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LA is different from anywhere else in that it’s made catering for the health food fanatic something of an art, with a wide variety of options in most cafés, restaurants and quirky food trucks
This is the wellness mecca of the world and has done everything to earn that title (we’d like to add that we lived in Venice Beach during our time in LA so the majority of our recommendations will focus on everything west of the 405).
We ate so well in LA: the food in California really is on a different level for freshness and taste. Our whole world revolved around yoga, the beach, the canyons and the food. We thanked our lucky stars over and over again for allowing us to visit this foodie mecca. To say we’ll be back is an absolute promise.
We only visited the Venice branch of this organic paradise and it was always, always packed day and night with a huge queue but for good reason. Café Gratitude boasts a 100% organic plant menu and everything we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner (like we said, we ate here a LOT) was incredibly tasty and served with genuinely happy staff. Our favourite evening drink was ‘Kombuchadog’ a great brand of Kombucha served in what looks like a beer bottle. Even if a ‘plant menu’ isn’t strictly your kind of thing, we recommend you go. Portions are hearty and generous and our only regret is not signing up for their loyalty card.
Dune uses organic, sustainable and locally grown products and claim to ‘never knowingly serve you genetically modified foods’ which is a big promise. Based in Atwater Village, it’s a pretty casual affair and has become famous for its delicious falafel sandwiches. So, if you’re partial to some hummus and super salads, then this place needs to top your list.
Great name, isn’t it? This was a favourite of ours and the best sushi place in LA (if not the planet outside of Japan!) and we frequented the Santa Monica branch repeatedly. This is the real deal folks: our mouths are watering just thinking about Kazunori Nozawa’s mini-empire that favors straightforward, no-nonsense fresh fish dishes over the usual ‘Dragon‘ and ‘Rainbow‘ rolls—as exemplified by Noawa’s trademark ‘Trust Me‘ menu item, which decides diners’ sushi dishes for them (a departure from the traditional Japanese omakase).
Noawa concentrates on the purity of his basic ingredients — nurturing relationships with the finest fish purveyors across the globe, cutting his fish with an artisan’s painstaking care and even making his own fresh soy sauce and ponzu. The biggest surprise is the lack of visible sushi chefs behind the sushi bar; by moving the sushi making to the kitchen, they ensure maximum quality and efficiency and less showiness.
We normally ordered ‘Trust-Me’ with complete confidence and we recommend you do too. There are no reservations, which means there’s always a queue but at least the seating is kept fair (as in, you don’t lose your table to visiting starlets). The wine menu is pretty good too, and tipping is forbidden! Something we never thought we’d see in the States. Just promise us you’ll go. Promise? Good.
Opened by earth-loving musician – DJ Moby, Little Pine is 100% vegan. Inside, the earthy design channels a cabin-in-the-woods vibe, an aesthetic that casts a peaceful calm over the space. Not only is it a beautiful, contemporary, organic vegan restaurant in Silver Lake inspired by Mediterranean and Cali cuisine, it also gives all of its proceeds to animal welfare organizations. We really like the menu – we think even carnivores will be impressed.
What started as a preserves company is now one of LA’s most incredible eateries: Sqirl, a small nook of a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch made with farm-fresh ingredients. This place is bacon-serving yet vegan friendly and was right up our street. People flock here for the brown rice bowls (we loved the ‘Stella’) and they also do a very popular brown rice porridge also available as a vegan option. Sqirl used to be a jam and toast pop up but they’ve expanded their menu and we’re delighted: sorrel pesto and radishes, sheep feta and poached egg, scallions and cilantro and house sausage. Our absolute favourite though had to be the toast with poached egg, lemon zest and cream. The only downside? The queue is monstrous. Bring a friend to entertain you. Or a book.
Chef Tal Ronnen has managed quite a feat here; creating a dedicated vegan restaurant that’s both upscale and elegant. The bar in here is super popular and the food looks as beautiful as it tastes (prepare to Instagram). We were there for dinner and started with chickpea fritter with sherry maple glaze, pomegranate seeds, marcona almonds and crispy Granny Smith apples. We followed it up with Kabocha Squash and a gluten-free option of ‘crab cakes’ with the crab replaced with hearts of palm. We finished up with pumpkin mascarpone semifreddo. Classy, healthy, perfect.
