Tag Archives: vegan travel

Dallas does vegan!

While I wouldn’t call Texas a top vegan travel destination, it does offer some unique eats that always makes the trip worth it. On one recent visit to the Lone Star State, we trekked to Dallas and visited Spiral Diner & Bakery.

Spiral Diner Dallas

Spiral is the closest to Phoenix’s Green Vegetarian that I’ve experienced in Texas. It’s completely vegan, and serves “comfort food.” The menu has a lot to offer! I tried the Patty Melt.

Spiral vegan patty melt

It was a soy burger patty with melty Daiya cheese and grilled onions.

My husband is a sucker for vegan “barbecue” and got the Chopped BBQ San’ich.

Spiral vegan BBQ

The grilled seitan and barbeque sauce were sloppy and delicious.

Best of all was the desert. We had a slice of coconut cake.

Spiral vegan coconut cake

It was light, moist and the frosting was particularly great. Sprinkles!

Spiral is a bit off the beaten path of downtown Dallas, but it’s worth the effort to get there! We were sad that we weren’t there long enough to try them for breakfast.

As big as it is, I can’t help but feel there is a lot more to explore in Texas! If you have any vegan favorites, especially in Austin, please let me know so I can try them next time I’m there!

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Messing with Texas, vegan style

I’ve been making regular trips to Austin for almost a decade, and I’ve always enjoyed exploring the vegan dining options in a city that prides itself as such a cultural hot spot. My close friend in town keeps an eye out for new places to try when I visit. Last year, he came up with what I initially considered an odd choice. I admit I was hesitant to give this place a try, but I became an advocate after my first visit.

Casa de Luz is a healing center that offers a set meal for breakfast,  lunch and dinner. It’s always vegan, always gluten free and always made with whole, unprocessed foods. They provide soup and salad a la carte, then serve up a plate of beans, grains and vegetables.

Casa de Luz Austin kitchen

The specific ingredients and recipes change every day, as do the unique sauces and dressings. They post the menu online daily. This may sound like a boring meal, but trust me, it’s not. In fact, it may be, quite possibly, the best thing ever.

When I visited a year ago, the dinner included beets, lentils, rice, Kim Chi and kale (with an oil-free sauce). The lentils were beyond heavenly.

casa de luz 2011

On my most recent visit (on December 26, 2012), the meal included a borscht (pureed beet) soup with an almond pesto sauce and salad.

Casa de Luz vegan borscht

Again – it sounds boring but it was fantastic. I especially liked how well the almond sauce blended with the soup, giving it a bit of texture and zing. The creamy (yet vegan and oil-free) “Pepita cucumber” salad dressing had my husband going back for seconds.

The meal consisted of medium and short brown rice; kidney and black beans; steamed mushroom, carrots, onions, broccoli and yellow squash; blanched greens (kale) with a balsamic, sunflower and dill sauce; and pickled red radish.

Casa de Luz Austin vegan dinner

I can’t think of a better meal after a heavy Christmas dinner. If I lived in Austin, I would probably have to move into this place.

Mother’s Café & Garden is my other must-visit Austin staple. Its diverse menu of vegan and vegetarian favorites offers something for just about everybody in the family.

Mother's Austin

The chips and salsa are highly edible (I think we ate four baskets full), and the fresh-made salsa has a lively Texas kick to it.

Mother's chips and salsa

To start, I ordered a cup of vegan tortilla soup. It was so good I forgot to take a picture until it was gone! I’d highly recommend it.

My entrée was the Chili Melt.

Mother's vegan chili melt

It was fairly basic flat enchilada with black beans, rice and corn tortillas. I chose the verde sauce, which was sweeter than I like for my Mexican food. However, they have discovered Daiya vegan cheese, so that made it just right!

My husband’s “TLT” was a bit less fun.

Mother's vegan TLT

It was a simple sandwich of marinated tempeh with lettuce, tomato and Veganaise.

However, it left him with enough room for some vegan Belgian chocolate cake.

Mother's vegan Belgian chocolate cake

Mother’s has a wide variety of vegan treats, but the chocolate cake always calls to us. It’s rich and fudge-like. I’d recommend they serve it with some vegan vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce!

