First came the smoothie bowl craze. Then there was the vegan doughnut invasion. Now, plant-based pub food has taken over southern California. Pubs, bars, and breweries from Los Angeles to San Diego have upped their vegan game en masse. By varying degrees, many local and independently-owned drinking holes have revamped their food menus to accommodate their plant-based patrons with more than simple pub mix. Some offer a dedicated vegan menu, while others have completely pivoted to offer only vegan options of bar food favorites. What’s more, these establishments are thriving as they cater to a convivial mixed crowd of slightly inebriated vegans and omnivores who enjoy good food, craft beer, and a fun atmosphere.
Check out these ten high vibe drinking venues that serve outstanding vegan food.
1. Golden Road Brewery
This micro-chain brewery not only makes its own craft beer, it also offers a full night out experience. The inaugural location in Glendale hosts a massive indoor and outdoor communal table-style seating space where guests are encouraged to mingle and seat themselves. Almost every spot allows for a clear view of the many televisions playing sports games on loop. Further, the venue offers a full restaurant menu, pingpong table, photo booth, cornhole, and board games. The food is escalated bar food, and most items have a vegan option, which is clearly indicated on the menu. Think mac and cheese served in a pretzel bread bowl; Impossible Burgers topped with vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, and remoulade sauce; Asada Fries; and giant pretzels with two kinds of mustard dipping sauce. The menu also showcases a few alternative items, like Fried Avocado Tacos, a veganizable Ahi Tuna Bowl, and a deep-fried tofu Bahn Mi Sandwich. There are a few salad options, but greens are not this venue’s forte. Eat a salad elsewhere and go for a burger, pretzel, or something deep-fried. It’s what they do best. Further, modifications are politely declined, so if you’re picky, stick to beer. Prices are not dive-bar cheap, so either order a burger and a beer and call it a day, or go in with friends and split. Golden Road has expanded its locations to include downtown Los Angeles (inside Grand Central Market) and Anaheim in Orange County.
This downtown bar opened as Beelman’s Pub in 2014, but once Tony Yanow of Artisinal Brewer’s Collective purchased it in 2017, the pub went plant-based and reopened as just Beelman’s. Chef Caroline Concha, who has worked for Yanow at his other LA establishments, renovated the restaurant menu to include exclusively plant-based fare. Chef Concha’s food fuses American bar bites with Asian-inspired flavors. It’s familiar yet unique, carb-heavy, and often spicy. Tater tots are a staple; guests can order them smothered with nacho toppings or stuffed inside a vegan breakfast burrito with smoked tofu, beans, avocado, salsa, and gochujang crema. The expansive menu also offers vegan hot dogs, Asian-inspired bowls, burgers, fries, appetizer salads, and the crowd favorite, the spicy Viet-Nom-Nom Wrap. When in doubt, order this (if your spice tolerance is high). Concha fills a flour tortilla with her signature vegan citrus spare rib, jasmine rice, green papaya, carrots, pickled daikon, Thai basil, cilantro, lettuce, and hot chili sambal. You’ll want to order a frozen cocktail to cool down.
Beelman's also serves a savory brunch on weekends. Options include tater tot tacos, fried grits with spicy accouterments, chilaquiles, and the obligatory avocado toast. Perfect for knocking out that hangover from the night before.
3. Dankness Dojo by Modern Times Brewery
This downtown LA dojo is an outlet of the San Diego-based brewery, Modern Times. It recently opened in January 2018 to a thirsty crowd of pub-going Angelinos. Like Beelman’s, the food menu is exclusively vegan and features a fusion of heightened bar food with an Asian twist. Two of the standout shareables include the Devils on Horseback and Battered & Fried. The first dish incorporates smoked seitan with cashew cheese-stuffed dates and grilled pineapple, drizzled with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. The latter showcases spicy and fried delights such as jalapeño hush puppies, pickled onion rings, and andouille spiced smoked seitan, served with a remoulade. To soak up a second round of beer, opt for an entree, like the seitan-based Bahn Mi, Double Burger, or Som Tum (an Asian-inspired bowl). Got a sweet tooth? The S’mores and Strawberry Shortcake will leave you satisfied.
The Dankness Dojo also features a brunch menu that is a bit more expansive than Beelman’s. Try a Chile Relleno Burrito, Cinnamon Roll, Biscuits & Gravy, or Stacks on Stacks (corn pancakes with all the fixings).