Not quite Sugarfish level, but this place has a quirky personality and offers some delicious specialty rolls and dishes. It has a few TV screens in the outdoor patio bar but don’t let that put you off. This is a super friendly Japanese restaurant/take-out which offers some of the most innovative and delicious food we’ve tasted in a while. We came back often for the jalapeno yellowtail and the ‘Green Devil’. An unpretentious healthy gem in the heart of Venice.
While traditionalists may turn up their noses to brown rice sushi, only on Abbot Kinney would the specialty work. Among dining heavy hitters on the block — Gjelina and The Tasting Kitchen are across the street — Shima is where locals belly up to the sushi bar for buttery wild salmon and red snapper carpaccio with black truffle and yuzu. There isn’t a signpost but the place is discreetly accessible behind an unmarked gate. It’s on the more expensive side as Venice restaurants go but SO worth it.
We don’t normally advocate ice cream in our wellness regime but every now and then a little sweetness can’t hurt, right? This place on the Venice/Santa Monica borders on Main Street is the business. In 2013, Kippy’s!™ Organic Non-Dairy Ice Cream Shop opened its doors, specialising in making the world’s first non-dairy ice cream and sorbet, combining raw coconut cream, organic fresh fruit and raw, unheated honey with the objective of directly offering customers the best-tasting ice cream that nourishes their body, mind and soul. Kippy’s™ tastes like ice cream, looks like ice cream and yet is beyond ice cream. It’s the next evolution of desserts: a raw superfood that is dairy-free, additive-free and sugar-free that actually tastes amazing. These guys really do serve up happiness one scoop at a time. For more info on superfoods, go to our YouTube ‘Superfood‘ Episodes: Voyage & Soap TV: Superfoods Part 1
Salt & Straw
Speaking of ice-cream, it would be criminal not to mention this place. We don’t have much of a sweet tooth but Salt & Straw changed our minds – we’ve never tasted anything like it. An import from hipster-foodie capital Portland, Venice’s craft creamery Salt & Straw puts an artisanal churn on the standard scoop. Their extensive menu boasts flavours both sinful and curious including ‘Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache’, ‘Freckled Woodblock Chocolate’, ‘Avocado Strawberry Sherbert and Santa Ynez Valley Walnut Oil’—many of which feature ingredients exclusive to Southern California, reflecting the company’s ‘farm-to-cone‘ philosophy.
Our favourites were ‘Arbequina Olive Oil, Pear & Blue Cheese’ (so good it hurts to think about it) and ‘Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper’. If the queue outside their Abbot Kinney branch is anything to go by, then they’re certainly on to something. Put it this way, it’s probably a good thing there ISN’T one in London as we’d never keep the weight off. A slight detour on the wellness wagon but ice cream this good just can’t be ignored. They have a few others across LA including a brand new opening in DTLA, in the Arts District that we’re definitely going to check out next time we’re in town.
Rose Café Venice
Rose is an iconic restaurant in the heart of Venice that has recently been refitted with an amazing outdoor space, serving locals and travellers alike since 1979. Chef Jason Neroni’s menu focuses on local Southern California cuisine with an international influence from his world travels. The Rose teamed up with local Venice artist Craig Stecyk to cover one of its walls with a combination of bright 14-by-22-inch posters and historic illustrations of the neighbourhood.
We came here to work on Voyage & Soap just as we were getting started (it has a great, buzzy yet peaceful atmosphere) and it definitely attracts the local Silicon Beach crowd with Buzzfeed, Google and SnapChat offices all just around the corner. It’s a great place for a meeting and the bar, restaurant and café menus are really extensive and brilliant. We found the service here particularly exemplary, non-pretentious, very helpful and obviously passionate about good food that’s made well and served with flair. We like this place: lots of big decisions were made here so it has a special place in our heart.
