Vegetarian Restaurants in California
Most Los Angeles-dwelling vegans, raw foodists, and appreciators of good vegetarian food, simple food have experienced Cafe Gratitude — a collection of plant-based restaurants specializing in wholesome global cuisine. The chain continues to expand (with outposts throughout the Los Angeles area, Kansas City, Santa Cruz, Newport Beach, and San Diego), and at its new upscale Beverly Hills location, simply called Gratitude, it swaps out crunchy granola vibes for serious shabby-chic glamour. High-lofted ceilings punctuated by skylights, warm wooden floors, innumerable plush pillows, a long marble bar, and carefully scattered plants set the scene for a casual-yet-lavish dining experience. Restaurants with vegetarian food are very popular.
The restaurant practices “Sacred Commerce,” meaning it “provides inspired service, honest and transparent communication, and expresses gratitude for the richness of our lives.” This kind of sincerity makes the chain the recipient of many an eye roll from cerebral types, but dogma aside, the restaurant’s vegetarian food chain attraction is its healthy, attractive food that lures legions of fans, including meat-eaters, every day.
You are welcomed
“Who can you acknowledge today?” waiters can be overheard asking their tables before fulfilling orders for smoked sea salt Pommes Frites and probiotic kimchee. There is always a daily question here — and though it is frequently met with sheepish laughs, Angelenos brave enough to respond sincerely might find they walk away with an even more memorable experience.
“You are Brilliant, You are Lucky, You are Eclectic,” servers say, settling different dishes down in front of guests. This is the shtick at Gratitude — it’s not enough to simply name each menu item after a trait — by ordering it, you embody that trait.
The menu’s wide range of appetizers of vegetarian food makes the most of Southern California’s abundant produce. The Dynamic — baked garnet yam and cauliflower samosas served with chana masala, coconut mint chutney, and spicy tomato jam — is a warming starter beloved by regulars. In Sharing, briny escabeche and spiced, nutty pepitas adorn a generous pile of nachos loaded with black beans, cashew cheese, fresh pico de gallo, and buttery avocado.
Should diners of vegetarian food need a little loosening up to get in the mood, they can choose from several invigorating cocktails. Nearly all of the restaurant’s mixers seem designed to counterbalance alcohol’s less-than-healthy effects, with ingredients like charcoal, spirulina, cold-pressed ginger, green chlorophyll espuma, and “micro-filtered H2O.” This super food-rich drink list is a stark reminder that, yep, you’re in Beverly Hills.
Cranking it up a notch — because this is California and recreational marijuana is now legal — there are also Cannabidiol Oil (CBD) cocktails on offer. Some people think it is a kind of vegetarian food too. Like “normal” marijuana, CBD oil has anti-anxiety, mood elevating, anti-inflammatory properties, but unlike normal marijuana, it’s not psychoactive, which means a CBD cocktail probably won’t make you feel “high,” but simply more relaxed. Mixed with alcohol, it may be difficult to distinguish which substance is causing what feeling of relaxation, but the novelty is well worth the experience.
You are fed
After drinks are served and “you are hungry,” rest assured that the entrée offerings at Gratitude are not only named after pleasant adjectives that roll off the tongue, but the intense flavors of the meals themselves roll onto the tongue with ease. The selections are substantial in both variety and size, so come hungry. Vegetarian food can make you feel hungry too.
A vegan take on classic Korean bibimbap, the Evolved bowl — with an inventive chickpea “egg,” oyster mushroom bulgogi, and a spicy sauce more like a Korean arrabiata — is addictively flavorful. Liberated, another top contender impreses with a hemp seed-basil pesto that tastes fresh out of the garden, plus housemade cashew ricotta, peppery arugula, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and a Brazil nut parmesan cheese — all tossed with a mound of raw, spiralized kelp noodles. Vegetarian food is healthy.
For a stick-to-your-ribs dinner with vegetarian food, the Elated enchiladas feature lightly charred corn tortillas filled with blackened tempeh, roasted tomatillo sauce, cashew queso fresco, and a generous topping of rich complex mole any doting abuela would approve of. The Welcoming plate takes the traditional falafel platter up a notch with a hempseed tabbouleh, sweet tomato jam, marinated eggplant, baked falafel, and thin, chewy lavash.
You are sweet
At Gratitude, it’s always important to leave room for one of the delicacies of vegetarian food from the extensive dessert menu. For caffeine cravers, each slice of the Adoring — the restaurant’s signature tiramisu — contains one tablespoon of freshly brewed coffee for a titillating momentary jolt. The raw, avocado-based key lime pie is a crowd favorite, with mounds of rich coconut meringue. For those who are weak to the power of nut butter, Delighted, a fudgy, almond butter-chocolate truffle, will disappear all too soon — gone in three blissful bites. However, if you have an extra 15 minutes to spare (and room in your stomach), the fresh-baked Lovely — a warm seasonal fruit cobbler — is not too sweet, intoxicates with a cinnamon-infused aroma that screams homemade, and is topped with a scoop of vanilla bean coconut-cashew ice cream, slowly melting and mingling with the hot desert for spoonful after spoonful of coziness. Vegetarian food can be tasty too.
Call this dining experience what you will — lucky, lovely, evolved — but the end result is the same. Vegetarian food can make you feel happy and full. Despite the substantial meal, you will leave feeling lighter, affirmed, and deeply satisfied. You might even find yourself gazing beyond the standstill LA traffic on your ride home, taking in that stunning sunset, lost in gratitude.
Rachel Krantz (@rachelkrantz) is the lead writer at Mercy For Animals.