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good eats

June 11, 2010

The focus of this blog is not usually food, but we all have to eat, so let’s talk dinner. No one is better than veg foodie extraordinaire and Yelp!er, Kris Coulter, to put together a post of her favorite places to eat around the country. Read on and prepare to get hungry!

All of the restaurants noted in this post vegan, except for Chicago Diner which is veg–all food items listen in this post are vegan.

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Hi everyone, this is Kris, and I’m honored to guest blog for vegina.  I LOVE food, and I’m very excited to share some of my favorite vegan restaurants with you.  Some of these are in Southern California, but I’m going to tell you about some of my favorites in other cities in the United States. In no particular order:

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The Veggie Grill (locations in Southern California)

Veggie Grill's "The Stack" (Vegina's favorite)

I had my first vegan restaurant experience at the Veggie Grill, so it holds a special spot in my heart.  I love the Veggie Grill because the food is great, but I also love it because it makes veganism accessible to everyone.  With locations across from the University of California, Irvine and in the Irvine Spectrum (among others), not even the most enthusiastic carnivore can resist the Veggie Grill.

I have eaten every single sandwich on the menu, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.  I don’t have a favorite per se, but I do find myself gravitating towards the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin,’ the Carne Asada, or the Chickin’ Caesar Wrap.  The sandwiches are served with a red cabbage slaw or chili, or you can get sweetheart fries (sweet potato fries), the daily soup, kale, spring mix salad, or mac n’ cheese for a couple extra dollars.  I usually get the sandwiches with the sweetheart fries, but sometimes I am in the mood for the red cabbage slaw.  I usually go with wherever my mood takes me.  If you’re in the mood for a salad, I like the Chop-Chop Chef.  And don’t be fooled, these salads aren’t rabbit food.  They are hefty and filling.  If you have room for dessert, don’t leave without trying to carrot cake or the chocolate pudding.

Oh and as if the Veggie Grill couldn’t get any better, if you’re in the mood for a lighter meal, you can order off the kids’ menu.

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Native Foods (locations in Southern California)

I am a fan of Native Foods for the same reasons that I love the Veggie Grill.  The food is awesome, and it makes veganism accessible to everyone.  I don’t get to Native Foods as often as I make to the Veggie Grill, but only because it isn’t located right across the street from UCI.

Let’s start with an appetizer, shall we?  The nachos are among the best I’ve ever eaten.  (and I’ve eaten a lot of nachos)  The Native Nachos are a huge platter of tortilla chips topped with loads of beans, meat, cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, corn, green onions, and cilantro.  You can’t go wrong with the nachos, but pace yourself or you’ll have little room for your meal.

I love the Baja Surf Tacos, which are Native Foods’ take on fish tacos.  These aren’t wimpy tacos- they are stuffed with tempeh, cabbage, salsa, guacamole, and their homemade sauce.  I’ve also been pleased with the Chicken Run Ranch Burger and the Portobello and Sausage Burger.  Oh, and try the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger if your appetite can handle it.  The burgers are monstrous and are served with edamame.  You can also add a salad, fries, sweet potato fries, kale, or soup for a couple extra dollars, but the sandwiches are pretty big so you might not need to.

Do not, under any circumstances, leave Native Foods without a cupcake.  I don’t care if you’re stuffed; take one to go then.  The cupcakes are moist and delicious, topped off with luscious swirls of frosting.  Sometimes if I’m in the area, I stop in just to get a cupcake.

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Sticky Fingers (Washington, D.C.)

Speaking of cupcakes, if you’re in our nation’s capital, don’t leave without paying a visit to Sticky Fingers.  I have frequented many, many bakeries and Sticky Fingers is by far my favorite (and I’m an avid baker, so I think I’m a good judge).

Sticky Fingers serves up a smorgasbord of cupcakes, cookies, sandwich cookies, brownies, sticky buns, muffins, and scones.  They also make custom cakes and mail order their treats.  The cupcakes are moist and the frosting is fluffy.  I am a fan of the almond crème, the cookies n’ cake, the raspberry crème, and the coconut.  As for the cookies, I am still trying to figure out how to replicate their lemon coconut.  If you’re in the mood for a sandwich cookie (and when are we not?), then try the phenomenal Little Devils.

This place is more than a bakery.  It’s also a cute coffeeshop (with free wifi!) that also serves up sandwiches and such.

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Java Green (Washington, D.C.)

In the words of my boyfriend, go here for the “bangin’ boolgogi.”  Java Green is a cozy café that serves up sandwiches, noodles, wraps, soups, salads, and raw foods.  As you may have guessed, I am a fan of the boolgogi.  You can get it on a sandwich or with noodles.  If you’re not in the mood for that, try the chicken java sandwich or the veg max sandwich.  Oh, and don’t leave without a cookie!

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Soul Vegetarian (Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Atlanta)

As long as you’re in D.C., hop on over to Soul Vegetarian, located near Howard University.  It’s off the beaten path, but well worth the trip.

