As far as I know, there haven’t been any comprehensive surveys of global vegetarianism and veganism. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that India is home to the largest population and percentage of vegetarians in the world, followed by Taiwan or Israel. Vegetarianism is also popular in Austria, Australia, Brazil, and Germany. The US is not an especially vegetarian country. The average American eats 120 kilograms of meat each year — as much as 40 average Bhutanese. Not coincidentally, coronary heart disease is the primary cause of death in the US. Personal health reasons aren’t the only reason people abstain from eating animals. Vegetarianism (and not driving cars) are the two biggest steps one can take to reduce climate damage (only China produces more CO2 — and they have four times the population). Other vegetarians abstain from eating animals for the sake of the animal’s health — that is to say, there’s something unhealthy about being eaten.
As of 2017, there were 18,975 dedicated vegetarian restaurants in the US. The state with the most vegetarian and vegan restaurants is, not surprisingly, California, which suggests that although America isn’t a very vegetarian country, California is a very vegetarian state and Southern California is likely the nation’s most vegetarian region. The history of vegetarianism in the Southland was really interesting for me to research. There were mystical Victorian-era fruitarian cults; grain-obsessed white supremacists; post-war Yoga-practicing proto-hippies; mock meat-loving Taiwanese immigrants; and many other colorful communities and individuals. As always, corrections and additions are heartily encouraged!
VEGETARIANISM AMONGST THE SPIRITUALISTS
In the 1870s, Los Angeles was still a small town of about 10,000 residents. It was relatively isolated. Rail from then-larger San Francisco only arrived in 1876. Los Angeles was then largely dominated by cattle ranches, vegetable farms, and citrus orchards. Nevertheless, it was already attractive to dreamers, seekers, and the unconventional and it was in that decade that occult Spiritualism reached its apex. There were several Spiritualist cults whose adherents believed that they could communicate with inhabitants of the spirit world. In cult after cult, it seemed that the spirits advocated universal suffrage, vegetarianism, and free love.
In 1879, a group of Spiritualists organized the Societas Fraterna (also spelled the Societas Fraternia). Although the world vegan wasn’t coined for another 80 years, the members of the sect abstained not just from eating meat but from eating animal products. They were also raw foodists — which led their neighbors referring to them “the Grasseaters.” The society was formed by Darlington-born English immigrants George Risdale Hinde, his brother Thomas P. Hinde, who bought a purchased a plot of land in Placentia (then still part of Los Angeles County). They commissioned Perris-based architect A. Anderson to design for them a home with a prominent tower in which corners were avoided on account of their belief that malign spirits settled in them. Their raw, vegan diet was prescribed by Louis Schlesinger, a spiritual medium who joined the society in 1878. They were later joined by Walter Thales (né Walter Lockwood) and more commonly took to referring to themselves as “Faithists.” Their holy book, communicated to them from the spirit world, was called Oaspe. Thales also founded the Vegetarian Society of Placentia.
At first, the Faithists’ neighbors seem to have viewed them with bemusement and amusement but over time their image soured. The claim was made that they’d burned a neighbor’s beekeeping hive. They also, on the advice of a spirit, refused to participate in the census. Members were buried on their property and rumors circulated that one of Hinde’s own children had died of malnourishment. In 1895, The Los Angeles Herald published an “exposé” on the group which despite its sensationalistic tone, in reality, failed to uncover any real scandals. Tragedy did come in 1899, though, when young Lillian Hindes, daughter of the cult’s founder, drowned herself in a Fullerton reservoir.
In 1885, a writer at the Los Angeles Times cautioned residents of South Pasadena to be “on her guard” against a “breed of cranks” hoping to establish a colony there to be known as “Shalam.” The cranks in question were a sect of vegetarian Faithists from New Mexico. Vegetarianism was then still closely associated with Spiritualism but, although “crank” continued to be a popular epithet, a reporter for the same newspaper reported in 1888 that vegetarianism had by then been embraced by the California mainstream and that a “Vegetarian party will probably soon appear on the scene.”
It was also in 1885 that the Daily Alta California reported on popular vegetarian brunch staple of the age — avocado toast. “Avocado pears, commonly called ‘Alligator,’ are delicious for breakfast or lunch. Quarter them, and remove the pulp with a silver knife; spread it on slices of bread, and season with salt and pepper to taste.”
FIN DE SIECLE – FIN DE VIANDE
The 1890s saw the arrival of several scientific advancements, including the discovery of x-rays, radioactivity, and global warming. There was also a census, by then, that humans had evolved to be vegetarians. Vegetarianism came to be closely associated with both sanitation and the temperance movement.
Around 1891, a German doctor named Ludwig Gossmann immigrated to Los Angeles. In 1893, he met a Parisian immigrant, Mr. H. Wallenstein, at the International Vegetarian Congress in Chicago and the two discussed organizing a vegetarian society in Los Angeles. In 1893, Gossman opened the doors of his Downtown Los Angeles home as the Los Angeles Cure Bath and Massage Institute. There, members of the public could take advantage of his vapor baths, get a massage, and eat vegetarian meals.
Here is a typical menu:
- Breakfast: oranges and bananas, gruel or cream soup, cocoa shells, bread and butter.
- Dinner: green corn soup, bread and butter, oyster plant, cream potatoes with parsley, white and green beans, farina bulbs, lettuce salad, bread and butter, rice pudding, fruit and nuts.
- Supper: cocoa, potato cakes, apple rice, whole wheat bread
Under the auspices of the Vegetarian Society of America, nine residents from Pasadena and Los Angeles met at Gossmann’s to organize the Vegetarian Society of Southern California in 1893. Then as now, there were rifts between various vegetarian factions. Fruitarian W.S. Manning, a vociferous critic of a carbohydrate-heavy diet of most vegetarians of the day, debated vegetarians at Illinois Hall. That same year, another German immigrant, one “Herr” Waethe, purchased a plot of land in Los Angeles with the intention of establishing a vegan nudist colony.
An 1895 Los Angeles Times article outlined the differences between vegetarianism, veganism, fruitarianism, and pescatarianism (although not always with those terms). The same article mentioned that a branch of Ralstonites — a white supremacist self-help group led by of Webster Edgerly — had organized a sect in Los Angeles. They followed a strict cereal-heavy vegetarian diet — but believed — or at least claimed to believe — that watermelons were poisonous to Caucasians.
By the late 1890s, there were devoted vegetarian restaurants in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco — but none in Los Angeles. In 1900, associates of John Harvey Kellogg‘s Battle Creek Sanitarium opened Los Angeles’s first dedicated vegetarian restaurant on 3rd Street. Perhaps restaurant naming conventions were different back then as it was imprecisely referred to in print as both “the Vegetarian restaurant” and “the Vegetarian café.” Kellogg’s grain-based meat substitutes — bromose, granose, nuttose, nucose, and protose were featured prominently.