4. Tony’s Darts Away
For the North LA and Burbank crowd, look no further than Tony’s Darts Away for a fun night packed with alcohol on tap, pool, and unapologetically delicious vegan food. Of course, beer on tap is a given, but they also offer a collection of curated California wines and ciders on tap as well. Like its patrons, the food menu is diverse and expansive. It is also not completely vegan, but there are options for everyone. Tony’s serves its own renditions of classic bar food (pretzels, chili, loaded fries, and burgers), but it truly distinguishes itself from the rest by its substantial sausage offerings - all of which can be made vegan. Order your vegan brat bacon-wrapped, smothered in chili, or slathered in yellow mustard, relish, and grilled onions. For a truly adventurous food experience, opt for the Bulls-Eye Burger. It’s a donut-croissant bun with two Impossible Burger patties, vegan bacon, vegan provolone, BBQ sauce, and ‘frizzled’ onions. It may help to have a few drinks before tackling this one.
5. The Stalking Horse
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This English pub opened in August 2017, serving up a “proper British brunch,” creative cocktails, beer, and traditional pub fare to residents on the west side of LA. The low lit dining area is split into three sections: a sports bar, a full dining room, and a partially outdoor communal dining patio. The vibe is festive without being too rowdy. When ordering, you can’t go wrong. Unlike many bars, this place actually makes hearty and complex salads. The Root Salad is a must. Not only is it Instagram-worthy, it's a tower piled high with perfectly roasted beets, celery root, and carrots, topped with arugula and an addictive black garlic dressing. On the fried side, the vegan Fish and Chips are outstanding. The Pat’s Pie with vegan steak, rarebit cheese sauce, mushrooms, onions, and peppers is another local favorite. Beyond the alcohol and food, what’s truly the best part - they have crayons and coloring pages.
6. Verdugo Bar
Most nights, Verdugo Bar is a typical dive bar. However, every third Sunday, it welcomes the vegan crowd with it’s monthly Church of Seitan event. The bar hosts an afternoon of vegan bingo, food vendors, and music. Honestly, when was the last time you played bingo? It’s actually fun once you get into it…and the prize is a meal from Plant Food for People or an ice cream cookie sandwich from Shugah Mama. Mark your calendars and get to church!
7. Mohawk Bend
Pizza and beer. Enough said. This hip Echo Park bar and restaurant is always packed and bustling. Whether you’re here for the 72 beers on tap or the expansive vegan menu, Mohawk Bend has you covered. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and brunch, with special happy hours and late-night menus during select hours. No matter what time of day you dine, be sure to order the vegan Buffalo Cauliflower and the Angry Vegan Pizza. This phenomenal pie is topped with tomato sauce, almond ricotta, vegan mozzarella, fresh Serrano chilies, Calabrian chilies, cashew parmesan, chili oil, and oregano. You’re definitely going to want an adult beverage to cool down after this. Not a beer fan? Mohawk’s cocktail list is equally as inventive as its pizzas.
8. Toca Madera
This is where the party’s at. This West Hollywood hotspot is loud, packed, and a bit wild - even by 6 pm. However, its vegan Mexican menu can’t be beat. Dress up, grab friends, and enjoy a night on the town (but make reservations first). The Salsa Flight and Guacamole are a given but dive deeper into the menu for its authentic yet inventive vegan eats. You can’t go wrong with any of the plant-based tacos, but if you’re looking for something more substantial to soak up that cocktail, order the Hot Rocks with Chipotle-Dusted Tofu. You’ll be treated to a sizzling hot plate of onions and pastille chiles sautéed in a sweet chipotle sauce served with guac, pico de gallo, house-made corn tortillas, rice, beans, and perfectly seasoned tofu. While you’ve still got a table, stick around a bit longer and order dessert. The vegan Churro Ice Cream Sandwich filled with vegan dulce de leche ice cream may be even cooler than the hot nightlife crowd.
9. Cosmic Brewery
This chill brewery on the suburban outskirts of greater Los Angeles has made a name for itself through its regular vegan pop-up events. Almost every Saturday, you’ll find a small collection of up-and-coming vegan vendors catering to the brewery crowd. From longstanding favorites like Charlies’s Brownies and Cena Vegan to newcomers such as Vegans Casera, Compton Vegan, and Avocado Mama, you’ll find plenty of plant-based street food options to pair with your craft beer. Be sure to stop by during Earth Day weekend (April 21 and 22) for one of Cosmic’s largest vegan food and beer celebrations.
Need a break from LA? Take a road trip down to San Diego for the city’s premiere all-vegan bar. With its juxtaposition of dusty rose pink walls and hardcore skull decor, this is where the cool kids are at. The cocktails are creative, strong, and plentiful. Order your own, or go all in with a friend and split the Punch Bowl - a mix of Reposado Tequila, Mezcal, Dry Curacao, Pimento Dram, Aperol, Grapefruit, Jalapeño Shrub, lime, and sparkling rosé. Kindred offers a full dinner menu and is open late, but if vegan food is what you’re after, make your reservations for brunch. The restaurant’s Banana Bread French Toast and Tofu Benedict have attracted patrons across Southern California. Of course, they also offer brunch beverages…nothing wrong with a bit of day drinking when accompanied by an epic brunch.
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