Of course, Austin has plenty of other vegan options to offer. We haven’t made it to Counter Culture since it transitioned from food truck to restaurant, but the food truck was pretty good. There are actually several vegan food trucks in Austin, but my attempts to visit them have been hit or miss. We found a vegan taco truck during this visit, The Vegan Nom’s Rockin Vegan Tacos, but unfortunately we had just eaten so I only took a picture of the menu.

Vegan Nom Tacos menu

They’re on the list for my next trip!

Also worth mentioning is Tacodeli. While it’s not a vegetarian or vegan restaurant, the menu offers multiple options for the herbivore. I had the Freakin Vegan tacos (sans avocado).

Tacodeli freakin vegan tacos

They were pretty straight forward – black beans and salsa – but the hot sauce was great and it will certainly do in a pinch!

My husband was more adventurous and tried the Florentino and Frontera Fundido Portobello tacos, made vegan.

Tacodeli Florentino and Frontera tacos

He wasn’t too impressed with either, but he’s a native Arizonan. For him, no Mexican food from Texas will ever satisfy him, but that’s another story.

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We Want Wagamama!

I’ve been obsessed with Wagamama for well over a decade, when a friend said, “You’re going to London? You have to go to Wagamama.” If you’re from the U.S. you’re probably saying “Wagawhat?” But hopefully that will change someday soon!

Wagamama

Which do you think I went to?

Anyone who has traveled with me to the U.K. knows that as soon as I can, I make a beeline to the nearest Wagamama. It’s a chain restaurant, and they’ve multiplied like bunnies since first opening in 1992, with locations in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Lucky for me, on my last trip to glorious Britain I stayed in a hotel with a Wagamama in the basement (I didn’t plan it that way, I swear).

So far, Wagamama has only slightly penetrated The States, with three locations in the Boston area (we’re tied with New Zealand – yeay!). I think Wagamama must mean “good luck” because one of them is very near my company’s headquarters, which means I can usually get at least one visit in every year.

What’s so great about Wagamama, you ask? My answer: pretty much everything. It’s a “rice and noodle” casual dining Asian restaurant, with a blend of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian and Vietnamese items. And if you’re thinking that this is another Pei Wei, think again. Wagamama offers a wider variety of flavorful dishes, and has more to offer for vegans and vegetarians. It’s the kind of place where everyone can find something on the menu to like, and they make it very easy for vegans to get a great meal by providing a vegan menu online. It’s also a great choice for gluten-free diners.

I have a bad habit of getting the same one or two things every time I go because I usually only get one meal in during a trip. I at least try to vary the starters if I’m dining with a companion. On my last visit, I tried the Summer Rolls.

Wagamama vegan summer rolls

They were light and fresh, and were served with a sweet chili, garlic and cilantro dipping sauce. I’ve tried the edamame with chili and garlic salt before – which is just fine. The Yasai Gyoza (veggie pot stickers) are also great, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t vegan – just vegetarian. If your meal doesn’t come with Miso Soup, you should definitely order a bowl as well!

My default entrée of choice for years was the Yasai Chili Men.

Wagamama Yasi Chili Men

It’s a huge bright red bowl of veggies, tofu and noodles that provides plenty of heat in the mouth and belly. Since I’m usually traveling for work when I go to Wagamama now and not wanting my dinner to keep me up late at night, I’ve switched allegiances to some other favorites with less after bite.

As boring as it may sound, my latest favorite is the Yasai Cha Han (order it with no egg to make it vegan).

Wagamama vegan yasai cha han

It’s basically fried rice, but it’s not greasy and nasty like some fried rice can be. Instead it’s light, hearty and full of subtle flavor. It also comes with Wagamama’s wonderful vegan miso soup, which is a life saver on a cold night in Boston. It’s usually what I get if I’ve arrived in town late and want to go to bed without a gut full of spice.

But the entrée that keeps me going back for more is the Yasai Itame.

Wagamama yasai itame

This delicious noodle soup is made with coconut milk, rice noodles, a light hint of chili and ginger spice, and tons of tofu and vegetables. It’s always way more than I can eat, but I try to at least finish the tofu off. If you order it, make sure you squeeze lime into it to bring out the flavor even more.