A sample menu included:
- Bayo bean and tapioca soup, celery, cabbage salad, onions, nut and vegetable roast, egg macaroni, boiled potatoes with gluten sauce, lima beans and nut stew, carrots, vegetable slaw, ambrosia, bromose tablets, shaved nuttose, sliced nucose, protose.
- Boiled eggs, plain omelet, scrambled, poached, poached on toast, and poached on granose.
- Rice with raisins, granose, granola, gluten mush with milk, nut cream or dairy cream.
- Steamed figs, pear sauce, baked apples with cream, sliced bananas with cream, stewed prunes, applesauce, apples, oranges, and bananas.
- Apple charlotte, cream rice pudding.
- Cereal coffee, hot malted nuts, cold milk, hot milk, unfermented wine, glass one-half cream and one half-milk, lemonade, hot or cold, orangeade, distilled water.
- Whole-wheat bread, graham bread, Zweiback, graham sticks, whole-wheat sticks, mixed wafers, oatmeal wafers, graham wafers, granose biscuit, gluten wafers, and whole-wheat wafers.
In 1902, construction of a six-story brick block at 257 South Hill Street was first proposed to house the Medical, Missionary and Benevolent Association of California — an affiliate of the Kellogg’s Battlecreek Sanitarium — and future home of the Vegetarian Café. Over in Long Beach, Russian-born-immigrant Dr. Michael Alexander Schutz (founder of Schutz Sanitarium) placed an advertisement for vegetarian cooks in 1904.
AFTERMATH OF THE JUNGLE
In November of 1904, Dr. Gossmann opened Gossman’s Vegetarian Café at 324 West 2nd Street — although it was placed on sale the following spring. The fact that it was about a decade later a vegan restaurant suggests to me that it remained vegetarian, even if the ownership changed. In March, a vegetarian restaurant opened at 512 West 6th Street. In February 1905, the Battlecreek Sanitarium’s vegetarian restaurant relocated to a larger space on 434 South Broadway. In 1905, the Vegetarian Caféteria‘s Frank B. Long procured a piano — which was deemed newsworthy.
Upton Sinclair‘s novel, The Jungle, was published in 1906. Although Sinclair hoped to promote socialism, most readers were more affected by the descriptions of run-of-the-mill health violations, unsanitary conditions, and gruesome violence of the meatpacking industry. Sinclair noted of the reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.” In its wake, a wave of vegetarian restaurants opened and a directory of vegetarian restaurants in the US from that year listed 57. Sinclair, by the way, later lived in Pasadena and Monrovia.
Another local vegetarian society, the Vegetarian Society of Los Angeles, formed at 330 1/2 South Broadway in 1906. There were about 100 or so members, with Ralph Hoyt serving as both president and chairman. In 1907, there was purportedly a craze for watercress, and the act of eating watercress was even given an anachronistic-sounding buzzword, “cressing.”
The post-Jungle vegetarian restaurant craze died down by 1908 in part because most non-vegetarian restaurants had added vegetarian options to their omnivorous menus. There were a few dedicated vegetarian restaurants which opened in the following years, however. In 1912, a new vegetarian café opened at 338 1/2 S. Hill Street. In Long Beach, a vegetarian restaurant opened in the Fairlyand Theater Building, at 233 Eastside Seaside Boulevard in 1914. In 1917, the location of Gossman’s vegetarian restaurant became the first location of the Eutropheon, a chain of raw-food vegetarian restaurant run by a German immigrant couple, John T. Richter and his wife, Vera M. Richter.
During World War I, when food was scarce, the Interallied Council of Physiologists stated that “It is not thought desirable to fix a minimum meat ration, in view of the fact that no absolute physiological need for meat exists.” It was part of a national education campaign conducted to promote vegetarianism. After World War I ended, though, meat began to recover its footing in the American diet. Over in Wichita, Kansas, the first location of White Castle opened. Its white enamel-glazed bricks and stainless steel, replicated throughout the chain, was meant to convey a sense of bloodless, spotless cleanliness.
In Los Angeles, there was a chili craze and numerous “beaneries” opened to meet the demand for processed cow meat. It was also in the 1920s that two hamburger innovations appeared in Los Angeles. First, the chili burger was born in Lincoln Heights‘s Ptomaine Tommy’s. Then, in 1926, the cheeseburger was invented at The Rite Spot in Pasadena. At the same time, however, Eutropheon expanded into a raw food vegan chain (then marketed as “unfired food”), with three locations open in 1922. In 1924, Vera Richter published a “cook-less book.”
By then, all of downtown’s first generation vegetarian restaurants seem to have closed. In 1923, however, Dr. Guy Bogart opened a “vegetarian cafeteria” on West 4th Street near Olive Street, which he described as “a center for liberal and progressive thinkers.” Interestingly, it aimed to be “self-supporting, but not a money-making business.” In 1925, chiropractor Isadore Langsner — operator of the Paradise Health Resort (a place popular with Leftist, intellectual, nudist Jews in Ontario) — opened the Paradise Vegetarian Restaurant in the then-still-largely Jewish Eastside neighborhood Brooklyn Heights/Boyle Heights. A year later, the Hotel Cushner, managed by Mrs. Charles I. Cushner, opened a vegetarian restaurant down the block.
YOGIS & NATURE BOYS
By 1932, there was only one location of Eutropheon left but it still commanded a following of devotees nicknamed “Trophers” who numbered in the thousands, held weekly meetings, published a weekly paper — and regularly engaged in hiking, swimming, and sunbathing.
In 1942, Colesano-born Los Angeles chiropractor, naturopath, and vegan (except for honey) named Pietro Rotondi wrote Vegetarian Cookery. He also formed the Vegetarian Society of Los Angeles — apparently unaware that there’d earlier been an organization of the same name. The word “vegan” was coined in 1944. In 1948, Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz founded the first California vegan society in the San Luis Obispo County town of Oceano. The prediction of a vegetarian political party sort of came true when Dr. John Maxwell, of Chicago wrote-himself in for president in 1948 and listed his part as “Vegetarian.”
In the 1940s, the Richters were still operating a small, single location of Eutropheon on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The Trophers seem to have faded into obscurity but the restaurant still had a following, this time around known as “Nature Boys.” The Nature Boys were long-haired, tanned, vegans who wore robes and sandals — and gave themselves names like Gypsy Boots and Gypsy Gene. One of the most interesting of the Nature Boys was eden ahbez.
Born George Alexander Aberle in 1908 in Brooklyn, ahbez had played piano and worked as a bandleader in Kansas City’s famed jazz scene of the 1930s. In 1941, he relocated to Los Angeles and was hired to play piano at the Eutropheon. He slept outside, under the first “L” in the Hollywood sign, and married a woman named Annette “Anna” Jacobson. She gave birth to a son, Tatha Om “Zoma” ahbez. In 1947, one of eden ahbez’s compositions, “Nature Boy,” was recorded by Nat “King” Cole, and it topped the charts for eight weeks in 1948. In 1959, he began recording exotica and released his sole album, Eden’s Island, in 1960. Eden outlived his fame and family by many years. Anna died of leukemia in 1963 and Zoma drowned in 1971. Eden died in 1995 from injuries sustained after being hit by a car in Palm Springs.
