09 Aug The Best Black-Owned Vegan Restaurants in LA
By Natelegé Whaley
As more Black Americans explore a vegan diet, they search for menus that remind them of the rich culinary traditions sacred to their families’ dinner tables. A Pew Research Center report shows that African-Americans are more likely to be strictly vegan or vegetarian than other Americans. A new wave of Black-owned restaurants are meeting the demand by creating some of the best vegan restaurants in LA, inspired by Soul Food, African, Caribbean, and American fast food.
This latest movement builds on the foundation set by Black vegan and vegetarian food establishments that have been serving plant-based foods in Black communities for decades. Since 1984, Simply Wholesome has been driven by the community, owner Percell Keeling says.
“I honestly believe the ever-growing support for Black-owned restaurants in Los Angeles is long overdue,” he says. “I love to see our people strive for excellence, and it’s amazing to see us focus on our health because, without good health, everything that we do in life becomes secondary.”
Here is a look at some of the Black-owned restaurants making vegan and vegetarian food more exciting and accessible in LA.
Simply Wholesome is a longstanding gem on the Slauson Avenue corridor in Los Angeles, and is known for its Caribbean and Soul Food-inspired meals. It also has a health food store stocked with natural supplements and natural hair products. The restaurant cooks up a wide selection of breakfast omelets, burgers, sandwiches, platters, tacos, smoothies, Jamaican patties, and desserts. Their prepackaged vegan crab cakes made of chickpeas and heart of palm are available for purchase to enjoy at home. Simply Wholesome also provides on-site health counseling.
The family-owned Hot and Cool Cafe located in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, goes above and beyond to look out for the most vulnerable in their communities. Besides serving up vegan bar-style food such as saucy cauliflower wings, vegan sliders, plant-based soul food bowls, and burritos, with house-roasted coffee, the Hot and Cool Cafe also runs a senior meal program and hosts the Leimert Park community fridge for people facing food insecurity.
“Being a vegan in Compton is definitely not easy,” said Lamel Durrah, owner of Compton Vegan. There’s no Whole Foods or Sprouts, he noticed, but there are plenty of burger and fried chicken places, as well as the health issues that come with overindulgence of such foods. “We’re being passed down cancer, we’re being passed down diabetes. It’s a plague,” he said. “Are we going to die fast or are we going to prolong our lives?” That’s the question that propelled Durrah to open Compton Vegan. Now he’s serving up soul-based comfort foods like BBQ Jackfruit Ribs, Gumbo, Shrimp & Fries, and more.
Voodoo Vegan provides plant-based alternatives to traditional Creole and Cajun food. Think of them as a fusion between authentic New Orleans cuisine and LA’s street food culture. Check out their assortment of po’ boys or the house favorites, including the Who Dat Mac (baked mac n’ cheese) and the crab cakes.
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Okie Vegan doesn’t just want to fill you with good food. They want to pump you full of positivity and health conscious awareness. That’s why their motto is “success starts from the inside out.” Check out their Falafel Sliders or the Queendom Nachos.
The VTree is the brainchild of Chef Velvet, celebrity chef for folks like Erykah Badu, Dick Gregory, Common, and more. Through her organization Vegan in the Hood, she teaches underserved communities about the importance of community gardening, self-sustainability, and the life benefits of a healthy diet. Check out VTree’s Chickpea Tuna Melt or the Eggplant Fries.
From holistic meal prepping to their staple soul food favorites, the mission of Centric Eats is to raise awareness and build a healthy love for plant-based food. Try out their “Vegan Wing Stop” and the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Chicken.” They are crafting fun, exotic, delicious vegan dishes that people can incorporate into their everyday lives.
“Veganism is not a ‘sacrifice.’ It is a joy.” That’s the quote customers see when they first arrive to MamaAuntie’s website, and owner PaSean Wilson takes that joy seriously. With more health-conscious versions of the sweets our mamas and aunties used to serve in church basement and family reunions, PaSean is making it so that we can still have our poundcake and lemon bundts – but without all the butter.
Rollin Roots (San Diego)
A self-proclaimed “dank ass vegan food truck,” Rollin’ Roots’ food tastes as good as it looks. One of the things that sets them apart from other vegan restaurants is that they tend to stay away from processed meat alternatives, opting for whole vegetables instead. Their “shrimp” is made from hearts of palm, their “beef” is a mix of pulled oats and mushrooms, their “chicken” consists of oyster mushrooms, and their “tuna” is made from garbanzo beans. Check out customer favorites like the Spicy Boy, Rich Gal, and the Texas in Cali.
All four owners of the Vurger Guys food truck are former NCAA athletes. They sought out to make it easy for people to stick to a plant-based diet while still holding on to some of the great tastes that the owners originally thought they would be missing out on by going vegan. Check out their Carnitas Tacos with seasoned jackfruit or one of their “vurgers” with golden brown fried onions.
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Beyond Vegan (Culver City)
Inspired by Dr. Sebi’s research on how food effects the body, Beyond Vegan has removed GMOs, hybrid fruits and vegetables, starches, most gluten, animal products, soy, and refined sugars from their foods. In addition to their daily menu with items like the Chickpea Chowder and the Butternut Cream Mac & Cheese, they also offer meal prep services.