.

Their menu and website are both clearly marked for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free preferences.  Almost everything is vegan or can be made vegan, and when you order something with soyrizo, they make sure to ask if you want vegan cheese.

Hugo's Woodland Hills

From the Hugo’s Facebook page

The way their menu works is that diners may choose from tacos, burritos, bowls, tostadas, nachos, quesadillas, tortas, and green tamales, and then choose one of their 7 fillings.  There are 5 meat fillings and 2 vegan ones.  Vegans can choose from soy chorizo, a spicy soy “meat” grilled with diced potatoes and zucchini or mixed veggies and herbs, a mixture of zucchini, squash, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, and onion.  They also have salads which can be topped with any of their fillings or taquitos (either chicken or soy chorizo filling) with served with white beans, lettuce, guacamole, Pico de Gallo, tomatillo and jalapeno salsa with cheese (which you can order to be vegan).

I tried quite a few of their offerings, you know, for the sake of reporting it to you.

Let me start with my two favorites so far.

Hugo's Tacos - Vegan Nachos | A Vegan in Progress

Hugo’s Nachos

Their vegan nachos are delicious.  They came a bit burned around the edges, but not enough to take away from the meal at all.

The vegan cheese was tasty and the white beans were a nice alternative to black beans.

I should mention that Hugo’s has a selection of 7 salsas, only one of which is not vegan.  I tried all six of them and my favorites were the Pico de Gallo and the tomatillo and jalapeno.

I will definitely order this time and time again.

Hugo's Tacos - Vegan Burrito | A Vegan in Progress

Hugo’s Burrito

For this burrito, I ordered the mixed veggies and herbs filling.  It also has Spanish rice, salsa, and white beans.  I will definitely order this again.  It’s a fun alternative to Chipotle’s burrito, being that it tastes a little more authentic and sinful.

Hugo's Tacos - Green Tamales | A Vegan in Progress

Hugo’s Green Tamales

The green tamales come with such plentiful veggie and salsa toppings that you can’t even see the tamales at first glance.  They were tasty and I definitely liked the veggies and salsa, but I’m not very fond of sweet corn tamales, so I think that’s what made this dish third out of the five that I have tried.

Hugo's Tacos - Green Tamales | A Vegan in ProgressLast, on a whim, I tried their vegan quesadilla, cheese only.

Hugo's Tacos - Vegan Quesadilla | A Vegan in Progress

Hugo’s Vegan Quesadilla

Vegan cheese is kind of temperamental and doesn’t always melt like regular cheese does.  In the case of my quesadilla, the cheese was hardly melted, but was at least warm.  Salsa helped.  It wasn’t horrible, but I probably won’t order it again because there are better choices.

Not pictured is their soy chorizo taquitos.  They aren’t very pretty and are a little dry, but that could be because I was ordering pretty late.  The guacamole added some needed moisture.

My main complaint about Hugo’s is that their food tends to be a bit bland.  Their tomatillo and jalapeno salsa saves the day, though, and adds spice and flavor to everything.  Their restaurants are great places for dual dining.

VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe, Huntington Beach

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My parents have been going to the same accountant for years. In fact, before they went to him, they went to his father. When I was little, I used to play on the floor of his office during their appointments. As I started working, I used to handle my taxes myself, but once I got married and started writing off educational expenses and dealing with family trusts, they became too complicated for me, so I started tagging along on their annual appointments.

We have sort of made it a tradition to go on a Saturday and have a lunch out, just the three of us, which I really enjoy. For this year’s lunch, my mom searched for restaurants ahead of time, since we aren’t that familiar with the area. She came across VegiLicious All Natural Vegan Cafe, which apparently just opened a few months ago.

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

They are tucked back into the courtyard area of a shopping center, so it’s a little difficult to find. The decor is simple and inviting and I loved the ocean breeze that we got from the door that was left open.

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

I really liked the little cards on every table explaining “why vegan?” and concluding, “in short, you can make yourself and others happy!”

VegiLicious, Huntington Beach | A Vegan in Progress

It’s so nice to be able to order anything you want from the whole menu… it’s a serious treat to dine at an all-vegan restaurant. After some trouble deciding, I ordered the Signature Curry with Oven Baked “Chicken” Tenders and asked for shelled edamame to be added in the curry. The meal comes with jasmine rice and a side salad.

VegliLicious - Curry with "chicken" tenders | A Vegan in Progress

The side salad was delicious… the dressing was just perfect. I also loved the way that they prepare the curry. They present you with a bowl of mild curry and a side of rice, as well as a small pot of spicy sauce to mix in at your discretion. I was able to make the curry as spicy as I liked, but I’m sure this was also good for diners who like their curry mild.

VegiLicious - Side Salad | A Vegan in Progress

The chicken tenders were great for dipping in the curry, but I’m pretty sure they were just Gardein brand and not house-made. I’ll take well-made store bought meat replacements over bad house-made ones any day.

My parents both got small cups of the Miso soup, which they really liked.

VegiLicious - Miso Soup Cup | A Vegan in Progress

My mom ordered their Tofu-N-Radish Salad…

VegiLicious - Tofu-N-Radish Salad | A Vegan in Progress

and my dad got the Grilled Teriyaki “Chicken” Sandwich with a side of edamame.

VegiLicious - Grilled Teriyaki "Chicken" Sandwich | A Vegan in Progress

My dad was very impressed with the sandwich and kept asking, “you’re sure this isn’t chicken?”

After thoroughly enjoying our entrees (we practically licked our plates clean, we were so pleased with the meal), we ordered a couple of slices of the Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake to share.

VegiLicious - Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake | A Vegan in Progress

It was tasty, but I was pretty disappointed. As you can plainly see, this is not chocolate cheesecake, it’s chocolate chip cheesecake. I don’t like regular cheesecake nearly as much as chocolate cheesecake. Plus, this was obviously store-bought and still frozen in the center. My mom and I were sharing a piece and couldn’t finish it, but my dad loved his, so to each their own.

The service at VegiLicious is something that must be commented on. They had only one waiter who was extremely friendly and attentive. The owner also came by more than once to see if we liked what we had ordered. The service and entrees alone were plenty to have me saying I would be back whenever I am in the area.

However, the prices were a little steep for the portions we received and I was put off by the dessert. I hope they work on those things, because this was a great restaurant!