The 1950s seem to have been a mostly quiet decade on the local vegetarian front. In 1950, vegetarians Alan and Helen Hooker opened a vegetarian guest house, the Ranch House, in Meiners Oaks — although in order to stay in business they reluctantly added meat to the menu in 1958 and it remains open (and serving both meat and vegetarian dishes) today. Seventh-day Adventist Dr. George A. Johnstone founded a vegetarian lunch counter and market in 1950, Foods For Life, on South Verdugo Road in Glendale. It relocated to East Broadway around 1961. It was open as late as 1988. There weren’t many high profile vegetarians in the decade of backyard grill-outs, although Joplin, Missouri born actor (and later member of the Self-Realization Fellowship) Dennis Weaver became vegetarian in 1958.
THE AGE OF ALFALFA SPROUTS
The 1960s were famous for the rise of the counterculture and subsequent cultural upheaval. In 1962, Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring was released, detailing the dangers of pesticides and launching the organic food movement into overdrive. Around the same time, Loretta Patton Parker opened an organic, health-food store, Patton’s, on Melrose Avenue. Inside was a vegetarian restaurant called The Nucleus. A vegetarian restaurant called Sabin’s was in operation on La Brea Avenue by 1964. The word “hippie” entered the lexicon in 1965 — and the Paramahansa Yogananda‘s Self-Realization Cafe was by then serving vegetarian Indian food to the public. By 1967 there was also the Pantry, on somewhere on Vermont Avenue “near Los Feliz.” In 1967, chef Rudi Marshall, an alumnus of the organic (but not vegetarian) restaurant, Aware Inn, opened Nucleus Nuance on Melrose which over time expanded, changed hands, and transformed into a jazz club that closed in 1993.
One of the most famous vegetarian restaurants of the era was H.E.L.P, run by the husband and wife team of Warren Stagg and Carolyn Jo. It opened in 1968 and was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 1973 it was featured in a scene in the film Blume In Love (with Stagg in a cameo). In addition to the restaurant, there was a “metaphysical bookstore,” organic market, whole grain bakery, and “vegeburgers” sold as such along with more meat analogs than were common at most vegetarian restaurants of the era. It may’ve been open as late as 1977 and later became the Golden Temple Conscious Cookery, another long-lived vegetarian restaurant.
Another famous vegetarian restaurant, with an infamous owner, was the Source, which opened in 1969. It was owned by Jim Baker, who’d opened the non-vegetarian health food restaurant Aware Inn in 1959. Baker then claimed that he’d decided to go vegetarian after reading Edmond Bordeaux Szekely‘s The Essene Gospel of Peace in the mountains above Calabasas. The restaurant appeared in a scene of 1970’s Alex in Wonderland. In 1973, he founded the psychedelic rock band Ya Ho Wha 13 and Sky Sunlight Saxon (né Richard Elvern Marsh) of the Seeds joined the group and became vegetarian.
In 1974, Yod sold the Source and moved with his family to Hawaii, where, the following year, he died after attempting to hand glide off a cliff. After his death, Saxon and other members recorded three more albums of music. Saxon died on 25 June 2009 — coincidentally the same day as fellow vegetarians Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett. The Source soldiered on for several more years. Woody Allen‘s character orders “alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast” in 1977’s Annie Hall and in 1980, meat was added to the menu. It remained open at least until 1989.
COMPASSION AND CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE ME DECADE
The 1970s brought increased environmental awareness and concerns about overpopulation. Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, released in 1971, was a best-seller. The 1970s also introduced the Vegetarian Epicure cookbook (1972), the Vegetarian Times (1974), Morningstar Farms (1975), and Boca Foods Company (1979). American consumption of beef also peaked in the middle of the decade and has declined ever since. Although not in Southern California, it’s probably worth mentioning that Greens Restaurant opened in San Francisco — widely regarded as the best vegetarian restaurant on earth.
- Around 1971, Barry and Mark Lebovitz ran Earth Food Inn, which although billed as an organic vegetarian restaurant which served sandwiches, salads, and “cosmic fluids”; also served a single non-vegetarian item — shrimp brochette.
- From at least 1971 until at least 1981, Joseph Sasson ran Two Worlds, a kosher, gourmet, vegetarian restaurant which served dishes of the East and West (the “two worlds,” one supposes).
- Kernal Kohal opened The Aquarian in Westlake around 1971 and had his son, Lashman, manage it.
- Julie and Frank Mackey‘s The Good Life served organic sandwiches, juices, and shakes until at least 1976.
- Silver Lake‘s Zap! was originally owned by ex-Marine/ex-Roosevelt High math teacher Mike Filardo, who split in 1971 at which point employee Marv Shilien possibly took over. As with many vegetarian restaurants of the era, the space also included a bookstore and organic groceries.
- Organic-Ville Vegetarian Restaurant was open in 1972 and remained open at least as late as 1984. In addition to the restaurant, it included a bookstore.
- Comeback Inn opened in 1973 and featured live fusion jazz and, unlike many vegetarian restaurants of the era, beer and wine. It was open until at least 1989.
- Our Contribution opened around 1973 and after a few years, the owners sold the restaurant, under whom it closed. It re-opened “under old management” in 1980, with help from M*A*S*H‘s Mike Farrell and Jamie Alperin, although they added one non-vegetarian option, a tuna fish sandwich, to the menu. It remained open at least until 1981.
- Brenda D. Roberts‘s Natural Fudge Vegetarian Cafe was open from at least 1976 until 1995, a year after Roberts removed the dining aspect of the establishment and converted it into a full-time club.
- Marathon Meatless Messhall was in operation in Venice from at least 1978 until at least 1980.
- From at least 1978 until at least 1995, Loma Linda was home to “the Inland Empire’s largest all vegetarian buffet restaurant, The Patio Pantry.
- At least as early as 1979, the Hare Krishnas operated a location of their Govinda’s chain in downtown Laguna Beach which that year implicated in a hashish oil smuggling ring. The restaurant remained open at least until 1990.
- The Golden Temple Conscious Cookery opened in the space formerly occupied by H.E.L.P., around 1979. It was part of a vegetarian chain owned by Sikh Pharma. The restaurant’s chef, Mani Singh, used to accompany Michael Jackson on tour. It closed sometime in the 1990s.
- Cornucopia was located in Venice from at least 1979 until at least 1992. It featured Spanish guitar on Fridays and other live music on Thursdays.
MOCK MEATS ISN’T MURDER
The 1980s introduced People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (1980 – which opened a branch in Los Angeles in 2006), Quorn (1985), and Gardenburger (1985). It was also apparently the decade in which Los Angeles vegetarians finally learned there were other non-Indian Asian cuisines which lend themselves to vegetarianism, namely Chinese cuisine, when Julie Hau opened a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park — the same year Lily Lee Chen was elected the city’s mayor, and around the time that city became the first in the continental US with an Asian-American majority. Bodhi Vegetarian Supply Inc 菩提素食 vegetarian wholesale business was founded in 1988.
