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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!


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

Artisan Tofurky Andouille Cajun-Style Sausage

The new flavors of Artisan Tofurky sausages were at the top of my list when I walked into Viva La Vegan Grocery in Santa Monica.  I love their classic Tofurky Italian sausages, but they have a strong tomatoey Italian flavor.  I often think that I could add them to so many more recipes if they were less specifically Italian.  Enter the Artisan Tofurky Andouille Cajun-Style Sausage!

Artisan Tofurky Andouille Cajun-Style Sausage | A Vegan in Progress

This sausage has a more versatile flavor and is just slightly spicy.  I browned some and had it with some accidentally vegan apple cinnamon pull apart bread that Eric found in the bakery section at Sprouts as well as some sliced apples.  Yum!  I’ll be buying these again.

Artisan Tofurky Andouille Cajun-Style Sausage | A Vegan in Progress

Viva La Vegan Grocery, Santa Monica

The all-vegan market, Viva La Vegan Grocery opened a new location not long ago in Santa Monica.  Eric and I found ourselves in the area and stopped by to see what interesting new vegan products we could try.  First, I want to point out that this is not really a health foods store.  While there are cooking basics such as different kinds of flour, grains, and different sauces, there aren’t a lot of those things and you could get most of them elsewhere.  Mostly, they had the largest variety of vegan processed foods that I have ever seen.  I was there to buy foods that I don’t usually see at our local grocery stores, so I was okay with that.

The store is tiny and packed with vegan goods.  I definitely recommend you stop in and try something new.

Viva La Vegan | A Vegan in Progress

This was our haul.  It was the most expensive bag of groceries I ever bought.  It was over $60 for the items listed below.  Everything was $5-8 each.

  • Artisan Tofurkey Andouille Sausages
  • Tofurkey Chorizo-style meatless crumbles
  • Starlite Cuisine Santa Fe Style Crispy Rolled Tacos
  • So Good Miso Mayo Spicy Red Pepper Spread
  • Victoria Vegan Alfredo Sauce
  • Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Tofurkey Vegan Italian Sausage and Fire Roasted Veggie Pizza
  • Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (I used these for Thanksgiving stuffing)
  • Nacheez dairy-free nacho sauce
  • Rising Moon Organics Artichoke and Olive Ravioli

I will post about these as I try them, so stay tuned!

Vegan at Cafe 50’s, Santa Monica

Eric and I recently found ourselves at Cafe 50’s in Santa Monica after a morning of helping our friend Jessica prepare to move out of state.  It’s a cute little themed diner and, once upon a time, I loved their chocolate milkshakes.

Anyway, after looking at the menu and deciding that I didn’t want a mere salad, I ordered the Healthy Sandwich.  It usually comes with tomato, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, onions, fresh mushrooms, and Swiss cheese on toasted ten-grain whole wheat walnut and sunflower bread with a touch of mayonnaise.  I of course ordered it without the cheese or mushrooms and subbed mustard for the mayonnaise.  Here’s where I fail as a vegan, though.  I didn’t ask about the ingredients in the bread.  This sounds like a sorry excuse, but I really just didn’t feel like dealing with it that afternoon.  I realize now that a simple solution would have been to order it on sourdough bread, which is almost certainly vegan.  If there’s a next time, I will definitely remember that option.

Originally, it came without the avocado, which was the whole reason I was drawn to the sandwich in the first place, so I asked them to fix that.

It ended up being a filling sandwich and the fries were great.  I would rate the dish about a B minus.

Cafe 50's - Healthy Sandwich - veganized | A Vegan in Progress

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 Swingers Diner, Santa Monica

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Swingers Diner in Santa Monica is a fun, quirky place that’s perfect for dual dining.  They have a lot of tasty diner options, both vegan and otherwise.  The menu is clearly marked for vegan and vegetarian diners, which I always appreciate.  Also, the Santa Monica location was used in the movie Knocked Up as the diner that Ben and Alison go to the morning after they spend the night together.

Swinger's Diner, Santa Monica | A Vegan in Progress

Photo from Swingers website

Quite a while back, Eric and I went out with some friends and I got to try the vegan burrito.  The menu describes it as “tofu and sautéed spinach, with quinoa and black beans wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, topped with chipotle sauce.”  It was the first time I had tried quinoa in a burrito and it was really filling and yummy.  I especially enjoyed the chipotle sauce.

Swingers Vegan Burrito | A Vegan in Progress

I will definitely be back to Swingers in the future.  Although I enjoyed the burrito, I think I’ll try what else they have to offer on my next visit.

Vegan at Fritto Misto, Santa Monica

In the past, I have enjoyed a couple of delicious meals at Fritto Misto with friends, but not as a vegan.  Eric and I had plans for an evening out for a close up magic show and agreed to get dinner beforehand.  Eric very kindly did some research on vegan friendly restaurants in Santa Monica and stumbled across the Santa Monica Vegan review of vegan options at Fritto Misto.  It’s so great to find another LA Vegan posting reviews… I bookmarked it immediately.