They serve up daily specials, which are already prepared and ready to serve from the buffet table.  (don’t let that stop you; the turnover is quick and the food is fresh)  You can also order off the menu.  I hear that Soul Veg has a great brunch, and I don’t doubt that.

I love the macaroni and cheese.  If I could, I would order loads of it and have it shipped to me.  I don’t know how they get it so creamy and garlicky, but somehow they do.  It is simply amazing.  Soul Veg can do more than mac n’ cheese though; I am a fan of the BBQ tofu, the pepper steak, and the wheat loaf.

By the way, Soul Veg is also in Chicago and Atlanta.  I’ve been to the Chicago location, and the menu is different than the D.C. location but just as good.  It’s more of a sit down restaurant, without a buffet table.  The fries are savory, and the sandwiches are good (try to the Jerusalem steak and the bbq twist).  And of course, don’t leave without the mac n’ cheese.

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Chicago Diner (Chicago, IL)

Before we head back home to Southern California, let’s stop over at the Chicago Diner, shall we?  You can go here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but the important thing is that you go.

What can I say?  The Chicago Diner whips up excellent animal-friendly diner food.  My boyfriend and I ate the Dagwood and the Radical Reuben.  The Dagwood is a huge hoagie stuffed with seitan roast and corned beef, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pepperoncini, and a spicy sauce.  This sandwich is not for the faint of heart, so bring your appetite.  The Radical Reuben was brimming with seitan, peppers, onion, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and cheese.  Hmmm, it’s so intense, you just might have to eat it with a knife and fork.  You get your choice of sides to go with your sandwich- sweet potato fries, mac n’ cheese, cole slaw, greens, soup, salad, and many more.  We opted for the sweet potato fries, mac n’ cheese, and some cole slaw.

Somehow, we saved room for dessert.  We split the lemon coconut cake, and it was super yummy.  I hear that the Chicago Diner also serves up some great shakes, but sadly, we didn’t have room to try one.  Oh well, next time.

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Pure Luck (Los Angeles)

All right, we’re almost home now.  Pure Luck serves up a variety of salads, tacos, sandwiches and wraps.  If you miss out on Mexican food or BBQ at non-vegan restaurants, then head on over to Pure Luck.

We started off with the fried pickle chips, and then moved on to Todd’s BBQ sandwich and Jack’s Super Burrito Wrap.  Both were made with amazing jackfruit “carnitas.”  Apparently, when you cook up jackfruit, it takes on the consistency of shredded pork and takes on the flavor of anything you add to it.  (I guess it’s kind of like tofu in that respect)  The BBQ sandwich had jackfruit, bbq sauce, pickles, onion, and mayo on a homemade rustic roll.  It was hearty and savory.  Jack’s Super Burrito Wrap had jackfruit, sweet potato fries, pinto beans, bbq sauce, and cilantro.  Mmmmm, it was so good and satisfying.  We ate the sandwich with the rosemary french fries served with garlic aioli.  The fries were crisp and yummy, and the aioli was so good I wish Pure Luck could inject it into my veins.  We ate the wrap with the Caesar salad, which was really quite good.  Also, the croutons were homemade!  Bonus!

Fortunately, Pure Luck is close enough that I’ll go again and check out the rest of their menu.  I can’t wait!

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Wheel of Life (Irvine, California)

This place is so close, I don’t know why I don’t eat here more often.  The Wheel of Life is a cozy restaurant tucked into one of Irvine’s ubiquitous strip malls.  Eating here is like going home for a good home cooked dinner (that is, if your parents are good cooks; mine really aren’t).  But anyway, back to the Wheel of Life.

You might want to start off with an appetizer, just because they are so darn good.  I’ve eaten the bbq chicken, the spring rolls, and the spare ribs, but I bet you also can’t go wrong with the fried tofu or the moo shu.  There is a lot on the menu- noodles, curries, fried rice, soup, and salads.  The sesame chicken is pretty good, and so are the fish n’ chips, which satisfy a craving for salty, fried food.  I’ve also eaten the beef with broccoli and the orange chicken, and I’m a fan of both.  Just be aware that the main dishes don’t come with rice, so you’ll have to order it on the side.

If you have room for dessert, try the donuts.  Trust me, they are really good.

And there you have it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this vegan food tour as much as I’ve enjoyed telling you about it!  Happy eating!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2010 10:20 am

    What well written reviews…made me so hungry! Love Veggie Grill and Native Foods but I need to try out Pure Luck!!

  2. June 11, 2010 12:00 pm

    WHEEL OF LIFE. HOLY FUCK I LOVE THAT PLACE KSJSLKJGDFG.

    But seriously. TRY THEIR STEAMED DUMPLINGS NEXT TIME YOU GO. Dude, I have DREAMS about those stupid things. They are so good.

    I am so happy you mentioned WoL!!

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