If you have room left after all of that, Wagamama usually has a vegan sorbet that makes a nice palette cleanser. However, on my last visit in the U.K. they offered a vegan “ice lolly” that I thought would be something unique and fun. Instead it was a pre-packaged fruit juice popsicle shipped from somewhere in the U.S. Oh well!

There are other vegan entrees on the Wagamama menu that I haven’t tried yet. Maybe if they ever make good on their promise to open hundreds of locations in the U.S., I’ll feel less pressure to always order my favorites and will experiment more with the menu.

Beyond the food, the ambiance of Wagamamas always makes me happy. The restaurants tend to be in basements, so you feel like you’re descending into someone’s hidden, private space (except the Tower Bridge location in London — that one is down right scenic). The servers are always friendly, but not chatty, and very good at their jobs.

In the U.K., they sit you directly with other people at long rows of tables, so you usually get to meet fun people from a wide variety of countries.

Wagamama Windsor, U.K.

In the U.S., while the tables are still long, they put small gaps in the rows so the visual of open dining is still there, while giving territorial Americans some sense of privacy. Maybe when they move west that will change.

The ordering process is unique as well. Wagamama is the first place I had been to where the servers used hand-held wireless devices for orders and credit card processing – and that was more than 10 years ago! It was cutting edge high-tech to me at the time! Every menu item has a number, and the servers don’t just enter it into their devices, they also write the numbers on your place mats so the right food goes to the right person. You have what I’d call a “main” server, but everyone manages your order in a communal fashion. All of this makes for an efficient experience.

Over the years, I’ve made Wagamama addicts out of several friends and co-workers. If you’re ever in Boston or in one of their many overseas locations, give it a try and let me know what you think! Maybe we can get a petition going to bring Wagamama west!

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Vegan Eats Above and Below the Rim

When the thermometer hits 110 degrees in Phoenix, the natural inclination of the population is to head for higher altitudes. Two of our favorite destinations for day trips or overnight stays are Flagstaff, which is above the Mogollon Rim (the boundary between “way to hot” and “not quite as hot” in Arizona), or Payson, which is just below it. But what’s a vegan to eat in these small towns? As it turns out – plenty!

The vegan destination of choice in these two quiet towns is Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery.

Macy's European Coffee House and Bakery

In fact, I’ve lobbied to go to Flag just to visit Macy’s on more than one occasion. The menu is entirely vegetarian, and many items are either vegan, or can be made vegan with a bit of tweaking. The atmosphere is seriously mellow, with the staff and patrons seeming to have an unspoken code that even after many visits I have yet to decipher. It’s the closest vibe to that of my old college town of Gainesville, Fla. that I’ve found in Arizona, which makes sense given the proximity to NAU.

First thing’s first, Macy’s has the best coffee I’ve ever had in Arizona. And the prettiest as well.

Macy's latte and vegan danish

They usually have a vegan pastry or too if you get there early enough. On this trip we lucked into a vegan almond Danish.

For lunch, my husband had the hummus pita (without the feta).

Macy's vegan hummus pita

It wasn’t an adventurous choice, but it was delicious and filling.

I really like their burger, which is normally served as a “mushroom and Swiss burger” but I opt for it without those toppings.

Macy's vegan burger

Sometimes I get lucky and they have it on special with toppings other than mushrooms (which I hate) and Swiss (which they don’t have a vegan version of), but on this trip it was a touch plain. The mustard (put accidentally on the hummus plate) livens it up greatly though. And as a bonus – the fresh salsa at Macy’s shouldn’t be missed.

After hiking in the areas outside of town for awhile, we stopped back in Flag for a quick bite before heading back to Phoenix. We decided to try Tacos Locos, a Mexican restaurant right around the corner from Macy’s that has vegan options.

Tacos Locos in Flagstaff, Arizona

Tacos Locos offers eight different vegetarian options on the menu, all of which can be made vegan with ease. The prices are very reasonable too!

Meals come by default with plenty of chips and salsa, as they should (I’m talking to you, Chipotle).

Tacos Locos chips and salsa

The chips were fresh and warm, but the salsa was a bit bland so we spiced it up with optional hot sauces, available upon request.

