Michael and I got back from an amazing trip up the West Coast of North America a couple of weeks ago, going through legendary vegan eats the whole way up the coast. Still on a high from all the amazing nature we saw, food we ate and people we met, I wanted to share some of that experience with you. It may help you on your trip or even explore more of your own back yard. We have eaten our way through this wonderful area in just under a month. So here it goes!
First off, I wanted to give a big shout out to an app that is so under-utilised (or not even known by fellow vegans!) called Happy Cow. I have mentioned it in this post before, but for those of you that haven’t read it, I am compelled to share it with you because without it, we would have wasted so much time and energy searching for where to go (in addition to all the wonderful suggestions we got from our readers). And no, we are not being paid to say this, they have just created a really valuable source that everyone should know about!
Our trip itinerary was spending about 3-5 days on average in each city, eating through some of the most amazing vegan food you can find. I wanted to share them with you because when we came back home, reality hit that Australia, in particularly Canberra, has a long way to go. Unlike our Europe trip, food was a plenty and we really enjoyed scouting it out! It wasn’t a mad race to find one place that was an hour away from everything.
We started out our trip in LA, having never been there before, we had no idea what to expect. One piece of advice that we did take was to hire a car as everything is quite spread out. Five key things we noticed about LA:
- The air is pretty polluted
- Tap water is definitely not for drinking
- All drivers are nice, even when you don’t know what you’re doing!
- It’s not as glamorous as it appears
- Finding organic food is pretty easy*
*I was amazed by the amount of fresh produce and food in general that was organic. I did start to think that the quality of the certification body may not be as strict as it is back here in Australian. One known factor is that an organic food product or vegetable for instance can also be genetically modified in the US, unless labelled otherwise. Some of the fresh produce that we saw that was labelled organic, looked a little too shiny, big and perfect to be organic and naturally that size. No wonder so many cafes and restaurants can be 100% organic. In our city, we only have one, that also happens to be vegan, but I think they use organic where possible. This cafe seems to be influenced by what we saw in America.
Our top favourite eats while in LA were Gracias Madre in West Hollywood, Yoga-urt in Glendale, MADCAPRA Falafel at Grand Central Market and Plant, Food and Wine at Venice Beach.
Gracias Madre has two seperate locations, one in West Hollywood and the other in San Francisco. They are like night and day. We loved the one in West Hollywood for its atmosphere, quality of food, staff and location. We ordered the Black Bean Burger, Flat De Camote (sweet potato, caramelized onion, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese on tortilla), Barbecue Jackfruit Carnitas Taco, Ginger Ale (pink drink), Cardamom Soda and Tiramisu. Now this Tiramisu was the most amazing thing we have ever had. We are big eaters, but were glad we only ordered one as it was quite a big dessert. Everything on their menu looked amazing and by how busy it was, I would guess that it is all pretty delicious!
Our friend Jacky that owns BEETXBEET recommended a few of these places to us to eat but the one that we are most grateful for (well let’s face it, Michael’s in love with it!) is Yoga-Urt. It’s an all vegan frozen yoghurt shop. Not only is it delicious, but the flavours and toppings that they have selected are THE BEST! We had both chosen a double swirl of Peanut Butter Prana and Chocolate Bliss with toppings consisting of Waffle Cone Chips, Choc Chips, Mochi Rice Cakes and Brownie Bites. OMG….just thinking about it makes me drool.
Next, came across MADCAPRA Falafel at the Grand Central Markets before we headed to a basketball game at the Staples Centre. Michael’s dream come true – the basketball that is. It’s a vegetarian place with a few vegan options. We veganised three of their falafels and shared them – red, green and orange. They keep it super simple, yet the flavours are pretty wonderful. They make their own flatbread from scratch. You can taste the warmth when you bite into the wrap as its just come off the grill! These guys know what they’re doing 🙂
That day we also stopped into Moo Shoes in the morning and loved the selection of eco friendly, vegan shoes and accessories they have on offer. If it’s one thing that we struggle with the most, it’s finding shoes. This shop has a great selection, worth checking out if you’re in the area.
We only heard that Matthew Kenney had one of his restaurants in the area when we were already at Venice Beach. Not having any plans for the evening, we decided to have dinner at Plant Food + Wine. The space was magical and the garden was beautiful as the sun set and the tree lights came to life. We started our evening with the Flora Artisanal Cheese Tasting Platter, followed by Spicy Udon and Butternut Potato Gnocchi. To end the evening we had the Strawberry Hibiscus Cheesecake. Our overall experience was pleasant and the food was delicious, but when it comes to fine dining, we really struggle with portion sizes. We both left there hungry, having spent almost double what we have everywhere else, we were feeling a little empty (pun intended). My gnocchi portion looked like an entree size and the slice of cake was almost half a slice. We understand the amount of effort, ingredient quality and expertise that goes into the food and that is all that you pay for, but when you are left hungry and spent a lot of money, it’s not the best feeling.