- Madhu’s Dasaprakash apparently began as a hotel and restaurant chain in India. Around 1980 or so, Madhu Das moved from Mangalore to Los Angeles and opened a location on La Cienega. Around 1989, the restaurant moved to Cerritos. A third local location opened in Sawtelle in 1997. Both locations closed by 2001 when the owner relocated to the Bay Area and opened a Dasaprakash in Santa Clara. It closed in 2005 when the owner retired.
- Meyera was a French-Mediterranean vegetarian restaurant open in Santa Monica from roughly 1980 – 1986. It was named after its owner and Brenda Harney served as chef.
- A location of the Hare Krishnas’ Govinda’s chain was in operation in Palms from at least 1981 till at least 1990.
- The Butter Thief was open in Venice in 1981.
- Devi’s was an Indian restaurant open in Redondo Beach in 1982. Originally vegetarian, meat was added to the menu in the first year.
- In 1983, the Hare Krishnas operated a Govinda’s in Fullerton.
- In 1983, Vegi Food, the first Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Southern California opened. It served Cantonese cuisine, was owned by Julie Hau, and shortly after opening changed its name to Fragrant Vegetable. The menu included items like egg rolls, tai chi soup, and Buddha’s cushion — and also those based around mock meats such as sweet and sour pork ribs, and shrimp toast. Hau opened a second location in Brentwood around 1987. Both, however, were closed by 1991.
- Orean Thomas, a landscape architect by trade, opened the region’s “first vegetarian fast food” restaurant, Orean, the Health Express, in 1984. For many years it remained in its original Hollywood location before moving to Pasadena sometimes after 1991. The second location remains open.
- There was apparently a vegetarian Moroccan restaurant called Marrakesh.
- In 1985, a vegetarian restaurant called Vyasa moved from its original location on Wilshire Boulevard to a second location on the corner of Wilshire and Bedford Drive.
- Fung Wong, which employed Kan Kwong Lim, was open in Beverly Grove in 1986 but was closed by 1989.
- In 1986, Westlake Village was home to Dharma Lunch Counter, co-owned by Purushattama Hickson.
- Julie Hau opened a second location of Fragrant Vegetable in Brentwood around 1987. However, by 1991, both locations were closed.
- Randy Ellis‘s Kingsley Garden served vegetarian Indian and Mexican cuisine. It was open as at least as early as 1987 and open at least as late as 1991.
- Paru’s opened a second location, in Pico-Robertson, in 1988. It doesn’t seem to have remained open long, though.
- The Greenery Natural Kitchen was in operation by 1989. Sometime after 1995, it moved to its current location in Orange.
The 1990s brought a new Los Angeles vegetarian society, the Los Angeles Vegetarian Association (active in 1990), Dr. Praeger’s (1994), and the website Happy Cow (1999). It was in the 1990s that Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese — three countries with strong vegetarian traditions and wholly unafraid of gluten-derived mock meats — joined the vegetarian fray. Not coincidentally, perhaps, it was in 1998 that mock-meat Vege USA, LLC formed in Monrovia, to distribute the many mock-meats and vegetarian products — many originating in Asia’s second most vegetarian country, Taiwan.
- In 1990, Dien Pham opened the region’s first Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants, Viên Hướng, in Santa Ana and Westminster. The chef was Oanh Huynh. The second location was open at least until 2008.
- In 1991, there was a restaurant called Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant in Anaheim. There was a second location in San Gabriel from roughly 2008 – 2017.
- In 1991, there was a restaurant called The Eight Immortals of Tao owned by Pham Bang. Cook Duong Pham served up vegetarian Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese food.
- Chinese vegetarian restaurant Tin In was open in Alhambra from about 1991 until its closure in 2001.
- The North Indian vegetarian Chameli opened in Rosemead around 1991. It was easily one of the top-rated Indian restaurants in Southern California. It closed in 2001, supposedly for a remodeling, but never reopened.
- From at least 1991 until perhaps as late as 2010, Vegetarian Delight 菜根香素食 was located inside San Gabriel Square and served vegetarian Chinese and Taiwanese food.
- From at least 1992 until 2007 or so, Vietnamese owners operated the vegetarian Chinese/Vegetarian restaurant, Bodhi Garden 菩提園素菜館, at the base of Angeleno Heights.
- In 1992, there was a vegetarian restaurant in Santa Barbara known as Fennel.
- In 1992, there was also a restaurant called MT Plate Gourmet Bistro in Redondo Beach. After a massive rent hike, co-owner Jane Elliot Smith said that the restaurant was taking over the space previously occupied by Stoney’s in Brentwood, although it’s not clear whether or not that happened.
- Around 1994, Granada Hills became home to the long-lived vegetarian Chinese Vegetable Delight 天香素菜館. It closed in 2016 when the owners retired.
- Last Mango opened in Newport Beach in 1994. The owner and chef was Lloyd Itano and Wendie Huffman served as executive chef. It was open at least until 1995.
- Roger H. Wu opened Owlet Cafe 貓頭鷹素食簡餐咖啡屋 in Temple City in 1996. It’s not known when it closed.
- In 1996 and 1997 (and perhaps longer), Samata Vegetarian Cuisine of India was in operation in Studio City.
- Mercy Vegetarian Restaurant 慈心素食館 opened in Rosemead in 1995. It closed in 1999.
THE 21ST CENTURY
The 21st century introduced several new vegetarian brands, including Garden Protein International (later Yves, 2003) and Beyond Meat, which was founded in Los Angeles in 2009. There was a whole wave of vegan Thai places, many of which served Thai food along the sorts of food associated with American greasy spoons — and several of which were operated by members of the same Thai family. Sadly, for fans, most have since closed. In 2013, the Asian vegetarian-oriented Green Menu opened its office in Alhambra.
- Fine Garden Vegetarian/Veg Table 今题北美 opened in 2000 but in 2007 changed its name to Fine Garden Vegetarian. It seems to have closed in September 2018.
- In 2000, chef François R. Galipeau operated The Naked Garden in Hermosa Beach.
- Tung Mi Yu opened Veg Table Restaurant 巧巧園素食 in San Gabriel in 2000. It’s not clear when it closed.
- Ku Chi Chou‘s Veggie Kitchen 泓翔素食 opened in Tustin in 2000. It closed in 2002.
- From 2000 until at least 2007, Woodlands served the Indian cuisine of Karnataka in Little India. At some point, meat was added to the menu. After a change in management, around 2013, things seem to have gone downhill and it closed around 2015. However, in 2006, another South Indian place called Woodlands opened in Chatsworth which is doing quite well and is, I assume, connected in some way to the first.
