Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
Mark and I traveled to Los Angeles, California this past Sunday to attend a screening of our short documentary film Vincent Valdez: Excerpts for John at the 2013 Texas Filmmakers Showcase in Hollywood. Since it was our first time in LA we decided to stay a couple extra days to visit around town. On Sunday afternoon we arrived at LAX and took a shuttle to our hotel in Beverly Hills. We had several hours to settle in before the screening, so we researched the area to find a vegan-friendly restaurant within walking distance of our hotel.
Bodhi Vegetarian & Vegan Kitchen
9303 W Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Spicy Fried Rice at Bodhi Vegetarian & Vegan Kitchen
Pad Thai at Bodhi Vegetarian & Vegan Kitchen
We found Bodhi Vegetarian & Vegan Kitchen just around the corner from the Crowne Plaza Beverly Hills. Bodhi Kitchen featured an affordable vegan and kosher friendly menu with lots of tasty thai dishes. Mark immediately knew he wanted to try the Spicy Fried Rice (the hubby loves his spicy food!) and I knew I wanted to try the Pad Thai Noodle Dish. It had been so long since I had Pad Thai because it’s traditionally made with fish sauce. Mark’s rice dish included soy beef, which he compared to a Filipino meat his Mom used to make. My Pad Thai had lots of favor and texture, but the sauce was almost too sweet. Towards the end of the meal I ran out of tofu and veggies and was left with a plate of sweet, heavy noodles. We were still pleased with our dinner and returned to the hotel to get ready for the screening at the Directors Guild of America Theater in Hollywood. Read more about the screening on the Walley Films Blog.
Olives Mediterranean Grill
7998 C Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood CA 90046
After the screening and reception we got cocktails with the showcase participates in West Hollywood, but by then Mark and I were starving. Luckily there was a mediterranean restaurant right next door to the bar. We had a drink, chatted for a little while, and then went over for a falafel dinner. There was only one guy taking orders and making all the food, but it was worth the wait. I have to say that their Falafel Sandwich was one of the best I’d ever had. The bread was soft, the falafel was crunchy, and the tahini was delicious. Mark had the Falafel Plate, which was good, but the rice had a funny taste, like peppermint. If you’re near the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd and Laurel I recommend you stop in and try the Falafel Sandwich.
Real Foods Daily West Hollywood*
414 N. La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Real Foods Daily West Hollywood
Monday afternoon we checked out of our hotel in Beverly Hills, picked up our rental car, and headed to West Hollywood for lunch at Real Foods Daily. RFD had been recommended by a friend whose vegan ex-girlfriend loved it. We visited the closest of their three locations since the other two are in Santa Monica and Pasadena. Parking was convenient and cheap on the street right in front of the restaurant. The place was bright, busy, and welcoming. The menu was a little bit more expensive than the last two restaurants we tried, but it’s because their menu is fresh, certified organic, and 100% vegan.
The Club – Crispy seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and vegenaise on sourdough bread
Spicy BLT Sandwich – Tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and spicy aioli on whole grain bread
I’m definitely a sandwich person. Give me a menu with more than two vegan options and I’ll most likely order a sandwich (or a wrap if I’m feeling lucky). I play it safe, but I’m rarely disappointed. The Club sandwich was delicious. Our sandwiches were served with a caesar salad, which was another example of a food I hadn’t eaten in forever because it normally contains fish (anchovies). Other than the capers and croutons, (which I gave to Mark) my plate was perfect. Mark ordered the Spicy BLT (noticing a trend?), which he enjoyed very much. I was in the mood for a “classic diner experience” so I also ordered a Chocolate Milkshake made from coconut ice cream and hemp milk. Show me vegan sandwiches and milkshakes and I’ll show you a happy lady.