My husband had the guacamole and veggie tacos, neither of which were world-rockers, but they were serviceable. I had a bean and rice taco and a potato taco.

Tacos Locos vegan tacos

Both were just fine, but the fried shell of the potato taco was the stand-out.

I probably wouldn’t drive to Flag just to go to Tacos Locos like I do for Macy’s, but it’s a nice option for a quick, safe bite.

When we next said, “We can’t take it anymore” and needed to get out of town, we headed to Payson. Lucky for us, our dining choice was not limited to Taco Bell vs. Subway. Ayothaya Thai Café is a decent Thai restaurant in Payson with a wide assortment of vegetarian items on the menu. When we asked if the dishes had fish oil/sauce or if they were truly vegetarian, they confirmed that there was no fish product involved. They menu also clearly states that they use vegetable oil.

Based on how crowded the restaurant was at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday, I’d say it is dining destination #1 for Paysonites. There was an odd duet of acoustic folk singers on a stage at the front of the restaurant, which was decidedly not Thai-esq, but they clearly had a strong local fan base.

We had read in reviews that the service at Ayothaya left a lot to be desired, so we ordered a fresh garden roll appetizer to start just to make sure we didn’t starve.

Ayothaya vegan garden rolls

They came out within minutes, which was a good thing because the meal took another 45 to arrive. But, it also meant they had probably been made hours before, and they tasted like it. The peanut sauce was good enough to cover up what the garden rolls lacked though.

I was intrigued that they had tempeh items on the menu, so I ordered the tempeh with mint leaves.

Ayothaya vegan tempeh with mint leaves

It was a light stir-fry but while I was hoping for something “minty” and flavorful, it was a little bland and greasy. The tempeh wasn’t very compelling either.

My husband did much better with the almond Thai curry.

Ayothaya vegan almond Thai curry

This was full of delicate spicy and the tofu was cooked perfectly.

There were plenty of other interesting options on the menu, such as the tofu royale, or the pra ram joe, so I hope to visit again soon!

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Vegan Eats in Orlando: In Memory of Ralph Ameduri

I lost a dear friend, Ralph Ameduri, recently in a tragic way. His passion for food was a second only to his passion for music, so when I went home to Orlando for his funeral, I had to go to a few places we used to frequently eat at together. Although he wasn’t anywhere close to a vegan (and neither was I when I lived there), many of the places we both loved have plenty of great vegan options.

Less than a mile from my old house sits Paco’s Mexican Restaurant – so it was a mainstay for us. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much. Actually, it doesn’t look like much inside either. They’ve been in business for almost 30 years, and the only thing I know of that has changed on the menu (aside from prices, but only slightly) is they now serve Pepsi instead of RC (darn it). While Ralph would always say “you’ve got to have the beef tacos when you’re at Paco’s” (and was indeed right – they are great tasting if you’re a meat eater), I used to always get the bean burrito, which is covered and baked to a crisp in cheese, or the cheese and onion enchiladas. Both are vegetarian, but not vegan. However, the beans are vegan, so on this visit I “got the tacos” but with beans instead of beef, and no cheese.

Paco's vegan bean tacos

They were loaded with beans, lettuce and a tomato slush. The thing about Paco’s is that the food isn’t fancy – it’s just simple and good. And these tacos didn’t disappoint. I didn’t ask if the rice was vegan or not – I was too tired hungry to be a fussy vegan – but it was lightly flavored and well prepared. I fantasized that if I still lived in Orlando, I’d regularly go to Paco’s with a bag of Daiya and make them bake me a vegan burrito or enchiladas. Maybe someday…

Sadly, I discovered another favorite restaurant of ours, Don Pepe’s Cuban Café (which was renamed to Habana Grill after I moved away but will always be Don Pepe’s to me) closed for good sometime in the last two years. Ralph and I used to go there for breakfast after late nights out, just to get their awesome Cuban coffee, but the food was great too. No worries, I went to our other favorite Cuban restaurant, the Black Bean Deli, which Ralph always argued had better food anyway.