- In 2001, a woman named candy operated a restaurant known as Tea Shaker Vegetarian Food 有機素食餐龐 in San Gabriel. By 2004, it had moved to El Monte, where it closed in 2009. The owner continued to cook and cater but Tea Shaker has remained closed.
- Szechuan Village Restaurant 小而大川菜‧素食 seems to have been in operation in Buena Park from at least as early as 2001 until at least 2008.
- Vegan Express served Thai and American food from roughly 2001 – 2013. The owner’s name was Pia, and she is the mother of Vegan Glory-owner, Buk Lertvichuhath. She sold the restaurant in 2013 to Thanakan Towirakit and it became Veggie House.
- Vegetarian Wok 妙香林素菜館 was open in San Gabriel in 2003 and closed in 2011.
- From at least 2003 until approximately 2013, House of Vege 綠園素菜館 was Lomita‘s only vegetarian restaurant.
- Vegetarian Wok 妙香林素菜館 opened in San Gabriel in 2003. Around 2006, the chef transferred to Fine Garden Vegetarian Cuisine. Vegetarian Wok closed in 2011.
- There are mentions of Fountain Valley’s Alicen Tao Restaurant in a directory from 2004.
- Angel’s Natural Food Corp 天然素食點心世界 opened at some point before 2004 and moved to Rowland Heights at some point before 2013. It apparently closed permanently some point after that.
- A 2004 directory shows a restaurant with the straightforward name of Vegetarian Restaurant 素品香 as having been located at 317 East Valley Boulevard, San Gabriel.
- Lapis Lazuli Light 阿里山素食 appears in a few directories in between 2004 and 2007 — listed at the same address as Alicen Tao Restaurant.
- In 2004, New Natural Food Co. 新天然素食食品廠 was in operation in El Monte.
- Papillon, in El Segundo, was surely the region’s first vegetarian Filipino (more specifically, vegetarian Chinoy) restaurant. It was in business from at least 2004 until around 2010, when it closed.
- Dates of operation for China Vegetarian Cafe 中華素食 in Arcadia are hard to substantiate — but it may’ve been open as early as 2004 and as late as 2017.
- A 2004 directory lists Yuen Shian Vegetarian Food 元香素食 in operation in La Puente.
- A 2004 directory lists Vegetable Delight Restaurant 天香素菜館 as then in operation in Orange.
- A 2004 directory lists a place called Veggie World Vegetarian Restaurant (越南素食) operating in Rosemead.
- Fu Hwa Noodle House 福華園 was listed in a directory of vegetarian Chinese restaurants in 2004 but closed and is currently home to Happy Family Deli — a non-vegetarian Chinese restaurant apparently unconnected to the Happy Family chain.
- Green House Vegetarian Restaurant 素園餐廳 is listed in a directory of several vegetarian restaurants from 2004 – 2008 although at least some subsequent listings appear to be reprints and it’s possible the restaurant was by then closed.
- A 2004 directory shows the vegetarian Bamboo Garden 紫竹林素食館 having then been in Rowland Heights.
- A 2004 directory lists Szechwan Vegetable Restaurant 四川素菜館 as being located in Temple City.
- Veggie Bistro 素食館 opened in Whittier sometime before 2004 and closed some time after 2009.
- Vegetarian Wok Chinese Restaurant 妙香林素菜館 was in operation in Alhambra from at least as early as 2004 until at least as late as 2009.
- Fatty’s (or Fatty’s & Co.) was a vegan restaurant in Eagle Rock that was open from 2005-2014. It was located in a former automobile maintenance shop, designed in the Art Deco style.
- Around 2005, Tirupathi Bhimas was serving South Asian food in Little India. Around 2013, it seems to have moved downstairs and re-opened as “New Bhimas.”
- Euphoria Loves Rawvolution Raw was a vegan restaurant open from roughly 2006-2016. The location is now home to another vegearian restaurant, Samosa House.
- From roughly 2006 until 2016, there was New Happy Family Restaurant in Rosemead.
- Toon opened Thai-American California Vegan opened at some point before 2006, I believe. It closed in 2013. A second location operated in Sawtelle from at least 2006 until early 2011.
- Vege House Restaurant 藍天素食/Wang’s Family Restaurant was in operation in Alhambra from at least as early as 2006. It closed around 2010.
- In 2007, there were Veggie & Tea House 健康素食 locations in San Dimas and La Verne. A Pasadena location opened around 2009. The San Dimas location seems to have closed around 2010, by which time there was also a location in Irvine. The La Verne location may’ve lasted until 2012. The Pasadena location remained open until 2018.
- Seed was opened by chef Eric Lechasseur and his wife Sanae Suzuki in 2008. It served veggie burgers, tacos, sweets, and juices but closed in 2016.
- Apparently, Âu Lạc Pure Vegetarian was unrelated to Mai Nguyen’s Âu Lạcrestaurants. It was open from 2009-2011, after which it moved and reopened as Thien Dang Vegetarian in Garden Grove.
- In 2010, DJ/club promoter (e.g. Radio at Star Shoes) Stephen Hauptfuhr opened the raw/vegan Mooi in Echo Park’s historic Jensens’s Recreation Center. Its stay was short, however, and it closed in 2011, only to be replaced by the vegan restaurant Sage and the vegan ice cream parlor, KindKreme.
- Daryoush Danesh and chef Phillip Frankland Lee‘s The Gadarene Swine operated in Studio City from 2014-2016 and closed over differences between the business partners.
- The Springs was a vegan café and “wellness sanctuary” which was open in the Arts District from 2014-2017. Chef Jasmine Shimoda went on to open Jewel in Virgil Village.
- Cruciferous was a high-end vegetarian restaurant opened in 2017, the product of a partnership between the folks behind Doomie’s Home Cookin’ and S+M Vegan. It closed in 2018.
- Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant – When Diane Dang relocated her restaurant, Brodard, to a larger location in early 2018, she opened the vegetarian Lotus Restaurant in its former location. Profits from the restaurant go to the Vietnamese United Buddhist Foundation and it’s managed by a nun, Thich Dieu Tanh. It seems to have closed in August 2018.
CONTEMPORARY VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN RESTAURANTS
- An Lac Hanh 🇻🇳 (South El Monte) An Lac Hanh has been open since 2014.
- Annapurna 🇮🇳 (Palms) A south Indian restaurant which has been around at least since 2006. In 2016, Annapurna Grill opened in Pasadena — which isn’t vegetarian but does have vegetarian dishes.
- Araya’s Vegetarian Place 🇹🇭 (Beverly Grove) A small vegan chain, Araya’s launched in the Northwest in 1987. The Los Angeles location opened in 2014.
- Âu Lạc 🇻🇳 (Fountain Valley and Bunker Hill) Opened by Mai Nguyen in 1997. In 2015, Mai’s daughter Linh Nguyen opened the second location in Los Angeles.
- Azla 🇪🇹 (South Central) Chef Azla and her daughter Nesanet Abegaze opened the vegan Azla in 2013.
