So writing about Southern California always brings up a lot of feels for me. Back in 2015, it was the first place I travelled to outside of Europe, and during my first trip I visited Santa Monica, Hollywood, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, San Diego and then drove to Vegas. I wrote two blogs about my time here: ‘Vegan Life in Southern California – Food Favourites’ and ‘California Dreaming’ – published by Vegan Life Magazine.
My second trip was the next summer in 2016, and I ended six amazing weeks travelling parts of Canada and the States, back in the LA area. I stayed at a hostel in Venice Beach during this time, and wrote the blogs ‘’Compassion’ Tattoo at Los Angeles Vegan Tattoo Studio’ and ‘Los Angeles, California – Top Vegan Food Picks’ about my favourite food spots around this area.
But do you know what I realised looking back on my past blog posts? I never actually visited the city of Los Angeles, I mostly stayed on the beaches in the surrounding areas. So at the very end of last year, I ended 3 weeks of stateside travelling back at my old buddy LAX airport, and this time was lucky enough to stay with a friend who lived a lot more in central LA. My experience was different. And although I did have one day at Santa Monica and Venice Beach, I had a great time exploring different parts, and got to try some amazing vegan food to boot. Here are some of my highlights.
NB: If you’re travelling from the UK – November/December is a really cheap time to get flights to and home from LAX airport (I got my flight home for around £140!)
Vegan French Toast at Tierra Cafe
Vegan French Toast is a thing, and you can find it in DTLA!
A friend of mine found Tierra – it’s a hidden gem, residing in a small food-mall but definitely worth stopping by. They have a wide selection of breakfast foods and it’s great place for a quick snack, plus – 100% vegan.
The Last Bookstore
If you like bookstores, and I love them, you have to check this place out. With two floors of never-ending books, paintings and cool stuff to buy, this place always has a lot going on and it’s well worth checking out their website as they have a lot of speakers and events going on. Find out more about The Last Bookstore here.
Literally anything from the menu at Au Lac
I’m so glad I finally got to check this place out! Au Lac in DTLA is their second restaurant in Southern California (the other one is located in Fountain Valley, OC), and is run by Chef Itu. Itu is also a photographer, and in 2017 where I was doing a lot of activism with Los Angeles Animal Save, I had the great pleasure of meeting him. Itu has taken a vow of silence for two reasons which the founder of Au Lac, Mai Nguyen, explains he chooses to live this way ”because ‘speech is war’ to him, and so he could be in tune with God twenty-four hours a day,”. You can find out more about Au Lac’s story here.
So what did I think of Au Lac? It’s totally up there with my favourite restaurants ever. The food is incredible and what I loved about it is it’s all so inventive and unique, plus ultra fresh. You know you can kind of tell when actual care and passion has gone into making your food? And not forgetting, the service was incredible, our waiter just seemed to genuinely love what he does and we had a laugh with him. It was just an overall really enjoyable experience. If you’re in the DTLA area, you have to go here.
Vegan S’mores at Mohawk Bend
Mohawk Bend is a craft beer restaurant and bar, and a really great place for a late night dinner on Sunset Blvd, with plenty of great vegan options! I had the ‘Cauli Steak & Potatoes’ for main, mostly because cauliflower steak isn’t something I see that often at restaurants, and for desert I had the ‘Happy Camper S’mores’ – which was my first experience of s’mores…ever! I honestly don’t know what I had been doing with my life up until this point (seriously, are s’mores a thing in the UK or is it just me who didn’t know they existed?) Anyway, I tried them, they were great, and Mohawk Bend is an excellent choice for a fun night out and some great vegan food. Check out their menu here.
Plus extra bonus? It’s just across the street from the PETA Head Office, and this nifty sign.
And while we’re on the subject, I could’t not mention Echo Park Lake. This place feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of busy DTLA. A great place to just sit and enjoy the scenery. I visited here on my last day just before my flight back to London, and I felt pretty damn stupid for never checking it out before.
Smoothie Bowl at By Chloe
By Chloe is now a little less exciting for me just because there have been a couple open up in London, which is awesome, but I kind of know what to expect there. BUT, if you haven’t been before you definitely should check it out, it’s a great place for a quick stop. Plus, did anyone else notice that smoothie bowls are getting really popular now? Still a little unsure why they don’t just shove this stuff in a blender and make a smoothie, but it still tasted good!
Tourist classics not to miss…
Catching a show at the planetarium and walking around Griffith Observatory may be an obvious one, but it’s really something you can’t miss if you’re in LA. Last time I was here, I checked it out at night and the traffic was so insane all the way up that I nearly gave up. But this time I went on a weekday during the afternoon and it was so much better. The weather wasn’t the best on this day, and it was out of the tourist season so that may have made a difference too. But it’s a really fun time, and a great place for views of the entire city. La La Land…for real.
Santa Monica to Venice Beach
This will always be one of my favourite walks. It’s about a mile, and it just gives you one of those moments where you just know you’re in California (and a million miles from London). Favourite things to do in this area: check out some of the quirky murals along Venice Beach, hit up the old-school arcades and get your fortune told by Zoltan at Santa Monica Pier, and just generally soak up the So Cal-ness.
So there we have it, those were some of my favourite things to see/do/eat for this trip in LA. The cool thing is, every time I go, there seems to be so many more vegan options. I remember my first time there in 2015 I freaked out at the plant-based milk section in Whole Foods, but now everywhere seems to be catching on. Southern California is still one of my favourite places for always upping their game when it comes to vegan food. I wonder what I’ll encounter on my next trip…(hopefully more s’mores!).