Black Bean Deli

If you’re ever in Orlando and have time to go to just one restaurant, GO HERE. It’s tiny, impossible to park at, always packed, and has only about six seats (is best for take-out) but it is just awesome! Similar to Paco’s, the basics haven’t changed at the Black Bean Deli since I moved. However, one huge thing did happen – they now have vegan empanadas on the menu! The person taking my order was also very fluent in vegan – and pointed out options to me.

Black Bean Deli vegan items

It’s probably good that I moved, because I’d be there every day getting seriously fat on fried vegan pies. The empanada was stuffed with potatoes and a saucy picadillo-like fake beef substance – incredibly tasty. The black beans and rice were so good that one of the first things I told my husband when I got home was “I’m never eating black beans in Phoenix again” (which I’ve already violated due to Green’s amazing Tres Tacos special). The tostones were fried to perfection and covered in garlicky mojo, but a touch thick (I like them thin and crispy).

Another favorite we used to go to often is the Thai and Vietnamese restaurant Viet Garden. It hadn’t changed at all! Viet Garden was my “intro course” to Southeast Asian food, and in many ways – tofu – because they have great tofu dishes on the menu (I guess I was a vegan in training). One “must order” menu item is the garden rolls delight.

Viet Garden Garden Rolls Delight

These fully-packed tofu rolls come with a thick and slight sweet (not spicy) peanut sauce that is lick-the-bowl good.

I had a hard time choosing between the Panang curry, which is quite delicious and can be made vegan with tofu, and the Buddha’s Crispy Noodle Delight. I decided my stomach wasn’t up for spicy, so the more mellow crispy noodles got the nod.

Viet Garden Buddha's Crispy Noodle Delight

The tofu was very fresh and I still love the sauce. It’s similar to the Chow Mein at Fresh Mint in Scottsdale, but a bit more flavorful. They have plenty of other vegetarian and mock meat items on the menu too (but I’m not sure that they’re vegan).

In addition to my old favorites, Orlando has blossomed with vegan restaurants in the 14 years since I moved away to Phoenix. Ethos Vegan Kitchen was near my hotel and made for a great spot for quick bites. I decided it is Orlando’s version of Green, but with beer and Sunday brunch available (C’mon Damon – we want a Green brunch!).

Ethos Vegan Kitchen

The menu isn’t extensive, but it has a good variety of light eats and full meals. I tried the Buffalo Chickun Wrap daily special when I arrived in town.

Ethos Buffalo Chickun Wrap

It didn’t hold a candle to That’s A Wrap’s Buffalo 66 with tofu in terms of knock-your-socks-off spice, but it was worthy of a try. The mock chicken tasted great.

On a return visit with a friend, he ordered the Creamy Potato & Broccoli soup and Spinach Salad (a safe option for non-vegans) and enjoyed both. In fact, he might go back again!

Ethos Potato Broccoli soup

Ethos Spinach Salad

I tried the What’s the Dilly, Philly? with a side of the macaroni & cheese daily special.

Ethos What's the Dilly Philly and mac & cheese

The seitan was a bit thick for a Philly, but the onions, peppers and cheese brought it all together just fine. The mac & cheese was exceptional. I don’t think they used Daiya because it wasn’t melty and stringy, but it was perfectly flavored and very comforting.

Since I was headed to the airport, I ordered one of every cookie to take home with me. I’m sorry I didn’t order two of every cookie – especially the orange sugar cookie and the cowboy cookie. Bring them to all your non-vegan friends and they’ll all say “I can’t believe these are vegan!”

If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Orlando, maybe these dining tips will motivate you. If you need another reason, on Oct. 23 there will be a Ralph Fest in downtown Orlando to honor an amazing guy with great taste in food and music. I suspect there will be at least one chart-topping band playing – keep an eye on the Orlando papers to find out who. And I hope the Black Bean Deli sets up a food cart in his honor. Although he certainly would have gotten the pork instead of the vegan options, and lectured me on what I was missing.

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More Vegan Travel: Less Than 24 Hours in San Francisco

Continuing on from my last post about our recent trip to vegan-friendly California, we were in San Francisco for less than 24 hours on this trip, but had only one real dining destination: Millennium. It was my birthday, and there’s no place I’d rather eat at for a celebration! My husband even bought me a new camera for my birthday that features low-light capabilties so I can take better restaurant photos without a distracting/annoying flash.