- Bean Sprouts 🇹🇼 (Arcadia) Li Hua Chen opened Bean Sprouts in 2004.
- Beverly Hills Juice 🇺🇸 (Beverly Grove) David Otto opened the first Beverly Hills Juice Club in West Hollywood in 1975. In 1979, it moved to its current location in Beverly Grove. The name was later shortened sometime after 2015 to Beverly Hills Juice.
- Bồ Đề Tịnh Tâm Chay 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Quang Ngoc and her daughter Sammy Tran run Bồ Đề Tịnh Tâm Chay, which opened in 2009.
- Bodhi Tree Cafe 🇻🇳 (Huntington Beach) Huong Pham opened Bodhi Tree around 2005.
- Bulan 🇹🇭 (Silver Lake) In 2006, three women — Nat Runghamut, Annie, and Gun — opened Busaba with two female chefs — Piya and Piying — in the Fairfax District. They changed the name to Bulan in 2007. A second location opened in Silver Lake in 2008. The first location closed in 2016 but the second remains open.
- by CHLOE. Silver Lake 🇺🇸 (Silver Lake) In 2015, Samantha Wasser opened the first by CHLOE. in Manhattan. The year before she opened Horchata de Nueva York. She opened the second of what’s now an eight-location chain in Silver Lake.
- Café Gratitude 🇺🇸 (Arts District, Beverly Hills, Larchmont, and Venice) Terces (“Secret” backwards) and Matthew Engelhart opened the first Café Gratitude in San Francisco in 2004. Over time, it grew into a small chain of vegan cafés. In 2011, they were sued by a group their Bay Area employees and closed those stores. Today all remaining locations are in Southern California with the exception of one, in Kansas City, Missouri. Chef Dreux Ellis oversees the menu which remains vegan, even after the owners have both begun eating meat.
- Chandni 🇮🇳 (Santa Monica) The first location of Pradeed Kumar‘s Punjab vegetarian restaurant closed in 2001. The current location has been open since about then.
- Covina Tasty 風味冰淇淋素漢堡店 🇺🇸 (Covina) The Tastee-Freez soft serve chain launched in Newport Beach in 1950. In 1960, a location opened in Covina. Then, somewhat bizarrely, the then-owner transformed the Covina location into the vegetarian restaurant, Covina Tasty 風味冰淇淋素漢堡店.
- Cruzer Pizza (Los Feliz) 🇺🇸 Although owner Sami Chaya is vegan, Los Angeles’s only vegan pizzeria did not open, in 2014, as such. Quickly, however, the vegan options proved the most popular and it converted.
- Doomie’s Home Cookin’ 🇺🇸 (Central Hollywood, Culver City). “DJ Doomie” opened the first location of Doomie’s Home Cookin’ in Chinatown in 2008. In 2011, it closed — but in 2010, a second location had opened in Hollywood. An international location opened in Toronto in 2016. Plans to expand to Culver City and City Terrace have yet to come to fruition and a joint venture between Doomie’s and S+M Vegan called Cruciferous opened in 2017 and closed the following year.
- Elf Café (Echo Park) Scott Zwiezen and Astara Calas opened the vegetarian Mediterranean Elf Café in 2006. Chef Dave Martinez came on board in 2013.
- Equelecuá Cuban Café 🇨🇺 (Inglewood) Caro Lafaurie, vegetarian since the age of thirteen, opened what’s likely the nation’s first and only vegetarian Cuban restaurant in 2015. The head chef is Julito Ortega.
- Flore (Silver Lake) Owner and chef Miranda Megill opened Flore in Silver Lake in 2007.
- Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple 佛光山西來寺 🇹🇼 (Hacienda Heights) The largest Buddhist temple in the Americas opened in Hacienda Heights in 1988. It serves Buddhist vegetarian food, which means not only no meat but no onions, garlic, or coriander. Fo Guang Shan was founded in Taiwan in 1967 by Grand Master Hsing Yun.
- Follow Your Heart 🇺🇸 (Canoga Park) Michael Besancon, Spencer Windbiel, Bob Goldberg, and Paul Lewin opened Follow Your Heart in 1970 and it still retains the vibe of that era’s vegetarian restaurants/health food markets. Besancon and Windbiel left in 1985. In 1988, Goldberg and Lewin started Earth Island, which manufactures Vegenaise and Vegan Gourmet cheese alternatives.
- Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food 新澄慧素食 🇹🇼 (Rowland Heights) Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food 新澄慧素食 opened in 1993.
- Golden Mean Café (Santa Monica) 🇺🇸 Golden Mean Café was opened in 2009 by musician/entrepreneur/writer/”long time practitioner of yoga and mediation [sic?],” Aaron Glassman.
- Govinda’s 🇮🇳 (Palms) Govinda’s is the name of one of the Hare Krishnas’ various restaurants. The Hare Krishna faith (officially the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)), was founded in 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The first restaurant operating as Govinda’s was doing so at least as early as 1979.
- Gracias Madre 🇲🇽 (West Hollywood) Gracias Madre is an organic, vegan Mexican restaurant. The menu is overseen by chef Chandra Gilbert. The menu was designed by Gilbert and Café Gratitude’s Matthew and Terces Engelhart. The first location opened in San Francisco in 2009. The West Hollywood location opened in 2014.
- Green Corner Café 🇺🇸 (Glendale) Anahit Kirakosian opened Green Corner Café at least as early as 2008.
- Green Earth Vegan (Pasadena) Green Earth Vegan serves vegetarian American, Chinese, Italian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine. It was opened in 2010 by husband and wife team, Thuong and Thu.
- Greenery Natural Kitchen (Orange) Cathy Byeong-Sug Lee opened Greenery Natural Kitchen as Cathy’s Natural Kitchen in 1983. The name changed sometime after 1996.
- Green Leaves Vegan 🇹🇭(Los Feliz) Satit Angsuthumkiti opened Los Feliz’s Green Leaves Vegan opened around 2006. In 2009, a second location opened in West Hollywood which, however, closed in 2011. Since 2012, it has employed Rawiphon Angsuthamkiti as its chef.
- Happy Family Restaurant 🇨🇳 (Monterey Park, Rowland Heights, Whittier) Untangling and making sense of the saga of “Happy Family” is bound to make one frustrated and perhaps even unhappy. Some of these details may, therefore, be incorrect. Chi Kam Cheong filed articles of incorporation for Happy Family Restaurant Inc in Monterey Park in 1986. In 1991 (or 1994), however, Eddie Chu Rowland Heights. In 1998, Anna Chen opened Happy Family Restaurant in Montebello. It may’ve been affiliated with the vegetarian chain at some point but has for many years not been vegetarian. From at least 2004-2005, Eric Liu and Xin Ge owned Happy Family III was located at 608 N. Atlantic, in a building that was demolished to make way for a new mall, Atlantic Times Square. Happy Family III then relocated down the street, to Atlantic Place Shopping Center. When Atlantic Times Square opened, in 2010, Happy Family III moved in… although in 2018 there was a banner noting a name change to Golden Sunshine House. There was another Happy Family Restaurant, owned by David Chinang, in Temple City at some point. Around 2004, Nancy Ngo‘s New Happy Family 新欣園 opened in Rosemead. Whether or not it was affiliated with the vegetarian chain, I cannot say — although it was itself vegetarian. At least as early as 2005, Tina L. Wang and Scott Huang were operating the Happy Family Restaurant in Whittier. In 2008, another location, managed by Kevin Mo, opened in San Bernardino. From 2010-2013, there was yet another location located in Costa Mesa. In 2011, Diane Lee opened Happy Family Chinese Restaurant in Koreatown which was definitely not affiliated with the chain, as it was neither vegetarian and, despite its name, Korean-Chinese. It closed in 2013.
