Mao’s is a Venice institution serving up Chinese, country-style cooking just the way you want it. Order your main dish as it comes, with sauce on the side, steamed; you name it. Then pick your protein. From beef to chicken, shrimp to tofu, Mao’s will meet your needs whether you are vegan, vegetarian, a carnivore or are just plain hungry. The Venice location has tables outside where you can watch the typical Venice Beach cast of characters stroll by, as well as a community table inside if you are in the mood to hang Venice style, meet the locals, and break fortune cookies with them. Mao’s also happens to be BYOB with no corkage fee, a definite perk to satisfy your inner sommelier.
Mao’s Kitchen, 1512 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA, +1 310-581-8305
For those looking for a neighborhood dining experience with fresh and local fare, the Wood Café is a definite must. With an outdoor patio and fire pit, wonderfully friendly staff and even a happy hour, the Wood boasts fresh and delicious dishes. From Paso Prime grass fed burgers, to the Wood’s signature mac and cheese, to the Brussels sprouts in a balsamic reduction with goat cheese, this place is ideal for just about anyone, no matter what your food preferences are. They have vegetarian options as well.
The Wood Cafe, 12000 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, +1 310-915-9663
If you are looking for 100% plant-based vegan cuisine, Café Gratitude is the place to be. Organic, fresh and delicious, the bright and airy atmosphere attracts folks from all walks of dietary life with great food and the concept of gratitude. Meals are named, for example, ‘Gracious’, ‘Vivacious,’ ‘Awesome’ and ‘Grateful.’ When ordering, you say ‘I am…’ and the name of the dish you are ordering. So if you are in the mood for a scrumptious plant-based meal with a side of inspiration, stop in at Café Gratitude.
Café Gratitude, 512 Rose Ave, Venice, CA, +1 424-231-8000
Talk about being ‘so L.A.’ This restaurant in the Atwater Village area even has a dog menu that includes meal options for man’s best friend. If your best dog pal loves chopped hamburger beef, chicken or hot dogs and rice, bring them along for the experience. For human, veggie-preferring patrons, the fried Brussels sprouts and Kale Caesar salad are out of this world. Meat eaters, the burger is delightful and with a side of sweet potato fries, you’ll be in heaven. If your not-quite-as-health-conscious friends are in town, have no fear, the Morrison also offers a ramen burger. Happy hours here are truly happy, especially if you order the potato skins. The bar is a fantastic place to chat up the locals and watch your favorite sporting events. And if you are a whiskey fan, the extensive offerings at the Morrison are sure to please.
The Morrison, 3179 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, +1 323-667-1839
Rising Hearts Bakery in Culver City offers gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and kosher goodies, and has vegan options as well. With breads, bagels, bialys, muffins, scones, rolls, buns, cakes and cookies, Rising Hearts Bakery has all your favorite treats without the guilt and, more importantly, without the allergens that so many folks are unable to tolerate. Whether you’re ordering a chocolate whoopie pie, a slice of cheesecake or any of the variety of granola options, you’ll be a happy gluten-free, egg-free, diary-free customer at Rising Hearts Bakery.
Another eastside gem in Silverlake at Sunset Junction is the Bowery Bungalow. Here you will find farm-to-table Mideast cuisine in a cottage style atmosphere that will warm your heart (and your tummy). Vegetarians, the chickpea falafel, roast cauliflower or roast Jerusalem artichoke may be just the thing for you. Carnivores may want to try the olive wood-smoked lamb belly or the shishkatori-smoked pork belly with fenugreek. If lamb and pork belly don’t tempt your palate, the chicken, beef and fish dishes are sure to do the trick. The patio at Bowery Bungalow offers charming ambiance, and is a great place to gaze into the eyes of your date.
Bowery Bungalow, 4156 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, +1 323-663-1500
If you are Paleo, Animal is a must. Here you will find a variety of animal parts from a variety of species on the menu. Chicken liver, rib-eye carpaccio, barbeque pork belly, bone marrow and fried rabbit legs are just a sampling of Animal’s extensive and creative offerings. Fish and poultry dishes are also available for less adventurous folks. Animal supports local and organic farming, is sensitive to food allergies and offers a corkage fee if you want to tote your own vino along. Owners/chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo also have created a cookbook, Two Dudes, One Pan, that you can order from their website if you want to bring variety to your own kitchen.
Animal, 435 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, +1 323-782-9225
Groundwork is a homegrown Los Angeles coffee and teahouse that offers certified fair-trade organic coffee and tea. With locations throughout the city, you’re sure to stumble upon Groundwork. The shops are always filled with locals, and no matter what side of town you’re on, those locals will make you feel right at home. Order an Americano or check out the variety of tea options, and don’t forget to pick out your favorite Groundwork cup or mug while you are there so you can show off to everyone that you patronize one of the best and most popular coffee and teahouses in town.
Groundwork, 671 Rose Ave, Venice, CA, +1 310-664-8830
Do you juice? If so, check out Main Squeeze on Main St. in Santa Monica. Here you can get your cold pressed juice, smoothies or wellness shots in the heart of one of the best neighborhoods in Santa Monica. Take your juice for a walk as you browse the shops and take in the local flare, then head down another block to the beach while you drink your perfect concoction created for you by the juicing gurus at Main Squeeze. Are you looking to cleanse and restore? The cilantro heavy metal detox cold-pressed juice, the be well (provides antibacterial and antiviral properties, and promotes immunity) and the skin tonic juice may be just what you need. Currently trending items include the turmeric and ginger superfood shot and the acai bowl filled with homemade coconut milk, acai, guarana with hemp granola, banana and blueberries on top.
Main Squeeze, 2727 Main Street Suite B, Santa Monica, CA, +1 310-399-9914
Stop in at ChocoVivo in Culver City for chocolates like you’ve never had before. Dark chocolate is what you’ll get here; they don’t do milk chocolate, but you won’t miss it. ChocoVivo makes their chocolate from bean-to-bar. Their ingredients are stone ground, just how the Mayans and Aztecs did it more than 2,000 years ago. This keeps the chocolate from becoming over processed. All cacao ChocoVivo uses comes from Tabasco, Mexico. ChocoVivo also boasts a tasting bar as well as chocolate drinks. Vegan friends, they have coconut ice cream waiting for you too.
ChocoVivo, 12469 W Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA, +1 310-845-6259
By Jennifer Brand
Jennifer Brand studied nutrition and dietetics undergrad and has a bachelor’s degree in the field (with a minor in chemistry). She also has a master’s degree in public health and is working on a master’s degree in human nutrition. Jennifer is a self-proclaimed biochemistry nerd, gym fanatic, lover of great food, and lives in Los Angeles with her Chihuahua mix Lily and her rat terrier Dave. She maintains her own website and blog at alliefitfoodie.com.