Packed to the rafters with the beautiful people, this Abbot Kinney hot spot is buzzing and the food is excellent. It may be impossible to get a table without a very long wait but they have a communal table for walk-ins and a take-out (“GTA”) next door which offers a selection of the menu. It’s our favourite restaurant on the Abbot Kinney strip and we went here for the sensational artisan pizzas and their breakfast.
This place is always rocking and we’ve had what can only be described as the best breakfast we’ve ever had (like, ever). If you’ve carnivores, then you should try the ‘Moroccan Baked Eggs with Merguez, Tomato sauce, Cilantro (coriander to you Brits) and Yoghurt‘. We went wild and also had a side of ‘Thick-cut Bacon, Maple-glazed with Sea Salt‘ which really ticked off that ‘wow’ factor. In our last week in LA, we pretty much had this most mornings. Order plates to share—you can’t go wrong with any of the seasonal vegetables and pizzas baked in the wood-burning oven. Snag a seat on the back patio for weekend brunch or get friendly with your dining mates at the communal table for dinner.
Gjelina’s casual little sister is a grab ‘n’ go kinda place. You might just miss Gjusta if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The Venice bakery operates out of a nondescript warehouse, down a long, narrow corridor with glass cases of sweet and savoury treats on the left, a working bakery behind it. The meatball sandwich is a favourite as are any of the soups. The baked goods are heavenly, many sprouted and wheat free and their smoothies are great quality, very nourishing and satisfying. Their menu is pretty extensive with lots of healthy choices as one would expect in Venice.
Malibu Farm Café
We absolutely adore everything about this place. With two locations at the beginning and end of Malibu Pier (like bookends) which, for a start, is a great location – Malibu being high on our list of places we want to retire to. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean, a view which most properties in the area enjoy. Malibu Farm Café uses mostly whole wheat flours and whole grains, lots of fruit & veg, arugula and lots of lemon. They don’t use fake food and try to be as organic as possible. Their organic menu has real range: vegan treats mixed in with burgers (which we loved). A bit Jekyll and Hyde but it works. They take reservations from 4:30pm so time your visit around 30 minutes before sunset and we promise you’ll thank us.
This Venice restaurant is set in an airy, stark white space that’s at once refined and beach-y enough to feel right at home on Abbot Kinney. This New England-style V&S favourite offers pricey but fantastic seafood and small plates. The monkey bread dessert here is incredible and their dinner menu was varied and generous: the flaky salmon perfectly poached in olive oil and served with shelling beans and charred shishito peppers was amazing.
The gorgeous setting, where the olive trees, communal tables and open space make you feel like you’ve crashed a well-to-do hippy’s picnic, is a major selling point of this place. The restaurant focuses on a tight menu of seasonal dishes ‘farm-to-table’ dining which makes it another solid Abbot Kinney option. We don’t know what their secret is but the quality of the food is incredible and there are many healthy options on both the brunch and dinner menu. If you can, sit at the bar and rub shoulders with some of the most talented and friendliest folks in town.
For healthy eats and drinks, check out this two-in-one juice bar and restaurant. Kreation has three ‘kafes’: one in Venice, the other in Santa Monica and West Hollywood and nine juiceries dotted across LA. We went to all three kafes, spending most of our time in the Venice hotspot. Their goal has always been to provide nourishing, clean fuel for the body, mind and spirit and subsequently are a Santa Monica Certified Green Business; a responsibility they take very seriously. One of the heartier options includes an organic California Crunch salad (baby spinach, shaved fennel and celery, roasted macadamias and crispy bacon). We think Kreation is a good choice as a clean, healthy option for any meal.
La Isla Bonita Food Truck on 4th & Rose
Love food trucks? We do too. Check out La Isla Bonita on 4th and Rose and grab a seat for some super-fresh ‘mariscos‘ (seafood), including killer shrimp tacos and ceviche. Chicken or carne asada burritos are also yummy. There is always a line (don’t worry, it moves quickly) for this cheap, quick, healthy fare and with good reason.
