October is National Vegetarian Month, but adding meat-free options to your diet is a good idea any time of year. So why not do your body, the planet and all those adorable animals a favor by indulging in some meat-free nourishment? Even if you’re the bloodiest of carnivores, you can beat your meat habit with these delectable edibles at some of my favorite LA area restaurants. (Baby steps, right?) I promise it’ll leave a great taste in your mouth.
Blackened Cauliflower @ Scratch Bar – Beverly Hills
The menu says blackened cauliflower, but the dish that arrives on your table is anything but blackened. Rather, it’s a gorgeous explosion of color featuring cauliflower prepared four ways … pureed, sauteed and, well, who cares? It’s one of the few animal-free dishes at this very meaty dining desto and it tastes even better than it looks, which is kind of impossible because JUST LOOK AT THAT!
Edamame Dumplings @ True Food Kitchen – Newport Beach & Santa Monica
Stuffed with pureed edamame and mushrooms, topped with blanched edamame, daikon radish and drizzled with white truffle oil, this smoky-creamy-chewy starter is $9 of edible bliss. You also can’t go wrong with True Food’s herb hummus with tomato and kalamata olives. OMG to live for!!!
Brussels Sprouts @ Cleo – Hollywood
Eat your veggies. That’s exactly what you’ll want to do at Cleo. Fork over the $10 for the Brussels sprouts and get ready for a mind-blowing, tongue-exploding sensation. The shredded leaves are deliciously crispy and chewy and oily and salty with capers, parsley, almonds and red wine vinaigrette. You’ll never look at these green little nubs the same way again.
Ground “Beef” & Pickle Taco @ Mas Malo – Downtown LA & Silver Lake
You won’t even miss the real thing when you bite into the veggie ground beef, cheese & pickle hard-shell tacos at Malo (two for $6). As a Mexican American and native Angeleno who grew up in East LA-ish, I can confidently say that even with the fake meat, these tacos taste just like home.
Artichoke Oysters @ Crossroads – West Hollywood
This place is so good you will 1) swear that it’s not 100% vegan 2) swear that if vegan food always tasted this good you could easily be vegan and 3) swear that spending half your paycheck here was actually worth it. They do lots of beautifully creative meat-free things here, but you must do the artichoke “oysters” made with artichoke puree, crispy oyster mushrooms, yellow tomato bearnaise and kelp caviar. Tangy, crunchy, robust and totally worth the $10.
Zucchini Carpaccio @ Fig & Olive – Melrose Place
The vegetables are pricey at this swanky spot on Melrose Place, but in this case you get what you pay for. Served with freshly baked olive oil bread, the $14 zucchini carpaccio is a must, topped with shaved Parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts and just the faintest hint of lemon. So simple. So fresh. So ready for a second serving.
Bruschetta a Modo Mio @ L’Opera – Long Beach
If you want awesome bruschetta, this Italian restaurant in Downtown Long Beach is where to get it. Grilled ciabatta bread is topped with creamy burrata cheese, hand-ground pesto and marinated yellow & red cluster tomatoes drizzled with olive oil ($8.95). Order it and there’s a good chance you’ll be singing an aria before you even touch your main entree.
Spinach Dumplings @ Din Tai Fung – Arcadia & Glendale
You know how they say San Gabriel Valley is where to go for hardcore authentic Chinese food? Yeah, that’s true. But if you want incredibly delicious dumplings that aren’t stuffed with animal parts, you must hit up Din Tai Fung. There are lots of different dumpling options on the checklist menus, but forget the pork or shrimp. The spinach and vegetable dumplings are by far the tastiest and oh so worth the drive.