- Happy Veggie 🇻🇳 (Redondo Beach) opened at least as early as 2007. The original owners sold the business to an employee around 2015.
- Healthy Junk 🇺🇸 (Anaheim) This vegan fast food restaurant opened around 2013.
- Hoa Nguyên Vegetarian Kitchen 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Hoa Nguyên is restaurateur Duy Anh Ton‘s Hue Vegetarian restaurant. (Quan Hy and Quan Hop, which served Central and Northern Vietnamese cuisine, respectively, aren’t strictly vegetarian).
- Hoa Sen 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Hoa Sen opened in 2009.
- India Sweets & Spices 🇮🇳 (Atwater Village, Canoga Park, Little Ethiopia, Northridge, Palms) Kumar Jawa opened the first location of India Sweets & Spices, a chain of Indian markets and cafeterias, in 1984, in the neighborhood of Palms. Now there are numerous locations in Southern California and elsewhere.
- Jewel 🇺🇸 (Silver Lake) In 2018, Chef Jasmine Shimoda, formerly of the Springs, opened the vegan restaurant Jewel in Silver Lake with her partner, Sharky Shimoda. Coly Den Haan, formerly of Hot Hot Food, provided additional backing.
- Juicy Ladies (Pacific Palisades, Woodland Hills) Juicy ladies is an organic juice bar and café with vegan, vegetarian and raw options. The first location was opened by owners Magal Nagar and Kinzie Oppenheim in Woodland Hills in 2009.
- Leonor’s Restaurant 🇲🇽 (North Hollywood, Studio City) Leonor opened her first Mexican vegetarian restaurant in Studio City in 1988. She later opened a second in North Hollywood, which she later sold to a former employee, Jose Lopes.
- Little Pine (Silver Lake) Musician Moby (né Richard Melville Hall) opened the organic, vegan Little Pine in Silver Lake in November 2015. The dinner menu is Mediterranean-influenced. Notably, all profits are donated to animal welfare organizations. Anne Thornton collaborated on the original menu but by the time the restaurant opened, the kitchen was helmed by Kristyne Starling. Less than three months later she was gone but things seem to have settled down with chef Laura Louise Oates and pastry chef Amy Noonan.
- Lò Bánh Cuốn Tàn Tàn Tofu Co. 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Lò Bánh Cuốn Tàn Tàn Tofu Co. — or simply Tàn Tàn Tofu — is a cash-only tofu and soy milk store that’s been around since at least 2007.
- Localita & the Badasserie (The Fashion District) Localita & the Badasserie opened in 2012 as a vegan take-out sibling to the non-vegetarian Locali Healthy Convenience store in Los Feliz (now a small chain).
- Lotus Vegan 🇹🇭 (North Hollywood) Around 2008, Lotus Vegan took over the space previously occupied by the non-vegetarian Little Chili Thai Cuisine.
- Loving Hut (Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Orange, Upland) Loving Hut is a chain of vegetarian restaurants launched by Supreme Master Ching Hai, the Âu Lạc-born leader of the Ching Hai World Society (清海世界會).
- Meiji Tofu 🇯🇵 (Gardena) A tofu, soy milk, and okara shop owned by Koki Sato. It was established in 1999.
- Merit Veggie Place 美德素齋 🇹🇼(El Monte) A Buddhist vegetarian restaurant that opened in 2013.
- Mr. Wisdom Specialty Health Food Store (Hyde Park) Since at least 1988, Mr. Wisdom — a Jamaican-born Brahman priest with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — has served organic vegan food. Barley and wheatgrass for drinks are grown on site. It’s currently closed but scheduled to re-open in December 2018.
- Mother’s Market & Kitchen (numerous local locations) Bruce Macgurn opened the first location of Mother’s Market & Kitchen opened in Costa Mesa in 1978. The Huntington Beach location opened in 1984. Today there are seven.
- My Vegan 🇹🇭 (Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Sunset Junctions) Teddy opened My Vegan in Pasadena in 2009. The Sunset Junctions location is known as My Vegan Gold.
- Namaste Spiceland 🇮🇳 (Thousand Oaks, Pasadena) The first Namaste Spiceland seems to have opened in Thousand Oaks around 2016. The Pasadena location opened in 2017.
- Native Foods Café 🇺🇸 (Palm Springs, Westwood, Costa Mesa) Tanya Petrovna opened the first Native Foods Café in Palm Springs in 1994. In 2009, Petrovna sold majority stake in the chain to Andrea McGinty and Daniel Dolan. There are currently locations in California, Colorado, Illinois, and Oregon.
- New Bhimas 🇮🇳 (Little India) Around 2005, Tirupathi Bhimas was serving South Asian food in Little India. Around 2013, it seems to have moved downstairs and re-opened as “New Bhimas.”
- New Dehli Palace 🇮🇳 (Pasadena) New Dehli Palace has been open since at least 2005, I believe.
- Oh Happy Days (Altadena) John Hopkins opened Oh Happy Days Natural Food Grocery and Cafe in 1977.
- One Veg World 🇻🇳 (Duarte, Pasadena, West Covina) Supreme Master Ching Hai (the woman behind the vegan Loving Hut chain) is it seems is also behind One Veg World.
- Orean, the Health Express 🇺🇸 (Pasadena) Orean Thomas’s Pasadena location opened sometime after 1991.
- Organix (Eagle Rock) Organix is a vegetarian market and vegan deli which serves burgers, burritos, and sandwiches. It was founded by Andrew Perez in 2012.
- Paru’s 🇮🇳 (Little Armenia) The first location of South Indian vegetarian staple, Paru’s, opened in Washington, DC in 1975. Kannan and his family moved to Los Angeles and opened the current location in March 1979. In 1988, they opened a second location in Pico-Robertson, which has long since closed.
- Quán Chay Long Hoa 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Quán Chay Long Hoa opened around 2013. It’s currently closed and scheduled to reopen in April 2019. According to other sources, it moved. Owners Andy and Liêu Tú “Ann” Anh recently opened Sun Vegan.
- Rahel 🇪🇹 (Little Ethiopia) Chef Rahel Woldmedhin opened the popular Little Ethiopia staple, Messob, in 1985. She left in 2000 to open the first vegan Ethiopian restaurant.
