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The Valley Vegan is a blog dedicated to finding vegan food in mainstream establishments. I’m called “The Valley Vegan” because I live in the San Fernando Valley which is just north of Hollywood. I eat all over the greater Los Angeles area, and so far, have reviewed restaurants as far south as San Diego, north to Monterey, east to Las Vegas, and even try to include posts on my travels back home to the east coast.
This site is a resource for vegans and the people who love them to find good food on their travels, and how to make the process of dining out as free from pain and embarrassment as possible. What you won’t find on this site is anything to do with converting you to veganism. No graphic photos, no lecturing, just a resource for vegans and the people who love them.
The Valley Vegan happens to be a vegan who loves dining out but hates being wrongly labeled “the one who can’t eat anywhere”. Well-meaning friends and family often want to eat out at a particular restaurant, but then make the assumption that the vegan can’t eat there. Most of the time, they jump to this conclusion without a clue about what is on the menu for vegetarians and vegans.
Accept that dinner invitation from your friends and family and enjoy your evening!!
Who is “The Valley Vegan”?
My name is Lisa. I’m a professional musician in Los Angeles. I play the oboe in two orchestras and freelance throughout the region, and I also teach private lessons. I’m also a dedicated yogini – I’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga for 16 years and found that yoga had a profound influence on the way I view the world and my own place in it. I also struggle with mild IBS, so in the last year I began to follow the FODMAPS diet; it seems to have helped. My husband is also a foodie and musician. I have two college age stepsons, and my own son who is in middle school. I am the only vegan in the house, but my son chooses vegan when the option is available.
I’m out to change attitudes among vegans and those who love them.
Less than 9% of the restaurants reviewed on this blog are “purely vegan”, the rest are all mainstream restaurants. I’m out to prove that vegans can eat anywhere. And I mean anywhere! I will never say no to any restaurant suggestion because I’ve learned through the years that there will always be something I can eat. Who knows: maybe some chef will come out swinging and make some incredible dish off menu. (and that’s happened quite a few times in my experience)
All the restaurants reviewed here are given what I call Sprout Scores on a scale from 1-5.
It’s actually quite difficult for places to receive a 1-sprout review, though it has happened. There have been a few restaurants who have had their sprouts downgraded or even revoked after a second visit with a poor showing. Those that have received 1-sprout reviews first must have no veg*n options on the menu compounded by the poor suggestions by the server or chef (meaning the “there are salads” attitude), obvious cross-contamination, and poor customer relations.
2-spouts are tricky to receive. The current list includes places which have only one veg*n option on the menu in addition to poor service. Poor service as in a complete disregard for what you have asked for. At a particular 2-sprout restaurant, I was offered spaghetti but clearly it was in a meat sauce. There is something to be said for having an “option” but the execution may be poor, and the servers act put out by your special dietary needs.
3-sprouts are easy. They have a vegetarian option, you ask for no cheese, and voila you have a meal. Nothing special. Probably a pasta dish, but there are no special suggestions made by the server (as in “I think the gyro could be vegan if they remove a few items. Let me check with the kitchen.”). There may still be a question of cross contamination, but those are the breaks. These are places you know you can go and not worry too much.
4-sprouts used to be the place where most restaurants lived until places got smart about veganism, especially here in Los Angeles. A 4-sprout review is all about vegetarian options already on the menu (at least one), good service, and the possibility of at least 2 courses. When you say “I’m vegan” and the server jumps in with “don’t worry! I’ll let the kitchen know” that is the mark of a 4-sprout and you can eat their with 100% confidence!
Now 5-sprouts… Seems like everyone has wised up and knows how to please their vegans! Our tastebuds don’t wither and drop off the second we declare we’re vegan. One thing I have noticed is that without the animal fats coating my foods, I’m more in tune with the subtle flavors of vegetables and delicate grains. Taste is everything. And a 5-sprout has at least one vegetarian items on the menu, possible they have a vegan dish, perhaps they have some faux meats to offer, tofu or tempeh, a legend at the bottom of the menu highlighting vegan, vegetarian and gluten free, a server who not only understands what it means to be “vegan” but will make suggestions on how to build a better dish. Most of the 5-sprout reviews on this blog have had special attention paid by the managers, owners and even chefs; often an entree made off menu, the information that a particular sauce used is vegan as-is, and the promise of 3 courses. Not all 5-sprouts are vegan restaurants, not all 5-sprouts have more than one vegetarian item, but all of them go out of their way for the customer.
Publications, Features and Guest Bloggers
Believe it or not, The Valley Vegan is a team effort! Besides myself and my husband, there are two other bloggers that contribute, plus one of our favorite guests, the all important Nick Cooney of The Humane League.
One of the more exciting parts of vegan blogging is the opportunity to share! Here, you can find links to articles I have written for other outlets, and who the guest bloggers are here on this site:
T.O.F.U. Magazine Vegans & Body Image, Issue #7
Wrote “Survivors Guide” here at The Valley Vegan
Emily H. writes about her experiences as a vegan in Texas!
And Emily S. blogged from Rochester, NY.