For those of you that don’t know who Matthew Kenney is, you can learn more about him here. The space upstairs was also a culinary school space where we runs classes.
From LA we ventured to Yosemite National Park by car and stayed in Oakhurst overnight. We packed our own food as we knew we most likely wouldn’t find anything vegan out in the middle of nowhere. We were right.
Oakland and San Francisco
From there we drove up to Oakland where we stayed and travelled to San Francisco to visit. We stayed near Echo Park and that part of Oakland is beautiful. We loved the gorgeous houses and local shops. Even though there wasn’t too many all vegan places, we did find a gem about a 20-30 minute walk from where we were staying called Timeless Coffee. What impressed us the most was that it didn’t state anywhere that it was 100% vegan, which it was. The fact that even the milk that you would serve yourself only said “contains almond” was proof that they went for the subtle approach and wanted everyone to feel welcome. After trying a few of their desserts, we couldn’t even tell! We double checked, and everything was vegan but to the general public, they would have no clue they are supporting a cruelty free business. I would imagine people would be shocked to know that vegan cakes can taste just as good, if not better than the ‘normal’ ones!
We also heard that Millennium was a must while we were in Oakland. This was a fine dining restaurant and bar that had good portions for mains. We both enjoyed meals that unfortunately I forgot to note down and their menu has since changed on the website. Both of the dishes were full of flavour, different textures and left us feeling satisfied. Highly recommend it for a beautiful evening out.
In the San Francisco area, our favourite was Shizen. This is a Vegan Sushi Bar and Izakaya with the most spectacular Japanese food you’ll find. Michael had sussed it out a month prior when he went to San Francisco and said that it was amazing. He was right, the food was divine and the atmosphere was fun. Everyone was looking at each others food and ordering what the table next to them ordered as it looked delicious. You can easily over order that way! Make sure you get there earlier (we got there at 5pm) to get a table, otherwise the wait can be quite long. They don’t take reservations, so if you want to get food quickly, get there before the dinner rush. Our favourite dishes were Body and Soul (tempura pictured) and the sweet potato croquettes.
Now, Portland was vegan heaven. We didn’t have enough days to go through all the places that we discovered but managed to get to the main ones that were recommended or rated highly online. My favourite was the burger I had at Black Water Bar. Totally not my scene, that is the heavy metal, grunge bar scene but the food was worth it! I had the Patty Melt burger with the side of Coleslaw and Michael had the Cheese Burger with the side of French Fries. They were both amazing! Their house patty is really good and the ingredients are quality. Totally didn’t expect it.
Just up the road, we came across a busy vegan restaurant and bar called Blossoming Lotus that serves what they describe as vegan world cuisine. They have choices from burgers and salads, to curries and mac & cheese. It’s a favourite for the locals, recommended to us time and time again. We missed out on one night as we came in and the wait was around 45 minutes, but we were too hungry to wait so we went up the road to Black Water. The second night, we still had to wait time but we came a little later and it was only 15 minutes (also helped the fact that it was a weeknight). The food was great, but honestly not that memorable as I have no clue what I had! Sometimes when people hype up a place, you have such high hopes and expectations that a good meal can disappoint because it’s not out of this world. I would go back again and try different things on the menu. We had some really lovely cocktails as well.
We had a meet-up at The Bye and Bye which was great!! Everyones food looked delicious and the beers/ciders were really smooth. Michael and I shared the Meatball Sub that everyone recommended as their favourite and it was on point. The bread was nice and soft but crispy on the outside as a baguette should be and the meatballs were delicious with the sauce and cheese topping. We should have ordered two! Their menu looks like it has all the American classics veganised.
One thing that I did notice in Portland in particular is that most restaurants have a bar as well. I don’t remember seeing any without one, no matter how small they were! They take their beer and cider very seriously over there. If you haven’t been to Portland before, it’s everything that you thought it would be and more. The stories are true!
Next we stopped by Vtopia on a wet and cold day. This place is super cozy and quite small. What makes them special is that they make their own organic cheese. That’s what they are best known for! We had a great meal of sandwiches and a side of mac & cheese. Since that’s their speciality, we had to try what they would do with it. It was pretty damn amazing. They also brought us a platter to try all their cheeses which was really sweet of them!
Right behind these guys is the Homegrown Smokehouse & Vegan Deli. They are the definition of what comfort food stands for. We, however did not go to the deli, we went to their food truck. Now the food truck is in a parking lot that has been converted to food truck central. We don’t have too many of these here in Australia. They are very common in the US. They pride themselves on creating a BBQ experience with a cruelty free twist. Where to start with describing the experience that we had? Well, quite frankly, it’s indescribable. The amount of flavour that they manage to get into one burrito is insane! Honestly, I wasn’t paying too much attention to what I was ordering and seemed like I ordered the most intense burrito on their menu. I struggled, and by struggled, I mean I gave up about half way through. It was insanity! Michael took care of it for me and he regrettably was very full (literally waddling around) for the rest of the day. This was 11am. If anything, go and try it for the experience. What we ordered was the following:
One thing that was a must before leaving Portland (which we were told) was to visit the Vegan Mini Mall. Now, just a heads up, it’s not actually a mall. It’s a few vegan businesses in a row isolated from everything else. We checked out the SweetPea Bakery, that had some amazing desserts (pictured below), Vegan Mini Supermarket called Food Fight and a cruelty free clothing store called Herbivore. I personally found that the grocery and clothing store were nothing special in terms of it being different to what we can get back at home. It was still however nice to have a wonder around.