Millennium Restaurant

I’ve been to Millennium many times, and am convinced that there is no finer vegan restaurant. I’ve brought several omnivores there too (even children of cattle ranchers), and they’ve always raved about their meals. The menu constantly changes, aside from a few standards, and Chef Eric Tucker places an emphasis on fresh, healthy and in-season organic ingredients, and taps elements of world cuisines without being too exotic.

During this visit, the menu predominantly featured a mix of Asian ingredients that created unique flavor combinations.

We started with the Mirin Glazed Sesame Rice Balls.

Millennium Mirin Glazed Sesame Rice Balls

I’ll admit we dug in too quickly to get a good picture of the whole plate. Oops. The official description is: kabocha squash, ginger & star anise puree, spicy shiitake mushroom, chile & edamame relish, nori paste, shiso. My description is: OMG. Sweet, tangy, savory – they were an umami-esq delight.

Decision time was tough for the main entrees. I went with the Sweet Soy Glazed Tempeh.

Millennium Sweet Soy Glazed Tempeh

It was the Indonesian style peanut sauce that sold me. Other ingredients included seared udon noodles with broccoli rapini, carmelized onion, fermented black beans & ginger, coconut-kaffir lime dressed snap pea & cabbage salad, and fuyu persimmons. Crazy delicious! One of the things I love about Millennium is how they use such a wide variety of flavors in each dish, but they complement each other perfectly. Every bite was a new taste experience.

My husband selected the Masa Crepe, which offered a nod to Mexican flavors.

Millennium Masa Crepe

The dish included cilantro-tofu cheese & roasted corn filling, roasted zucchini-pinquito bean hash, habañero-tomato cream, pickled nopales salad, and a pumpkin seed & cilantro emulsion. Again: wow!

We had to get two deserts, because we couldn’t decide between them. The first was a Warm Chocolate Cake.

Millennium Warm Chocolate Cake

It was filled with hazelnut ganache and poached seckle pear, and served with vanilla bean crème anglaise and chai ice cream.

I don’t remember the name of the second desert and it’s not on the menu anymore.

Millennium dessert

I remember it had figs, plus chocolate, plus some kind of yummy ice cream. Sorry, I didn’t take notes!

Since we had eaten so much vegan food in LA the two days before, we were worried that we would be too over-stuffed to enjoy our meal at Millennium, but the quality and variety of the food was able to cut through the pack and provide a truly amazing experience. Also of note, the service was impeccable at Millennium and we always enjoy their interesting variety of local and organic wines.

Before heading off to the airport the next day, we had breakfast at Herbivore in the Mission District.

Herbivore, Mission District

This was the first time we’d been to Herbivore. I’m not sure how we could squeeze any more food in, but we gave it a hero’s try. They had a great breakfast menu. My husband had the basil pesto scrambled tofu and a side of blueberry cornbread.

Herbivore basil pesto scrambled tofu

Herbivore blueberry cornbread

I had the breakfast burrito and a chocolate donut (I can’t resist vegan donuts).

Herbivore breakfast burrito

Herbivore chocolate donut

Both meals were great, but I don’t think we were able to finish either of them. In fact, the donut went in a to-go box. The breakfast potatoes were cooked perfectly – golden brown and flavorful. The blueberry cornbread was also another highlight. Service was a little slow, but we were the first ones in the door so I think they were still getting prepped. I hope we can get back there someday to try lunch and dinner!

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Greens on this trip but I know it’s a must-try. We never seem to hit the right window of time to go there. We made it there during opening hours once, but they were too packed to seat us so we got something from the to-go counter. Maybe next trip!

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More Vegan Travel: Los Angeles Vegan Delights

Once again, I’ve been traveling too much and slow to post. But I’ve been eating! On a recent trip to California, we visited some of the best vegan restaurants in the U.S.A. – both in Los Angeles and San Francisco. These restaurants are all fairly well documented in the blogosphere, so I’ll go through them briefly, starting with the places we went to in vegan heaven LA.

Our first stop after LAX was Real Food Daily (aka RFD) – West Hollywood location.