Driving around Los Angeles
We finished our lunch, spotted a celebrity (she looked VERY familiar), and hit the road. I really enjoyed having a rental car since we’re so used to going where we want when we want. I tend to get overwhelmed when I have to rely on a bus or subway. We packed our Magellan GPS, which made our drives super easy. Our second hotel was located on Hollywood Blvd, a couple miles east of the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. We settled into our new home (we call our hotels “home” when we travel) and decided we felt like dessert. I’ve been wanting to visit BabyCakes NYC ever since my friend lent me a BabyCakes Recipes Book. Luckily for us there is a location in Los Angeles in Larchmont, just ten minutes from our hotel.
BabyCakes NYC in LA
236 North Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Very crunchy, but yummy Thin Mint Cookie
Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Frosting at BabyCakes
A Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich at BabyCakes
Sharing a Thin Mint Cookie at BabyCakes
The atmosphere of the BabyCakes shop is very cute and welcoming. All the baked goods at BabyCakes are vegan and gluten-free. Everything looked so yummy, which made it difficult to choose. The guy behind the counter told us which items were most popular, so we kind of went with his recommendations which included a Mint Cupcake, a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich, and a Thin Mint Cookie. We sat at the only table inside and enjoyed our dessert selection. BabyCakes can be on the pricey side (those three items cost $11.75), but I would recommend trying their cupcakes at least once. The Thin Mint Cookie was a little too hard and the Frozen Cookie Sandwich’s frosting didn’t have much flavor. I was still happy that we had the chance to finally visit and it got me inspired to be more creative the next time I bake.
Our view of Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive
The famous Hollywood Sign
We decided to cruise around Hollywood and take Mulholland Drive up into the hills for a birds-eye-view of Los Angeles and to check out the famous Hollywood Sign. There were a couple of small parks we stopped at to take in the beautiful views. We headed back down the long curvy road before sunset, returned to our hotel, and researched nearby restaurants for dinner.
Truly Vegan Restaurant
5907 Hollywood Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028
Thai Tea at Truly Vegan Restaurant
Truly Vegan Restaurant had some mixed reviews online, but it was a short walk away from our hotel so we decided to give it a chance. We were the only customers in the restaurant when we arrived after 9pm. The waitress was very sweet, but completely clueless about the menu. When I asked if she recommended the Breakfast Pancakes she said she wasn’t vegan, so the pancakes didn’t taste very good to her. I wanted to say that it shouldn’t matter whether they are vegan or not if they are cooked correctly. I decided not to argue with her since she was so sweet and ordered my second go-to-dish if I’m not feeling like a sandwich – Thai Curry.
Yellow Curry Tofu at Truly Vegan
Spicy Vegetables with Soy Chicken at Truly Vegan
Mark ordered a Thai Tea, which was yet another example of an item I hadn’t tried in a while since it’s usually made with condensed milk. The soymilk-based Thai Tea was very good. The potatoes in the Curry I ordered were questionable, but the tofu, bell peppers, green peas, and carrots had good favor. Mark’s dish was flavorful as well. We got full fast, so we took most of dinner to-go and headed back to the hotel to rest and prepare for last full day in Los Angeles.
The Getty Center
Hanging out at The Getty
The Central Garden at The Getty
One of my favorite places we visited while in Los Angeles was The Getty Center. Parking is $15, but admission is free. Museum volunteers guide you into a tram that travels up the hill to the main entrance. We were so impressed with the architecture and gardens that we barely took time to look at the exhibitions. We did check out their current exhibition Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto. The images were beautiful and inspiring. We ended our visit by walking around the beautiful gardens and then we headed to Venice for lunch.
This car is way cooler than our rental!
639 Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Cafe Gratitude Menu – I was Hearty and Mark was Feliz
I love to see these words!
“Hearty” at Cafe Gratitude – Raw Deep Dish Pizza served with Caesar Salad
“Feliz” at Cafe Gratitude Special – Black Bean Chalupas
What are you Grateful for?
We had the best lunch at Cafe Gratitude in Venice. We sat outside to enjoy the cool weather. It took me a while to make a decision on what to order. I’m so used to having a few options at restaurants that I tend to get overwhelmed when everything on a menu is vegan. Mark went with one of their specials not yet featured on the menu. I’ve had a lot of chalupas in my life and his were the best. The crispy, savory coconut topping really made that dish special. My raw pizza and caesar salad was exactly the lunch I was looking for. I was grateful for the soft crust, tasty salad, and breezy weather. I wanted to get some dessert, but the prices were a little too high. Overall, a wonderful restaurant experience.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
Venice Beach Boardwalk and Bike Path
Venice Skate Park
Our friend artist Gary Sweeney had recommended we visit Venice Beach while in Los Angeles. There are so many interesting people walking along the boardwalk starting from the famous Muscle Beach all the way up to the incredible Santa Monica Pier. I really enjoyed checking out the Venice Skatepark. There were some amazingly talented skaters including the adorable little guy above. After visiting the pier we changed into running clothes and went for a jog along the bike path. We started on the pedestrian sidewalk, but had to keep dodging endless amounts of people. Then we noticed runners on the bike path and decided to join them. We jogged all the way from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach before realizing it was getting late and we were going to be late for dinner plans with a friend. We took a moment to enjoy the ocean and headed back to Santa Monica Place where we parked.
8284 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
“Crab Cakes” at Crossroads Kitchen – Photo Courtesy CrossroadsKitchen.com
We met our friend artist Ana Serrano for a late dinner at Crossroads Kitchen. Crossroads was the first restaurant I considered while planning our trip to LA. It was founded by Vegan Chef Tal Ronnen, who wrote The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. Mark and I walked in and were totally surprised by how dark and fancy Crossroads was. Ana had arrived early and ordered the Crab Cakes to start. Don’t be fooled by how large those crab cakes look. They are bite size. Delicious, but very small. Our waiter informed us that Crossroads was a small plate restaurant, so it would be 3-5 plates per person. My mouth literally dropped. The plates cost $8 – $18. I apologized to Ana letting her know we had no idea our dinner was going to be that expensive. I simply didn’t know what the website meant by small plates, nor did I consider you would need more than one plate per person. We decided that since we were there we should make the most of it. We ordered Artichoke “Oysters”, Almond Cheese Stuffed Tortelloni, Wood-Fired “Meaty” Lasagna, and Kale Spanakopita served with a Smoked Tomato Fondue. Everything was delicious and we really enjoyed catching up with Ana and talking about Los Angeles. She’s an LA native and had lots of interesting stories to tell us throughout the night. I would recommend Crossroads if you’re willing to drop a bill, otherwise visit Real Foods Daily or Cafe Gratitude for a yummy one plate vegan meal.
Ana Serrano and I hanging out at Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Urban Light by Chris Burden at LACMA
After dinner we hopped in Ana’s car and cruised around LA late into the night. She made for an awesome tour guide. We cruised through downtown, past historic buildings, and through China Town. Driving around late at night meant we got to see so much, but didn’t have to wait in any traffic to see it. She was even planning all the things we needed to do on our next trip. It was such a fun way to end our last night in LA. Thanks Ana for being so cool!
8000 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Veggie Grill brings vegan food to the masses
Uptown Nachos at Veggie Grill
Mark and I didn’t have much time on our last day in LA before having to catch our flight. We decided to pick up Veggie Grill to-go, so we’d have plenty of time to return our rental car, get to the airport, and make our way through check-in and security. The Veggie Grill employee was the most helpful person on earth. He was very friendly and offered lots of recommendations and options. We ordered the Uptown Nachos as an appetizer while the rest of our order was made to-go. Some of the toppings were cold, but those nachos had lots of potential. I ordered the Baha Bliss Sandwich Wrap with Red Cabbage ’Slaw. The Wrap was very tasty, but the ‘slaw lacked a dressing or flavor. Lucky for me they got the original order wrong, so we got an extra side of Chili. Mark ordered the Carne Asada Burger with Chili. He didn’t have any complaints! I also got a big Chocolate Chip Cookie for dessert. We enjoyed our lunch at the LAX Foodcourt before hopping on the plane back home. I’m so glad the hubby and I made the most of our LA trip and look forward to visiting again!
p.s. Can you believe this is my 200th Blog Post!? Thanks for reading!
* I highly recommended these restaurants!