One last mention for Portland is The Sudra. It’s an Indian inspired restaurants in two different locations. We met up with Caleb from Vegan Cat Man that was introduced to us by a mutual friend. It was awesome to have a chat to him about his current project of building a tiny house. We’re excited to see the final space in a few months! He shares some awesome vegan eats around Portland. The food at this place was awesome, we loved the flavours and texture combinations. Definitely on the list if you visit.
Our second last stop was Seattle. When we thought that we have had the best vegan food that the west coast can offer, we weren’t expecting what we found our first night in Seattle. We were staying in Capitol Hill and a short walk from our place was this amazing Thai restaurant. Everywhere you looked online, it was recommended with great reviews. We thought, Thai is Thai, but we were so impressed that we ate there again the next night. The restaurant is called Araya’s Place and they have multiple locations in Seattle as well as one in LA! What our dinner pictured below consisted of was the Massaman Banana Curry, Drunken Mushroom and Roti. The Roti were AMAZING!! We ordered a little too much food and got some to take away. The portions are nice and big. If you love Thai food, you will love Araya’s. 100% vegan and 100% delicious, yes I said it 😛
On Michael’s birthday we had the second taste of Araya’s but also went to his favourite new place on earth, and this was Frankie & Jo’s. It was probably the most impressive ice cream that we have ever had. Not only do they list the ingredients for each and every ice cream flavour on their menu, but they are also organic, gluten free and change with each season. The flavours rotate depending on what’s in season. Normally I’m not too fussed on the cone because they are pretty average, but these guys make the most amazing waffle cones! I saw the girl making it in front of me and it smelt incredible. They have a wonderful maple flavour (the sweetener that they use for them) and they are gluten free. Nice and thick so that it doesn’t crumble in your hand, the waffle cone was actually my fave 🙂 Loved this place so much as well that we went back twice to try different flavours.
The other place that we ate at on Michael’s birthday was the Plum Bistro (just around the corner from Frankie & Jo’s). Their menu looked wonderful! We picked out the Macho Burrito and the Jamaican Wrap. The flavours were wonderful and the service was super friendly. This place also came highly recommended by fellow vegans as well as the internet. I saw that they have a cookbook, which looks pretty awesome.
On a side of fashion, we dropped into Drizzle & Shine, an eco boutique selling and supporting brands that stand for fair work, eco practices and vegan friendly materials. We had a really great chat to the owner, Jean and found some wonderful brands to support.
Last place to mention for Seattle and I feel the most important (favourite meal of the whole trip for me!) is No Bones Beach Club. We had a really fun meet-up there with some wonderful people. The drinks looked and sounded amazing and the food was super hard to make a decision on as everyone said that everything on there was 10/10. So I chose the Taro Sando, and it was the best burger/sandwich I have ever had. Hands down. I originally ordered one for Michael and I to share and then re-ordered as having half was not enough satisfaction with this deliciousness. It has a sesame crusted taro, asian slaw, spinach, pickled ginger, wasabi mayo, sweet soy reduction on a rustic bun. This description doesn’t even do it justice. If you get the chance to go there, please order this sandwich. You will thank me later. They also just opened one up in Portland, so if you can’t make it to the one in Seattle, you can grab a bite there too! Sadly it was too dark and I didn’t take any photos 🙁
Seattle was the last of our cities in America before we flew over to Vancouver. We heard that the vegan movement is quite big there and more vegan shops, cafes and restaurants are opening which is great. The two places that were the highlights for us in this amazingly picturesque city were MeeT in Gastown and Nuba. Now Nuba isn’t all vegan but has some great options. It’s a Lebanese restaurant that was literally filled within 20 minutes of opening for its lunch period. We had some great home style dishes that reminded me of the lentils I make. Beautiful flavours and generous portions.
MeeT in Gastown was the perfect spot for our last meet-up. We met the owner Jason when we first arrived and he shared with us his other business called Vegan Supply that was based online only and now has opened a physical store. The menu looked wonderful and the staff are super friendly! Our favourite was the Chili Cheez Fries. The amount of flavour was unbelievable! They have two separate locations, MeeT in Gastown and MeeT on Main. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in Vancouver.
What an experience!
That about wraps up our trip! How did we do? Did we miss anything? We had a blast travelling and dining at vegan cafes and restaurants 90% of the time. I don’t believe you can say that about anywhere else in the world. Coming back home made me realised how far we have to go when it comes to the vegan lifestyle and how easy it can be to be vegan. One foot in front of the other, whilst heading in the right direction.