Fritto Misto, Santa Monica | A Vegan in Progress

I followed the Santa Monica Vegan’s suggestion and ordered off of the “Create Your Own” pasta page in the menu.  I ordered the wheatless/eggless pasta with marinara sauce, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and sundried tomatoes.  That was one delicious (and HUGE) bowl of pasta.  It was enough for 2 or more meals.

Fritto Misto - Create Your Own Pasta | A Vegan in Progress

This was a great place to go with omnivore friends.  Everyone walked away full and pleased.  Additionally, they have a tiny corkage fee ($2), which makes for a fun, lively dinner.

Real Food Daily, Santa Monica – Post 2

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

Our friends, Randi and Ethan were in town from San Francisco for a wedding, so we took them to Real Food Daily for dinner.

We started with a bowl of their Tortilla Soup, which I believe was the soup of the day.  It was slightly spicy and reminded me of the tortilla soup I used to order at Islands throughout high school.  However, a bowl is a large serving, so I would recommend a cup – even if you are sharing it.

Real Food Daily - Tortilla soup | A Vegan in Progress

Tortilla soup

I also tried the RFD burger, which was awesome.  The menu describes it as a “tempeh vegetable patty, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato on whole grain bun,” but it just seems like there must be more to it because it’s delicious and complex to the taste.  It came with a salad and I opted for caesar.

Real Food Daily - RFD Burger | A Vegan in Progress

RFD Burger

For dessert, we all shared the Chocolate Cream Pie.  It was so silky and rich.  My only complaint is that it was a lot thinner than I had expected.  Although, after all of that food, the four of us shared it and it was just about the perfect size.

Real Food Daily - Chocolate cream pie | A Vegan in Progress

I’m trying out a caption app to see how I like the look

Real Food Daily, Santa Monica

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Eric and I went for a drive this weekend without much of a plan as to where we were headed.  We ended up in Santa Monica and Eric asked me to direct him to the address that was mapped in his phone.  We pulled up to Real Food Daily, a vegan restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard.  He once again did something so supportive and kind.  I can’t say enough how lucky I am to have him.

To drink, I ordered their lemonade and Eric got an Oogave cola.  The lemonade was delicious and refreshing; I would definitely order it again.  Eric really enjoyed his cola and the tagline on the bottle, “All the flavor, all the fun, none of the junk.”  They use agave nectar as sweetener.  He liked it so much that he bought some more at Sprouts yesterday.

It was really difficult to decide what to order because everything on the menu sounded so good.  I settled on the Fettuccini Alfredo because I have yet to try a vegan version of one of my favorite pasta dishes.  They make theirs with spinach fettuccini, creamy alfredo sauce, roasted red peppers, broccoli, and toasted pine nuts and it comes with a few small slices of roasted garlic bread.

Real Food Daily - Fettuccini Alfredo | A Vegan in Progress

Man, was it delicious.  The sauce was great and the pine nuts on top added just enough crunch.  The garlic bread looked hard and dry, but I found it really tasty once I took a bite.

Eric ordered El Bandito Rojo (“The Red Bandit”).  It includes corn enchiladas, seasoned tempeh, salsa roja, Spanish rice, black beans, pico de gallo, tofu sour cream, and guacamole.  From the looks of it, I never would have known it was vegan.  Just look at that appetizing dish.

Real Food Daily - El Bandito Rojo | A Vegan in Progress

He said that he would eat vegan more often if it was all like that dish.  Then he told me about how other day he went to King Taco with a friend, which is a fast food taco chain in LA that he used to frequent when he was younger.  He said the food was just crappy.  Now that he is eating less meat, he is becoming more picky about what he does eat.  I think this is a good step, especially for someone who has not made a decision to eat less animal products, but is doing so simply because of circumstance.

On our way in, we walked right past the dessert case which had some yummy looking cupcakes, cakes, and cookies, so I knew we would be ordering dessert.  We decided to split a Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing.

Real Food Daily - Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing | A Vegan in Progress

The icing was really nice, creamy and not overly peanutty, but the cake was very dry.  I couldn’t finish more than a couple of bites.  I will be trying something else on my next visit.  Right before we left, I saw a plate of nachos being delivered to the table behind Eric.  It looked so awesome, I had to sneak a picture.

Real Food Daily - Nachos | A Vegan in Progress

The staff was very friendly and the environment was nice.  The tab added up fast, but they are pretty much in the same price range as the other restaurants in Santa Monica.  Try it if you’re in the area!  They also have locations in West Hollywood and Pasadena as well.

Click here for all posts about Real Food Daily.