Happy Veggie screams freshness, from the smiling tomato on its sign to the paintings of green foliage that surround the restaurant's casual dining room. The chefs here specialize in Asian cuisine, just without certain ingredients. No meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or MSG finds its way into the Happy Veggie kitchen. Instead, the chefs use tofu and soy meats to put vegetarian spins on classic dishes, including what LA Weekly dubs a "pretty damn good animal-less pho."
Local vegetables are indispensable to this menu. Chefs use market-fresh produce to make salads, stir-fries, and curry-vegetable masala. They finish meals with coconut cheesecake or veggie flan, which they make with soy whipped cream and maple syrup that's as pure as the day it was wrung from a tree like a sponge.
Tip for first-time diners: don't come on Tuesdays, when the restaurant is closed.
At Sura Korean BBQ & Tofu, meat and tofu put aside their differences in the name of cooperating to create savory Korean feasts. Bulgogi—sliced beef marinated in 12 flavorful ingredients—stars in many dishes, from japche rice-paper wraps to custom-made bibimbap served in a hot stone pot. Instead of sculpting faux turkeys from vatfuls of guacamole, vegans can build feasts from meat-free dishes such as tofu soup and sushi-like kimchi kimbap. The restaurant's popular korean tacos encourage meats and greens to hang out together, housing combinations of bulgogi, pork, chicken, veggies, or tofu. Outdoor seating invites patrons to dine amid verdant plants, whereas comfy indoor booths honor nature with sunny lights and bamboo wall coverings.
Tonya Beaudet was perplexed when a strange sign appeared on the door of her favorite restaurant in 1980. Before long, she deduced that “Here today, gone to Maui” meant that its surf-crazy owner had traded California’s waves for those of Hawaii. Filled with visions of organic feasts, she scrambled to buy the shop, otherwise known as The Spot Natural Food Restaurant. House-made vegetarian fare has ruled the menu for more than 30 years, transforming Tonya into a meat-free eater and converting unabashed carnivores into legume lovers. Sautéed mushrooms and onions crown the restaurant’s veggie burger, whose blend of beans, seeds, and soy cheese the Travel Channel deemed “jam-packed with flavor.” Brown rice and whole-wheat tortillas lend wholesome goodness to hearty burritos, savory garden omelets brim with seasonal produce, and organic ales and purified water refresh palates between bites, preventing diners from plunging into the nearby ocean. To accommodate a wide range of dietary needs, the kitchen can prepare meals without wheat, dairy, or sugar. Tonya and crew’s cookbook helps diners recreate their favorite dishes at home, using healthy ingredients such as garden-grown veggies and raw agave.
Qdoba's burrito baristas handcraft a catering menu of Mexican-inspired cuisine, customizable with a panoply of fresh ingredients for a taco, nacho, or burrito bar. Qdoba's culinary crafters craft succulent fillings for burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas, including protein-packing choices, such as slow-roasted pulled pork, adobo-marinated grilled steak or chicken, and spiced shredded or ground beef, with vegetarian options also available. Taste the gooey flavor accents of the signature queso sauce, a three-cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes, and jalapeños, the pinto or black beans simmered in cumin and onion, or the creamy, hand-smashed guacamole that's ideal for filling up Queen Elizabeth's diamond-studded guacamole chalice. Tortilla chips with salsa bar and desserts complete each catered event, and customers can opt for burrito-boxed lunches and any add-ons.
For the casual observer passing Tuk Tuk, it might seem as though there has been an accident. The front of a tuk tuk—the Thai term for rickshaw—juts from the front of the building above the awning, as though its wheel has just burst through the wall. But if that observer ventured inside, they would find neither debris nor an apologetic teleporter proclaiming that his calculations were off. Instead they would see diners seated beneath colorful wall art and hanging lamps whose shades resemble curving Möbius strips, or, according to one review from Gayot, snail shells. Then, once the adrenaline faded and reality set in, the investigating observer would be smacked by what was so obvious to everyone else: the aroma of mingling spices.
A compendium of noodle dishes, wok stir-fries, curries, and house specialties, the menu prioritizes the power of complementary ingredients. According to the same Gayot review, chef Aoi Rattanamanee has a particular knack for seasoning grilled dishes: "Chicken is marinated overnight in garlic, cilantro and black pepper, fostering deep flavor." The spicy basil fried rice mixes chili and thai basil within a vegetable medley, and the Crying Tiger beef derives its zest from garlic, galangal root, and soybean sauce. Those in search of proven staples can indulge in pad thai or one of three curry variants, whose ingredients have all simmered in a creamy coconut milk.
As a dedicated vegan, the eponymous owner of Rahel Ethiopian Veggie Cuisine, Rahel Woldmedhin, foregoes traditional meat and fish dishes for completely animal-free feasts that have helped the eatery win “Best Ethnic Vegan Restaurant” in Los Angeles Magazine. Inside the spacious dining room, forks and spoons grace the tables, though they’re not necessarily the utensils diners should turn to first. Traditionally, Ethiopian feasters scoop up their food with injera bread, and it's no different at Rahel, where the menu consists mainly of vegan wot—a hearty stew and the perfect match for the soft and spongy injera. Diners can dive into 10 types of wot, chockfull of chickpeas, lentils, and potatoes, and sip on traditional drinks, such kombucha tea or 3D—a combination of suff, telba, and besso that CBS Los Angeles calls "addicting."