Real Food Daily

Their totally vegan menu has so much to offer that I can’t go there enough. On this trip, I had the Salisbury Seitan.

Real Food Daily Salisbury Seitan

There are few things I love more than RFD’s mashed potatoes and gravy. They nail comfort food! The seitan was a little bland, but the gravy made up for it.

My husband had the RFD Burger with the works. His review, “It was good! But it was pretty heavy and filling.”

Real Food Daily Burger with the works

We also had an intense chocolate brownie and a lovely latte. Both gave us the energy we needed after such a rich meal to tackle LA traffic, Hollywood tourists and Amoeba Records!

We timed our trip to make sure that we were in town when Madeleine Bistro was open.

Madeleine Bistro

They are currently open only on weekends, and they may be moving at some point. I hope they are doing okay because aside from Millennium, I’ve had no better vegan gourmet cuisine.

We had the mac and (vegan) cheese, fried (vegan) chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy (can you ever have enough in one day?) and a carrot and string bean veggie mix. We shared it all between the two of us.

Madeleine vegan mac and cheese

Madeleine vegan fried chicken and mashed potatoes

The mac and cheese was okay, but I’ve been spoiled by the melty consistency of Daiya, so I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. Madeleine’s fried chicken is second to none though. It’s perfectly breaded and goes very well with gravy.

For desert, we had the deconstructed smore.

Madeleine deconstructed smore

I raised an eyebrow when the waiter recommended it, thinking it was less appealing than a nicely constructed piece of pie, but his recommendation was spot on. It consisted of chocolate ice cream, lightly toasted marshmallow fluff, cocoa powder, chocolate cookies and a U shaped block of gooey chocolate (all vegan, of course). When all combined on your spoon, it was a unique, delightful experience. It was also very pretty.

For breakfast, we went to M Café on Melrose for the first time. They had a great menu and lots of breakfast treats. The first item that caught my eye was an almond croissant.

M Cafe vegan almond croissant

I haven’t had an almond croissant in years, and they are my favorite. I think M Café’s may have been the best one I’ve ever had.

I also got a breakfast burrito.

M Cafe vegan and gluten-free breakfast burrito

It was fairly small, but reasonable given the price ($5) and the spicy chipotle sauce was fantastic. The gluten-free brown rice tortilla was slightly crunchy, which made it very interesting. I’d gladly eat one every day.

My husband had the breakfast panini.

M Cafe vegan breakfast panini

It was serviceable, but nothing spectacular.

We of course grabbed some Babycakes cupcakes to go – strawberry and chocolate.

Babycakes vegan strawberry cupcakeBabycakes vegan chocolate cupcake

We have been to Babycakes in NY but this was our first chance to try the LA version, which are stocked at M Cafe. Both were as good as we’d remembered from NY, but without the charming Lower East Side setting.

Lunch brought us up to Silverlake and Flore Vegan – another vegan hot spot that we hadn’t tried yet. It was crowded, but after a short wait we had a street-side table and were deep into decision heck due to the great menu.

Someone at M Café recommended the Reuben sandwich at Flore, but I couldn’t resist ordering the Eastsider Tacos.

Flore Vegan Eastsider tacos

All I can say is “wow!” This may have been my favorite food from the whole trip. The seasoned seitan was delicious and tender, the tortillas were fresh and sturdy, and the salsa was tangy.

My husband went with the Tacos de Papas which were good, but didn’t hold a candle to mine.

Flore vegan potato tacos

We were still so stuffed from lunch at dinner time, so we tried to find something light. We ended up at Vegan Glory – a cute vegan Asian restaurant. The menu was full of a wide variety of mock meat dishes that looked fun to try. We weren’t feeling too adventurous though, and started with the Freshy Rolls.

Vegan Glory Freshy Rolls

They were fine, but nothing to go out of your way for when there is so much else for vegans to eat in LA.

We split an entrée of chow mein with tofu.

Vegan Glory chow mein with tofu

Again, it wasn’t an exploratory choice, but we really wanted something light (at least compared to everything else we’d had) and simple after having over-indulged so much already by the second day of our trip. No complaints!

I could eat non-stop in LA, but we were off to San Francisco next. More on that in a future post.

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