Plant-based cuisine has come a long way, baby. First practiced by ancient Greek philosophers for better health and animal welfare, it became a full-fledged movement in the mid-1800s for the same reasons. When the hippies got a hold of it in the 1960s, there was no turning back from vegetarianism entering mainstream culture.
Today, there are plenty of reasons to choose a veg-forward diet: healthy eating, environmental benefit, animal equality, protest corporate farming, and such. But another really good reason to try a plant-based meal is that it is DELICIOUS! With California’s rich supply of clean, local food resources, our veggie community is one of the best. Thanks to some fabulous restauranteurs on Melrose Avenue, your options for experiencing the cuisine are diverse and abundant.
Beefsteak is the new kid on the block. The result of the delightfully creative and exacting culinary imagination of Chef Marcel Vigneron, Beefsteak takes a whole life approach to its menu. In addition to being socially and environmentally conscious, the offerings are customer conscious, playing with familiar dishes and serving up the meal quickly. Bowls and wraps are elevated by layers of unique, deep flavor. The Smoked Bowl, for example, combines tomato sofrito with farmer’s market corn, beans, sweet peppers, cilantro, and lime for a full and fresh take on Latin flavors. Beefsteak, while highlighting vegetable ingredients, is not vegan; there are animal proteins on the menu, sustainably sourced.
The juice bar is accessible and complete for providing additional nutrients in the most flavorful way. If that’s too tame, go for a punch: alcohol-based delights that have a little good-for-ya and a shot of great-for ya. The Mexi-Melon (cimmaron tequila, watermelon, jalapeño, and lime) is pure magic. The menu is rounded out with fancy snacks and other beverages (alcohol and not). Bonus? Beefsteak looks like a vacation spot: bright, open, clean, a little beachy, and entirely relaxing.
M Café offers contemporary macrobiotic cuisine. Executive Chef Atsuhi Kenjo is inspired by many global cuisines, and uses that filter to create healthful options and satisfying meals. Macrobiotics stresses whole, natural foods (including some animal proteins) consumed while in season, processed as minimally as possible. Eating in balance with nature does not prohibit choice, as M Café fully demonstrates. Breakfast can include pancakes (whole grain, blueberry) or even an enchilada (tofu, tempeh bacon, spicy pintos, avocado, soy cheese) and even pastries!
Soups, salads, and bowls are all great options for a filling meal. The Japanese Breakfast Bento is good any time of day, with miso coup, grilled tofu, mixed grain porridge, seasonal veggies, seaweed and house pickles. Sandwiches (like the M Banh Mi) and burgers coupled with a side or two (like gobo fries) might ensure a to-go box. A kids menu is available for guests 12 and under. This is a hot spot on Melrose, but any wait is worth it.
7119 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046
Monday – Saturday 9a – 10p, 9a – 9p
Amazing things are happening at Bulan Thai Vegetarian Kitchen. Even though it has been on Melrose for ten years, the menu is so deep and exciting, it seems new no matter how regularly you might visit. The chefs hail from various regions of Thailand, and all have representation. These traditional dishes have been adapted to include plant-based meat substitutes and unusual vegetables. Nutty rices and rich spices, noodles and sauces look familiar but taste entirely new.
A good example of the adaptations possible here is the Mock Duck Curry, a veggie duck dish with tomatoes, bell peppers, chili, basil and pineapple in coconut milk red curry. Delicious, you’ll-never-know-the-difference deep fried soy chicken with yellow jasmine rice in a light soup (Khao Mok Gai) shows the versatility of faux meat prepared and accompanied just right. Plenty of delicious dessert options should not be missed, like Banana Rolls and Coconut Ice Cream.
BULAN THAI VEGETARIAN KITCHEN
7168 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046
Monday – Friday 1130a – 330p and 5p -10p, Saturday – Sunday 1130a – 10p
Since 2014, Fala Bar has been providing the only all-vegan dining option on Melrose. Using organic and local produce, with no chemicals, preservatives, soy, or GMOs, Fala has a deceptively casual menu. Its curator and holistic health coach Gina Ragnone aimed to create healthy versions of comfort foods without losing the satisfying flavor. Starters like snacks and sides (including a don’t miss Baba Ghanoush) can be light, mid-shopping fillers, but the starring (and a few special guest) role belongs to falafel.
Original, spicy, sweet potato, crunchy or kale falafel finds its way onto salads, sandwiches, and burgers. Oh, the burgers! Choose a falafel with onions, dill pickle, purple cabbage, and BBQ sauce and you’ve got the Southwest Burger. The Kale Burger combines the kale falafel with lemony kale, pickled purple cabbage, grilled onion, avocado, and house-made Thousand Island. It’ll make you a believer.
7751 1/2 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046
Sunday – Saturday 11a – 9p
Naturewell2 is kind of like a convenience store for organics. It’s easy to get distracted by the displays of takeaway snacks, dried fruits, bottled drinks, and nutritional supports from all over the world. Everything looks interesting and tasty. Make it to the juice bar, though, for the things your body craves. Smoothies are nth level, combining high-quality fruits, juices, and powders. And then there’s the juice menu, carefully curated to bring in the good and kick out the bad. The most popular juice comes in the form of a shot, appropriately named the Face Melter. Fresh lemon and ginger juice, cayenne pepper, and oil of oregano will cure what ails you. Another fan favorite is the Acai Bowl, a vitamin-heavy, antioxidant buttkicker with acai, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and granola that happens to taste amazing as well. Naturewell2 is open early and open late, because good health doesn’t tell time.
7261 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046
Sunday – Saturday 7:30a – 10:30p
While it’s not fully plant-based, Loved Baked Wings has a strong and thorough eco ethic and offers a generous vegan menu in addition to the traditional (though consciously-raised) chicken wings. LBW uses no freezers, no fryers, no microwaves, and everything is made in-house with no garbage ingredients. Baked chickpea wings are afforded the same flavor options as the chicken wings, meaning, pretty much any way you like ‘em: lemon pepper, buffalo, ranch rub, sesame ginger, and many more. The plant-based sides sound basic but taste anything but. Who knew how fulfilling carrot fries could be? There are vegan dipping sauces as well, but so much flavor is packed onto the wings, a dip is almost unnecessary. Loved Baked Wings is dedicated to its small footprint, so in addition to using minimal packaging, its disposables are earth-friendly, compostable and recyclable.
LOVE BAKED WINGS
7350 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046
Sunday – Thursday 11a – 10p, Friday and Saturday 11a – midnight