- Ramen Hood 🇯🇵 (Historic Core) Ramen Hood was opened by Ilan Hall in 2015. The head chef is Indian-Korean Rahul Khopkar.
- Real Food Daily (Pasadena, West Hollywood, Westchester) The first Real Food Daily, an organic vegetarian chain, opened in 1993. It was started by executive chef Ann Gentry in 1988, however (when she was the personal chef of Danny Devito) as a personal delivery service. The original Santa Monica location closed in 2016. There are currently three other locations, though.
- Sage (Echo Park, Culver City, Pasadena) In 2017, Sage opened a vegan brewery, also in Echo Park. In 2010, Mollie Engelhart opened KindKreme in Studio City. After opening another KindKreme in Pasadena, Engelhart opened Sage in Echo Park in 2011. Her husband, Elias Sosa, is head chef.
- Samosa House 🇮🇳 (Culver City, El Segundo, Santa Monica) Samosa House’s roots were in Bharat Bazaar, an Indian market that opened on Washington Boulevard in 1979. In 2006, Vibha Bhojak took over the market from her aunt and renamed it Samosa House. At its peak, there were five locations, although the Silver Lake outpost closed in 2018.
- Shojin🇯🇵 (Culver City, Little Tokyo) Chef-owner Tsuguhiro Morishima opened the vegan Japanese restaurant, Shojin, named after the Buddhist shōjin ryōri diet, around 2008. A second location opened in Culver City in 2013.
- The Spot (Hermosa Beach) Kathy Lynn opened The Spot in Hermosa Beach in 1977. It was purchased by chefs Tonya and Maurice Beaudet in 1980.
- The Stand Natural Foods (Laguna Beach) The Stand was founded in 1975, when founder (and vegan) Edward Brancard bought The Hav’A Stand from Larry and Jan Dunn — creators of Have’A Chips. Former employee Alizabeth “Alisa” Arciniaga bought the establishment in 2015.
- Stuff I Eat (Inglewood) Babette “Miss B” Davis and husband Ron Davis opened the vegan soul food/southern restaurant Stuff I Eat in 2008.
- Sun Vegan (Little Saigon) 🇻🇳 Sun Vegan, owned by Quan Long Hoa’s owners, opened in 2018.
- Suncafe (Studio City) Around 2009, Ron Russell and Rebecca Smith founded SunCafe in Studio City. In 2014, it relocated about five blocks down the street.
- Thiên Đăng 🇻🇳 (Little Saigon) Thiên Đăng is a Vietnamese restaurant known especially for bánh mì. It’s owned by Đan Châu Nguyễn, who opened the restaurant around 2011.
- Thuyền Viên 🇻🇳 (Anaheim) Vegan Thuyền Viên has been open since at least 2010 when the owners added “Phở Veggie” to the sign above the door.
- Vegan Glory 🇹🇭 (Beverly Grove) Buk Lertvichuhath opened Vegan Glory in 2004. The chefs are Somsri and Boonchai — Buk’s aunt and uncle, respectively. Buk’s mother, Pia, formerly ran Vegan Express.
- Vegan House 🇹🇭 (Hollywood-Highland) There was a Silver Lake location from roughly 2007-2017. From roughly 2008-2017 there was a location in Yucca Corridor. However, in 2017 Vegan House Thai Bistro opened.
- The Vegan Joint (The Fashion District, Palms, Woodland Hills) Rattana Petmunee opened the first location of the Vegan Joint in Palms in 2006. It was followed by a location in Woodland Hills in 2011. From 2012-2017 there was a location in Little Armenia. Most recently, a location opened in the Fashion District.
- Vege Paradise 🇹🇼 (San Gabriel) Scott Hwang opened Vege Paradise as Gourmet Vegetarian in the early 1990s.
- Vegetable (Studio City) Owner and chef Jerry CP Yu opened Vegetable in Studio City in 2015.
- Veggie Grill (numerous local locations) Veggie Grill is a vegan restaurant chain based in Santa Monica. Kevin Boylan and T.K. Pillan opened the first location in Irvine in 2006.
- Veggie House 🇹🇭 (Cahuenga Pass) Thanakan Towirakit bought Vegan Express in 2013 and turned the restaurant into Veggie House.
- Veggie Life Restaurant 越南素食餐 🇻🇳 (South El Monte) Veggie Life has been around at least since 2004.
- Vegi Wokery 素香緣 🇨🇳 (Cerritos) Bonnie Chun Yueh Yu opened Vegi Wokery in 1995. She retired in 2017 and sold the restaurant, which retains the name.
- VegiLicious 🇯🇵 (Huntington Beach) Akira and Ana Nakao opened the organic, vegan VegiLicious around 2013.
- veStation 🇹🇭 (Sherman Oaks) veStation is an organic Thai/Pan-Asian restaurant that chef-owner Tum Champ opened in February 2012.
- Vinh Loi Tofu 🇻🇳 (Reseda) Vinh Loi Tofu is a vegan café and tofu factory. It was opened by Kevin Tran and his wife in 2002.
- The Wheel of Life 🇹🇭 (Irvine) The vegan Wheel of Life opened sometime around 2006 or earlier.
- Woodlands 🇮🇳 (Chatsworth) Woodlands is a South Indian (Udipi) vegetarian restaurant operated by the owners of Canoga Park’s non-vegetarian Valley India Café.
THE FUTURE OF VEGETARIANISM AND VEGANISM
GO BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD WITH VEGAN CHEESE
Whilst mock meats are getting really good, the best vegan cheese is merely tolerable. The worst is what I imagine congealed paste would taste like. No vegan cheese that I’ve ever had interacts with alcohol in the magical way that real cheese does. I suspect this is because vegan cheese is focused on imitating the texture, color, and flavor of real cheese — but is the result of a wholly different process. Real cheese is the result of milk interacting with bacteria and mold. If lab-grown meat is a reality, shouldn’t it be relatively easy to create casein from a source other than mammary secretions?
SOMEONE NEEDS TO OPEN A VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT IN LOS ANGELES
How is it that there’s still never been a vegetarian or vegan seafood restaurant in this vegetarian-and-vegan-friendly coastal metropolis? There are thousands of species of sea vegetables out there. Sea vegetables are common in the diets of Filipino, Korean, and Taiwanese cuisines and Los Angeles is home to the largest populations of Filipinos, Koreans, and Taiwanese outside of their respective home countries. I’m not just talking about wakame salads, either. Imagine a menu with ararosep, bugak (부각), chilcano, gimbap (김밥), haricot de mer, kai paen (ໄຄແຜ່ນ), laver bread, various miso soups, söl, and sushi.
- “Step into my Soybean” by Alan Metter (1971)
- “Yin and Yang a la Carte” by Mary Reinholz (1971)
- “Vegetarian Stakeout” by Ellen Sklarz (1981)
- History of Tofu and Tofu Products (965 CE to 2013) by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi