I took my two-year-old daughter to Moby's new vegan restaurant. And we're both still alive.
Taking a toddler out to dinner in public is a bit like trying to get a drunken badger to wear a tuxedo and sit still at a Celine Dion concert. It’s possible, but not likely. And seriously dangerous. At the very least, you’ve got to have badger treats aplenty (what do badgers eat?) and probably a tranquilizer gun. Or in my case, delicious toddler-friendly vegan food. (And a tranquilizer gun. And a lot of wine for mommy. And hopefully no Celine Dion music. Sorry, Ms. Dion.)
So, attempting the near impossible, we took our 26-month-old terror with teeth to Little Pine, musician and restaurateur Moby’s new vegan restaurant in LA's trendy Silver Lake neighborhood. And we weren’t kicked out. My daughter didn’t bite the waiter or maîtres’ d, nor did she tip our table over, or throw food in anyone’s hair. She ate. Quietly. Dare I say civilly—albeit with the spirit and cuteness that makes having a toddler worth it on most days.
Little Pine opened last Thursday after much anticipation, and when we checked for a table on Friday, there was more than an hour wait. So we took our chances again on Sunday for an early dinner, and got a table within a few minutes. To kickoff the restaurant’s opening, there was a prix-fix menu with two options. We ordered both and shared with our daughter.
The restaurant is little, and well, piny--the tiny retail space at the front of the restaurant is filled with pine-scented candles and incense. There may have been a pine-scented pillow I glanced while making sure my daughter didn't knock everything off the shelf.
The dining area opens up along a wall of windows with a handful of tables in the main dining room, and one large booth that sits curled under a giant print of pine trees on the wall above it. There are also a few tables outside. It feels a lot like Teany, the teahouse Moby founded in New York City a dozen years ago (he is no longer involved), but with a distinctly Los Angeles feel to it—like the inevitable apex for the city’s massive hipster vegan cuisine.
We enjoyed both salad options: a butter lettuce and a Mediterranean salad. The Mediterranean had a tangy and (vegan) cheesy dressing. It was filled with peppery arugula and kale. The butter lettuce salad had a Dijon vinaigrette that was perfectly balanced. My daughter preferred the butter lettuce and the olives from the Mediterranean salad paired together. Her daddy and I just enjoyed a few quiet moments to shovel the nutrient-dense leaves into our exasperated “no, no, no, be careful” spewing parent pie holes. We drank more wine.
For appetizers, the mushroom bruschetta and the roasted Brussels sprouts were both delicious. We’re not big on mushrooms, but we all enjoyed the bruschetta and were a little thrilled when we were accidentally served another plate of it and our daughter grabbed a piece before the server could whisk it off to its rightful stomach. You know the saying about taking candy from a baby? Well, just try taking anything—especially food—from our daughter. The server knew better. I don’t even think she made eye contact with our ravenous psychochild. We tipped generously.
The entrees were both pasta, which would not have been my first choice if we were able to order off of the full menu, but they were good nonetheless. The macaroni and cheese was well-balanced, and a hit with our daughter, who by all accounts is a pasta connoisseur these days. The stuffed shells were good too—a trio of shells all filled with unique stuffing and sauce.
While we don’t usually give our daughter sugar, we let her indulge in the dessert—the chef’s choice was a delectable key lime pie topped with candied almonds and a side of coconut cream. It was creamy, tart, and not too sweet. (I always think everything could be about 40 percent less sweet than it is.) Our daughter tried to pick the whole piece up and shove it in her face, which delighted a few of our neighboring diners. We were able to avert the disaster—and even got her into bed on schedule and without a sugar-induced meltdown or her begging for snacks while we’re brushing her teeth.
By all accounts, it was a successful and a delicious meal, proving once again that vegan food doesn't suck. And, all right, neither do toddlers.
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images courtesy of Little Pine and Jill Ettinger