The Butcher’s Daughter
At The Butcher’s Daughter, they like to treat fruits and vegetables as a butcher would meat: chopping, filleting and carving fresh produce into healthy vegetarian dishes and pressing them into pretty juices. They take pride in their daily-changing menu, which is 100% vegetarian and non-dairy. Most of their menu items are vegan and gluten-free and they are always prepared to accommodate most dietary requests. They even have a juiceologist on hand! We visited the one on Abbot Kinney in Venice a few times, each time totally refreshed by the light, airy, trendy design of the space (it’s really pretty, inspiring and fresh). If you’re in town for a few days and need a cleanse, this is the place to go.
The Springs LA
A sprawling industrial space with Kombucha on tap – just the way we like it – in an urban oasis hidden in the Arts District, far away from the busy streets of DTLA, The Springs is focused on cultivating health, wellness, community and sustainability. Everyone who steps into the 13,000 square feet of yoga/cafe/juice bar/wellness and community events centre enjoys the raw dishes and juices on offer. A nourishing pit stop if ever there was one.
West Hollywood gem Gracias Madre serves organic, farm fresh, locally sourced, plant-based vegan Mexican food, full of flavour and love. It’s the elder, more elegant sister of Café Gratitude and the quality of food sits at the same high level. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with an outdoor patio and a roaring fireplace, giving it a hearty, Mexican feel. Chef Chandra Gilbert offers meat-free and dairy-free versions of Mexican comfort food which is what first attracted us.
The menu certainly sounds pretty Mexican: guacamole, flautas, enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles. They even serve vegan nacho cheese. It’s made of cashews and is mildly spicy (we actually would have preferred it slightly more so) and more runny than the queso you might be used to, but when drizzled over flash-fried cauliflower is quite delicious. Something of a contradictory in terms, but this was seriously healthy yet tasty Mexican fare. We went wild for the ‘Young Coconut Ceviche’ – which came with homemade chips, lime, jalapeno, cilantro and avocado. We also loved the ‘Persimmon & Kale Salad‘ and ‘The Bowl Dos’. A must-try even for non-vegans.
With one branch in West Hollywood and another on the Abbot Kinney, Fala Bar takes an innovative approach to healthy cuisine, offering inspired, fine/casual vegan food made fresh daily from organic or local produce. They infuse each bite with pure, wholesome and sustainable ingredients made with care and precision. All of their produce is local or organic, vegan, non-GMO, free of soy, nuts and dairy. Their beans and grains are sprouted for better nutrient absorption and digestion and everything is gluten-free except for the pitas and buns, which can be substituted for cabbage leaf. The fried items are cooked in grape seed oil which can handle a higher smoke point without turning rancid or into a trans fat. They also do a kick-ass spicy sauce that can blow your head off if you’re a chilli fan.
We generally went for the spicy falafel with chickpea, cilantro, parsley, garlic, cumin, onion, red peppers and jalapeno with some of that magic chilli sauce, washed down with some of GT’s guava kombucha. Their Instagram page claims that Falabar adheres to the hashtags: #FarmToFala and #NoFakeShit and we’d say they were doing a great job.
Local farmers markets in Venice & Santa Monica
On Sundays in Santa Monica, the Main St Market runs from 10:30am to 1:30pm and is great for a casual picnic on the grass (take a blanket with you). They have pancakes, eggs, breakfast burritos and lots of other healthy options. There’s also lots of fresh produce and some handmade artisan produce and live music. Handily, it’s also a 5-min walk to the beach on Ocean Park / Main and about a five minute stool down to Yogaworks. We like. They even have a bike valet. Now you’ve no reason not to go.
On Wednesdays in Santa Monica on Arizona near Third St Promenade, you’ll find a huge farmer’s market. It’s a feast for the eyes and well worth going if only for the experience. It’s a good place to grab lunch as lots of restaurants have tents set up as well. Go!
Fridays in Venice sees another market pop up just before the canals off Riviera. It’s an early start from 7am to 11am and much smaller but has a great local vibe with some colourful vendors.
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