LA might have more juice bars than real bars, and as a city would never bat an eyelid at a paleo-raw-vegan-wellness-center-slash restaurant, but just because you’ve cut out meat, doesn’t mean you deserve to spend your life eating cashew cream and tempeh. No one deserves to eat tempeh.
The spots on this list include fully vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and a couple of places that are so into plants that they might as well be vegetarian. Rather than asking “Is this place good for a vegetarian restaurant?” we judged these spots in the same way we do all the places we eat: by asking, “Does the food taste good?” No terrible soy proteins allowed.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier, presented in partnership with Bai (a drink that helps us be a little healthier).
There might not be a more Los Angeles restaurant right now than Kismet. The space is bright and primed for your social media feed, you can drop in pretty much any time of day, and the Middle Eastern-inspired menu is interesting and fresh. The broccoli toast, flaky bread with labneh and honey, and persimmon and cucumber salad are all must orders, and also things we think about on a regular basis. There is some meat on the menu at Kismet, but if we didn’t put them on this list, we’d be neglecting some of the tastiest vegetarian food in town.
Maybe you need to apologize to your vegan significant other for eating one too many steaks in front of them, and do penance by eating a lot of vegan cheese. Plant Food + Wine is the way to go. Down the quiet end of Abbot Kinney (closer to the beach), an all-white dining room leads to a stunner of a patio. As for the food, it’s creative but not so out there that a regular meat eater wouldn’t be able to find something to like. The chickpea curry soup should be on your table, and that vegan cheese platter is surprisingly not awful.
You know a restaurant takes its vegetables seriously when they end up in your cocktails as well as on your plate. P.Y.T. in the Historic Core is just that kind of restaurant, but the vibe is less serious restaurant and more fun place to hang out. There is always a piece of meat and maybe a seafood dish listed down near the bottom of the menu, but make no mistake, the plant-based dishes are the main event here. The salt-baked turnip gets talked about a lot, but the ricotta cavatelli with yogurt and nori is the real star of the show here.
Calling Madcapra a restaurant might be kind of a stretch considering that it’s really a stall in Grand Central Market with some fairly epic lines. But it’s also one of our favorite places in the city that just happens to be vegetarian. The falafel here is something we’d drive across town for, especially the tangy green sandwich stuffed with fennel and cauliflower. PSA: order the beet and sumac soda even if you hate beets - you’ll feel like you’re being punk’d. Just don’t blame us when Ashton fails to make an appearance.
We’re not sure how many Santa Monica tourists have been tricked into eating an all-vegan meal at Erven, but we’d guess that hardly any of them noticed. Despite a small and kind of awkward dining room, the food is fancier than what you’d expect to find steps away from the Promenade. The black garlic-chickpea fritters are a very good way to start and the soft tofu with brussels sprouts will convert even the most passionate tofu haters.
A mini-Westside empire (with a location in Silver Lake as well), Samosa House is our go-to for a casual vegetarian lunch or dinner. Walk in, head to the counter, and ask for the three-item combo. You get naan, rice, and the choice of three constantly changing entrees. If the smoky cauliflower curry is present, do not pass go without it.
Too often, vegan restaurants feel exactly like you’d expect a vegan restaurant to be like. But Crossroads is having none of that, and actually feels kind of like a steakhouse that just happens to not serve any steak. This West Hollywood spot has quickly become a go-to for classy, no-patchouli-in-sight vegan dining. Go for the cheese plate, the “meatball” sub, and the artichoke oysters. Their brunch is good too.
Once we found Paru’s, a tiny South Indian vegetarian spot in East Hollywood, we had no idea why more people didn’t know about it. Maybe because the restaurant's behind a steel gate you have to get buzzed into? But once you're inside, you'll wish you knew about it sooner. Paru’s might be kind of quiet, but it’s the perfect spot for a low-key weeknight dinner. As for the food, you'll find straightforward versions of all the classics - samosas, dosas, and plenty of curries. Order a couple of Kingfisher beers and just let the staff tell you what you want to eat.
Elf Cafe is an Echo Park standby - they’ve been doing their vegetarian Mediterranean thing for more than ten years. There’s everything from a tahini avocado puree to a vegetarian bolognese, and most dishes can be made vegan. This is an excellent Eastside date spot, and you should definitely take advantage of the all natural wine list. Who knows what makes natural wine different from regular wine, but we hear it might be good for you. Which is a wine situation we can get behind.
Yes, the menu names are laughable and the entire place can occasionally border on insufferable, but there’s a reason Cafe Gratitude has locations all over the city: the food is better than you’d think it would be. We tend to stick to the salads and juices, but if you’re into the black bean patties and kelp noodles thing, there are plenty of those options too.
Rahel is your vegan option along Fairfax’s Little Ethiopia strip, and it’s also one of the best restaurants on the entire street. Come for the yemitin shiro wat (a chickpea stew we’d travel across town for) and BYOB policy, stay for the daily 11am-3pm vegan buffet.